+ sobriety and relapse pic: illustration of delorian car sitting on road in magical mist

F*ck the Wagon. Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads: Thoughts on Sobriety and Relapse

Falling off the wagon isn’t a thing in my world. Not for me. Not for you. Not for any of us. Not because I think people who used to abuse or overuse alcohol in the past and are sober now can never f*ck up. We’re human. Sh*t happens. But falling off the wagon isn’t a thing in my world because I don’t believe relapse equals failure.

sobriety and relapse pic: dog wearing unicorn outfit and talking about a magical wagon

Okay. So, in fairness, I’d totally support the idea of a magical unicorn-drawn wagon that was literally impossible for anyone to fall off of. Because that’s just an awesome thought. But in the meantime…

Can we just get rid of this whole “wagon” concept, please?

I’d never been curious about where the expression “falling off the wagon” came from until I got sober. According to the almighty Google, it may have originated in the U.S. during Prohibition times, when one’s declaration of intended sobriety was reportedly sometimes accompanied by the (rather flamboyantly awesome, IMHO) gesture of jumping up on the back of a water-wagon (they had wagons that sprayed water on the dirt roads to keep the dust down, kind of like how they do at construction sites still today) and proclaiming oneself to be a drinker of water forevermore, not the demon alcohol. Huzzah! (Okay, I don’t know if they said those exact words, but that sounds like an awesome mental replay in my head.)

That said, the image conjured to my mind by the phrase “falling off the wagon” has always been that of a downtrodden, dusty, forlorn individual scrambling up from the excruciatingly painful face-plant they have just taken onto the ground and trying desperately to catch up with the aforementioned “wagon,” which is of course at the same time carrying along on its merry way, oblivious to the plight of the fallen one, who is falling further and further behind.

sobriety and relapse pic: person building structure foundation with lego blocks

Let me put this a different way: The imagery inspired by the phrase “falling off the wagon” is that of a desperate, hopeless situation, y’all. And in my opinion, relapse is inherently NEITHER of those things. Relapse is not a dirty word. It is what you make of it, and it actually CAN be an incredibly strong building block toward a better life, if you allow it to be.

Relapse ≠ being summarily stripped of your sobriety card. For real.

An article showed up in my inbox recently that took a pretty hard stance against allowing anyone to call themselves “sober” if they’ve experienced any kind of relapse, big or small. There was a lot of discussion in that article about how, no, relapse means you have to start over again at day zero, you have to WEAR your failure around your neck like a heavy, humiliating mantle… not just brush yourself off, leave it behind you, and say, “well, okay, that happened… and I’m continuing on into my sober life and still calling myself sober.”

(And I don’t want to get into a war of opinion or direct any more attention than necessary to a viewpoint I don’t agree with, so I’m not going to link to the article here, but if you want to read it, feel free to contact me and I’ll send you the link.)

I guess to the layperson it does sound a little contradictory, calling yourself sober or “on the sober path” when you’ve just had a relapse, although technically the definition of the word sober DOES allow room for this. And some (including the writer of the above-referenced article) would argue that the technical definition (including that wiggle room) is not what people REALLY mean when they talk about sobriety.

I’d actually agree that popular opinion doesn’t support calling yourself sober if you still relapse occasionally. But I think it SHOULD. And I’m not the only one who questions popular opinion in this.

Because to me, sobriety is a journey. It’s a journey that’s longer for some and shorter for others, and often twisty-turny as f*ck for many of us.

sobriety and relapse pic: feet on pavement with multiple arrows pointing in all directions

But if the breadcrumbs left behind by others for us to follow to the mythical mecca of so-called “twue” sobriety are all eaten by the birds, and we find ourselves walking in circles for a while, trying to figure out which way leads us to our ultimate destination, that doesn’t mean we’re not doing it right.

That doesn’t mean we’re not headed somewhere f*cking beautiful.

To me, if you’re here, if you’re reading this, if you’re showing up for yourself in this way, if you’re TRYING, then you’re on that sacred journey, regardless of what your in-the-moment results might look like. That’s my heartfelt belief, y’all.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I believe it’s about your MINDSET more than anything else. Your success in sobriety is not measured solely by the number of consecutive days of abstinence you’ve been able to string together. If you keep sobriety in mind as your goal and continue to take steps toward it, even (or especially) when you get knocked off course for a moment or two (or seven), then you’re doing it right, y’all. You’re learning. You’re growing. You’re f*cking rocking it, in point of fact.

In fact… you know what? Here’s a (printable!) sobriety card just for you, babes, that comes with a LIFETIME membership to my super-secret and super-awesome sobriety society, and NOBODY can take this card away from you. 😜

sobriety and relapse pic: The Sober AF Society business card

And I’m not looking to jump into the controversial AF moderation debate, but…

That article I mentioned earlier made a point of noting that moderation doesn’t work. And I’m absolutely not here to argue for or against moderation, but I will say this: It’s a choice. It’s not the right choice for me, but I’m not here to smack everyone else’s hand away from the cookie jar and tell them they’re diabetic and they should know better. An opinion about moderation, pro or con, is just one of those things that you can’t shove on someone, I think. It’s a decision that people who struggle with alcohol overuse have to come to on their own.

