Spotlight on the woman who teaches people how to create their ideal lives, Suzanne Fetting!

Have you ever wanted to make a serious change, or set of changes in your life but you either don’t know how, procrastinate making them happen, or just simply ignore the feeling all together? Have you ever compared things about your own life to someone else’s and felt numerous forms of discomfort because you want your life to be more like what their’s appears to be? I highly doubt anyone can answer a straight-up “no” to these questions. I can’t, and for a VERY long time my answer was a straight-up “yes”to both.

I was doing the things above NON-STOP in my twenties but didn’t know how to create the changes I needed to get closer to being genuinely happy. I was a stick in the mud. At one point, I found myself in such an uninspired place that I started to actively search for help. Maybe it would show up in a self-help book, or an inspirational speaker’s seminar or a course, but I was ready for anything because I was so tired of feeling the way I did; shitty with no goals and lack of excitement for daily life. Can you relate to this? Finding yourself in a place that maybe isn’t even necessarily bad, but could be so much better??

Deciding I wanted to feel better was enough to get the ball rolling, because during some relentless Googling in 2011, I came across a “Women’s Confidence Workshop” being held by a woman named Suzanne at Trout Lake Park in East Van. The tag-line was Find your Inner Strength! I had no clue what this meant but I signed up for the Absolute Confidence workshop anyway because I was desperate for some improvement, in any shape or form. I’m so thankful that I did, beause I ended up building a relationship with the best role-model I’ve ever met in my entire life. Over the next six years, including today, she has taught and continues to teach me how to create the life I want. This blog post is to shine a spotlight on my friend, Suzanne, possibly the most empowering teacher and mentor someone could hope to find!!!

So far, this post is a bit vague. Yeah, of course most people have had low parts of their lives..and yeah, lots of people would like to feel better than they already do, and everybody would like to have a life they truly love. Duh. Let me tell you a bit about Suzanne.

Suzanne is a coach who helps people uncover things about themselves (good, and not so good things) that they may not know, or be very in touch with. Things like:

  • passions
  • core values
  • goals
  • FEARS
  • self-sabotaging behaviours
  • beliefs formed about ourselves when we were little
  • people-pleasing
  • saying “no”
  • self-doubt

With her, a client works on strengthening the positive things, identifying negative things, and then figuring out productive ways to blast through barriers that are standing between them and absolute confidence in life. I’ll share the first testimonial that I wrote for Suzanne to elaborate a little on what I’ve already said. This was written in 2012 after working with her weekly for about nine months. Our sessions were on Skype for convenience, in case you’re thinking “well I don’t live in Vancouver.”

“Before hiring Suzanne, I was in the middle of a difficult emotional experience. Also, long before this particular situation, I had a low mood almost all the time and was living day to day worrying about the past or future and not enjoying the present at ALL. I had a lack of hobbies and passions and was totally unfulfilled with life. Prior to my work with her, I felt like I had no real purpose. It was like I was waiting for someone or something that would change things.

Developing confidence is important to me because it leads to finding your authentic-self. Working on this with Suzanne has taken me from where I was (the “dark place”) to where I am today, which is loving my life and enjoying everything I do on a daily basis, big and small. I know what I like and want, look out for #1 and feel fulfilled because she helped me uncover what excites and motivates me and what my unique gifts are. I was also able to finally give up the ways I allowed other people & my own thoughts to affect me negatively. Instead of waiting for life to change, now I make it happen by getting to know myself and creating opportunities. I actually feel really good nearly all of the time because I do things that I love and spend time with the right people. I’ve also learned to truly enjoy my own company which is really important, especially for someone who lives alone.

Working with Suzanne on a personal level is great. She’s welcoming and non-judgemental while always holding you accountable. She has great ideas and exercises and does a professional job running her business, always staying open-minded. The most important things Suzanne has taught me about are self-awareness, personal responsibility and how to really identify what matters to me most. My life is honestly different now; it was a major transformation and it’s not just me who notices. My friends and family also see that I have a completely different outlook and love life. I feel authentic and confident and every day is a good day.

If you’re thinking of hiring her, go for it. You will be amazed with what she’ll help you discover about yourself and the ways it will change the way you feel and live.”

So now you might be thinking, yeah okay well what does she teach people to make all of these great changes happen? Really good question with a very long answer, but I’ll try to be concise about the most important things I’ve learned from Suzanne and how she goes about coaching her clients.

Self-confidence, or a lack thereof, can be traced to the root of almost all personal successes as well as problems. This is not an exaggeration. Suzanne has shown me that the components of confidence, which include things like self-awareness, self-concept, assertiveness, belief systems, and personal responsibility are skills that can be learned and used to live the life I want and avoid most issues or challenges I face or used to face in daily life. Question: If you haven’t been taught how to change a tire, ride a bike, or cook a turkey would you expect to just magically know how to do these things? We, the adults of of today, are born in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The majority of us didn’t grow up with a mentor who specifically taught us how important it is to know and like ourselves, value our uniqueness and take responsibility for our own happiness, so can we really expect these things to be totally second-nature? Sure, for a handful of people these things may come naturally, but if you aren’t in that handful, don’t beat yourself up. Suzanne is that mentor.

confidence2

An appointment with Suzanne is not like going to a counselor or therapist, it’s like having an exciting meeting with a friend who helps you crack open your brain, heart and soul and dig into the source of the issue(s) at hand. Need an example of an issue? Fear of going somewhere alone to meet people, going through a transition at work or home, doing things to please others before yourself, blaming someone else for your unhappiness, feeling you cannot be happy until you find a partner/have a baby/win the lottery or lose weight, fear of public speaking, saying you want to do something over and over but never taking initiative, believing things about yourself that aren’t true, feeling bored with life, not knowing how to stick up for yourself, etc, etc, etc!

