Aside

Infinite Optimism: Inspiration in Treatment

When David Foster Wallace walked into the Granada House in 1989, it wasn’t the same red home that stands today.

When the writer decided to go to treatment for alcohol in the late 80s, he found himself in a six-month residential community in Brighton, which inspired him to create the “Ennet House” in his famous novel  Infinite Jest.

30 years later, I unknowingly walked into the real-life Ennet House.

I’ve written about my struggles with alcohol, and I’ve written about my recovery.  What I haven’t written about is my own experience in treatment.

I didn’t want to move into a residential alcohol and drug treatment facility.  No, not me.  I couldn’t be like any of the other people.  I have a college education.  I’ve lived on my own.  I’m a marketable person!  My credit isn’t even that bad!

I had tried other programs, had gone to meetings on and off for years, and had even been sent to the south for a month (which lead to me Boston)- another stint in treatment was the last place I wanted to go.  Somehow, every time I started to build my life, I found a way to tear it down- and alcohol didn’t help matters.

I needed a safe and supportive place to find my stability.

Most of all, I needed a place where I could learn to be myself.

Out of all of my options, Granada seemed like the best choice.  Unlike most treatment homes, it’s co-ed, has pets, and doesn’t allow smoking.  I knew all of those things would be good for me- it would force me to interact with men in a kind manner even when I didn’t want to, it would build my tolerance to dogs, and would help me avoid a bad habit (smoking, not my poor taste in men).  It seemed like the healthiest option, and my intuition told me everything would be okay. 

It had to be.

On my first day I met with Deb, the Executive Director of the house.  We sat in her brightly lit office decorated with orchids, family photos, and a Buddha statue.  I didn’t know her yet, but I liked and trusted her somehow.  She offered me a Diet Coke, smiled, and asked me about myself.

“I’m a writer- that’s what I have always loved to do.  I recently worked at a law firm, but I am not sure what I am going to do now.”

She smiled and said, “this house has a legacy of writers!”

I couldn’t have prepared myself for what she was about to say next.  She told me a couple names of people, one I had vaguely heard of, but the other:

David Foster Wallace.

“I worked with David,” she said.  “He did a lot for this house after he left.”

I couldn’t believe it.  As a fan of David Foster Wallace, I never would have dreamed I would have ended up in the same treatment home as him.  In fact, I had only been introduced to his work a few years earlier- by a guy I was hopelessly smitten with, nevertheless.  We had (what I thought was) a special bond with the speech, “This Is Water,” which even prompted me to get a fish tattoo.  Stupid, yes, and a drunken choice, absolutely- but left without the guy and stuck with the memory, it seemed appropriate that I was getting sober under the same care as DFW.  

Drinking wasn’t my only addiction- I was just as much of a mess with men, too.

Now was the time to let go of all my past pains, self-doubt, heartbreak, and finally start to heal.  No more isolated nights, listening to sad songs while drinking.  No more romanticizing unrequited love, dwelling on trauma or writing sad poems about the past.

It was time to start a new life.

“Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” 

Writing in the front room, which was dedicated to David Foster Wallace, was how I spent my mornings.  I would wake up early, get a cup of coffee, and sit with the cat.  Oh, the hours I spent in that room!  It was the place I could retreat to when I needed time to myself, but also where I felt divinely inspired.  I knew I was meant to write something more, but I didn’t know what.

I continued to write throughout my time at the Granada.  Deb, the Director, encouraged me to write about my recovery.  A few other people did, too.  I scoffed at that idea at first; I didn’t want to be labeled or seen as “one of those sober people.”

It seemed their whole lives were based on something they don’t do, and I hated that they gave alcohol so much power.

At the Granada House, I learned I didn’t have to do that- I learned that I could make my recovery my own. In sobriety, I could be myself. I didn’t have to live out someone else’s recovery- I could live out my own.

I learned to set boundaries, to stop cutting corners, and to stop being so selfish. I learned the value in being able to give to others simply through sharing my time, and the importance of doing what is best for you- not what is best for someone else.

As I continued to write, attend groups, and make connections, I also started working full-time at a mental health nonprofit and began carving out my own recovery groups and doing service in the community. I was published in The Fix, began receiving emails and messages from people in recovery, and started Sobah in the City on Instagram.