I’ve known lots of folks who abstained for a while, got to feeling confident and were all like, “I’ve got this; alcohol wasn’t reallllllly a problem for me,” and then decided to try moderation.

But from what I’ve seen (and experienced myself), what tends to happen is this: Many who try the moderation route eventually come to the conclusion that it’s HARD AF to moderate, and ultimately not worth the enormous energy output it requires… because it means, basically, you have to be thinking about your alcohol consumption ALL THE F*CKING TIME.

sobriety and relapse pic: overwhelmed woman with face in hand

How much am I gonna have tonight? How much did I already have? I have a party coming up, what’s my allotment for that? Did I already go over my max for the week? It’s like when dieters start counting calories. It’s a crazy-making way to think about living the rest of your ENTIRE life.

The other thing I’ve noticed that tends to happen sometimes is this: If you decide to try the moderation route on for size, you may eventually end up going on an unintended bender, because after your carefully allotted two drinks for the night are consumed, your inhibitions are lowered, and suddenly it seems so much more okay to just have one more, just for tonight, and then that becomes two more, and so on.

Because… let’s be honest… most of us don’t start this sobriety journey because we can just have one or two and stop. Most of us truly, absolutely just don’t GET how people do that. How someone could drink HALF a beer and leave it on the table after dinner!? The unthinkableness!

Anyway, that unintended bender may last just for one night, or a month, or maybe even a year or longer. But when we return to embracing the sobriety mindset once again (which also is a thing that tends to happen rather inevitably, because we do tend to recognize at some point that we need to get our sh*t together… though it happens in our own time, not on anyone else’s schedule — a hard truth that can make watching someone you love struggling with addiction so very heart-wrenching), we often return with the realization that moderation is a tricky, risky b*tch, because moderation makes relapse that much more likely.

sobriety and relapse pic: two women sitting side by side with arms around one another supportively

So what I’m getting at is that, one way or another, I think we mostly tend to come to the same decision eventually about moderation probably not being the best way to do things.

But whether we’re supported and loved along the way or instead have our tails whacked with a newspaper and are relentlessly scolded “BAD! BAD ADDICT!” makes a huge difference, I think, in how STRONG and resilient we feel as human beings when we come back to the sobriety path.

Do “normy” drinkers really exist? Bueller? Bueller?

That article I talked about earlier also seemed to feel that mixing folks who are “just” sober-curious in online support groups alongside people who are “actually” struggling with addiction creates confusion and supports the trend toward people still thinking they can claim sobriety when they have recently relapsed.

But here’s the thing: In my opinion, “normies” (people who aren’t affected by alcohol and don’t have an addiction problem) don’t exist. We ALL have an addiction problem, if we’ve ever allowed alcohol to pass our lips. Because, as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I believe that addiction is just the end-game result of consuming an addictive substance FOR LONG ENOUGH, IN LARGE ENOUGH QUANTITIES.

Some addictive substances act faster than others, and some people are “low responders” to certain substances (they have a higher tolerance and a higher threshold for feeling the effects and thus are able to consume more, faster). By sheer virtue of how fast the downward spiral tends to happen in these instances, it’s much more likely for a low responder to end up labeled with the moniker “addict” (and to have to deal with all of the stigma that comes along with that).

But even if you’re a “high responder” who gets tipsy on two sips of wine, so you don’t drink much or often… it’s a spectrum, people. High responders progress much, much, much more slowly on the spectrum, but even a high responder will MOST LIKELY eventually become addicted to a substance, and develop a higher threshold and tolerance, over a long enough period of time.

However, because of how slow the process happens, high responders often never reach that point in their lifetimes. And because of this, many people will point to these high responders and say, “Ha! See? You’re wrong! So-and-so isn’t an addict and they drank until they were, like, 192 years old!” (Okay, maybe not quite THAT old. But you get my point.)

sobriety and relapse pic: girl with fangs like vampire, smiling

I think if we all lived forever like vampires, we’d probably see things a lot differently, and the statistics would probably look a lot different, too. And maybe Prohibition would be a thing again. Because I really do think that it’s all just a matter of time.

But, you know… talking is good. And stuff.

The good thing about all of this is that these are conversations that we never used to have before. And we are having them now. We are talking about it.

We are getting people interested in what it means to be sober, to be sober-curious, to be a beautiful human soul caught in the grips of an addictive substance. We are having conversations about how to define sobriety, about what it means to be an addict (and whether it’s even useful to use that label… or ANY labels), and about how we can best support and love those who are going through this struggle, this journey, this ultimately transformative, life-reaffirming, and courage-strengthening path.

Alcoholism was a topic that was swept under the rug in my family growing up. I saw evidence of it as a child, in overly ruddy cheeks, in adults swaying and staggering and swerving in the lane on the way home at times, in angry words and angry fists. But nobody talked about it directly.

sobriety and relapse pic: black and white photo of a man in a military uniform

My grandfather died right before I was born, and the story I was told as a child was that he was in the hospital for a “routine surgery,” and he got out of bed and fell on his way to the bathroom, and the complications from the fall caused his death.

Later, when I started doing genealogy research, I ordered his death certificate and discovered the truth.

Cause of death: cirrhosis of the liver.

