Tag Archives: Sobriety

what triggers you by monthtomilestones.com

What Your Triggers Tell You

Pay attention to what’s bothering you.

My anxiety rushed over me before I even knew to fret.

A friend had posted yet another picture of her perfect self with her perfect family, living their perfect life as perfect people.

I love this friend dearly. The two of us together, talking and laughing, our kids hanging out with one another, is one of my favorite activities in life.

And yet, here I was, envious…or so I thought.

For a long time, when I’d encounter women like her–peppy, put together, perfect–I would believe I was jealous of what they had. Hadn’t I always craved normalcy and never gotten it?

But what I eventually realized was that I actually was not envious. Deep down, I didn’t want the life my friend leads; if I did, I would have strived harder for it.

No, I was angry. Angry that this was the picture of what was “right” that was held before me, this belief that as a wife and a mother in the South I should want my children to dress a certain way, participate in certain activities and choose certain friend groups.

We should live in a certain type of house in a certain neighborhood.

I should look a certain way, work out a certain way, eat a certain way.

I hated the certains.

Even after discovering it was anger, not envy, driving my anxiety, I couldn’t seem to stop the feeling. I wanted to be able to scroll past and not care, but I couldn’t.

Because this whole “not having what I thought I was supposed to” deal had been stuck with me for quite some time, seeping into my life somewhere around the age of 12 and setting up home in my bitter heart.

It took the season from hell to force me to dig out issues that had embroiled my thoughts and held me captive for so long.

One of those issues was figuring out exactly what triggers me.

monmil goods logo for monthtomilestones.com with the words an open wound triggers pain. Heal it.

By no means are perfect posts on social media my only trigger. Male patriarchy (super controlling father), drinking mothers (cleaned my mom’s vomit off the floor), evangelical church (destroyed my family of origin), and sexual abuse (abused by men close to me), cut me to my core.

When I find myself up against stories, situations and scenarios where these triggers are present, I must employ three tactics to help me make it through:

  1. I STOP and breathe deep.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in through my nose and exhale out of my mouth. I do this two or three times and try to move more slowly each time.

2. I REMEMBER that whatever it was that caused this trigger has no power over me.

The past is over. And even in the present, the truth is, whatever happened to me only had the power to hurt me that I gave it. Is it okay to let something hurt you? Absolutely. But there comes a point at which the pain will take over if we don’t put it in its proper place. We have to remember that we have control of our own life.

3. I PRACTICE my reframing techniques:

I go back to the memory, put myself in the other person’s shoes (when possible–I don’t advocate this in situations of sexual abuse), and I tell myself that me, the person or the event that hurt me was human and fallen, too. Then, I imagine myself forgiving everyone in the situation.

The final trick up my sleeve is what I call the trick of Absurd Self-Esteem.

Self-esteem has gotten a bad rap as of late, but I think it’s foundational to understanding our value. We were created and bought at a high price (in my view) and the value of anything is the price someone was willing to pay for it.

Humans were created with a built in need for affirmation. We want to be wanted, loved and valued. So sometimes we have to choose this for ourselves–no one is going to do it for us.

My trick is to tell myself I’m living in the best of all possible worlds. What is happening in my life is exactly what is supposed to happen. I am creating the life I’ve chosen. This is the life I want. And if there’s anything I don’t want in my life that is in my ability to change, I change it immediately.

Practice! It takes time, but using these tactics has helped me tremendously on my journey to a best enough me.

Triggers help us figure out what’s still bothering us after all this time on earth.

What are your triggers?

I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature

Check out my monmilgoods store to find goodies to help you on your journey. Reward yourself!

working in my yard changed my life for the better monthtomilestones.com

Working in My Yard Changed My Life for the Better

*I’m a Jesus-follower. As such, my language is that of a “Christian,” although I haven’t called myself that in quite some time. Please feel free to insert the language of your religion, or the lack thereof, throughout my post.

Working in my yard is by far the best free therapy I’ll ever get.

a quote about working in the yard by monthtomilestones.com

Often I picture scenes from my life, as I work alone outside.

I remember sunny mornings helping my dad fix up our house.

He and my mom were going to live there for the rest of their married lives.

I travel to my grandma’s backyard and the brick patio where she kept beautifully potted plants and a little yellow bistro table.

She was going to pass it down to me some day.

Or the evenings I’d help my boyfriend scale fish after sitting out in a canoe all day doing absolutely nothing.

That boy and I were going to last forever.

I think about afternoons at the lake behind our college, kids jumping off the bridge after a six pack of beers and a super hard college algebra test.

All of us were invincible then.

There were days spent strolling my oldest son in his Jeep Cherokee stroller, all the young girls at the park stopping to ooh and ah over his precious dimples.

He would never grow up.

The lies I told myself back then weren’t lies when I was telling them.

I really thought my parents would stay married for good…until they divorced.

I wanted my grandmother’s table–and my grandmother–to stay young forever…until she died.

That boy and I were going to make it, come hell or highwater…until we broke up.

My college friends and I truly believed nothing bad could ever happen…until I lost two of them in a drunk driving accident.

And that little boy seemed to stay young for so long…until just like that, he was grown.

a quote that says, you don't mean to let it go, by monthtomilestones.com

You find yourself thinking of days gone by a little more each year, the older you get.

When I’m out in my yard, I think of old days even more.

I ponder questions about why this thing or that was allowed to happen.

I often ask God if life is as it’s meant to be.

I tell myself that maybe it’s okay not to have all the answers.

And then I ask the questions all over again.

I pull up the many vines in my yard. They choke the life out of the good things, the beautiful things, that I would like to see blossom and shine.

It’s true in life, too, isn’t it? How often we let those weeds suffocate all that is good.

Regret, envy, comparison, malice, greed, lust. Our hedonistic hearts want all the things, and we want them now.

we take pride in pursuit of perfection by monthtomilestones.com

We think the tender shoots of youth will last forever and the flowers will never fade.