After boiling it down together, she then provides the client with the tools needed to face these issues directly and learn to overcome them or manage them. That’s the homework. The sessions involve the investigation, and the homework is where the client takes responsibility and does the work; the reading, writing, monitoring, practicing and executing of the methods introduced during the session. It is up to the client to create new habits and make the magic happen under Suzanne’s guidance. And then report back to her! And when you do, she’s the most excited, supportive, enthusiastic person you could imagine having a personal discussion with.

Here are a couple more testimonials, also known as success stories, for you to read if you want some more examples of what Suzanne does for others! A very good friend of mine’s is here  and my own (more recent, from 2016) is here. I highly encourage you to read these. This woman is freaking unreal.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
– Steve Jobs

I wanted to write this post about Suzanne because she taught me how to create the life I want, just like I said in the title. She is the BEST. Everyone deserves to feel happy the majority of the time, and like they’re the boss of their own life. If you feel like you’re in a bit of a rut or need some assistance with things like prioritizing yourself, figuring out your passions, learning how to enjoy your own company, fear of “the unknown” or having more confidence in any area of life, think about connecting with her! Her business is something that I talk about daily to friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. I’ve had people ask me “how did you get so good at giving zero fucks?” and I just tell them, SUZANNE TAUGHT ME HOW. (She did’t call it that, though. LOL.)

She taught me the skills and wisdom necessary to create new habits and stop holding myself back from being the happiest and most inspired version of myself possible. It’s a good feeling! I want people to know that it is not necessary to settle for feeling less than wonderful.

One last note with respect to cost. Working on ourselves is an investment. It makes life better for the individual, but also for that person’s friends, family, partner and colleagues. Do you own an expensive pair of jeans, a snowmobile, electronics, go out for dinner sometimes, take a vacation occasionally or love to buy multiple pairs of sweet ass Nikes or RayBans? We spend our money on ourselves all the time. This is the same idea. It’s just not a garment, toy or glamorous trip. If you are feeling the slightest pull to contact Suzanne, DO IT!!!! Treat yo self!!! Or someone you care about! Or even just tell someone you know about her, because she’s the best and helps change lives ❤

suzanne

www.absoluteconfidence.com

 

 

Fueling Basics for New Runners

An old friend recently asked for some advice regarding what and when to eat before and after a run. She was referring to a ten-ish km distance, but regardless of whether you’re heading out for a twenty minute jog or your “long run” for the week, feeling hungry and low-energy isn’t fun, and neither is feeling bloated or crampy. Also, our bodies need fuel to do work and to recover from working, so heading out on an empty stomach, especially if it’s first thing in the morning, can lead to your body searching for energy that isn’t there. Some people perform and feel just fine running on empty for shorter workouts, but I like to feel energized and like my blood sugar is stable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m no running guru, but here are some things I’ve learned over the last four years about what works for me and many others, and what doesn’t. And I’m sorry to tell you, but there will be days where the digestive system will be totally unpredictable and out of your control, but finding what works well for you 95% of the time is the best you can do.

Before a short run (under 60 minutes)

Think along the lines of a snack vs. a meal, and something low in fiber and fat

  • Small bowl of cereal
  • 1/2 white english muffin with jam or honey
  • a banana
  • make a smoothie, have 1/2 – 3/4 cup pre-run and save the rest for after!
  • unsweetened applesauce
  • peanut butter Larabar (mostly made out of dates)

 

muff

You want something light that won’t weigh you down and that is fairly easy to digest so your body can start to use the engery shortly after you consume it. That being said, do your very best to avoid anything with a ton of sugar. If you spike up your blood sugar and then have it come crashing down, you can end up feeling light headed or totally burnt out. Finally, save the mostly-protein bars for after your workouts; they take too long to digest to be used for a pre short-run snack.

If you’re running in the morning, start with a glass of water since you likely haven’t had any for 6-8 hours. Morning or not, if it’s been a while since your last meal and you know you need food before your exercise, make eating the first thing you do in your run-prep ritual, this way instead of eating and then having to wait around to digest, you can give your stomach a head-start to break down your snack while you to get your running clothes together, get your hair under control if you have hair that needs controlling, brainstorm your route and gather anything else you might need like a watch, hat or playlist. Make sure to allow around 30 minutes between eating and walking out the door. For me it’s more like 20 minutes, but for someone else it could be 45. Try to be patient with figuring your body out.

If you know you’re going to be pushing your run to right around the 60 minute mark for the first time it’s a good idea to bring a small snack or an energy gel with you just in case. We are all different of course, but I find that if I end up on the road for a full hour, I start to get hungry towards the end of the run. A few things I’ve had as snacks, aside from the Clif shots or Power gels that I carry on long runs, include gummy bears, raisins and graham crackers.

Before a run > 1 hour

If you are planning to run for an hour or longer, the body needs fuel that will last a bit longer; something that you will digest a little more slowly. Peanut, almond or another nut butter is a good way to add some protein to your to easy-to-digest carbs. Some ideas…

  • bagel with peanut or almond butter
  • banana with peanut butter (good if you don’t want bread, or just like a vehicle for eating peanutbutter)
  • bowl of cereal with a banana sliced on top
  • toast and yogurt
  • small bowl of oatmeal with raisins

 

toast

Notice how all of the suggestions are fairly basic and don’t have any bold flavours. When it comes to bread options, avoid nuts and seeds. Make it easy for your guts. Then, depending on the duration of the run you have planned, you’ll need to plan your mid-run fuel. If you’re running between 60 and 90 minutes, you are likely fine, but as I said before, until you know how your body responds to different durations of exercise, bring a snack or energy gel in case you start to feel hungry or low-energy before your run is complete. Read on for info about gels and other specific fuel for during the longest runs.