So let’s keep these conversations about sobriety going, y’all, and maybe we can begin to REALLY change the way our society glamorizes an addictive substance that is KILLING us every day. Because that’s the real deal here, isn’t it? It’s not really about whether you can call yourself sober or not if you had a relapse. That’s just the window dressing.

But wait, isn’t all this just giving addicts and problem drinkers beautiful human souls struggling with alcohol overuse the permission they’re looking for to drink again?

I want to take a moment to address this issue from the perspective that a good friend of mine brought up recently, which is basically that it seems inherently problematic to “sanction” the idea of relapse by telling people that it’s okay if they drank when they didn’t mean to, that they can just move forward with their sobriety despite having a setback.

Because that feels a lot like giving people “permission” to drink, despite the fact that they’re trying to stay sober. And doing that seems counter-productive, perhaps even counter-intuitive to the whole sobriety movement.

thinking woman with closed eyes and clasped hands

Honestly, I took quite a while mulling this over, because on the surface of things, it does seem really problematic. Are we, I had to wonder, making it harder for people to stay sober by welcoming them so readily back to the fold when they slip? Is there perhaps some deeper wisdom to that familiar “tough love” battle cry that so many seem ready to shout from the rooftops?

Real talk, y’all: I felt some frustration along these SAME lines during my first few months of attempting (what I thought of at the time as) “serious” sobriety. I mean, I was surrounded by this amazingly unconventional, extra-loving community of sober folks who were just sooooo very warm and understanding and ready to support me despite how imperfect my attempts might be, that it was basically… umm… kind of annoying… because it really DID feel like I was being given tacit permission to drink, when all I really wanted was for someone to tell me NOT to, in no uncertain terms.

And I spent a lot of time struggling with this feeling in the beginning of my sobriety journey and not really understanding where the frustration was coming from (and I wanted nothing more than to blame other people for making me feel it, no doubt). But with the benefit of space and time (and sobriety), I can see a lot more of what was going on beneath the surface with this, at least for me.

Here’s the bottom line: Basically, I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. I was so quick to judge myself, even just for having the THOUGHT that I might drink, that the idea that anyone might still love and support me even if I did — that was just too much for me to process. It did not compute, you know? I think a part of me wanted a reason to hate myself, on some buried, unacknowledged level, because that was familiar. That was the kind of pain that I knew how to deal with (by drinking… surprise, surprise). And having that realization was a big part of what finally helped me to move past my frustration and into the rest of my (sober) life.

sobriety and relapse pic: the word autonomy surrounded by other related words

Anyway, frustrations aside, as hard as it is to hear sometimes, the whole “permission to drink” line of reasoning really does fall apart when held up to the light of personal responsibility and autonomy. Because nobody can GIVE anyone else “permission” to drink, y’all. We’re all adults here, and we make our own choices.

I mean, it’s not like we arrive at this point without any experience with what imbibing alcohol does to our bodies, our relationships, our work, our clarity of mind. We typically arrive here only because we already have a VERY robust database of past experiences to draw upon, experiences that can tell us fairly reliably what kinds of unpleasant consequences we will suffer if we decide to start drinking again.

But it is a seductive idea to have someone else to shove this responsibility off on, to be sure.

sobriety and relapse pic: man wagging finger back and forth in a "no" gesture

I can’t tell you how many times, while in active addiction, I wished and hoped and prayed for the money to hire a “sober companion” — someone whose sole job, I imagined, would be to follow me around and SMACK the drinks right out of my hand before I could drink them.

And then… only THEN, I imagined… I could finally be successful in sobriety! I fantasized about this a lot. Seriously.

But abdicating responsibility for your own sobriety isn’t the answer. And a sober companion (while a step in the right direction, at least) is really just a band-aid slapped on top of a soon-to-be-festering wound that needs WAY deeper care.

I know that band-aid definitely wasn’t the answer for me. And I believe it isn’t the answer for anyone who wants to truly recover — and by “recover,” I mean live, and LIVE WELL, rather than just white-knuckling it through forever until death.

Examining the reasons behind the alcohol excess in the first place, building self-care routines and stress management tools, and just generally adulting better — that’s the long-term solution.

That’s building a life you don’t want to escape from. That’s why I’m here today, writing this article. And that’s why I am so ever-loving grateful to all of the folks who loved and supported me on my own imperfect journey, who helped to hold space for me to create the nurturing environment of self-care that made that growth and change possible for me.

And WOW, this post got crazy long. I think it developed a life of its own. I just hope it helps someone out there. Mad love for you all!

love from trish
+ full time RVing pic: silhouette of woman against a pink and purple sunset

6 Super-Sized Signs You SHOULDN’T Start Full Time RVing

Are you curious but still on the fence about living the full time RVing lifestyle? If any of the following applies to you, you might just want to have a long, heartfelt conversation with yourself about exactly what you’re willing to sacrifice to live the RV life. Because it’s definitely a lifestyle that flies in the face of the standard cultural narrative (in the U.S., anyway), and it’s certainly not for everyone. (But for those who love it, it’s the bees f*cking knees, y’all!)

Sign #1: You’re a hoarder.

