Sobriety and Motherhood

This is me!

Last night, I was invited to the Rady Jewish Community Campus to share my experience as a mother with a history of alcohol abuse as part of their women’s wellness expo, Beyond Manischewitz. I was humbled to share part of my personal story along with three other women. There was also a panel of professional presenters with backgrounds in medecine, counselling and academia discussing women and alcohol in our culture. The following is my presentation from last night. I thought I would share it here, too, for anyone interested or maybe struggling themselves. You never have to go it alone. As Glennon Doyle says, “we belong to each other.”

When I was in my 20s, I used to worry about how I would get through an imagined future wedding without getting completely smashed at the reception and making a fool of myself. Similarly, I would also worry about how I would manage to stop drinking for nine months when I would hopefully one day be pregnant. I thought that somehow my biology would magically turn me off booze while I carried a baby and that I’d be able to give it up for that seemingly impossible length of time. Never in these imagined scenarios did I think about the marriage that came after a wedding and what my drinking would do to the union. Nor did I think of how I would raise children if my drinking carried on as it was.

I started drinking as a young teenager and my whole adult life foundation was built on drinking, drugging and parties. If it wasn’t “fun,” I wasn’t interested. However, the fun fades pretty fast when your drinking changes from good times and parties to a necessary requirement for living.

Gratefully, I never had to figure out whether some sort of biological magic would kick in during pregnancy. Nor did I have to worry about getting too drunk at my wedding. I also haven’t had to navigate being a wife and mother while also juggling drinking and hangovers. 

I got sober at the age of 27 with the help of a twelve step recovery program. I was married at 32 and my first child was born shortly thereafter, when I was 33. I had my son three and a half years after that. Today, my kids are ages 8 and almost 5 and they’ve never seen their mother take a drink. 

My motherhood story and drinking story don’t overlap. However, my disease of alcoholism informs my whole life and always will. I like to refer to myself as a grateful alcoholic, a term you’ll hear a lot in 12-step circles, because in the depths of my disease I have experienced in the darkest of despair and loneliness. Alcoholism had its grip on me so tightly that, near the end, I wanted to step out in front of a bus. Or I wished for a different “problem” – one that would elicit sympathy. Truthfully, and this is an embarassing admission, I wished I had cancer instead of a drinking problem because then everyone would feel so sad for me and would work tirelessly to save me. I so badly wanted to be saved. Today, as a sober and healthy mother of two, I can’t imagine thinking those thoughts or feeling those feelings ever.

I’m so grateful that I found a solution to my alcoholism and a community to attach myself to long before my kids entered the picture. 

I see the whole “mom wine”culture online – you know the “Is it wine o’clock yet?” and that makes me think a couple of things. Firstly, I’m so grateful that  I’m not waiting for “wine o’clock” to numb out my feelings and detach from my family. However, as an alcoholic with addictive tendencies, “numbing out” shows up for me in other ways today (ummmm…online shopping anyone?) Gratefully, my numbing habits today aren’t as damaging as booze, but I still  need to be alert and aware of when I am using something outside myself to try to change the way I am feeling inside. 

It is my number one goal in life to try to guide my kids to be healthy humans, in mind, body and spirit. That means equipping them to feel ALL their feelings. Even the most uncomfortable and painful ones — because that is where growth comes from. Even though the mama bear in me wants to protect them from all the pain they will face out in the world, I know that going though it is the only way they will learn how strong and resilient they really are.

I would not be able to parent in any capacity had I not found a place to get help long before my children showed up in my life. But I recognize that that is not everyone’s story and I’ve met a lot of moms in recovery whose kids did grow up with an active alcoholic parent. That carries a lot of shame with it and carrying that shame day in and out is what keeps us sick.

As alcoholics, we are not bad, immoral people. We are sick people. We have an obsession of the mind and an allergy of the body that creates a vicious circle of drinking and shame and drinking and shame. Once I learned that my alcoholism was a disease over which I had no control, and I wasn’t a terrible, weak and useless person, I felt such an immense load lifted off my shoulders. I was able to set down that shame and start working on getting well.

My eight year old daughter knows that I go to meetings, and she knows I’m an alcoholic. I explain it to her kind of like this. “Mommy doesn’t drink because it makes me sick. Once I start drinking, I have a really hard time stopping. My body will just crave more and my mind isn’t strong enough to stop my body. So I just don’t drink at all and the meetings help me do that.”