During a run >90 minutes

If you decide to build up to a weekly long run, especially if you’re training for an event like a half marathon, your runs will start to last longer than 90 minutes and you will need to keep reassessing your fuel requirements. Allowing yourself more time between eating and running is one thing that you might need to adjust for. If I’m running any distance that is going to take more than an hour and a half to complete, I’ll wake up 75 minutes before I need to leave the house. This gives me a 15 minute window to get up, drink some water, eat a banana and make an english muffin with jam or honey or a small bowl of oatmeal, and then I have an hour to get my gear together for the weather, my water and to-go fuel (usually Clif Shots or Power Gels) and do a decent dynamic warmup.

muff

Energy gels and gummies made specifically for consumption during an endurance workout are mostly simple carbohydrates that are super easy to break down and therefore get into your blood stream quickly. It can take a fair ammount of experimenting to find out which ones you like and that agree with your gut, but there are tons of options. Another thing to keep in mine is that to properly digest and absorb an energy gel it needs to be taken with some water. Water is important on longer runs, so you should have it handy anyways in a situation where you planned to take an energy gel. Hydration and fueling for long runs and races is a topic in itself, so we will save that for another day since this is supposed to just be covering some basics.

What about Coffee?

muff

COFFEEEEEE I love coffee!!! But it also might make you have to go poo part way through your workout!! Experiement carefully, but tons of runners have coffee in their pre-run routines! You’ll figure out how much time you need (or maybe don’t need) between coffee and running 😉

After your run

When you get home

  • rehydrate
  • commit to a good stretch of your hams, quads, calves, glutes and adductors
  • have another light snack
  • don’t loiter in your sweaty clothes

What you eat should have some protein in it for muscle repair and carbs to re-stock your energy, and you should be having this snack within thirty minutes of your workout! Try to use the duration and intensity of your run to help you decide how much refuelling you need to be doing. You do not need to eat all the food. Just give your body something to help it repair. If you’re hungry, eat accordingly. I like to drink a big glass of water and have peanut butter and banana toast, or if I’m in a rush, a least a scoop of chocolate protein powder shaken with water or almond milk. Chocolate milk is known (and has been studied!) to be one of the best things to have for recovery due to it’s ratio of carbs, protein and fat, but I save that for after >90 minute runs when I’ve burned more calories and have more recovering to do.

 

Starting out takes a lot of experiementing and since everyone is different there is no exact step-by-step guide. Some people barely eat anything before they run, they may not feel the need or maybe it causes nausea or cramping. Other people, like myself, get low blood sugar very easily and feel exhausted trying to run on an empty or near-empty tank. The digestive system can be mysterious. Bring toilet paper, and like I said before, try to be patient figuring out what works the best for YOU and your running. 🙂 Let me know what works (or doesn’t) for you!

 

 

 

 

Bell Let’s Talk – Joining the Conversation

Jamie: Today is Bell Let’s Talk day. If you aren’t sure what this is, it’s a Canadian campaign to help reduce and hopefully eliminate the stigma associated with mental health, and to promote care, access to care, workplace health and research. My friend Whitney and I have been talking about this today. She is the other author of this post, I am just too computer illiterate to figure out how to add her as an author.

Whitney: Bell Let’s Talk Day is an initiative that’s raised over $80 million for mental health programs since 2010 and is making major moves to create a stigma-free society – so amazing!  To learn more about how you can contribute, check out http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

Whitney: Sometimes we surprise ourselves in the best possible way, and this morning was one of those times. When I realized that today was Bell Let’s Talk Day, I knew it was my chance to share my story.  Jamie’s blog was the first platform that came to mind, since her transparency and bad-assery in general have been majorly inspiring to me lately.  I messaged her a few hours ago to ask if she’d be willing to hold a space here for me, and for the memory of my dad, and she was really into it! Thank you Jamie!

Here are Bell Let’s Talk‘s initiatives:

In September 2010, Bell Let’s Talk began a new conversation about Canada’s mental health. At that time, most people were not talking about mental illness. But the numbers spoke volumes about the urgent need for action. Millions of Canadians, including leading personalities, engaged in an open discussion about mental illness, offering new ideas and hope for those who struggle, with numbers growing every year.

As a result, institutions and organizations large & small in every region received new funding for access, care and research, from Bell Let’s Talk and from governments and corporations that have joined the cause. Bell’s total donation to mental health programs now stands at $79,919,178.55 and we are well on our way to donating at least $100 million through 2020.

Jamie: As a healthcare professional, plus being someone who has worked through multiple major depressive episodes as well as a history of anxiety and insomnia, this campaign means a lot to me, and I like to learn why it means so much to others who have been affected in totally different ways than I have. This is how we can become more open and more supportive to those who need it, regardless of if it is someone with a mental illness or someone who is part of that person’s support network. Driving the conversation to help reduce stigma and promote awareness and understanding is such a crucial step towards change.

I remember a specific period of time when I was very depressed, and the person I was dating at the time would say things to me like, “I’m not going to hold your hand every day of your life,” “snap out of it!” or “stop being so miserable.” I have tears in my eyes now from writing that, because anyone who has ever suffered from a mood disorder knows full well that all you want is to go back to feeling like yourself again. Reactions like that from others come from lots of different places; misperceptions, fear, frustration, total lack of understanding, impatience, the list goes on and on..

Did you know that all of these and more are considered mental illness?

Earlier today, Whitney asked me if I was familiar with Bell Let’s Talk and I was happy that someone I know and love was talking about it! Whitney is going to share her experience with you here on the blog. This is us joining the conversation.