But they do.

The winter comes. Oh yes, it always comes.

With it come long nights.

Then barren days with no growth in sight.

We wonder how long the cold could possibly last.

The first few months of sobriety feels like the cold of winter.

It did for me, anyway. White-knuckling my way through afternoons. Breathing heavy when my husband ordered drinks at dinner. Declining party invitations and beach trips because I wasn’t ready to give up, but I knew I wasn’t strong enough to say no.

And we just about give up during the dark days of winter, don’t we? Trust me, no judgment here.

Then, before we realize it, the trees start to bloom again, the days last a little longer, and all of a sudden, we’re shedding the heavy coat of winter and stepping out in the new.

The sadness of death gives way to the gladness of rebirth.

And all is new again.

Summer arrives, and with it, confidence, freedom, joy.

We savor the long days.

We watch the stars.

We float on the water and listen to God speak in the waves.

Soon enough, the first leaf falls, and a new season begins again.

this is the way quote by monthtomilestones.com

And like nature, the seasons of my life change the landscape of my heart, and I am still me, but new.

What have you discovered about yourself through nature? How does it speak to you? What are your favorite things to do outside? I’d love to hear from you!

monmil goods signature

Visit my monmilgoods.com store, where you’ll find some goodies to help you celebrate your journey! And be on the lookout for my Month to Milestone bracelet, coming soon! 🙂

Who Is Telling Your Story?

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.” – John Grisham

My father is staying with us this week because my grandfather is in the hospital nearby.

Dad’s been spending long days tending to Radio Joe at the hospital so that he won’t be alone.

The time he’s been here has taught me a number of lessons, and I’ve been taking notes in my journal of what I’ve learned.

Care more about the future. Make a plan. Start saving more money for retirement and long term care.

Be grateful. Life is short. Time flies. Enjoy the days more.

Stop being negative. Stop pitying yourself. Stop being so critical and depressed. You sound just like your father.

I sound just like my father.

It’s amazing what a child picks up in the short time it spends at home.

I’m sure some of what we learn isn’t really learned at all; it’s simply the genetic code we’ve been given at birth.

But I think more of what we learn is really learned. We watch our parents and can’t help but to imitate them.

My fear of money; it’s always existed, it seemed. There has only been one time in my life that I’ve truly not had food to eat or clothes to wear, but even then, I managed. And there has been plenty of abundance, and yet, I’m constantly anxious about money, how much we have and how much we don’t have.

My critical spirit, not just of others, but also of myself. I think I’m the worst of everyone and do the worst of everything, and so, oftentimes, I won’t even try to do the best I can because, what’s the point?

My need to be right. I will find a way to prove myself right time and time again. Like a nagging voice, shouting to be heard, I want to be right! If I’m not right, I feel worthless.

My desire to control and my deep fear of control. I not only want to know every moment of the future, I’m terrified of it and escape as much as possible to avoid it.

All of these parts of my personality come directly from my parents, including my substance use disorders.

How do you change what’s so deeply embedded within you?

Well, some people never will. Some people never become aware enough about what’s happening within them to make a conscious effort to change.

Which is why I thank God for the last two years.

After a rough season in my early thirties, I really settled into my late thirties, and was getting by fine, but growing- dare I say- restless.

I wasn’t working outside of the home, other than a part-time preschool teaching job and a freelance writing gig here or there.

I didn’t really know where I was headed. Did I want to get back into full-time teaching? I hadn’t liked it too much when I’d been there, all that grading and parent involvement and dealing with other people’s children.

And yet, it was a steady job, and at the time, I’d been wanting to move my children to a private school that was Christian and more traditional in learning style (or so I thought).

I claimed my reasons were pure, but the truth was, I wanted money for myself and I wanted to move my children so that in a smaller school they’d feel better about themselves.

That thinking, me and my wants, were what had dictated so many moves I’d made in life, long before the decisions I made two years ago.

What I chose to do, going back to work, moving the kids, was a mistake that had been given a clear no by God. He’d all but shouted; I hadn’t listened.

And though He’s blessed me anyway because that’s how He works–He’s a blesser, not a punisher–I know for sure I didn’t make the right decision and haven’t been making the right decisions for quite some time.

The hardest pill to swallow is understanding that human time is linear and there is no going back to fix what’s been broken.

My voice broke some time ago, way back in my past, and instead of trying desperately to get it back, to speak again, I’ve jumped from person to person, place to place, position to position, trying to go and be and do.

I can’t tell you the years I’ve wasted. If such a thing were possible, wasting years. I tend to think God can and will use anything, especially sin.

The last two years have ended up teaching me so much. I’ve dealt with the realization of my age, a friend’s betrayal, job loss, deconversion from the only beliefs I’ve ever known, suicide, death, illness, my children leaving home for college, my first dog dying.

You name it, and over the last two years, I’ve probably lived it.

But I’m learning to find my voice. And I’m learning to speak up with confidence.

I’m rediscovering my value, that I’m worth the price someone paid to set me free, an ultimate price, at a cost of uncloaking divinity to take on my flesh.

On Sundays, I reflect.

I’ll take a drive through the backroads of our town, sit on my deck and watch the hummingbirds, think about life near the calm waters of the lake at our town park.

I found this written in the pages of my planner last Sunday.

a list of what I want by monthtomilestones.com

I found it fitting that the highlighted line underneath tells me to head to my favorite place on earth. I’ve long been a beach girl. It’s where I feel closest to God.

And though I think it was metaphorical, the whole beach and shell thing, it’s exactly what I plan to do.

I’ll find the roaring voice inside me, the one that sounds like the gushing waves of the ocean.

I’ll search for all the little shells of wisdom, different in shape, size and color, and I’ll stick them in my pocket. My fingers will study them, the smooth top, the rough edges.

And I won’t be afraid to show them to the world.