If I could stress two points for anyone suffering out there or for family members, it is this: the alcoholic in your life is not weak or immoral. They are a sick person in a lot of pain. And it is the first drink that gets an alcoholic in trouble. It’s not the fourth or fifth or tenth, once an alcoholic takes one drink, it is almost impossible to control what will come next. So, as alcoholics,  we just need to stay away from that first drink. There are resources available that really work to help us do that. This is not a solo mission.

Today, my recovery informs my parenting. I use the tools that I have learned on how to cope with life, relationships and powerlessness, and apply it to how I raise my kids. As they grow older, I will share more of my story with them. It’s my hope that they won’t have to walk the same path as I did and they won’t be alcoholics, but if that is the case, they will know where to go for  help.

Why I Love Beautycounter (and a Safe Beauty Sale!)

I recently announced on my Instagram that I am now a Beautycounter consultant and am on a mission to share #betterbeauty with all of you!

Beautycounter is cleaning up Black Friday early with Clean Friday. Starting today Beautycounter is offering 15% off site-wide* and FREE shipping over $65 from now until December 1.

Beautycounter’s mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. This means they not only rigourously test their own products using only clean and safe ingredients, but they also are leading a charge to lobby government to implement stricter legislation around what can be used in skincare and beauty products. Interested in reading more about Beautycounter and its founder, Gregg Renfrew? Visit their story on the Beautycounter website here.

Never shopped Beautycounter before and don’t know where to start? Let me break down a few favourites for you.

For You

Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion: This is kind of the holy grail of the entire Beautycounter line. It provides 24 hours of hydration adapts to your needs througout the day. Countermatch mimics skin using plant molecules and gives you only what you need and nothing that you don’t. An excellent daily moisturizer that gets the job done.

The Charcoal Mask: This mask is AMAZING. With activated charcoal, it absorbs excess oil and draws out impurities. Trust me, you need this mask in your life. It literally draws the dirt and oils out from under your skin’s surface and the tingling sensation feels SO satisfying.

Overnight Resurfacing Peel: Use the resurfacing peel on a clean face under your moisturizer at bedtime and wake up to a brighter complexion. That tingling sensation? It’s clearing away dull surface cells and feels so damn good.

Counter+ Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm: This balm cleanses, removes makeup and impurities with nourishing ingredients and won’t strip away your skin’s natural moitsure. It doubles as an overnight mask for a hydrating facial effect. Did I mention it smells like a dream and leaves your face feeing oh-so-soft?

Holiday Gifts

The Better Balm Duo (shown above): Are there any men reading this still? Yes? Okay, good. This makes an amazing stocking stuffer for your wife or girlfriend. Includes one tinted and one untinted lip balm formulated  conditioning muru muru butter and a plant-based alternative for retinoids to give her even more kissable lips. Trust me, she wants these balms!

The Jellies: Okay, these are SO FUN! A pack of five fun lip glosses sweetened with Stevia. Perfect for your sis or best friend – or break them up and add them into teacher, daughters, nieces, cousins and hostess gifts. Or just keep them for yourself!

The Body Butter Trio: Giving winter skin LIFE, the Body Butter Trio is formulated with shea butter and sunflower oil and leaves your skin feeling so hydrated. Again, this is a perfect gift to break up and split amongst recipients or gift all three to one lucky lady.

For Him

Counterman Cooling Aftershave Tonic: Not all men are into “products,” right? Mine isn’t anyway, but he does shave every day. So this Christmas, I am going to ease him into skincare with the cooling aftershave tonic. He loves the Saje wellness peppermint halo roll-on, so I know he’ll love this cooling, protective tonic after his morning shave.

Counterman Charcoal Body Bar: Everyone needs to get clean in the shower, right? There’s no reason that this charcoal body bar for “him” can’t actually be for you, too!

Those are just a few of my recommendations but please feel free to reach out here in the comments or DM me on Instagram if you have any Beautycounter questions. Let’s make sure what we are putting on our skin is SAFE, friends. Thanks for popping in!

*exclusions apply.