Whitney: The piece that you’re about to read below was my part of a Partnership Education Presentation (PEP) put on by the BC Schizophrenia Society in 2014.  The BCSS is an organization that provides tools and support to people and families dealing with all types of mental illnesses, not Schizophrenia alone.  I won’t get into detail here about all of the amazing free benefits they have to offer, but please click the link or get in touch with me if you’d like to know more.

My name is Whitney and I am here to talk to you about what it’s like to be a family member of someone with a mental illness.  This is my first time speaking in public about this, so please bear with me.  

I feel fortunate to be here to share my story, and hopefully to help break down some of the stigma surrounding mental illness. While preparing what I wanted to share with you, I was having a hard time getting started.  I decided to start with the end in mind.  I asked myself what I wanted you to take away from this short presentation today.  These are the messages I came up with:

Mental illness is exactly that, an illness. Like so many illnesses, mental illness can be managed, but not cured.  It is something that many families, including my own, will always struggle with. Dealing with mental illness is a marathon, not a sprint.  If there is anything that I’ve learned over the course of this journey, it’s to celebrate each small step in the right direction, day by day, and week by week.

There are resources and there is hope.  Prior to becoming involved with the BCSS, I was not so aware of where to turn for help for both my family member and myself.  There are many advocates and organizations in our area who are eager to help those who need it.  I can’t stress enough how much of a difference these people have made for me over the past couple of years.

10 years ago, my father was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  Because of his illness, he cycles through periods of extreme mania (highs) and extreme depression (lows).  He must take a variety of medication each day.  His medication, despite it’s side effects, keeps him stable, somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, and he is able to carry on with his every day life. He is a great dad, grandpa, brother, uncle and friend to the many that know him.  

I was devastated when my dad was first diagnosed with Bipolar.  I didn’t know anything about it, and didn’t understand how long it would last or how we could make it go away.  His doctor explained it best to me, by explaining that my dad and his sickness are separate.  My dad is not his sickness.  When he is healthy and stable, he is my dad.  When he is manic and acting out in an irrational, scary and unreasonable way, that is his sickness.  This message has always stuck with me, and it’s something I must remind myself of often, even 10 years later.

Around 6 years ago, my parents divorced.  While they are still on good terms with each other, it was hard on all of us, and it was especially hard on my dad.  It was hard on me too, to know that he would now be living on his own.  Who would make sure he was taking his medication?  Who would make sure he was eating properly and looking after himself? Growing up, you never believe (or want to believe) your parents when they tell you that you’ll be looking after them one day.  My sister and I had to step up and become my dad’s advocates.

Every two years or so, when he starts to feel he doesn’t need them anymore, my dad goes off his medication.  From then on, it’s a slippery slope into a manic episode.  He stops eating and sleeping through the night.  He starts having coffee and smokes for every meal.  It’s scary for us because he loses track of time, his concept of right and wrong, loses contact with us and acts without any consideration of the consequences.  He often behaves in a way that puts himself in danger.  He can sometimes scare people, and at times like these, he scares me.  It’s an awful feeling to be scared of one of your own parents.  I remind myself over and over – my dad is not his sickness. He just has a sickness.

Through working with his healthcare team, reintroducing his medication, and at times, hospitalization, he eventually slows down and becomes somewhat stable again. What usually follows is a period of depression.  He goes from the highest high to the lowest low.  I find trying to help my dad cope with his depression can be frustrating.  It’s important to be patient, with him, and with myself.  One part of me wants to call and invite him out everyday, urging him to get out for a walk around the block or a cup of coffee, but the other part tries not to become a nag. No one wants to be nagged everyday, especially when they aren’t feeling like themselves.  It’s not easy to see someone so down, and to feel helpless.  It is at down times like these when I really try to focus on any positive improvements.  Sometimes just the fact that he returns a phone call or accepts a dinner invitation is enough reason to celebrate a nudge in the right direction.

I have learned a lot since my dad’s diagnosis.  I have learned a lot about bipolar disorder, the treatment options available, and a lot about myself.  I have learned what his warning signs look like – what to look for when I think he’s taking a turn for the worse.  I have learned how to be strong when I have to be, and how to ask for help.  I have learned that the ways that I deal with all of this are not always the same as my family members, and that’s OK.  We all deal with things differently and what works for one of us may not work for another.

Up until last year, I felt stressed out a lot when it came to supporting my dad and being involved with his health care. No matter how much I did, I always felt like there was more that I should be doing.  Then a friend saw an ad for a program called Strengthening Families Together, a 10 week program put on by BCSS for family members of those with mental illness.  Even though putting myself out there and registering for the program was completely out of my comfort zone, I am so happy that I did.  It was comforting to connect with other people in similar situations, and to share my own experiences in a place that felt safe and free of judgement.  I learned about local resources and coping mechanisms that I hadn’t explored before.  One of the most important things that I took away from the program was the importance of self care.  None of us are able to help care for another person if we are not taking care of ourselves.  For me, it was an eye opener and a chance to make some great connections in the mental health community that I would not have met otherwise.  I started to look at helping my dad as more of a responsibility, and less of a burden.

The tricky thing about mental illness is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  There is not a treatment that will work for everyone.  There is not a blanket cure.  Finding the right combination of medications or the right program and combination of activities for someone can be a long and drawn out process.  Many times it is trial and error.  Many times what works for them changes over time.  There are a lot of ups and downs.  As a family member, it can seem like forever when you are waiting for things to take a turn for the better, but the good days are worth waiting for.  