How are you finding your voice? Was it lost? Are you just now discovering it? I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature

I cannot wait to show you the culmination of a year’s work, my Month to Milestones Bracelet. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for where to find it so you can Reward the Journey!

why are we all distracting so much

Why Are We Distracting?

The Real Reason so Many of Use Distractions to Escape

Yet again, I’ve found myself sitting in condemnation for a bad month of working out.

The last couple of weeks my family and I have welcomed out-of-town guests to stay with us, we’ve traveled to other cities for baseball tournaments, and we’ve attended afterschool activities that have lasted well into the night.

Simply put, we’ve worn ourselves to a frazzle.

Many people struggle with overeating.

I am one of them.

My overeating started at fourteen years old, and, off and on, it’s been happening ever since.

I masked it for years because my metabolism was excellent. I could ram my car into a McDonald’s and not gain weight.

But then, a few years after my hysterectomy, losing weight felt impossible. It seemed as if I’d gained thirty pounds over night, and most of it had gone to my belly.

man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart

I tried keto. I tried WW. I tried counting calories and clean eating.

Intermittent fasting was going to save me, then back to WW I crawled.

I might lose five, maybe even ten pounds, but every single time, I gained it all back.

My dieting spun like a yo-yo, and I couldn’t keep up.

Nor did I understand why I was shoving food into my mouth to begin with. At that time, I didn’t know what distractions were or what it meant to use food, alcohol, sex or any other addiction to escape from reality.

But one year, after a particularly crappy few months and a string of bad hangovers, I made the connection that my bad nights of drinking only occurred when there was something negative happening in my life.

I could go out with friends and have a blast with no regrets when times were good. But when times were bad, wow. Watch out.

Likewise, my eating seemed to follow a similar pattern. Even if I never ate the “perfect” foods, I still didn’t struggle with overeating in goods time nearly as much as I did when times were rough.

I’d heard the terms distracting/escaping, and I realized that, yes, this was me.

But how do you pinpoint why you’re distracting? And why does it seem like so many of us are?

I have a theory, and I’m going to share it with you here.

Many thousands of years ago, we were wanderers. We hunted, we gathered, we traveled, we rested.

Issues like distraction and escape were overshadowed by necessities like surviving and finding food that wouldn’t kill you.

Years and years later, people began to settle. They built cities and opened businesses and started schools.

All of those new ideas stole a ton of energy. There was no time to be distracted when we were conquering. And those of us who did find time opened a good book and spent quality moments in a fantastical world we could only picture in our head.

Fast forward to the 20th-21st centuries. We *want* to believe there is life left to conquer, new territory to claim, new ideas to be harvested.

But do we really believe this is true?

I’m not so sure.

Back then, in those early days of civilization, though times were by no means easy, we understood our purpose and our roles.

There was a humility to living life that put us in the clay position and a higher power, no matter the kind one believed, in the potter’s place.

Over time, we looked around and saw that lands were divided by nation or by value, castles, whether small or large, stood proud, and ingenuity had been fully developed to the point of human extinction.

We now have less jobs for humans because of the technology that has replaced us. A shaky place to reside in this world.

Our land is being swallowed by this development or that subdivision. And older structures are being vacated and crumbling into disrepair.

Whole towns are ghostly now, as young people have moved on to bigger and better places, usually to discover that the bigger is suffocating and the better really isn’t better, after all.

Our young ones struggle to connect the learning they’re forced to pretend to accomplish in school with anything of tangible value in the real world.

The disconnect leads them to literally disconnect. They’d rather spend time mimicking dances on TikTok than reading Herodotus or Pride and Prejudice.

The adults aren’t faring much better. We carpool to cubicles and head home to loaf. A glass of wine and some Netflix finish off our nights. We wake up and repeat.

We throw our interests into any and everything that might entertain us, if only for a little bit. A sports game, an awards show, a juicy podcast, a terrible reality TV show.

Distract, distract, distract. It’s what we do.

I truly believe many of us are being woken up by the stirring of our discontented heart.

We know there’s something missing, something good out there that we just can’t quite reach.

I think we catch a glimpse of the good life through a perfectly filtered lens of an influencer’s Instagram. The world they’ve created is the world we want.

Or we find sprinkles of it in a calming coffee-session with a friend. Mocha lattes in hand, we’re ready to conquer the world.

An empowering sermon, an uplifting podcast.

We keep reaching, hoping that somehow, someday, there is going to be a force that takes hold of us and leads us to a better place.

I’m here to tell you, the force is us and the place is the present. At our disposal are tools and examples, a new day and a brand new life.

John Piper quote

If we take our eyes off of others for one second and stop to reflect on what it is we really want–what makes our eyes light up, our hearts sing and our feet dance–and we stop worrying what everyone else thinks about our desires, we can live a distraction-free life.

The key to success is not just consistency. We’d like to think we can always be consistent, but if you notice, people who are overly-consistent in their lives also tend to be incredibly obsessive. They make whatever they’re hyper-focused on an idol.

Consistency is good, but the key to true success is continuation.

It’s picking yourself up off the ground when you’ve had a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year.

Humans ebb and flow. We live among thorns and flowers, we travel peaks and valleys.

Life isn’t always going to make us consistent. We aren’t always going to choose the right thing.

That’s okay.

We must pick ourselves up, dust our britches off, and carry on.

In choosing not to remain down, we force our eyes off of distraction and start walking the road to freedom once again.

And we always remember: it’s not the destination that counts.

It’s all about the journey.

What new things are you learning about the reasons for escaping and distracting? Are you guilty of it, too? What are your go-to methods for getting back on track? I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature
why are we all distracting so much
How to Be the Star of Your Own Show by monthtomilestones.com

How to Be the Star of Your Own Show

Do you find yourself watching other people?

I don’t mean casually checking out a soul here or there.

Do you social media stalk, or celebrity-watch, or keep tabs on the big wigs in your community?