As the weeks went on, I began to embrace my new identity: the Kristin I was always meant to be. A clear-headed woman with dignity and grace, and a woman who was no longer ashamed to say she survived the struggles and is sober.

In fact, today I couldn’t be more proud of that.

There are many feelings that occur when it’s time to leave the Granada House, or any treatment program for that matter- feelings of excitement, relief, and a sense of accomplishment.

But there can also be also loneliness.

What I appreciate about the Granada House is that is it a family- a family you can always go back to. Although Deb is now retired and the faces in the house are new, we all have been on the same journey- and that is irreplaceable.

If it weren’t for Deb Larson and David Foster Wallace, this blog wouldn’t exist- and I am confident that my willingness to own my truth wouldn’t, either.

Advertisements
Aside

4 Ways You Are Lowering Your Vibration

“In a world full of darkness, be the light.”

A couple of years ago I wrote about ways to raise your vibration, which is the frequency of your energy.  The higher your vibration, the better your mind, body, and spirit will feel.  A high vibration will result in a happier life, more peace, clarity, joy, and love.

When your vibration is high, it’s much easier to manifest the life you want and take control of your destiny. 

But what if you’re lowering your vibration without even knowing it?  The lower your vibration is, the less connected you are to your higher self.  This results in negativity, selfishness, poor health, anxiety, and many other unfavorable factors.  As I look back at my own past experiences, I realize how many things I once thought were fun and harmless were actually lowering my energy, hurting my health, and making me miserable.  A low vibration is also damaging to your immune system, causing anxiety, depression, pain, illness, and disease.

Addictions

Instead of relieving our stress, addictions actually lower our vibration and block our connection to our higher selves.  For a moment, these addictions give us a synthetic sense of being in the present moment, when in reality, they’re pushing us further away from consciousness.  Pharmaceuticals, alcohol, shopping, sex, and gambling are all examples of common addictions that give us fake or temporary highs.

For example, alcohol is called a “spirit” for a reason- it numbs our psychic senses and often turns us to the dark side.  Rooted from the Arabic “al-kuhl,” meaning “body eating spirit,” alcohol can do much more bad than good.  I started and stopped time and time again over a six year period, only to realize life is much better with a clear mind (not to mention body and spirit!).  Sure, it can be extremely uncomfortable to experience all of your emotions, but with a strong spiritual foundation, these feelings are much easier to handle.

Electronics and Media

We can’t deny that we’re all reliant on our phones.  Now, add laptops, iPads, Kindles, and television to the mix- how often are we completely tech-free?  Although these devices have become a part of our everyday lives, they can be extremely damaging to our sleep cycles, mental health, eyes, and muscles.  The energy of prolonged electronic use can not be healthy to our bodies, yet the affects of the content we’re consuming is an entirely different story.

The media is flooded with tragedy, fear mongering, negativity, and materialism- yet it’s prominent in our society.  When did our culture, as a whole, forget the beauty of walking in nature, reading a physical book, or working on a craft?  For me, it’s important to have a healthy balance.  I suggest going a day or two without the media to see how you feel.

Junk Food and Processed Foods

It can be a challenge to avoid quick meals during our busy lives.  While living in New York I often forgot to eat, so I’d pick up a piece of pizza, hot dog, or pretzel at a street stand.  Oh, and who doesn’t love street meat?!  Delicious, sure- but definitely not supportive to my health or energy level.  I’m still very guilty of this, but I’ve been trying to plan better, buy healthy snacks, and eat meals consisting of mostly veggies.

Have you noticed how much better you feel when your diet is rich with fruits and vegetables?  Eating raw or vegan is a wonderful way to increase your health and your vibration, but it’s not for everyone.  As much as you can avoid junk and processed foods, the better off you will be.

Materialism

When we look at physical things to satisfy us, we’re disconnecting from the spiritual world.  Sure, this works for many people- but when is enough enough?  A wise man once said, “mo money, mo problems,” and he was right. Cutting back on “things” has made me so much happier, less stressed, and more content with what I do have.  Today, I look to spirituality, not spending, when I am feeling lost.

I have written a lot about my experience with completely changing my life back in 2016 when I left New York City.  From fashion blogger to frugal, I had no idea that it would be the start of one of my greatest passions- minimalism.  Although I had more clothes than I could account for, a big paycheck, and a fancy zip code, I was constantly depressed.  I thought a boyfriend, a job, a new handbag, or a drink would fix things- but they never did.