I know that there is only so much that I can do for my dad, and there are still many days that I wish I could do more.  I am starting to get more involved within the mental health community.  I am glad to have the opportunity to help dissolve the stigma around mental illness.  I try and take good care of myself, so that I am able to take good care of my dad.  Each day I count my blessings.  I am lucky to have my dad in my life, lucky to have a lot of support, and lucky to have the opportunity to keep growing and learning how to cope with all of this.  For me, one of the best ways of coping has always been sharing my story.  Thank you for having me to share my story with you today.

Whitney: My dad passed away in October, 2015.  I miss him every minute of every day, but talking about him keeps him close.  He taught me so much, forced me to live outside of my comfort zone, and being there for him when he needed me helped me grow in ways I never thought I would.  He definitely wasn’t perfect, but he was the perfect teacher in many ways. What I know for sure is this  – we all have mental health, whether we are ill or not – and we need to talk about it to understand one another.  If you or someone you love is struggling – you are not alone.  If you think no one cares, or no one can relate to what you’re going through – you’re wrong.  You might just not have found them yet.  Keep going.  Keep talking about it.  I’ve become a huge mental health advocate and there are so many ways to get help.  I’m here if you need someone to point you in the right direction. Jamie can put you in contact with me.

Jamie: Twenty percent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and basically everyone will experience in one way or another, indirectly, through someone in their family, a friend, in a relationship or a colleague. Like Whitney, I am am also an advocate for mental health. People do not want to be alone in navigating this kind of stuff. If you want to talk about it with me as a pharmacist and/or friend, acquaintance or stranger, please be in touch!

Whitney: When I first gave this speech, I was 28 years old, I was 8 months pregnant, I was struggling with my own self-care, and I honestly never thought I’d make it this far, especially without my dad by my side.  He taught me about unconditional love, the strength of community, and that it’s OK to ask for help.  He taught me the importance of showing your true colours, and that at the end of the day, everyone’s human.  Thank God for that.  Thanks Dad.

Some reasons why Alcohol is dumb and why/how I stayed sober at our Wedding

The number of people who asked me about booze and getting married, whether it was the curious question, “you’re still not drinking? that’s awesome! but what about on your wedding??” or the more accusational version, “you’re seriously not going to drink at your wedding?” was probably fifty or more.

I do get it, we live in a society that generally believes alcohol is mandatory to any kind of celebration. At a babyshower to welcome a newborn and possibly new parents, at weddings to celebrate marriage, and even at funerals when we memorialize a lost loved-one. It has become second nature that at social gatherings, alcohol is what people drink. I myself bought into all of that bullshit for well over a decade. Now that I’ve moved away from booze and the fake shit it claims to provide, and I have some time and experience as a non-drinker, I like to shed some light on the big picture of alcohol consumption just in case someone reading feels the way that I used to feel, which was trapped. It’s also a form of accountablility for myself. These non-drinking posts are not to preach or to convince you that you need to quit alcohol. Please take what you read and use it in any way that you can, or not at all!

Last summer, as my own wedding day was approaching and the questions about booze on the “big day” (I hate when people call it that) came up more and more frequently, it got me thinking about the specifics of what I’ve learned from Kate & Belle about why we think alcohol is required, and also why it shouldn’t be! Here are some of the main points that kept coming to mind and that helped me realize I definitely wasn’t drinking just because I was having a wedding and getting married to the coolest dude I’ve ever met.

 

  1. Alcohol is not why an event is fun, actually.

Try to think back to one of the most fun times you’ve ever had. For me, my oldest friend’s 30th birthday comes to mind. I believe everyone was drinking, yes, but when I break down all the reasons why this particular experience is way up there with the most fun times I can remember, the reasons are as follows:

  • about thirty of our most fun and hilarious friends were there, most of whom we grew up with and have very meaningful relationships with
  • we were at a really fun place
  • we were doing fun things like being weird af, singing, having a big fire, playing games and being competetive, doing gymnastics, taking great photos, listening to good music, naked stand-up-paddleboarding, and freeing the nipple
  • we had an amazing dinner
  • we laughed to the point of pain all throughout the day, evening and next day
  • we were all together because we wanted to celebrate our friend’s special day with her

Notice how wine, beer, vodka, whiskey or Hey Y’alls are NOT on the list! I planned to have a wicked time at our wedding because of all these types of reasons, minus the naked paddleboarding and freeing the nipple. LOL.

2. Alcohol shouldn’t be necessary to “tolerate” any situation

Some of the reasons we’re lead to believe that alcohol is helpful or necessary include: to relax or de-stress, to numb-out at an event we didn’t actually want to go to, to talk to strangers or people we don’t know or like, to have fun.

The last time I checked, spending time in situations that make me feel stressed, bored, uncomfortable or like I’m wasting my time are exactly that – a waste of effing time. Why put ourselves in these situations in the first place?

Example

I hate baby showers. I think they are sexist, silly and always in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend. I don’t go, get day-drunk, eat too many triangle sandwiches with no crust, pretend to care about stuff that doesn’t interest me and then feel pissed off afterwards because I wasted a day off inside. I just don’t go. If I did risk going and ended up having a good time, it would be because of a good crew, great non-baby-related conversations, and lots of cheese, NOT because I pounded back a bunch of drinks (just like in the birthday party example from point number 1.)

Reverse kind of example

I love my friends, that’s why I’m friends with them. When we go out for dinner, I don’t “need a drink” because I am not in a situation that is boring, awkward or stressful. If I found myself out for dinner and thinking, “Damn I really need some alcohol for this boring/awkward/stressful situation,” I would need to question the who, what, where, when and why of the intimate dinner gathering I chose to attend. Especially the who.

If you feel like you need alcohol to put up with a family member, survive a work function, attend a wedding you aren’t sure why you got invited to, or to sing karaoke, maybe these activities just aren’t actually for you. That’s what I’ve learned, anyway.