Or do you live through your children, maybe? You weren’t popular so you want to make sure your daughter is. Or you push your son to play sports or go out for student government.

Do you weasel your way into mom groups you want to be a part of? Insert yourself into places you weren’t exactly invited but just know you need to be?

Maybe you’re done raising children, and the pressures of trying to be super mom and make them super children are over.

Or maybe you’ve never had children and it’s just been you.

Do you find yourself obsessively watching every reality show on the planet, wishing you had a Kardashian or Kathy Hilton-crazy life?

These are telling questions, but the most important is this:

At the end of the day, was the day itself the kind of day you have always hoped for?

I know every day won’t be perfect, but still.

Are you living a consistently content life?

I have to tell you the truth: I had not been.

For years, past trauma left me sleep-walking through life.

I would try to move forward, but something from my past would catch a hold of my brain and become a hamster wheel of negative self-talk that I couldn’t move past.

I would drink to distract, eat to comfort, binge-watch YouTube to escape.

And all those actions did was leave me feeling more distraught and anxious.

I’d jump back on the hamster wheel with a whole new conversation of negative self-talk.

Did anyone else believe 2020 was going to be the visionary year of change?

I know I did. I remember writing in my 2019 journal about all the many ways this new decade would bring out a new me.

It brought out a new me, alright. A me who was more insecure, less content, and angrier than ever.

But those feelings actually had started long before 2020.

After the birth of my fourth child in 2010, I turned 30.

I realized that I’d lost all my twenties to child-rearing, which I did not regret at all, but that I still wasn’t any closer to feeling content with my life.

Getting married so young, every year was an act of trying to survive, and in the midst of raising small children, just trying to keep your sanity felt like success.

But now here I was, thirty, and I felt no closer to getting anywhere that anyone would deem “successful.”

The only thing I ever knew how to do was work with children or teach, and so, once again, before long, I jumped back into a profession I really didn’t even like all that much.

Because it was all I knew.

We do that, don’t we? We choose comfort, and often times, it’s not even comfortable.

The kind of comfort that’s based on laziness really isn’t comfortable at all.

Because that kind of safety is based on fear. It’s rooted in remaining with what we know rather than taking a leap of faith to what we could be.

Thus began a cycle for me: return to teaching, go back to my old ways, hate my life, want to make a change, take a new teaching job, hate it, go back to my old ways, hate my life, want to make a change…

A vicious cycle that left me in a new city (thought it would make me happy), in an old house (I wanted a project), and with about twenty pounds more weight and a serious self-condemnation problem due to my struggles with alcohol…

Which I was drinking in order to not feel all of the above.

It’s a real smack-my-head kind of thing. From the outside, one might look at my life and say, How could she not see what she was doing?

But I was so not focused on my own life that I missed what I was doing to myself.

I was busy focused on other people, and I was jealous that I couldn’t make my own life better.

What I thought was going to be the year that I had my greatest success- 2020- ended up being one of the quietest years of my life.

With no one doing anything because of the pandemic, I was able to take a giant step back and reassess where I was going and why.

When 2021 hit, I’d built up such a restful resistance, I like to call it, that when all hell broke loose: job issues, Covid, death, suicide, children leaving home– I was able to survive.

In other words, if the worst thing ever had not happened, I would have crumbled when my life changed so drastically, so fast.

What occurred instead was that I had an epiphany. I was destroying myself, and it was on me, and only me to change.

It was time to be the star of my own show.

And what I learned about starring in my own life is what I hope will help you change yours:

To star in your own show you have to take your eyes off of other people.

You can’t look outside before you look inside. I had to get to the heart and soul of why I’d been living the same cycle of misery for years on end.

It started with reframing my past.

One day, every member of my family left the house. I grabbed a candle, turned on some music and sat.

I began to recall many moments from my past that were hurtful and had left open wounds.

I sat outside of myself in each memory, really trying to understand what was happening in each moment, and putting myself in my own shoes or the shoes of the person who hurt me, and attempting to assess each scenario in a new light.

Then, I pictured what my “perfect” life would look like (understanding, of course, that no life is perfect).

When I was done, I wrote down that new life. I taped it inside the back cover of my journal, and I read it daily.

Every time I would speak, I would think about what I was going to say: was it going to help or hurt me? Hang or harbor others?

Every time I would eat, I would ask if there was a reason behind my eating. Am I hungry? Angry? Tired? Lonely?

I began cleaning my house daily, a huge step for me, since I thought cleaning was pointless. Everything had been pointless up to that point.

I committed to lifting weights just 15 minutes a day, 4 times a week.

I started walking my dogs and listening to good Ted Talks on the journey.

I stopped drinking alcohol altogether.

And I now take a Sunday drive, every single Sunday, where I sing, pray, cry and listen to God’s voice inside me.

If you’re going to be the star of your show, everyone else must become a costar, a guest, or an audience member.

And that’s okay. They’re busy starring in their own show, as they should be.

In fact, they’re so busy, they probably haven’t even bothered to check out your new season.

No one is watching us nearly as much as we think they are.

And this is comforting, really. Because it allows us to deep dive into the wide waters of discovering who we are.

Some people will quit you midseason- that’s okay.

You may change the script- that’s okay.

The ratings might go down for awhile- that is really okay!

Just don’t give up on yourself.

If you’re one of those who have read this and thought: Starring in your own show is so narcissistic, I’d ask you to reconsider.

We have far too many martyrs out there in the world, women who have sacrificed their whole lives being miserable so that others could be happy.

We have far too many women who were never told they could, so they didn’t.

Women who were never given the green light to create their own projects or to write their own narrative.

Women who gave up.

We need more women who are audaciously authentic, consistently content and who practice restful resistance.

@monthtomilestones.com

Those are the stars who shine the brightest.

And they make the world a better place.

