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Tag: sobriety

A Skin Care Journey – Part 1

I’m not sure where or when this recently published book – Beyond Soap: The Real Truth About What You Are Doing to Your Skin and How to Fix It for a Beautiful, Healthy Glow by Dr. Sandy Skotnicki – came on to my radar, but I know it did because when I saw it displayed during a recent bookshop trip I recognized it immediately as something that I had heard about and was a must-read for me.

I’ve always been a bit skin obsessed and doing what I can so that my skin is blemish free, smooth and bouncy. The more I learn the more I realize that most of my efforts (but not all) were misguided. It’s taken me more than two decades to truly understand that when it comes to the skin less is more.

As a teen I started with the compulsive habit of over cleaning (thank you Noxema ) and over exfoliating (thank you St Ives apricot pit scrubs). Later I spent so much money on awesome smelling and feeling products that unfortunately had unremarkable results. I layered product onto product in hopes that the effects of lotion 1 might be remedied by lotion 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5). Through out the years there have been breakouts (and picking), redness, stinging, itchiness and most recently extreme dryness, hives, swelling and rashes.

A few years back this started to happen

I was put on prednisone, had patch testing done (results all negative), took prescription anti-histamines whenever I felt the swelling start (it began with a tingle and an itch), and walked around with an epi-pen for a year. I tried to figure out what was trigging it and my best guess was alcohol (I was drinking pretty heavily back then). I was using all natural products without parabens and pegs in them so I assumed my skincare wasn’t at fault. I can’t know for sure. What I do know is that my life was a bit of a mess and had been since 2010. I had my last drink December 27th, 2012 and worked on sobriety big time. I haven’t had a reaction like that since then.

What I have had is very dry skin and redness

And weird breakouts

Now, this may be due to aging. I’m perimenopausal after all. Last summer I was diagnosed with fibroids, endometrial hyperplasia and severe anemia. I got treated (as well as an IUD for the progesterone) and those conditions have greatly improved. I’m also sleeping through the night for the first time in 4 years and have fewer night sweats. Lots has improved, but, my goodness, is my face ever really, really dry and still breaking out.

It’s not clear in this pic, but there were close to 100 pustules on my forehead. Yes, I counted. This blogger likes her data. ;-)

Now onto the book Beyond Soap and what it’s inspired me to do

Stay tuned for part 2 of this entry!

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Good Reads About Drinking & Sobriety

When I was coming to terms with my alcoholism I was drawn to reading memoirs about drinking. I knew I had a problem and that something had to change, but I was afraid. I wanted to feel less alone in my experience AND find examples of women who had made the life altering decision to quit drinking. I wanted to know what sobriety looked like. It felt so unknown and I wanted reassurance, a sense of hope, that giving up alcohol was something I could do.

Reading about it rather than attending meetings was a gentle and safe way to explore the concept of sobriety in private. I wasn’t quite ready to say aloud that I had a problem. I wasn’t quite ready to quit for good. Reading these books and essays helped me get to the place where I was able to take that first step and then subsequently do all the necessary work (for me) to embrace sobriety and recovery.

Books –

Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

Some online essays by Emily McCombs –

I’m Turning 30 And I’m Having My First Sober Birthday Party Ever (And I’m A Little Scared)

I Would Not Like To Discuss Your Alcohol Problem, Thank You (which now with two and half years of sobriety under my belt I relate to in a BIG way)

Drinking A Love Story

Addicted To Everything – Blame It On The A A A A Alcohol

Bonus –

After a year or so of sobriety I discovered After Party Magazine. It’s an offshoot of Rehab Reviews and features first-person content and interviews on sobriety and recovery. It’s a useful spot to find diverse perspectives on all kinds of substance abuse. I especially like the How I Got Sober series.

I hope by sharing my experiences and the strategies I used to get and stay sober others in need might find their way to health and recovery too.

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What Sobriety Means To Me

I have not had an alcoholic beverage since December 27th, 2013. On January 4th, 2014 I went in front a room of strangers and declared that I was an alcoholic. This declaration was important.  A public reality check of sorts that helped me create a final ending of a specific pattern of behaviour and start a new one. It helped me find a community of similarly minded people and feel less alone in my experience. It provided me with access to resources as I started to live my life without alcohol as a part of it – without my culturally celebrated pacifier.

While I am now at ease with calling myself an alcoholic (it wasn’t easy at first), I do not think of myself as an addict. When I stopped drinking I did not experience any physical withdrawal. It was much more of a MIND thing than a BODY thing (though my excessive drinking was greatly affecting my health – something I will write about another time). I didn’t crave alcohol or feel compelled to drink. I did think about it a lot the first month, but it was all part of figuring out new ways to manage my time and energy now that I wasn’t dulled by booze, messily drunk or hungover.