At our wedding, we were surrounded with our favourite people in a great situation. Of course we were nervous, but isn’t that a good thing?? I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be nervous at your wedding, it’s a form of excitement! If I needed booze at our wedding, what that would mean to me was that we planned a boring, shitty wedding or that I was marrying someone like Hannibal Lecter.

3. Alcohol-induced memory loss can happen regardless if the night is bad or good 

Alcohol doesn’t have the power to differentiate. It doesn’t know the difference between drinking to try to reduce stress or forget about a problem, and drinking to celebrate something positive. Imagine waking up in the morning from what was supposed to have been one of the more special occasions in life, and not remembering some of it! Some people start to have little intermittent blackouts WAY before things like crawling on the ground and barfing start to happen. Looking back, I can’t believe how many fun nights I’ve had (or nights I am pretty sure were really fun..) where I can’t actually remember everything that went down. Booze steals memories and experiences and I am really over letting that happen. I especially wasn’t interested in having blurry parts during the day I got to marry my favourite person.

4. Being sober = being present

Can you recall being at a party chatting with some acquaintance but not really actively listening to what they’re saying because you’re trying to see/hear what’s happening over in the kitchen. Or maybe you’re buzzed and just making meaningless small talk. Or maybe you’re taking drunk pics on Snapchat and not paying attention to what’s happening around you. I am fully aware that all of these things can and do happen to sober people, but it’s far more likely to be disconnected from the present moment when you’re guzzling liquor. With respect to wedding day, I didn’t want a super fun day that took quite a bit of planning and a fair amount of money to flash by and be over without experiencing each part of it fully.

 

Everything above applies to life, not just special occasions. I had eight months as a non-drinker under my belt by the time our wedding rolled around, but I still had to stop and think hard about why I wanted to stick with the non-drinking project. Reviewing these reasons allowed me to confidently say, “No.” when I was asked if I was planning to cave in and drink that day. Thinking about it now, I can’t even imagine drinking that day! I was exhausted, and not because I ran 30km that morning, but because it was an emotional day with a LOT going on. The next day I was able to go for brunch with a crew of my guests who came from out of town and I didn’t have the shakes, a pale face, blood shot eyes, nausea, anxiety or extremely low blood sugar. I got to enjoy a coffee without feeling like I was burning a hole in my stomach and eat my meal and actually enjoy it, and finish it. And I don’t look progressively worse in each wedding photo either hahahaha

If you have an event or occasion coming up that you know is going to be challenging, contact me and hopefully I can give you a few specific tips depending on what you have planned! Drinking doesn’t necessarily  = fun and sober definitely does not = lame. Trust me.

Bye for nowww

“Why are you so obsessed with running?”

run [ruhn]

to go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walk and in such a manner that for an instant in each step all or both feet are off the ground.

 Exhilarating! Or as my one guy-friend always reacts: “Ew.” hahaha

Aside from soccer and punishment at volleyball practice, my running background consists of a five year track & field career at King Edward Elementary School in the 90’s. There were a few times here and there in university where I’d randomly get the motivation to go for a jog, but it was usually because I was hungover and feeling guilty about my present situation, forcing myself outdoors to do something physical. Or, because it was so beautiful in Vancouver I’d get a vision of going for an effortless run along the seawall or in a pretty neighbourhood, feeling and looking fit while doing it. Each of those few and far between jogs was a blunt reality check. Running is really hard. It’s even harder when you never do it, expect it to be easy like it’s made to look in magazines and on TV, and when you drink five days a week. I’m surprised that I went more than once. Maybe those jogs were far enough apart that I kept forgetting how much it sucked the last time? I couldn’t tell you why I continued to go for a jog once every six months. LOL. Maybe I subconsciously knew that one day I’d get more consistent and it would change my life a lot.

Fast-forward to 2013. I went to LA for a month for yoga teacher training and had to fill out a brief “about me” questionnaire. A small poster of each of the 60 yoga students was made and put on a big wall so we could read about everyone in our new Sangha. I still have that poster, see

I don’t know exactly where the half marathon goal came from and I’m not even sure I knew it was 21.1 km. Like I said, I had maybe gone for ten runs in my 27 years alive at that point, and all of them were basically torture. I was in better shape than in university, doing a ton of hot yoga and taking better (but not the best) care of myself, and at that time pulling myself out of a very sucky section of my life. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I needed something BIG to work towards, and to be held accountable by more than just myself.

One of my new friends in LA, Jill, (who I saw on Disney Weekend!) was training for a marathon while we were becoming Moksha yoga instructors. I saw her running to and from yoga school with a backpack on. I couldn’t even process the thought of running a marathon, or doing anything on top of the 12 hour days, 6 days/week we were in training. I didn’t even know how long a marathon was. Another new friend, Megan, casually told me she had also run a mararhon once! These girls blew my mind. When I got back to Vancouver that March that goal seemed even more appealing and I kept hearing ads on the radio about Team In Training, an opportunity to train with coaches for an endurance event while fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. The ads said it was for all levels, including beginners. I’m sure a five or ten kilometre running goal would have been fine for me, a beginner, but no I went and signed up for the Nike Women’s half marathon in San Francisco the following October.