In what ways are you wanting to be the star of your own show in the coming year? What changes do you hope to make? I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature
how to move forward
How to Overcome the Bad Habit Your Brain Loves

How to Overcome the Bad Habit Your Brain Loves

I am enjoying sobriety in a way I never have before.

During previous breaks from drinking, I always counted the days until I could end my self-imposed exile from alcohol and enjoy an afternoon glass of wine again.

I would tell myself that the new me would be different. I would stop at one glass (magically!), and I would skip days in between drinking.

It’s funny that I never noticed the correlation between alcohol and anxiety.

Never did I stop to think that the rules I was setting in regards to my drinking was a major warning sign that my self-control was haywire.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop drinking. I wanted to, but I didn’t want to.

I needed alcohol, but I knew I didn’t need it.

I craved the way it made me feel, but I despised it the next morning.

It wasn’t until a binger that ended my drinking for good (I’ll tell you in a moment why I’m holding onto that truth), that woke me up to the conflict in my life surrounding alcohol and my ability to control myself when drinking it.

I’d long known that I was drinking as an escape. I’d figured it out during one of the worst periods of my life, when I was using my nightly wine sessions as a way to forget all the pain of the day.

My job was awful, my marriage was crumbling and I was in a full-blown midlife crisis.

I was unhealthy and I was unhappy.

But I didn’t know how to change.

The truth was, all of my problems with alcohol were hidden in my problems with change.

It wasn’t the drinking of the alcohol that was bothering me. It was the shame I felt because I couldn’t stop.

I couldn’t change the things in my life that were bothering me.

But the reason I couldn’t change was because my thinking was all wrong.

Because I’d been raised in a traumatic environment, my thinking had become based on survival.

Survival mode is the lowest from of thinking, as Mel Robbins calls it, thinking from the “lizard brain.”

Baseline, lizard brain thinking is when your brain flies on autopilot and seeks comfort as a means to survive.

Changing your life is anything but comfortable.

So my brain was protecting me by doing the thing it did best: making decisions for me based on comfort.

But the comfort was bringing me anxiety, which was creating conflict in my brain.

The conflict was a signal that I needed to heal; but because I also suffered from something called Black/White Thinking, I didn’t know how to heal. Healing felt too hard because black/white thinking is all or nothing thinking.

And all or nothing is impossible. Humans aren’t made for perfection. We learn from failure and mistakes.

I woke up the morning after my binge with a realization that I could remain in conflict with myself and probably die, or I could live with a few years of discomfort if that’s what it took to change my habits.

Slowly but surely, month after month, I began my change.

It started with replacing my morning social media scroll, which made me feel worthless, with a Bible study and a 15 minute dumbbell workout. I still allow myself 15 minutes on social media, and I make time for pinning goodies on Pinterest, which my creative brain loves. But I no longer stay stuck in the frozen zone.

I also replaced my afternoon-that-went-into-the-evening wine session with a cup of aloe vera juice in a beautiful glass. I get just as much pleasure but zero anxiety because I know I’m making a better choice.

Finally, I write my concerns down before I sleep. Nothing about my life has changed all that much. I’m still not crazy about my job, I’ve settled with the understanding that my marriage is never going to be a Hallmark movie, and I’m constantly working on my weight.

But when I write those cares down and release them to God (you’re free to call Him whatever you’d like), I go to sleep in relative peace, knowing they’re out of my control and I’ve done all I could that day.

Forgiveness has also become the biggest change–and the best gift–I’ve given both myself and others. Nothing soothes the soul like truly letting go of the past.

And over time, my brain has formed new habits. I’ve retrained my pathways to find new things I love.

I’m not perfect, and I never will be.

But I’m content, and that’s good enough for me.

How have you replaced bad habits with good? What do you still struggle to change? I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature

*Visit the MonMil Goods store to rock sobriety in style! And be on the look out for our Month to Milestone bracelet, coming soon.

How to become more positive
a list of how to lose weight slowly

Why You Should Lose Weight Slowly

To be fat in the 1980s was a big deal.

I remember many days when my brother, slightly bigger than the rest of the kids his age (but not at all big compared to many kids today), would come home from school exhausted after enduring hours on end of bullying over his weight.

Diet after diet, my parents tried their hardest to help him lose. But no matter what they did, no matter what he did, my brother could not shed the weight.

He most likely eats for a totally different reason now, probably more to emotionally squash the pain than to nourish his body.

But unlike the 1980s, today there are millions of us just like him.

It’s no secret that our waistlines have grown. A lot.

And while we could sit here and discuss all day the reasons behind that and the people we could blame, the truth is, the entire world plays a part in our problems with obesity.

  • Technology, a good thing, caused us to be more sedentary, a bad thing.
  • Fast food, a tasty thing, introduced us to easy access to large portion sizes, a bad thing.
  • New science in the food industry, a good thing, brought us highly palatable, processed food, a bad thing.
  • And most importantly, our brain, a good thing, seeks at any cost to comfort and protect us from difficulty, a bad thing.

It’s almost as if we humans have lost all ability to control ourselves.

I had the type of childhood where you ate what was given to you without complaint or you didn’t eat at all.

Rarely didn’t we go out to eat; we simply didn’t have the money.

My mom gave us cereal for breakfast, a small snack, sandwich and chips for lunch, an afterschool snack, and dinner.

I never went without food and really don’t even remember complaining, except on nights when we had something I didn’t really like, which really wasn’t often.

In the summer, we would purchase a huge tub of ice cream, and we could have a small cup after supper.

And like most Southern families, we barbecued on Sunday and had all the fixings.

But I specifically remember only getting candy on four occasions a year: Easter, Halloween, Christmas, and when I’d saved up enough cash to walk to the gas station with my best friend, Jana, to buy Laffy Taffys and York Peppermint Patties.

Nowadays, kids have candy at their disposal 24/7, not to mention multiple snacks per day and all the fast food and eating out they could want.