Could your current home be featured on an episode of the TV show “Hoarders“? Do visitors have trouble navigating your space because there’s barely enough room to squeeze even the narrowest of asses through the clutter of faded recipe books, old encyclopedias, scary porcelain dolls, and other assorted knick-knacks you own? Does it feel almost physically painful for you to part with even a single piece of your massive memorabilia collection, even for a good cause?

I feel you. I’m not a huge lover of collectibles or anything, but when I was prepping to start my full time RVing journey, it was really tough getting rid of some of the sentimental little things I’d held on to for what felt like my whole life, you know? They were like old friends to me. (I even got my phone out and took pictures of some of my old friends before I let them go, because I wanted something to remember them by.)

But getting SUPER comfortable with the downsizing process is a critical part of getting ready to be a full time RVer. Because you can only take so much with you. And, yes, renting a storage space is a good in-between solution for some of the things you aren’t ready to part with, but if you know you have the tendency to amass “stuff” just in general, you really need to hold yourself in check and accountable for staying light on the road.

Because the danger is that most RVs can physically hold a lot more than they are actually weight-rated for, which means you really can’t just fill up every available nook and cranny willy-nilly; you need to be very careful about how you load up. Having a vehicle with an overweight (or even a severely unbalanced) load on the road can cause serious damage to your tires, your axles, your frame… and more importantly, your life and the lives of those around you on the road.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, I love you, you little hoarder you, and I want you to stay safe. So just be realistic with yourself about this stuff, ‘kay?

Sign #2: “Super-size me” isn’t in your vocabulary. Because you’re, like, a culinary genius, yo, and you need the kitchen to match.

Now I’ve gotta say, if you’re a cooking whiz on, like, a Julia-Child-level or something… well, first of all, I’m totally jelly impressed, ’cause my culinary genius pretty much stops at putting sandwiches together. And also why aren’t you inviting me over for your oh-so-yummy falling-right-off-the-bone ribs? (JK! Well. Sorta.)

But seriously, if you can only find your true happy place while cooking up a culinary storm of epic proportions, you may find yourself a bit underwhelmed by what an RV kitchen has to offer. Because, I tell you, by wholly guacamole, even the most well-equipped of RVs will probably fall short of what you’re used to when it comes to appliances, counter space, and storage space for all of your magical kitchen supplies.

I’d imagine, really, only a food truck with a bed might approximate what you’d need? Maybe? And I’m pretty sure the health department wouldn’t approve of putting a bed in a food truck. But hey, what do I know about it? If they do, come find me. (I really do want to try some of your famous ribs.)

Sign #3: Your job won’t allow for it. And you don’t have enough savings to wing it unemployment-style freewheelin’-style for a while.

This is probably the biggest and most common sign that I see stopping people from jumping into the full time RVing life these days. And it’s a realistic and totally understandable one! But let me just say this: If this is you right now, take heart young grasshopper, because this is just a temporary obstacle, and it doesn’t mean full time RVing is not for you forever… just maybe for now, you know?

The good news: You can do it! Eventually. (Yes, f*cking hellz yes babes, you totally can, even if all your friends and family think you’re crazy for wanting to live in an RV, and even if it feels like nobody believes in this dream of yours except for you.) Start saving, and/or start looking for remote work now. The good news is that there are more and more remote work jobs available now than ever before, and there are tons of resources for finding them too! Here’s one of my favorites to help get you started.

Sign #4: You hate the great outdoors, and even the idea of “glamping” makes you shudder.

Be forewarned: As a full time RVer, you’re probably gonna find yourself spending more time outside on the regular than you ever did before. And you might be surprised to hear it, but this is likely gonna be true even if you aren’t one who likes to sit outside and chill on a camping chair, taking in the sights and sounds of nature (which of course includes eyeballing the new neighbors who just made camp across the way from you).

I mean, yes, obv, you will get more outdoor time in if you like to park it under your awning and people-watch every day, but even besides this, just the process of managing RV life in itself involves a lot of outdoor time — whether its hitching and unhitching, managing and refilling propane tanks, securing awnings (and then hastily pulling them in during high winds!), hooking up water and electric, dumping waste water… the list goes on, my friend. In my first few months of full time RVing, I spent so much time in the great outdoors that I developed tan lines in places I’d never had tan lines before and had to get super conscientious about protecting my skin from the sun.

full time RVing pic: spider crawling out of beautiful flower

Oh! And another thing: When you live an RV, the great outdoors doesn’t always STAY outdoors. So if you aren’t prepared to skillfully manage unwanted incursions into your space by various flying and crawling creatures (preferably without bloodcurdling girlie-screams, because #girlpower, y’all), then full time RVing might not be the lifestyle for you.

On the other hand, if you’re saying, “Bring it on, Trish! I’m a critter-wrangling badass!” then I salute you, fellow woman warrior. And also, I highly recommend Magic Mesh, because it totally works wonders when it comes to cutting down on flying thingies getting inside.

Sign #5: You need ongoing medical care.

First of all, if this is your situation, I feel for you, and I hope it’s just a temporary roadblock on your journey to full timing. Second of all, disclaimer alert: I’m neither a medical professional nor an insurance specialist. But with that said, I do think that, unless you plan to park your RV in one place long-term and that’s all she wrote, getting medical care outside of your home of record and away from your primary care provider might prove to be a sticky business. Of course, this likely depends on many factors, including the type of insurance you have and the type of medical plan you’re covered under.