I had to find my higher self first.  

Originally posted on Mindful in Style

Aside

Making the Most of the Days

Today I have four months sober- again.

I’ve been at this whole sobriety thing for over eight years- and I have four months.

There’s a huge difference this time, though.

This time, I don’t obsessively count days or months like the sober culture encourages- no, that would just increase my anxiety and make me feel like what I have accomplished isn’t enough.

Instead, I make the most of each and every day. I do my best. I don’t dwell on my mistakes, nor do I look forward to month or year five.

All I have is today.

For me, it’s important to take a closer look at what I was doing (or wasn’t doing) to improve myself and create a life I actually am proud of. If I don’t write about staying sober, I won’t. That’s the biggest change of all- being free, open, and accepting of who I am.

The biggest change of all this time around is accepting my identity as sober person- someone with a clear mind, an open heart, and a fearlessness to be unapologetically herself-

and I wouldn’t trade being that woman for anything.

Aside

Defining What Relationships Mean in Sobriety

Just the other day, it occurred to me:

I’ve never been in a sober relationship.

It’s been a full five years since I had an actual boyfriend, and we were both hedonistic alcoholics. So much so that he ended up dying of liver failure a couple years after we broke up. Drinking from morning to night was a normal occurrence, so it’s no surprise our relationships fizzled after only a few months.

You can’t count my boyfriends as a teenager, either. Even those relationships ended in drunken arguments, cheating, and lies- so really, I can comfortably say I don’t know how to be in a relationship sober.

As an only child and introvert to-a-tee, drinking helped ease the discomfort of being around someone else. It’s not that I am shy or uncomfortable around other people, it’s that I like to be alone. I thrive off it. I write, I create, and I enjoy silence.

Alcohol was that buffer that made it easier to handle other people’s emotions.

Not only is it hard to date sober- and I’ve done quite a bit of it- it’s even more difficult when the other person isn’t. On one of the last dates I went on, I ordered a mocktail with our appetizers, while he ordered a beer. Not that I cared, but I thought it was a little inconsiderate. Why do you really need that beer on a first date? Nevertheless, said guy later told me he had just gottwen out of a long-term relationship and wasn’t ready to date, when I replied, “haha! I get it. I’m three months sober- I’m not ready either.”

So there’s that.

Maybe the date was uncomfortable with me being sober. Maybe he has an issue with alcohol himself.

Whatever the case, it was a wake-up call that I don’t even know what a relationship looks like, so how could I want one?

I know what I think I want in my mind, and it doesn’t look the typical “American Dream” that so many of my peers are currently living. Instead, I envision living in the city with a partner, preferably one who doesn’t drink, and cats as kids. I don’t see myself as a soccer mom or living in the subrubs, but I do see living life with my best friend. A strong, spiritual, confident man who isn’t afraid to put me in my place, but would never try and change me, either.

I am confident that the reason I haven’t found a partner yet is because I had yet to become my best, most authentic self- and when something wasn’t right, I wasn’t scared to run.

As I become more and more “me,” I begin to align with things, people, and opportunities that fit my heart and soul- and that includes a partner, when I am ready.

Here’s a piece I wrote about three years ago, shortly after moving to Boston. I had come to Massachusetts after a 30-day stint in a Mississippi rehab, where I met a cute baseball player from Amesbury. Nevertheless, Boston seemed like a good idea- and although the relationship didn’t last, my life in Boston did.

Enjoy.

Aside

Enjoying Life’s Simple Pleasures: Hangover-Free Mornings

When I was drinking, I never sat in bed and enjoyed my morning coffee.

No, that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, I would wake up in panic, terrified I had overslept. When I realized I was fine, I would stumble out of bed, find the nearest water bottle, and curse the fact that I had to go to work.

It was a struggle.

I didn’t enjoy my showers, and at times I was afraid of slipping due to the shakes. I could barely even shave my legs without cutting myself.

I wasn’t grateful for having a job, nor was I grateful for living in a beautiful apartment. Whatever I had right in front of me was never enough.Whether it was San Francisco, Austin, or New York, it didn’t matter where I was or what my circumstances were- I was an alcoholic, and it was nearly impossible to manage my life.

As a sober person, my mornings- and outlook- are much different.