Highly palatable, easily processed food has become so affordable, we don’t realize it’s also become highly detrimental to our health.

We’re also unaware of the additives being placed inside the products we buy that are growing our addictions to these foods. Our brains are quite literally changing like drug addicts’ brains in order to crave more of this highly palatable food, so that even if we want to pass it up, we simply can’t pass it up.

Around the age of fourteen, I began to use food and alcohol to distract myself from problems at home.

It started innocently enough. I would come home from dance class starving, but once again, I’d be left alone to fend for myself after my mother took a night job, my brother moved to my grandparents’ and my dad moved to another city.

I would ask friends to bring me food: fast food, little debbies, potato chips. We would watch TV and eat, eat, eat.

For years, I was able to mask the issues I had with food. (Alcohol, not so much. Most people were pretty aware I had a problem with that, even when it seemed like “normal teenage” drinking.)

I would eat whatever food had been cooked, then get in my car, go to a fast food restaurant, and eat again.

I never gained weight. Not even a little. Call it good genes, a high metabolism, or sheer luck, but I remained a 0-4 for a pretty good while.

Then, after the birth of my fourth child at 30, in 2010, a move to a new city in 2012, and a hysterectomy in 2014, my weight gain jumped drastically.

I didn’t feel like I was doing anything differently, yet, the scale was moving up faster than I could step on and off of it.

I began to yo-yo diet, and I would enter periods of deep depression and anxiety over my weight gain.

No woman likes to feel ugly. And I felt very ugly and alone.

What I eventually realized (after years of this back and forth madness) was that I had tied my value into my looks.

I’d long used my looks to get me what I wanted, and now that this part of my life was over, I felt worthless.

So, I made a decision, and it changed my life.

I decided that I would start to find value in my value alone.

Sounds strange, right? But it’s true. You’re valuable simply because you exist.

We all are.

And when I started to tell myself that, eventually, I believed it.

A funny thing happened, too. I found myself believing it about other people as well.

Whereas I used to judge others pretty harshly (while being an excellent lawyer for myself), once I started seeing my own value, I began to see their value, too.

This practice of valuing my existence created a gratitude in my soul that has completely taken my mind off of my weight.

Still, I’d like to be healthy. So lately, I’ve been focusing on staying sober, getting regular checkups, lifting heavier weights a couple of times a week, walking my dogs, and eating healthier seventy-five percent of the time.

The most important new focus I have is on my relationships. Good relationships equal healthier people.

I’m losing weight extremely slowly, but from the research I’ve read, that’s a good thing.

You see, losing weight too fast can throw your metabolism for a loop.

That whole brain-trying-to-protect-you thing will go into overdrive.

So the slower the better.

It may takes years to get where I’d like to be, and you know what? That’s okay.

Because as I always say, it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey that’s makes the living good.

In what ways have you learned to change or maintain your weight? What other unhealthy areas of your life are you working to clean? I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature
a list of how to lose weight slowly
girl listening to her parents

Your Children Are Watching You

I’m not sure there’s a more eternal job than that of a parent.

Having two college-aged children, I’m now seeing the fruits of all the hard work I put into raising them.

They are successful, thriving young adults.

Even though I was far from perfect.

Because of my issues with sobriety, my older children saw me tipsy (and more) more times than I care to admit.

They called me out on it. They worried.

I received novel-long texts from my daughter, and I’ll never forget one in particular.

I found it the morning after a really bad night.

I’d had a fight with my husband. I hated my job. I didn’t like the direction of my life.

I was worried about my dogs, my kids, my house, my parents, my husband’s parents.

Everything seemed to be going wrong.

And as usual, I dealt with hard times the way I’d watch my own parents deal with them.

I drank alcohol.

For someone like me who lives on high alert and with high anxiety, to drink means to forget.

For those small moments, you’re not having to control anything. You are letting go.

The problem with anxiety-drinkers is that we forget about the next morning.

We ignore that there will be physical, mental and spiritual consequences for binge-drinking.

Our psyche is dinged just a little bit more each time we have a binger.

Our liver suffers.

We live in worry that we did or said something wrong. (And I actually did many, many times, which brought out nothing but more self-condemnation to drink over.)

Drinking to deal with anxiety, and having anxiety over drinking becomes a vicious cycle.

The worst part about pain is that it makes you blind to those around you.

So while I wanted to believe my children were oblivious, the truth was, they were watching.

But unlike my own parents, I said lots and lots of I’m sorrys. My children and I talked at length about why I drank, how badly I wanted to stop, and why it was so important they learn from me.

Now, I was not running around day in and day out drinking. I’ve never been a drink in the day or a drink every night person.

But none of that mattered. The amount of time you drink isn’t important. The amount you drink when you drink is.

I finally gave it up for good. It was hard at first, but every day gets easier and easier.

It took a whole lot of prayer, and very little willpower, because I simply refused to place myself around alcohol or purchase it for myself (wine was my downfall).

I’m working on doing the same with processed foods now, which is infinitely harder, I can assure you.

But I’ll reach that milestone; I believe that.

Because my children are watching. And they are my harvest.

What is your biggest struggle at the moment? No judgment. Just keep going. I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature
girl listening to her parents

What to Do When Sobriety Is No Longer New and Fun

I’m well into my journey of not drinking, and there are a couple of reasons why I’m confident about not going back.

For starters, I’m terrified of returning to the cycle.

You know, the one glass twice a week, then one glass a night, then two glasses a night, then the huge binge before taking a two week break and thinking I could ease back in. (Anyone else?)

The anxiety of building myself up only to fail again is greater than the anxiety I get when I have to sit through discomfort as opposed to having another drink.

Also, I feel better. My head is clear, my stomach doesn’t burn, my bladder’s not constantly begging me to run to the bathroom even when I don’t really have to go.