But even above and beyond insurance issues: With an ongoing condition, traveling could make continuity of care difficult to impossible, which means likely NOT having ready access to a doctor who knows your medical history intimately, which could make things confusing. And if you’re like me, the last thing you want when you show up at a medical appointment is for your doctor to be ill-informed (pun totally intended) about your situation.

Sign #6: You’re only considering RV life to save on living expenses.

full time RVing pic: little monopoly houses sitting on top of different sized stacks of quarters

I mean, oy! It already feels like everybody’s doing it, and there can only be so many of us cool kids, yo. JK, JK! Howeverrrrrrr… if you are primarily looking at full time RV living from an economical perspective, it does bear keeping in mind that there are lots of hidden costs that could pop up that you may not be taking into account.

For instance, RVs are notorious for being assembled in a less-than-stellar, rather slapstick manner, which means that even if you buy a brand-new, right-off-the-lot model, the likelihood of something needing to be repaired every so often is high. (I shelled out around $1,000 for mobile repair work in my first 15 months of RV life.)

And RV parks in many areas seem to be raising their rates without any good reason other than that they CAN, probably in response to the increase in demand for spots (because #EverybodysDoingIt, as I said, LOL). For perspective: I called one popular park in the Los Angeles area and was put on a waiting list with an estimated call-back time of six to eight months. Which is like, wow. And makes “advance planning is critical” kind of an understatement.

On the other hand, if your plan is to boondock on public land, like BLM land, for instance, well then okay — dispersed camping (that’s what the cool kids call it, BTW) offers fairly wide open venues where there’s usually space for everyone (especially in the southwestern part of the U.S.). And it’s also typically free or low-cost, as long as you’re willing to move to a different location every two weeks or so.

An important caveat: Boondocking (sometimes also called “dry camping” because it usually means parking in an off-the-grid spot with no electricity, water, or sewer hookups) comes with its own unique expenses. And since getting power into your rig is a big part of what makes RV life so “homey,” you’ll likely need either a generator (and generator fuel), or a solar-panel and inverter set-up. And if you’re not handy and plan to hire one of the experts to do your solar installation (f*cking around with electricity is no joke, y’all), be aware — many of the most reputable solar installers are highly in-demand and have lengthy waiting lists (again, we’re talking months, babes).

If this article makes you think twice, good. Just don’t let it make you think that I don’t love my RV lifestyle.

full time RVing pic: neon glowing question mark in a tunnel

Question things, y’all! Question all the things! Questions bring clarity, and that’s what I want for you — to be clear on your direction with this. It just might make the difference between dancing a celebratory jig over your new RV lifestyle or wallowing in the sinking feeling that you made a big mistake.

And I encourage everyone to question things, just in general, babes. Because I like to question things. Like… I question literally everything about everything. And it serves me well, I think.

If I never questioned the socially accepted idea that everyone should live in a “3 Little Pigs”-style home that was all, like, “you can huff and puff but you can’t blow it down, you dirty wolf, because it’s built of safe and comfy bricks,” well then you wouldn’t be here reading this.

And truly, I love full time RVing and wouldn’t trade it for the world. In fact, my plan is ultimately to upgrade and have two different RVs — a “biggie” (probably a Forest River 5th-wheel, but I’m still debating) and a “little-y” (a totally cute and convenient conversion van, for easily zipping to and fro around the nation) — so that I can claim the best of both nomadic tiny-home-on-wheels worlds.

I hope you find the best of all possible worlds for you, as well. Mad respect for being here and doing some serious questioning, babes.

love from trish

P.S. Be on the lookout on my website in the next few weeks for some totally awesome tips and tools I’m developing to help make this whole process a LOT easier on my fellow BADASS LADY-BAWSES out there!

+ easy meditation online / self-care pic: woman showing both middle fingers to the camera defiantly

F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!

F*ck. Stop telling me meditation is good for me already. Seriously. Meditation suuuuucks! It’s boring. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. And damn it, there are SERIOUSLY about a million other things I’d rather be doing right now. And no, I don’t care if you just learned the greatest new technique for easy meditation online or in some class somewhere. Don’t tell me about it. Don’t wanna hear it. Nope. No, thank you. Move along. These are not the droids you’re looking for. I’ll find my self-care elsewhere, TYVM.

Is this you? Does this sound like your inner dialogue when it comes to meditation?

self-care / easy meditation online pic: man wearing eyemask with "fuck off" written on it

Are you ready to punch a wall the next time someone goes off on you about the “wonders” of meditation? Do you imagine getting a root canal would be less painful than trying to meditate for any length of time? Does the thought of sitting cross-legged and trying to focus on your breath make you want to gag? Have you tried all of the so-called “easy” meditation techniques without success, and STILL found yourself sitting in meditation classes grinding your teeth and watching the clock, or maybe even tried to follow along with some simple meditation online practices via videos or apps and gotten completely FED UP with the whole thing?

Sing it loud and proud, my friends!

Awesome! That’s very, very cool to hear. Because that means you ARE, in fact, the droids I’m looking for. I’m talking to YOU. Indeed, peeps, indeed!