The first group run was an ugly 4 km. I almost died. I think I had to buy a pair of shorts because I didn’t own any suitable for exercising in, and the shoes I wore were from Bata in Prince Rupert in 2001. I couldn’t talk to the other girls I’d just met, because I COULDN’T BREATHE. The coaches implemented run-walk training, so every 10 minutes we walked for 60 seconds, and somehow I survived that day. When we got back to Granville Island where all the group runs started and finished, I was so happy it was over, but also so proud. Like, I could not believe I made it. When a person does something that they thought they couldn’t, shit starts to happen. I’m not going to go over the details of that 20-something-week training program, but every weekend I’d come home from Granville Island and be all sweaty with a huge grin on my face, exploding with endorphins and yelling to my roommate about how I JUST RAN EIGHT FREAKING KILOMETRES!!!! Then 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, and eventually 21.1! It was always hard. It is always hard. But while I was dragging myself out of bed to meet up with strangers-turned-friends every weekend, doing difficult things together, feeling great at times but shitty at others, other stuff was happening too.

When a person does something that they thought they couldn’t, crazy shit starts to happen.

 Growing self-confidence. Trust in my physical abilities. Realizing that I could do intimidating things without my parents, best-friend, sister or boyfriend right beside me. I had a new way of looking at shittiness: temporary. A long, steep hill would come up in our running route when I was already struggling and at times, the effort level seemed too much and I’d walk, but then at the top I’d resume running and it felt a bit better again. As if I was going to sit down on the sidewalk, refuse to get up and call a cab to take me back to my car at Granville Island.

As if I was going to sit down on the sidewalk, refuse to get up and call a cab to take me back to my car at Granville Island.

Steady forward progress. I mentioned that I don’t have a runner’s background, but I do have a background of anxiety, depression, terrible self-esteem and co-dependency. Holy personal, I know, but the goal is to to make this more relatable to at least one person reading it.

My mental health started improving, simply by getting my heart rate up three times a week, sweating and giving myself the endorphins I was lacking for so long. I had a new running family of people who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t signed up for Team in Training. Without knowing it, just by wanting to say “I ran a half marathon” I got improved self-concept, positive vibes, respect for my physical health, positive body image and feeling strong af, camaraderie that didn’t revolve around alcohol (not all my other friends were just drinking buddies, for the record,) an understanding of mental toughness, and independence. I had a new interest, and it was so effing interesting! What I thought was just putting one foot in front of the other (which running essentially is, yes) was so much more than that! Body mechanics, breathing techniques, fueling, recovery, nutrition, ACTIVEWEAR (please watch that hahaha) fifty billion super fun running events all over the world to look into (some with COSTUMES)…it was never-ending. It IS never-ending.

The running community deserves special recognition. I know that a common interest brings people together, regardless of what it is. Whether you’re into running, fixing cars, yoga, World of Warcraft or quilting, it doesn’t matter, but the one that I have experience with happens to be the running community. And it’s not just my closest run buddies or our extended run crew in the town where I live, (Rupert Runners shoutout) it’s also online. A perfect example is the #WeRunSocial meetup that I showed up to at Disney Springs last week in Florida; getting together with sixteen strangers who I’ve never met in person, but whose running journeys I follow online and get motivated by all the time. Runners just get it. Everyone lifts each other up and that’s an incredible thing to be a part of.

Now it’s four years later, but I still experience all of these benefits all the time. The Runner’s High is real. Setting goals lights a fire under my ass. Any bad mood, shitty day at work or disagreement with husband is usually GONE after a stress-busting run. Seeing progress makes me feel joyful, and a lack thereof is a learning experience. Crossing any finish line, including walking through the door once you get back home from a run, is one of the best feelings there is. I think I speak for more than just myself when I say that building confidence, endurance, mental strength and physical health are goals that do not have endpoints, and that we can all work on and feel good about forever. Proving to yourself that you are stronger and more resilient than you thought you were is so f*%king cool!!

Proving to yourself that you are stronger and more resilient than you thought you were is so f*%king cool!!

 So yeah. That’s why I am so obsessed with running, and from what I gather, lots of these reasons are why other people are also obsessed with running. It shows us how strong, passionate, resilient, perseverant and confident we actually are deep down, all within a supportive community of others working through and towards similar things.

It shows us how strong, passionate, resilient, perseverant and confident we actually are deep down, all within a supportive community of others working through and towards similar things.

Maybe the goal is to run for thirty minutes without stopping. Maybe it’s to take one minute off your marathon time. The self is such great competition because you can lace up and face yourself any time, any day, anywhere. That competition will teach you something every single time, and it has made and continues to make me a better version of myself.

*contact me if you have any questions, or if you live where I live and you want to go for a run! Even 1km.*

ALSO check out Project Start!!! You can also find them on Instagram here 

 

What do I drink, then? What do I do at parties??

One of the best things I learned from Kate at The Sober School was how important it is to drink something that you actually like when trying to avoid booze. Whether you’re wanting to take a break from alcohol or get away from it altogether, it’s hard, especially at social events because of the way our society celebrates alcohol like it’s the crucial factor for having fun.

A party or event is usually some kind of celebration and drinking a plain glass of water doesn’t help anyone feel like they’re celebrating. For lots of us, going out and not drinking is like going to another planet. Standing around holding nothing or that boring-ass glass of water is just going to make you feel left out and awkward, plus it increases the chances of super annoying questions like, “What the? Is that water?” or “what are you pregnant or something?

I realize that what other people think doesn’t matter, but give yourself a break. If you decide you want to hit up a party or event and not drink, bring something else you look forward to having. It’s a game-changer; I speak from experience. Again, it’s not about what the other people are asking, thinking or wondering, anyway. It’s about you being able to hang out with your friends, acquaintances and new people and enjoy your “special” drink just like everyone else is without feeling like you’re missing out on something, or like you have “I’M NOT DRINKING” written on your forehead in black marker. Quitting or taking a break from alcohol doesn’t mean you need to hide in your house. I’m not saying it’s easy, especially at first, but here are ten ideas for you when you go out to a house party, the bar or even just out for dinner.