My liver doesn’t feel like it’s about to blow up. The bags under my eyes aren’t quite so deep and there’s no headache when I’m sober.

But I would be lying if I said that I’m still giddy about my sobriety.

There’s been more than one occasion the last week when I’ve turned to my husband or eighteen-year-old daughter and said, “Man, I miss drinking.” And they know exactly what I mean.

I don’t miss alcohol. I miss what it represented in my life.

Alcohol made me “fun.” I was the life of the party… except when I wasn’t.

Alcohol made me “sexy.” Every guy wanted me… except when they didn’t.

Alcohol made me “more myself.” I knew exactly who I was… except when I remained more confused than ever.

Alcohol made me “relax.” I sat on my deck and relaxed away… except when the anxiety hit the morning after.

Alcohol made me “creative.” I wrote pages upon pages… except when I could no longer think clearly.

As I said in a previous posts, alcohol was my frenemy. I wanted to love drinking.

I longed to wake up with a clear conscious the next day. I truly believed I could control the amount I drank.

(Above photo credit to Anthony Tran. )

Sometimes I could. On days where I had nothing I was working through, I could enjoy a couple of beers or a glass of wine and be fine.

But no matter how hard I tried, inevitably I would eventually during times where there was too much eating away at my soul, and, abusing my ability to drink, I would binge and wake up miserable the next day.

My alcohol use disorder lasted twenty-eight years. Thinking of all the beautiful life and precious time I wasted breaks my heart.

The best part of going sober is waking up happy every day, realizing you don’t have to feel guilty, apologize or claw your eyes out from the anxiety of wondering what you did the night before.

The worst part of going sober is that when the happiness is over (and it will end because we all have a happy “set point” and eventually return to it), you’re left with boredom and a whole lot of bad memories.

Boredom and bad memories are usually the catalyst for your reaching into the wine cabinet. But now you can’t.

When the joy of sobriety wears off, here is what to do instead:

  1. Replace your JOY

I cannot stress this enough–replace it with something GOOD!

If you love to walk your dog, that’s your new joy.

Love to paint? Go for it.

Enjoy writing? Get your pen or computer out and go to town.

Replacing one joy for another keeps sobriety-induced depression at bay. However, you can’t replace the old “joy” for something that you’ll eventually have to recover from (such as over-eating or vaping).

2. Replace your HABIT–

And keep replacing it. Often it’s not the actual thing we were doing that we miss, but the comfort it gave us.

I used to love getting a glass of wine after work and sitting on my back deck listening to the birds. When I decided to go sober, I realized I could still do that, so I replaced my wine with coffee or tea.

3. Replace your THOUGHTS-

And capture negativity ASAP.

if you’re a Christian like me, you already know what the Bible says about your thought life.

The Good Book is riddled with verses on changing your mind (the very definition of repentance).

But even if you’re not an uber-religious person, you’re probably well aware of the power of our thoughts.

Thoughts are energy and energy is POWERFUL. Choose good thoughts and you’ll fire off new pathways in your brain. Isn’t that cool?

When you first get sober and you’re in the giddy phase, you’ll want to form a whole new life. You’ll buy vegetables you’ve never bought and a set of weights and you’ll watch every Ted-talk imaginable thinking you’re the next Mel Robbins.

That feeling of conquering the world that you have during early sobriety will wear off. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

Trust me, the next level is going to be hard, the boredom and self-condemnation, and all. But soon after that, you’ll enter the best phase, the gratitude phase.

When you’re grateful for every day you’re sober, you’ll want to see others set free, too.

And helping others is the greatest joy of all.

What new habits have you formed in sobriety? What was your hardest stage? I’d love to hear from you.

emoji blowing a kiss
happy girl getting through anxiety

Why Anxious People Drink Alcohol

Many sober-curious people are unaware of the connection between anxiety and alcohol.

When I first began taking breaks from drinking, I was always shocked at how hard depression hit me.

After all, alcohol is supposed to be the depressant, right? Then why was I most depressed when I was sober?

It reminds me of a conversation my husband once had with his uncle, an older gentleman who likes a daily drink.

He asked his sister why she didn’t drink.

When my husband’s mother answered, the brother laughed and said, “So you’re totally fine knowing that the way you feel when you wake up in the morning is the best you’ll feel all day? Good for you, then.”

He was joking, but he was right.

When you enter sobriety, it is hard to accept that the hit of dopamine you used to get from pouring that first drink of alcohol is now gone.

And that stinks.

During many seasons of my life, this was my routine and thought life:

  • Make it through the day by keeping busy with work and chores — (TRYING DESPERATELY TO DROWN OUT THOUGHTS OF MY FAILURES!)
  • Grab kids from school and fix snacks, help with homework and talk about their day — (THANKING GOD FOR THEM BECAUSE THEY TOOK MY MIND OFF OF MY FAILURES!)
  • Watch the clock until 5 pm, when I could pour that first glass of wine and sit on my deck by myself– (BEST PART OF MY DAY! TOO BUSY BEING HAPPY FROM THE ALCOHOL HIGH TO WORRY ABOUT MY FAILURES!)
  • Wake up the next morning with loads of self-condemnation and anxiety, swear the day will be different, then repeat. (MORE OF MY FAILURES!)

If my day sounds familiar, I hate to break this to you, but you are abusing alcohol.

Hear me out– you might not think you are drinking alcohol for the wrong reasons, but I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you anxiously watch the clock until you feel it is an “acceptable” time to drink? Do you find yourself wanting to make excuses to move the time up and hour or two?
  2. Do you look forward to dinners out with your spouse or friends–specifically so you can drink?
  3. Do you tell yourself at the start of the night you’ll only have one glass, but soon that one becomes two… or more?
  4. Do you wake up the next morning with thoughts of self-condemnation and tell yourself you’ll do better next time– only to do it again?
  5. Do you feel anxious and drink to make it go away? After drinking do you feel anxious all over again?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, please sit a moment and ask yourself when and where your drinking started and how it got to where it is today.