Kitchen Sink Minestrone Soup

I have a confession to make… We ate steak on Saturday night. And you know what? I didn’t enjoy it at all. For one thing Jason overcooked it on the BBQ (sorry to call you out, J!). And it was just kind of… boring. Plus after being essentially meat-free for almost two weeks, both Jason and I found it didn’t really agree with our stomachs. Enough said, right? But since we had steaks in our freezer, it seemed like a waste not to eat them. The whole experience taught me that I don’t actually miss meat at all, so I guess it’s a win!

Feeling fully committed to a meatless lifestyle, I pulled together this kitchen sink minestrone soup last night and it turned about amazing. And the best part about a big batch of soup is that it’s always better on the second day, right?

Here’s the recipe, if you’re interested. Also, you don’t actually need these specific ingredients, use this as a guideline and just add whatever is in your fridge.

1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 medium sized carrots, thinly sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup of frozen peas
several mini potatoes, quartered
1 796 mL can of diced tomatoes (I used Kirkland Organic)
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 can 540 mL red kidney beans
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven (or heavy bottom soup pot), add evoo over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, celery and carrots and sautée about three minutes until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper and potatoes, sautée five more minutes and add salt and pepper. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano and chili flakes, stir altogether and let simmer over medium for 15-20 minutes, stirring reguarly. Add kidney beans and frozen peas and reduce heat to medium/low until veggies are soft throughout. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast if you want to go fully plant-based.

Enjoy! Thanks for popping in, friends.

How We Stay Happy and Active in Winter

Winter has arrived in Winnipeg! With a crazy snow storm landing in early October, it feels like winter came and left and then came back again. After a little bit of seasonal confusion, I feel that I can safely say winter is here to stay, so let’s embrace it, friends!

This weekend, a few families from our street bundled up and walked over a couple of blocks to Omand’s Creek for some outdoor fun. We spent two hours removing ice from the footbridge, sliding down hills, checking out natural ice rinks, and drinking hot chocolate. All in all, an amazing day.

I’m the first to want to hibernate and hide from frigid temperatures, but I know that actually just makes it harder. I definitely feel the affects of winter on my mental wellness if I’m not being pro-active and embracing it. Here’s what I find helps:

  1. Exercise. This can be indoors or outdoors but incorporating some aerobic activity where I get my heartrate pumping a few times a week definitely keeps me feeling optimistic about life. My favourites ways to stay active throughout the winter are The Fitual, winter running, and Wheelhouse Cycle Club.
  2. Spending time outdoors. Even if it’s reeeeeeaaallly cold, which will happen, it’s still so important to spend time outdoors and breathe in that crisp, cold air. I’m prone to come up with all kinds of reasons to stay in when it’s bitterly cold, so if you see me do that this winter please just refer me back to this post.
  3. Dress warm! Layers, layers, layers. I love wrapping myself up in my MPG Sport Blizzard Down coat, it literally feels like a warm hug. Miles stays cozy in his bright red MEC Toaster Suit and Juliette is in year two with her Gapkids parka. She was very specific that she wanted a black coat with a fur hood just like mom’s.
  4. Make plans with friends. Last winter, we started a monthly pizza night with a couple of other families. It was such a great way to stay connected and enjoy a night out as a family. Making it a pizza night is extra helpful because then no one feels pressure to cook!
  5. Stock up on games and puzzles. Long hours spent indoors can wind up meaning long hours spent on screens if we’re not careful. Having a stack of puzzles and kid-friendly games will get us off our devices and enjoying time together. Some of our favourites are Telestrations, Headbanz and, the classic of classics, Monopoly (or Monopoly Jr.).

There you have it! A few fairly easy solutions to beat winter dulldrums and embrace what can be an unpopular time of year.

Thanks for popping in, friends!

Ethical Gift Guide for the Holidays: Patagonia Presents for Him and Her

It’s almost that time of year again… Ho! Ho! Ho! I love the holidays, and I absolutely love gift giving…. and receiving. This year, I want to think ethically about the purchases I’m making and items on my wish list, so I’m being mindful of the companies I choose to support.

Patagonia is leading the way when it comes to sustainable practices in the garment industry. A couple of months ago, I shared an inspiring short film on my Instagram they made about how they are taking recycling to the next level and encouraging other companies in the industry to do the same. If you find yourself with an extra fifteen minutes, I highly recommend watching the short film. It really had me reflecting on my own habits and take an honest look at my consumption.