In fact, if your meditation mantras typically end up sounding something along the lines of: “F*ck this f*cking bullsh*t, f*cking meditation, I can’t even!”, then I’m DEFINITELY talking to you (and you are totally singing the song of my people… isn’t it beautiful?).

Curse words f*cking rock!

easy meditation online / self-care pic: cartoon image of man shaking fist, with speech bubble showing vague profanities

And cursing is a GOOD thing for what we’re about to discuss, actually, so curse away! Curse words, used in the right context, are super powerful for creating major positive changes in our lives, because they tend to have a pattern-interrupt kind of effect on our brains, jolting us out of ingrained thought cycles and habits and allowing new learning to happen in a much easier, sneakier, and totally FUNNER (yes, that is totally a word I made up) way.

So let me get to the meat of my message, which is, in a nutshell:


The new hotness: Pro-profanity meditation!

So let’s integrate some good old-fashioned SWEAR WORDS into our “easy” meditation routine, shall we? I know you’re wondering to yourself now, “Well, Trish, how the f*ck am I supposed to do that exactly, huh? Sit cross-legged on the floor, close my eyes, and just concentrate on cussing up a f*cking storm?”

Hmm. Actually, now that I think of it, that could be a super fun exercise too (and great for releasing stress, I’ll bet), but no, it’s not what I had in mind. The guided meditation portion of this equation is where the cursing comes in. It is a super-sneaky way to make meditation feel like NOT meditation and yet still reap all the awesome benefits of DOING meditation, and thus be kind to yourself and give yourself the self-care you deserve.

Sadly, it maaaaay be difficult at the present time to find a meditation studio or in-person meditation class with a facilitator willing and able to skillfully lob F-bombs right into the middle of the zen flow of the moment (ooh… and with that, a new business venture idea is born! pow!).

But the good news is, you can totally find this kind of thing in a bunch of meditation online videos out there right now. Because thank goodness, a few YouTube geniuses were ahead of the curve in this F-bomb meditation movement. (Sidenote: I’m actually considering making a video of my very own along these lines at some point in the future, because this stuff is just too f*cking good for me to NOT be dying to add to the available content. So keep an eye out on my YouTube channel for the precious f*cking gem that I’m sure that video will be.)

Curse-y McCurse-urton meditations: A playlist

easy meditation online pic: woman listening on headphones

But wait, there’s more good news! You don’t have to try to find all of these genius Curse-y McCurse-urton easy meditation online videos by yourself, because I’ve done a bit of research for you already and put together a playlist (conveniently accessible on my YouTube channel home page) for you, aptly named “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” to make it super easy to find.

Check it out. I like to chill out with these tracks playing in my headphones while I’m out in nature somewhere, like a park or a beach or somewhere where there aren’t a lot of people around.

Let’s get physical, physical ♫ ♪

But probably my favorite way EVER to listen to “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” is to get physical with it and turn it into moving meditation. Typically, I will do that by standing up and doing some Tai Chi-esque flowing movements that help me get more grounded and centered in my body while I’m listening and breathing.

easy meditation online / self-care pic: silhouette of man doing tai chi on a cliff at sunset

Also… you don’t even need to KNOW Tai Chi to take advantage of this type of thing. You can f*cking make it up! Hells yeah! In the past, I’ve taught some of my coaching clients a technique that I call “PRISM,” which stands for Playful, Really Intentional, Super-Slow Movements. PRISM is basically about making up your own movement flow, similar to Tai Chi but completely no-rules, no-holds-barred, just stringing movements together in an intuitive way that feels good to you and tells a story in your head.

Practicing a moving meditation like this allows you to come home to being present in your body and being aware of what’s going on with it. Some people call this process of coming home to your body “re-embodying yourself.” Regardless of what you call it, I feel like it’s a great thing to practice, especially if you’re in recovery from addiction, because substance use is often employed as a defense mechanism for DISembodying ourselves so that we do not have to be fully aware of what is going on with ourselves.

(Note: If you are in active addiction or early recovery, or are dealing with medical or psychological issues, please heed the warnings in the TrishBell.com user agreement before taking any action based on anything you may read on this website.)

Meditation that f*cking WORKS

easy meditation online / self-care pic: woman with headphones listening and smiling

And doing some moving meditation WHILE listening to “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” will blow your mind! Well, it blows my mind anyway. And what I mean by that is that it makes me smile, and feel peaceful, and giggle, and breathe deep, and ALL that sh*t, all at the same time, kinda. Regardless of whether you add in the moving meditation piece or not, though, my deepest hope for you is that all of this will spark something inside of you that feeds your flame in the same kinda way. And maybe inspires a giggle or two, and even a feeling of excitement about diving into this stuff, instead of dread.

If it does that for you, well, my work here is done! Voila, self-care!

Because here’s something that they don’t teach you in all those studies about the many awesome benefits of meditation: the most effective kind of meditation.

The most effective kind of meditation… revealed!

Do you know what the most EFFECTIVE kind of meditation actually is? You might be surprised to hear this, but it’s got nothing to do with the meditation style you choose. And it’s not about whether you do meditation at an in-person class or do meditation online, or whether you use the latest “easy meditation” techniques or play the right newfangled music or binaural beats in the background.