1. The Red Solo Cup

There are drinking songs about them, they are used for Beer Pong and Flip Cup, and they are sitting in a stack on the counter at most parties and functions. Contrary to popular belief, they are not just for beer and highballs. Grab one and fill it up with whatever the hell you want! One time at a friend’s annual Boxing Day party, myself and my equally weird friend drank juice and club soda all night long in red cups and lots of people thought we were pissed. LOL. Nope, just gettin weird and having a good time because it was an actual fun party with sweet people and the appy table of the year. When drunk people started close-talking and repeating their stories, I drove myself home instead of waiting for (and paying for) a cab during Christmas party season.

2. Booze-free Sangria

I made a REALLY good batch of this on my 31st birthday at our place when I was two weeks into the non-drinking project. It was so good that other people wanted some. They may have added vodka, but that’s not the point. It was really good, felt fancy and like something the token birthday girl might want on a special day. That sounds really corny but you know I’m right about wanting something unique to drink on a special occasion. I don’t remember the exact recipe but I used a bottle of dealcoholized red wine (grocery store) a big batch of cold black tea, a bit of Sprite and then added oranges, lemons, limes and strawberries, all in a giant bowl with a ladel. Served in a fancy glass, of course.

3. Wine Glass

Even plain water feels cool in one of these. Or, fill it with flavoured sparkling water and berries, limes or cucumber slices. Whatever you pick, it’s more fun than a regular glass of anything and it looks like a cocktail, which can be helpful for warding off the annoying questions.

4. Non-alcoholic Beer

There are some really good non-alcoholic beers and lots of them don’t have “NON-ALCOHOLIC” across the label in huge red letters. I love the taste of beer, that’s why I like drinking these! You can buy them at the grocery store, if you’re wondering. Last year during Seafest (biggest party weekend of the year where I live) someone said to my cousin, “whoa, look at Jamie, she’s really on step tonight!” i.e. they thought I was drunk. If they looked closer, I was actually double-fisting O’Doul’s because someone bought me another one before I’d finished mine, and I was having a blast because most of my favourite people were there, the music was good and the night was just genuinely fun. But remember from the 373 days of non-drinking post, alcohol is generally a not-that-great tasting beverage that people drink for other reasons. So drink whatever it is that you actually like the taste of and if that’s beer, then fake beer might be the perfect option for you.

5. “Vodka Soda without the Vodka”

My best friend has a very funny way of describing and explaining things. One time back in the day when we were being drunk loons at the cabin, one of the many quotes in our weekend collection was “I made a vodka soda but forgot the vodka!” We thought it was hilarious (it is) but it’s also genius hahaha! I personally love soda, it’s like chugging Coca-Cola but without eight billion grams of sugar. Put some limes (or lemons or grapefruit slices or raspberries, whatever you want) in there and you have your Vodka Soda without the Vodka. Who knew.

6. Homemade Iced-Tea

When I was younger I swear there was only one kind of tea. Red Rose. That was the only kind. Now there is every flavour you can think of and places like David’s Tea exist. Make a huge batch of your favourite tea, stick it in the fridge and when it’s cold (way longer than you want it to take, FYI) add ice and any garnish that suits the flavour and pour it in a fancy glass. Or, put the whole batch in some kind of thermos or jug just like people do when they make Moon Juice (or whatever you wanna call a sh#! mix of alcohol) and bring it with you to the party you’re going to. I bet there will be a red solo cup for you to drink it out of.

7. Virgin Caesar

Have you ever had a Virgin Caesar? I have and guess what it tastes like? Yes. A Caesar. I love Canada. Bloody Mary’s are gross. The Virgin Caesar is high on my list. They’re also fun to make! If you aren’t Canadian and you don’t know what I’m talking about I wish I could see your face when you Google “clamato.” Bahaha

8. Coffee

Sometimes all we want is something in hand at a party because we’re used to always having a drink and it feels weird with both arms dangling at our sides. Maybe you’re tired but still feel like socializing for a while so you want some caffeine, or maybe you just effing love coffee. Bailey’s makes a coffee creamer now so if you’re going to tell me you only like coffee with Bailey’s, you’re good.

9. Hipster Pop in a glass bottle 

They have this kind of thing at the microbrewery, Wheelhouse, where I live and it’s awesome. These days they’re carrying soda from The Pop Shoppe. It’s one of the most fun places in town and even though I don’t go there as often as I used to when drinking all the beer was my favourite hobby, it’s nice to have something else to order and it’s friggin delicious. Oh, and NOBODY cares that I’m ordering a creme soda and not a Gilnetter.

10. Ginger Beer

Not all ginger beer is alcohol-free (I’ll tell you a story about that another day…) but lots of it is. I had a large bottle of Fever-Tree Ginger Beer after the Victoria Marathon and it was SOOOO good I wanted to beer-bong it. At Christmas time when we were in Kelowna at my mother-in-law’s house she had this kind here, Buderim, and it was amazing too. Not for everyone, but I think ginger beer is amazing.

I used to think that if I wasn’t drinking alcohol I couldn’t go out because I’d be bored and awkward with nothing in my hand. There are so many things to drink besides booze if you don’t want alcohol and once I learned this from Kate and Belle and did some experimenting, it got way easier. On New Year’s Eve this year I brought bottles of dealcoholized red and sparkling white wine (“Virgin Brute” LOL) and a bunch of cans of club soda to mix because I don’t like drinks very sweet. It was a really good New Year’s party because of the people, the atmosphere, the conversations and the food of course. When I got home I looked as fresh as when I left the house after getting ready, not like Stu on The Hangover.

Please don’t think that not drinking alcohol = denying yourself of good shit. It might take some trial and error but you will find things that work for you and once you get some practice, going out sober is no longer like going to Mars.

 

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