Yes, alcohol consumption for me was a destructive and near impossible thing for me to control (especially once I get started) because I associated it with stress relief, avoiding pain and coping with anxiety. I thought of drinking as “relaxation”, as something owed to me for being so “good” or working hard. Rather than a physical addiction drinking was a habit forming activity based on faulty associations.

Booze numbed me and allowed me (for a short time) to feel comfortable and be social. I didn’t drink every day and there were times I handled suffering without it, went to events without drinking, but I couldn’t predict which times those would be. As the years progressed I couldn’t manage my drinking and subsequently I got worse and worse at managing my life. What I believe I had is a learning disorder around alcohol and emotional well-being.

Here is an article that looks at drinking through that lens. I found it really interesting and helpful.

This learning disorder began early for me. When I was younger, from childhood until age 40 (ah!!! half a lifetime!!!), I had very little tolerance for my suffering. Especially related to fear, anger and disappointing others. I also had messed up beliefs like if I was perfect (whatever that was) I would never feel pain, everyone would accept me, and I would always be happy. Read more about this, my old way of thinking, here. Then I entered therapy and learned new ways of approaching my anxiety and fear. I think if it had not been for therapy and working on my skills to observe, accept and view my feelings with loving kindness I would never have been able to stop drinking.

I really wished I had learned earlier how to manage my uncomfortable feelings in a healthy way. I think instead I learned to deny my difficult feelings by having beliefs like: look on the brighter side, other people have it worse than me, and the classic don’t cry out loud and keep it inside

If I look back – before alcohol was even part of the picture – I was an escape artist more than an addict. I was an avid user of not-so-healthy and sometimes even quite destructive coping mechanisms to soothe myself. The choice of strategies changed through out the years (hitting myself and others in my family when I was a child, cutting as an early teen, picking as a late teen and young adult *, then trying to be as disciplined and controlled as my ex-husband in my 30s). All very different things, but they were my attempt to make awful feelings go away.

I have stopped trying to find something outside of myself to deal with my fears, anxiety and struggles. The suffering will always be there and I allow myself to feel what I feel. No longer am I questing for perfection in hopes of it making me happy and pain free, to be accepted by others. I am now in a place of equanimity and resilience. With my mindful and compassionate practices AND my sobriety I am no longer twirling around in the vicious circle of trying to be perfect because I felt like a failure for being less than perfect.

* A good article on picking and how to cope.

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September Catch-up

Have you been following me on Twitter and Instagram? It’s where I’ve been most of the spring and summer. Online at least. That’s because I haven’t had time to dedicate to my writing beyond 140 characters. It was an experiment of sorts. Here is what happened.

Opportunity

In February/March I had the opportunity to apply for a job at Chez Stella – a local sex worker resource organization. Job opportunities are not something that come my way very often. One reason is that I have been self-employed and freelancing for close to 20 years. Another is that most of my work has been in and around the adult industry. I knew when I started in this business my options would be limited, but the reality of that has really hit me hard these past few years as I try to stay afloat in this era of free porn and tube sites. It has been a serious, depressing struggle.

Anyway, putting together a CV and letter of intent as part of a job application took a lot of time and energy. It was a challenge as it had to be in French and reflect more than a record of skills and accomplishments. It had to include my perspective on harm reduction and sex worker rights activism. It was a very detailed and through exercise for me. It was quite empowering to present a complete picture of myself. Not something I am able to do in any other professional exercise.

A few weeks after submitting my CV and letter of intent I was called in for an interview. It didn’t go as well as I would have liked. I haven’t had a job interview since the 1990s. I was a bit nervous and anxious. I am sure it showed. Also, the interview was held in French and I’m not as comfortable speaking on certain topics in French. For example, I misunderstood a question on Hepatitis C screening. That was awkward.

Another issue that came up was my sobriety. They asked about my comfort about being in bars. I was honest. While that is not an issue per say it made me think about being around people who are drunk and/or high as part of my work and that is not something I really want to be doing. Not because I would tempted. Being around boozed-up high people actually reinforces my choice, but it does exhaust me. Not an ideal frame of mind for doing demanding work with a vulnerable, marginalized population. Even more so than booze or drugs I knew I would likely have to deal with people who are armed and violent. I do not think I have the personality or the skill set to deal with these things.

In the end it was a relief that I did not get offered the job. I’m glad I had the opportunity to apply. Like I said, work outside of xxx performance is hard to come by for me. Having 2 degrees, webmaster skills, and project management experience cannot counteract the stigma and prejudice of having done the work.

This sucks.