The most effective kind of meditation is the kind of meditation that you actually DO. Consistently. Period.

It’s not the kind that you just TALK about doing, and it’s not the kind that you schedule on your calendar but never get around to (P.S. here’s how to get around to it, if you need it!), and it’s not the kind that you’ve read 10 books about but only tried once or twice and then pretty much gave up on after that (but damn, those books do look impressive on your bookshelf, right?).

I love you, and I want you to actually DO your f*cking meditation, babes.

It is my heartfelt hope that “F*cking Meditation, I Can’t Even!” helps you break through any sense of resistance, frustration, or boredom that might in the past have kept you from really making meditation a daily part of your life. Because consistency in practice — that’s where the magic happens. That’s where the brain starts to change. That’s where the benefits start to shower down upon you like little raindrops of awesomeness. I want that for you. I want that for everyone, truly.

easy meditation online / self-care pic: woman with headphones searching playlist on phone

So, anyway, if you’ve made it this far in reading, I’m thinking you must have more than a passing interest in giving this whole meditation thing a real try. So… please let me know what you think about this easy meditation online playlist I put together, and about PRISM too (I’m gonna try to remember to make a video demonstrating a bit of that soon), if you give them a go! I’d love to hear from you!

love from trish
+ addiction pic: man standing in shadows, identity obscured

Alcohol, Addiction, and Keyser Soze

A lot of people still believe that alcohol and addiction are completely separate, not necessarily related issues, and that one is inherently “bad” and the other is “fun,” and that if they stay “careful” and moderate their consumption and aren’t unlucky enough to have been born with the “addict gene,” then all will be good in the hood. In a nutshell, a lot of people believe that addiction doesn’t exist for them. I used to be one of those people. Until, all of a sudden, I wasn’t. And that wasn’t by choice.

Now, if you’re a fan of Keyser Soze (and who isn’t), this quote will probably ring a bell:

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

“The Usual Suspects,” 1995

This is one of my favorite scenes from the movie “The Usual Suspects,” because I feel like Keyser Soze, as depicted here, is in a lot of ways a f*cking great metaphor for the dark side of alcohol (although… c’mon, does it really even have a “light side” anyway?).

Keyser Soze (ahem… ALCOHOL) is the bad guy hiding in the shadows, and everybody’s heard stories about the awful-horrible-very-bad-things he’s done and what a badass SOB he is, but his identity is so heavily cloaked in societal mystique that it’s easy to believe he doesn’t REALLY exist, that he’s just a sad little boogieman story people tell sometimes to scare themselves or others.

grim reaper with scythe and bottle of bourbon

This is how alcohol is portrayed in mainstream culture. Like Keyser Soze. It has the same dark, rebellious mystique, for sure. And we as a society tend to cling to an insidious lack of belief that the evil boogieman specter of addiction will ever ACTUALLY make its way into our lives (again, like Keyser Soze). Because that’s something that happens to other people. That’s only for hard-core addicts. People with a “real problem.”

alcohol addiction pic: bottle of poison

Of course, we all know on some level that alcohol is, at its core, a bad element to have in our lives. We all know it doesn’t actually IMPROVE our health or do our livers any favors. And we’ve all heard stories about someone going down a bad road with their drinking, abusing alcohol, or falling prey to the horrible “disease” of alcoholism.

Now, let me just say, I don’t subscribe to the disease model of addiction, and there is actually a lot of evidence AGAINST that model, if you take the time to do some research. Addiction is also NOT caused by some moral failing or a lack of willpower. Addiction is, quite simply, the end game that we are all hurtling toward any time we choose to partake of an addictive substance. It’s just brain science, peeps, a neurochemical response that occurs faster in some folks and slower in others. And where you are on the addiction spectrum (and if you’re drinking at ALL, you’re somewhere on the spectrum, yo) determines whether the scariness of Keyser Soze is real to you, or remains (as yet) just a myth.

Here’s the really terrifying part about all of this, though: Keyser Soze can still f*ck your sh*t up, no matter whether you believe in him or not.

And yet we as a society continue to stick our heads in the sand about him (err, I mean… about alcohol). No, in fact, it’s not just that we stick our heads in the sand. We actively do things to make him less scary, so that we can sidle up to him and let him seduce the pants off of us (before he knifes us in the gut). We dress him up in fancy clothes to make him look glitzy and fun, and we bombard ourselves and others with alcohol-centric messages designed to make us want to go out and Keyser-Soze the heck out of ourselves. (Because he’s just sooooo f*cking cool! NOT.)

And sadly, more and more alcohol advertisements are targeting women with these messages of glitz and fun, y’all, check it:

  • I’ll bet you’re familiar with the wine industry’s push for “rosé all day,” since it’s pretty much as well-known a catchphrase these days as Nike’s “just do it.”
  • If you keep your eyes open, you’ll no doubt see how fast “wine = mommy juice” memes continue to multiply on social media.
  • Cruise the liquor aisles in the grocery store on any given day (grrr… why the f*ck do they sell liquor in Target and WalMart, people?!) and you’ll be regaled with all of the pink, feminine-looking bottles and the countless female-oriented brand/drink names that wine and liquor companies keep coming out with, like “Skinnygirl,” “Happy Bitch,” and “Be Flirty.”
addiction pic: trish leering at camera

Okay, so let me tell you something about this, babes. Back in my drinking days, alcohol may have made me *think* I was being flirty, but in reality (as some unfortunate pics have later shown me… see this pic on the left, for example… ugh, I’m cringing already)… I was really just doing some sloppy as f*ck alcohol-fueled leering.