For many of us, a habit of drinking is passed down from our parents.

I watched my parents drink when I was a child, but it was never a problem until my mother and father divorced.

For both of them, alcohol use became an issue as they sorted through the shock of divorce and the subsequent difficulties that came with it.

Neither of my parents was strict, so I began drinking at the age of twelve and quickly learned alcohol was a good way to forget problems.

I loved that when I drank I wasn’t in control and didn’t have to think about my life.

Many of my friends didn’t drink until high school or college. Maybe that was you.

The reasons we drink in young adulthood are multifaceted and many come from having anxiety.

You might have started drinking because you wanted to feel grown.

Or maybe drinking was a way to lighten social situations.

When you get older, meeting new people and growing authentic friendship feels awkward.

And sometimes we just feel better about ourselves when we drink.

I loved the person I was when I was drinking– at least, in the moment and to a certain point.

When I drank, I felt fun, sexy and confident.

But there comes a moment in the night where you cross the line between tipsy and full-blown drunk– and no one likes what’s on the other side of that line.

At that point you become a burden and a liability to your friends.

I can’t count the number of precious friends that begged me to drink without crossing that line. Even my wild and crazy friends had these serious conversations with me.

And there were nights, many nights, actually, when I didn’t have thoughts of the past.

I wasn’t replaying the shoulda, coulda, woulda tape that usually ran inside my mind.

Those nights were great. I drank for the right reasons, and I woke up with a clear conscience and zero self-condemnation.

But in seasons of anxiety, when I knew drinking would be a huge mistake, I relied on it to drown out the noise in my head, and, like the frenemy it is, alcohol left me with nothing but more regret.

I call alcohol a frenemy because that’s exactly what it is.

It’s like that girl or guy that pretends to love you, but who is actually super shady to you behind your back and stays close to you just to wreck your whole life.

Alcohol was my frenemy for many years. Now, I see it as the enemy it really was to me.

Many terrible moments in my life would have been completely avoided had I been sober. I have no one to blame for those moments but myself.

So while I wish I could enjoy alcohol and drink for fun, I simply can’t.

My anxious brain and my past- both what I’ve done and what’s been done to me- won’t allow me to drink for pleasure.

One of my favorite sayings is, It is what it is.

I think that perfectly sums up life in a nutshell. It is what it is.

There’s so little we have control over and so much we are unaware of.

We have no idea what will happen in the next ten seconds, even. We’re totally clueless.

Because of this, many of us reach for something higher.

For me that is God, but you might call Him something else. I also like to call God, “the Creator,” because to me, He is a creative genius.

When I stay in tune with the Creator (which doesn’t always happen because our connection with the Universe, God, Christ, the Creator–whatever you want to call Him– is like a roller coaster), I constantly see His handiwork everywhere. I’m able to put signs together and know He’s right there with me, guiding me.

But there are other times I feel very alone.

It’s a consequence of the broken world we live in, and the very reason He said, A new commandment I leave you: love one another, before He physically left us.

Jesus knew that loneliness, anxiety, guilt and shame were personality traits of humanity, and we would need to lean on each other to get through.

This year has been hard for my husband and me for many reasons.

Neither of us is particularly happy in our careers.

We are entering year twenty of marriage, and we are getting older.

Our bodies aren’t what they once were, and, when faced with the obsession society has with youth, choosing not to hang onto our beauty feels counterculture.

Our kids are growing and changing. Our oldest son is moving into his first apartment and our youngest daughter is entering middle school.

Like everyone in the world, we’ve dealt with some rough setbacks.

Our “rough” has included job loss, uncertainty, illness and suicide.

So needless to say, our connection hasn’t exactly been tight. We’ve come and gone many days without an embrace, and a simple peck and “have a great day,” has become pretty common.

But not too long ago, my husband surprised me with a weekend away, starting with dinner at this really cool place near our hometown.

While I looked forward to the much-needed change of scenery, I dreaded our night out, knowing that there would be people drinking alcohol all around me, including my husband.

It was a sad fact, but I’d been avoiding all socializing and fun because I was afraid I couldn’t pass up drinking.

As we walked into the restaurant, I had a boulder of fear in my belly…

Until I spotted this sign, hanging proudly on the wall.

picture from of the words it is what it is

It was the moment I knew the Universe had my back. (I like to call these moments God-winks.)

I’m thankful that, unlike some of my family members, I’ve avoided alcoholism.

I’ve never “needed” to drink or “craved” alcohol as a means of regulating my body function. I have no doubt this blessing was only given by the Grace of God.

For this reason, I don’t judge others. You never know the burdens your fellow humans bear.

When you encounter someone with a substance abuse problem, please have compassion.

Sometimes, we’re doing the best we can. Sometimes, we’re simply lost and haven’t found our way.

Life is what it is. But by the Grace of God and the love of others, we’ll make it through.

Advice on getting past anxiety:

  1. Don’t try to change your habits; just replace small parts of them. It’s the joy of the routine that comforts us. Former smokers will say that it wasn’t so much the cigarette that made them happy as it was the break from reality. So if you’re used to sitting on your deck in the afternoon with a glass of wine, replace the glass of wine with tea. At first it will feel awkward, but over time, a new habit will form.
  2. Give yourself alone time, no matter the cost. When I decided to stop drinking, I spent every Sunday afternoon in my car. I’d take a drive and pray the whole time. Often this praying included screaming at God, and I knew He didn’t care. For the first time in my life I was being completely honest, and it gave me relief.
  3. As cliched as it sounds, take sobriety one day at a time. Sometimes even a day is too long. Take it hour by hour, minute by minute, if needed. Breathe deeply and remember your why.

In what ways are you learning to deal with the reality of your life without alcohol or any other distractions you’ve been using to cope? Comment below or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

monmil goods signature
how to get through anxiety from alcohol