Last weekend, Miles and I went to Mountain Equipment Co-op to get him a new snowsuit. We chose to get the MEC toaster suit, and he chose red! Love that kid. While there, I perused the men’s and women’s sections and started compiling a mental list of gifts to give… and to get! So here’s my round-up of Patagonia for him and her. I also picked up the pair of the undies shown in the above collage, and I must say, I give them an A+ rating. So comfy. They don’t ride up and no pantylines with leggings. The trifecta for perfect undies!

Here’s the breakdown of my Patagonia picks…

The women’s Quilted Crew and men’s Quilted Snap-t Pullover. I have been eyeing this style for quite a while now. It’s made from organic cotton, which is amazing, although not as sustainable as their other recycled garments as the cotton fields require a great deal of water and land mass.

Plaid for the fellas. In my family, plaid is always a safe bet for my husband, dad and brother. This Lightweight Flannel Shirt is made from organic cotton, will never go out of style and will remain a staple in their closet year after year.

The women’s and men’s Better Sweater. I have wanted one of these Better Sweaters since before Juliette was born! I’m also just now realizing that it’s been on my wish list for nine years!!! That right there means this classic staple is one that will never lose it’s place in your wardrobe and will remain a classic comfy, cozy layering piece for decades. Best part about the better sweater? It’s made from 100% recycled polyester. I bought one for my dad for his birthday in September, and he loves it. So there you go, dad approved.

The women’s Patagonia Los Gatos 1/4 zip. This one just looks so cozy, and I think I would reach for it everyday from October through March. It’s made of 100% polyester, 30% of which is recycled. This would be a great gift for your mom or sister, too. Put it on your wish list and maybe you’ll surprise each other by gifting one another the exact same thing!

Patagonia toque, or as our American friends like to call it, beanie. If you live in Winnipeg, I don’t need to justify a toque purchase. It’s a necessity and always a safe gift for a brother, sister, cousin, husband, wife, colleague, ex-roomate, girlfriend, nephew, and on and on and on. You get the point, everyone needs a toque.

Skivvies! I already mentioned I love the undies shown above. I have yet to try the bra but if it’s anything like the matching bottoms, I’m guessing it’s a good one. Although probably better for us gals who aren’t all that busty.

I had a lot of fun pulling this post together! I think I’ll plan a few more gift guides to roll out in the coming weeks, if you have any requests shoot them my way! Also, now I can just forward this link to my family who may be looking for gift ideas. 🙂 Who am I kidding? I always tell people exactly what I want. (I think maybe gift giving is my love language?)

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

What we’re eating: One pot curried vegetables

Jason called me around noon yesterday and said (with a mouthful of food, I might add), “I’m eating a chicken wrap for lunch… I forgot!” What he forgot is that we aren’t supposed to be eating meat anymore! At least not for the most part.

And before you ask, or make the recommendation, yes we watched The Game Changers on Netflix and, yes, that documentary was a big motivator in trying to make the transition to a more plant-based diet. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I definitely recommend checking it out. The main focus of the doc is on the health benefits of a plant based diet but they also discuss the environmental and animal side of things as well.

It’s been about a week and a half with our new-found eating habits, and by no means have we made the full switch over to all plant based. Will we ever go all in? I don’t know. Maybe yes? This shift will take some time and a bit of getting used to but so far we’re into it.

Surprisingly, Jason has been the main driver of it all. I mean, let’s not get confused, I basically do all the household cooking (and it’s not like that’s changing anytime soon), but he’s just as eager as I am to make the change and actually he was the one who piped up first and said “we gotta do this.” Both of us really prioritize health and wellness, so this next step feels like a natural evolution.

We all know the benefits of plant based diets whether we choose it or not. Lower cholestoral. Less animal agriculture. Better environmental impacts. But here is what I’m actually discovering to be one of my favourite benefits. MORE DELICIOUS FOOD OPTIONS AND RECIPE IDEAS.

I’m happy to report that I have navigated out of a cooking rut that I’d been wallowing in for a loooooong time. And hallelujah! Last night I made a one pot curried vegetable dish and it was, in my and Jason’s humble opinions, delicious! I’ve also started incorporating miso and ramen noodles into my repertoire. More soups and stews! And this weekend I am testing out a meatless Shepherd’s Pie with green lentils from Fraiche Food, Full Hearts. I’ll let you know how that turns out!