A Second Chance

After the job interview I met with a friend who has a start up. He knows about my work as we have collaborated on burlesque productions together. He offered me a management job to help get things going. What timing! While it is in an area of business that is not in my passion zone it would take advantage of my organizational and leadership skills. Looking for some stability I took the job.

I spent all of this Spring and Summer working on this project. As most things it was not exactly as presented and not really a good fit. I did crazy 60 hour weeks and was not able to work on any of my projects (like my Seska blog), see my family or take care of my health. In August I hurt my back and I was unable to move or walk for a week.

As much as I believe in my friend’s project I knew I had to change things up. I took some time off and dealt with my back. I connected with an awesome osteopath that has brought me back to a much more mobile and flexible physical state. When I was ready to go back to work I cut back my hours and responsibilities. It was the right move.

Next Steps

Now I need to go back to where I was in February before this little adventure in employment began.

I am at my happiest, my most fulfilled, when I am creating and communicating, expressing and writing. I am my most engaged and inspired when I am learning, synthesizing what I learned and sharing it with others.

Productivity without passion makes me ever so unhappy. As time consuming as it was to learn this lesson it was worth it.

Now back to the drawing board!

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2014 An Interesting Year

2014 has been an interesting year, that is for sure. Pretty much a game changer for me.

Sobriety

The most interesting super big thing I did? I got sober. I won’t go into the details of what drinking was like for me because it still feels rather nuanced and personal, but what I can say is that ultimately I was very unhappy because of my drinking. My health, relationships and productivity all suffered because of it. I have had phases of sobriety these past few years and decided at the end of 2013 that it was time once and for all to go for it – take booze out of my life for good. Drinking alcohol, even one drop, just isn’t worth it.

Sobriety for me has been a most humbling and life empowering gift. It has also been a heck of a lot of time consuming work. Thankfully, I have been in therapy since 2010 and immersed in exploring life skills and philosophies that make sense to me (I am a huge fan of the work of Tara Brach and Danielle LaPorte). All of it has helped me get clear on my desires and set goals.

I have created for myself a toolbox of incredible strategies to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, anger, annoyance, resentment and fear. It is not that I do not feel these things. Wow, do I ever. Now though I know how to deal with these feelings in healthy, life affirming ways. Before, not so much. I was always in a panic. I was all freeze, fight and flight. I also lived in my stories. The stuff you tell yourself about yourself, others, the world. Some people call it the trance. I still go there. It is a human quality to do so. Now I am routinely aware of when it happens and I get out of the story trance much quicker than before.

Yes, I am in the NOW in a whole new way and my toolbox has come in very handy. There is more to my experiences (isn’t there always?), but I will leave it at that for now.

Taking time and energy for this process meant putting many work related things on the back burner. My bank account certainly has suffered and the credit card companies love me, but it was very necessary and thankfully very gratifying. Because without sobriety I don’t think I could have done these other great things (or rather, done them very well)…

Making Being an Aunt a Priority

I became an aunt for the second time. I now have a wonderful nephew along with an incredible niece. I spend quite a bit of time visiting them and nurturing our relationships. I feel really blessed to have them in my life and I hope to help enrich their lives with my presence and contributions (stability! mindfulness! joy!). I love them so much. Being an aunt has also brought me closer to my sister. I am so impressed by her as a mother. I admire her so much.

Embracing Simplicity

I did some major organizing of my apartment and my belongings. I gave away many items of clothing, costumes and household goods. Having a more minimalist approach to my everyday life has been very satisfying. I highly recommend it. If it is something that interests you check out Be More With Less. The blog is great as are Courtney’s mini courses. Zen Habits is great too.

My Professional Theatre Debut

Another amazing thing I did is make my professional theatre debut at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts. A big thank you to all that helped make The Graduate such an amazing experience for me. Your belief in me was inspiring and invigorating.

The Return of Team Burlesque

Team Burlesque returned to the stage in November. There is something so powerful and delightful that happens when Elle Diabloe, Miss Sugarpuss and I collaborate. It is unique and rich with love, depth and sisterhood. I am so glad we are working together again. I think the Montreal burlesque scene is stronger and better for it.

Now I am thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next few months and years. What I have decided on is…

I am finally going to write a book. I have been scribbling away for two years and I have decided to get serious about it. The main issue is planning out my time so it gets done this year. I signed up for Your Big Beautiful Book Plan to help me. I am working with my friend who is an editor and writer herself. She gets me and my book. I am open to her critiques and suggestions. A good match I think!

I am also more formally taking all that I learned in my two careers (education and strategic thinking and doing + adult entertainment and sexuality) and creating workshops and other tools to help people navigate the often overwhelming world of sex, pleasure and wellness. Yes, it will be tied in with the book. So exciting!

The butterfly is emerging from her cocoon.

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