These days, I wake up before my alarm goes off. I leisurely make coffee, put on my robe, and sit quietly. I light a candle or turn on my defuser (lemongrass or lavender, always), write in my journal, and appreciate my sacred space.

Today, I treat everything as if it is sacred.

Even after everything I put myself through, I know every twist and turn had its purpose. Had I not experienced such hell- both during the days when I could keep a job while drinking, and the days where I couldn’t even manage to stay out of hospitals or detox units- I don’t think I would appreciate all the beauty in my life as I do today.

My life is much more meaningful when I take time out to myself to embrace the simple pleasures- even if it’s just in my own bedroom.

It’s absolutely free to pamper yourself in the morning through meditation, sitting still, and taking in the beauty around you- and when you’re living a sober life, you actually have a shot at enjoying these things.

Bedding: Primark / Orchid: Trader Joe’s / Mug and Robe: TJ Maxx / Bracelet: Olivia Burton / Nail Polish: Essie “Let it Glow”

Aside

Living A Beautiful Life

They say the best things in life are free, and from my experience, that is absolutely correct.

For years I looked everywhere I could to fill the void in my soul- I was addicted to shopping, I sought out approval from others, I moved from city to city, and I tried to slow down my brain by drinking excessively.

I went from bar to bar, boyfriend to boyfriend, job to job, and handbag to handbag- yet whatever I had was never enough.

Sitting still wasn’t even an option- and back then, I didn’t realize how amazing stillness could be.

When I started Mindful in Style, I had just left my fashion copywriter life in New York City. I dated actors and Wall Street attorneys, bankers and startup entrepreneurs. I mingled with designers and screenwriters, fellow fashion bloggers and alcoholics. I justified my behavior by associating with people in the same circumstances as me, for better or for worse.

What I failed to do was look within to improve myself.

Battery Park, 2014. Photo by Rik Parker

I thought that if things looked okay on the outside, they must be fine on the inside.

I couldn’t have been more misguided.

Although I seemed to have everything, that hole in my soul was still as deep as ever.

What they don’t seem to teach you as you grow up is that life doesn’t have a “happiness” finish line or an invisible box to check in order to reach fulfillment.

Living a beautiful life doesn’t mean grandiosity, status, or material gains- living beautifully is about living in the now, embracing life’s simple pleasures, and making the most out of what is right in front of you.

My best days now are strolling through the city, enjoying my coffee by the river, or sitting quietly with the cat. It’s the peace I have found within that makes my life so beautiful- and although I still enjoy a great handbag, true happiness is found in the mindful moments that I used to take for granted.

Aside

Own The Story That Is Yours

The most dangerous words people have ever said to me weren’t hurtful, mean, or meant to cause harm.

Unknowingly, the most dangerous words others could have ever said to me were meant to be nice; a compliment.

Those words were:

“You don’t look like an alcoholic.”

Over the past three years, I’ve been to treatment three times. At all three places, in three different cities, during three separate years, other people, including staff, said to me, “you don’t look like you should be here.”

Ouch.

Riddle me this: for someone who couldn’t stay out of the hospital, where should I be? Left to my own self-destructive devices?

Those people didn’t sit with me during my frequent trips to the emergency room. No one did. Half the time I didn’t even know how I got there or who found me. It was almost as if I could brush those visits and ambulance rides (that I didn’t remember) under the rug.

I could throw away my “fall risk” bracelets in a public trash can so no one would find them. If I didn’t have evidence, I could eventually forget about the bruises.

I could cover up the scars. I could put on makeup and a smile and pretend everything was okay.

But others didn’t know me when I was passed out in my front yard, unconscious in a North End restaurant at 3PM, or lying on my bedroom floor with a blood alcohol level of .6.

Those on the outside wouldn’t know I’ve lived in seven cities, trying to run from my addiction and hide from myself.

I put on lipstick and a pair of oversized sunglasses trying to hide my failures.

But finally, I have learned to show my face- and share who I am.

Through owning our individuality and sharing our stories, we not only set ourselves free- we could help another person who is struggling.

I spent many years thinking I would just be happy if I did what society expected of me, but I was wrong. Today, I know I must listen to my heart, be honest about my experiences, and most importantly, remember I am an alcoholic.

You can’t judge a book by it’s cover… but you can own the story that is yours.