I was so stuck in my meat-with-a-side-of-vegetable cycle and dinners were just becoming so boring. Which is sad because I love cooking and, I love eating! So this shakeup in the kitchen has been welcome change. I encourage anyone who’s stuck in the same rut I was to consider going meatless a couple of days a week and force yourself out of your routine. You just may find yourself with way more culinary imagination and rewarded by delcious food! And with veganism and plant-based foods becoming so much more mainstream, it’s never hard to find inredients or inspiration.

Here is last night’s curried vegetable “recipe” in case you’re looking for some inspiration.

1 medium red or yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 medium carrots
Several mini potatoes (I don’t know how many I used! But just eyeball it. These will make up a bulk of your dish.)
1 red bell pepper
handul of spinach
1/2 cup of cashews (optional)
tablespoon-ish of curry powder (I actually didn’t measure so just use your own judgment)
1 can coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
s + p to taste

Start by sautéeing the onion and garlic over medium. Add sliced carrots. Sautée for about three minutes. Add potatoes. Sautée another four to five minutes and add chopped bell pepper. Sautée another couple of minutes. Add can of coconut milk, vegetable broth, curry powder and cayenne. Let simmer on medium for five to eight minute and then reduce meat to medium low. Let simmer another six to ten minutes until vegetables are soft but not to mushyy. Then add the spinach and mix until wilted. Top with raw cashews and serve with toasted naan bread. Enjoy!

Do you have any great meatless dishes that you love? Share them with me! I’m always looking for new ideas.

Have a great one, friends!

Eliminating Comparisons and Finding Contentment

Me, finding joy in front of my messy/beautiful garden and my in-need-of-new-paint house.

You know the that old saying, right? Comparison is the thief of joy. Lately, I’ve been on a real comparison jag, and I can definitely attest to the joy thievery. It’s a nasty habit that just seems to subtly slip in the side door when I’m not vigilant. Next thing you know, I’m longingly looking at someone else’s reality assuming their grass is greener, their kids better “behaved” (whatever that actually means), their success more valuable, and their lives are just generally more charmed than mine.

And frankly, my life is pretty damned charmed. So what gives?

It all comes back to staying in my own lane. I have forever looked at other people’s successes, or perceived successes, and felt somehow inadeqate next to them. Even when what they have doesn’t line up with my own aspirations. Like the beautiful lawyer friend. Or the teacher with summers off to enjoy her family. Or the stay at home mom. The yogi. The athlete. The intellect. All have looked appealing to me over the years and had me wishing I could trade spots and live their life for a while, just to see how it fits. “Maybe if I had what they have, I’d be happier…?”

But then where would I be? I’d be trying to live someone else’s idea of happiness instead of forging my own. And that just won’t work.

I wrote about in a recent post that if I want to find fulfillment, I need to create it for myself each day. It doesn’t matter if I am bagging groceries, living that #momlife, or climbing the corporate ladder, if I’m always looking around at others and comparing my life to theirs, satisfaction will always be at arm’s length.

Sometimes I think I seem to just write about the same thing over and over in this little blog. How to practise gratitude. How to live a life free of fear. How to feel whole and happy. These themes are just so reoccurring in my life. It’s not that I actually have an authority on “how to” do any of these things. It’s more that I’m trying to figure it out as I go along. Writing about it seems to help.

There are days that I feel like the latest bloomer who ever lived. Especially when I see women 10 or 15 years my junior out their KILLING IT in their careers. But then there I go again with comparisons… I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not taken the long scenic way around the mountain. And I wouldn’t trade my past, however difficult it was at times, for anything.

In this world of social media, it almost feels impossible some days NOT to make comparisons. There’s a saying I learned in recovery that goes, “I was comparing my insides to other people’s outsides.” There’s a lot of variability from most people’s insides to what they show you on the outside and even more variables when it comes to what they post on social media.

Practicing non-comparison is vigilant work in this day of Instagram and influencers. I am one who can be easily influenced, so it’s so important that I stay in my yard and admire my own messy, full-of-weeds garden. Otherwise I’m headed for trouble.

Maybe some of you can relate. Just a reminder that your garden is beautiful whether it’s manicured or overgrown with dandelions.

Thanks for popping on, friends.