sober lifestyle


Source: @dinosaurcouch, another highly recommended follow on the ‘gram

I saved this cute comic to include in an activity packet for the weekly counseling group I run at work. It’s supposed to be a self-esteem group, and as someone who spent 40+ years looking for worthiness in good grades, academic awards, athletic victories, praise from authority figures, attention from dudes, social media “likes,” blog comments and, ultimately, liquor bottles, I could think of no more relevant discussion topic for one of our hour-long sessions than “External vs. Internal Validation.”

But then I found myself Googling “how to do internal validation” and realized I had zero information to impart, let alone strategies and solutions to share, on that subject.

The part of the brain that sends organic approval signals might’ve been missing in me at birth, and I just recently started trying to investigate its absence. So while I could hold a three-day seminar on the dangers of seeking external validation (PM me if interested 😉), when it comes to “WTF do we do about it?” I’d just be standing at the front of the room, stiffly reading off a print-out from Psychology Today.

Continue reading “Validation”
sober lifestyle


One of my new favorite follows on Instagram. Check him out at @corymuscara.

Since starting my job as an addictions counselor in late January, I’ve devoured several books on the opiate epidemic, from “Dreamland” to “Dopesick” to “Empire of Pain,” and everything I’ve read, combined with everything I’ve seen, has expanded and enhanced my self-awareness. I keep having the same thought:

I’m so lucky I never had abundant access to pills.

I’m lucky the oral surgeon I ran to in a crisis, 7 or 8 years back, prescribed only enough Percocet to get me through a weekend until he could yank my radioactive cracked tooth the following Monday.

The pain from that f*cker had been blowing up my head for days, but the effect of the opiates instantly blew my mind. I will never forget the incredible numbness that overtook my body when I swallowed that first little white disc; it was like someone tripped my “OFF” switch, without sapping my energy, and activated some kind of secret superpower while ensconcing me inside an impenetrable shield. I felt indestructible, like I could run through walls and leap tall buildings…or leave the house and talk to people without anxiety, fear, or shame! 😮

Continue reading “Awareness”
sober lifestyle


When forced to interact with others in group settings, I typically have two speeds: Anxious over-talking, and total shutdown silence. My brain fires off frantic messages as I vacillate between modes, and more often than not, the result is cringey awkwardness.

This is why I’ve always sidestepped social situations when presented with a choice. Alas, avoidance is impossible at this counseling job I’ve been scrambling to get a handle on since late January.

Each day, I’m tasked with navigating the tricky dynamics of vastly different client and coworker personalities, while trying to practice a craft I only started studying 18 months ago and stay on top of an ever-growing list of administrative duties — I’m starting to get calls from probation officers, y’all! 😳 Meanwhile, I’m replaying past sessions over and over in my head, certain that I totally f*cked everything up.

Continue reading “Personality”
sober lifestyle


The other day, while sitting in my office trying to take deep breaths and clear my head between back-to-back therapy sessions, my phone vibrated with a text message. It was a marketing blast from a local gym I used to belong to in a former life.

Hey Jen! How are you doing with your fitness goals since we last saw you? If we can help, give us a call!

I let out a guffaw. “Fitness goals”…ha!

The Jen they “last saw” four or five long years ago, bears such little resemblance to the person I am today that I doubt anyone at the gym — or any of my old haunts from the pre-2019 era — would even recognize me. And I’m not just talking about the physical effects of aging and a sedentary lifestyle.

Jen circa 2023 needs professional help, for sure, but it ain’t so I can improve my clean-and-jerk numbers or learn butterfly pull-ups.

Continue reading “Fitness”
sober lifestyle


The content of this blog has landed me in the crosshairs of Employee Assistance (at my first marketing job, circa mid-2019) and “Aggie Care” (during the initial culture-shock days of grad school at Delaware Valley University, in the fall of 2021).

Concerned parties read my raw reflections on mental health and addiction and sounded the alarm: 🚨 Achtung! There’s an alcoholic in our midst! 🚨 And I was taken by surprise both times, being ushered into a glass-walled conference room in the middle of a work day for an eval by an ADP consultant, and receiving an obligatory email from the head of the psych department while sitting in class. It felt like I was back in first grade on one of my frequent powwows with the principal; if there’s one thing I’ve always kicked ass at, it’s being a mischief-making squeaky wheel!

Hard to believe I’m the one who’s applying the grease now, isn’t it? This past week, I started seeing clients one-on-one at my new part-time counseling job, and it was one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my entire life.

Continue reading “Immersion”
sober lifestyle


Tomorrow is the day I officially start meeting with clients — in my own office, at a real drug and alcohol treatment center, for pay.

Holy mackerel; life comes at you fast!

One month ago, I was newly a unemployed copywriter scrambling to find a counseling internship before the start of the grad school semester.

And 43 months ago, I was gutting out the first day of a scary new life without alcohol, not having the slightest inkling of the new NEW life I would be living in recovery.

So there was only one way to spend this day — my official sober month-iversary — and that was to get up at 4AM for a lovely moon- and headlamp-lit run through the state park, grab a quick shower, and log onto a virtual 12-step meeting to share my “experience, strength and hope” as a very grateful guest speaker (who kept her story under 20 minutes…score!) And then, to crash under an avalanche of emotion just after breakfast, nearly forgetting I have to show up for a class tonight — in person.

I can’t get out of it. I tried. 😩

Continue reading “Hope”
sober lifestyle


I started my new job this week, and thank goodness they’re allowing me to ease into the actual counseling part, observing and shadowing other therapists before I meet with clients face to face on my own.

If you saw me on Day One, getting lost multiple times in the circular hallway, walking in on a colleague in the bathroom because I had a master key in my hand and too many new things overwhelming my brain, and then getting slammed with my monthly cycle, complete with painful cramps, in the middle of a staff meeting, you’d understand that I was not ready to put forth my best self in the service of others.

Then again, will I ever really be?

Continue reading “Leap”
sober lifestyle


The woman sitting next to me in the conference room at my sober retreat a few weeks ago was telling a fantastical tale, and I was working hard to keep my incredulous inner cynic from bursting out.

She said she and her husband had traveled from Philly to a quaint little town in the Carolinas, and she loved it so much that she asked God for signs that they were meant to move south. Shortly thereafter, they wandered into a local church, where the door just happened to be unlocked and the priest just happened to be available to chat. He told the couple he knew of a nearby house that had just gone up for sale. They left the church to tour the house, made an offer on the spot…yada yada, it’s two months later, and they’re all set to relocate to their new home.

Pfft! Woo-woo overload, right?

Continue reading “Manifestation”