And if the recipient of my sloppy leering was also partaking of a bit of the ol’ Keyser Soze… well, then maybe I’d get juuuuuust enough attention from said recipient to make me think my “flirting” had been successful. (P.S. Over time, alcohol also turned me into just about the furthest thing from a “happy bitch” or a “skinnygirl” that I could be, in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, what I’m saying is, Keyser Soze is real, y’all. Addiction is f*cking REAL. And it’s literally inevitable if you drink enough, for long enough. BELIEVE IT. And please don’t stick your head in the sand. I really want to keep as many of you as possible from having to go through the struggles I had to go through to finally leave alcohol behind.

Let’s undo the greatest trick the devil ever played when it comes to alcohol. Let’s shine some light on this bad boy, okay?

love from trish
+ the anti-stigma project : two people holding hands making a heart shape

The Anti-Stigma Project

In all honesty, I’m not sure ultimately where I want to take the idea for The Anti-Stigma Project. I feel like there’s something big here, I just haven’t pinned it down yet. I mean, there are sooooo many things that our society unnecessarily attaches a sort of “automatic” stigma to, for one reason or another (or even for seemingly no reason at all). And living under the black cloud of that stigma can have a lot of really damaging, negative consequences for a lot of people, not even just for the people immediately affected by it, but for the people that those people interact with, and so on and so forth.

Just look at the top news stories over the past decade or two. The pain and suffering caused by ceaseless stigmatization has driven people to do unthinkable things, including causing harm to themselves and/or others. It shouldn’t be that way, and I believe it doesn’t have to be that way, but there is also sooooo much work to be done to dismantle the stigmas that are all around us every day.

What is stigma?

The word “stigma” itself has some religious roots, but a stigma is basically any mark of shame, dishonor, or disgrace attached to someone because of some perceived difference or “abnormality” setting them apart from the majority. Stigmatization is often achieved by means of some sort of labeling or stereotyping.

Bullying is born in stigma

the anti-stigma project -- woman with finger to lips shushing, with tape over mouth

When you think about it, bullying — the act of persecuting someone for being different — would not exist without stigma. Our schools would be less contentious environments without stigma, and the anti-bullying movement would never have had to come into being.

Without stigma, I wouldn’t have to be afraid to send my future child into the school system and be considering homeschooling instead.

(I have seriously had this thought in the past. No way would I trust my kid in the public school system. Or even a private one. But “future child” isn’t in the cards for me at this point in my life anyway, just FYI.) Anyway, seriously, think of all the good The Anti-Stigma Project could do.

No one is safe from stigma

No one is really safe from stigma in today’s world, unfortunately, because stigma can attach to just about anything that the majority might perceive as different (and thus threatening to the majority’s status quo), but underrepresented groups are very disproportionately affected, as you might imagine. This concept is especially prominent in the limelight at this time of year, as Pride month comes to a close.

See my stigma, hear me roar

Some of the issues in this realm that are nearest and dearest to my own heart include the stigmas attached to:

  • being a nerd (my original sin… which was a painful AF stigma to suffer through when I was in high school, but is now, miraculously, wondrously… trendy!?? #notfair!!),
  • having a non-mainstream sexual orientation (I’m pansexual and demisexual — the first part means I experience attraction without regard to gender; and the second part means that feeling a strong, intimate mental connection with a person is a big part of what draws me to them),
  • living a polyamorous lifestyle,
  • being an ex-drinker / non-drinker of alcohol,
  • living full-time in an RV,
  • having a history of body dysmorphia / eating disorder issues, and
  • being kinky / into the BDSM lifestyle (yep, I said it out loud here where the world can see… umm… sorry, mom).

All of these uniquenesses — things that to me are nothing more than a part of me being me and living life true to myself — are things that many people might see as “abnormal” and thus shun, ridicule, or even just generally talk smack about me for.

The dark side of stigmatization

the anti-stigma project -- woman covering her face with her hands

However, there is a darker side to stigmatization… a side where physical violence sometimes peeks its ugly head out… a side where stigmatized individuals in far-flung locations might find themselves not just persecuted or forced into hiding, but also in complete and utter isolation from community support… a side where millions of voices are still crying out in the dark. Those voices deserve to be heard.

Dismantling stigma by living out loud

Now I don’t have any easy answers to all of this, but I think the more we tell our stories, own our differences as parts of ourselves we are PROUD of, and live authentically “out loud,” the less power stigma has over us. That’s why I’m telling my stories here. That’s part of what my whole “feed your flame” spiel is getting at, too. And I guess that’s really what The Anti-Stigma Project is all about, when it comes down to it.

That’s also incidentally why I don’t worry so much about potential stray pics of my naughty bits floating around the world anymore (based on my limited in-the-field research, sexting is something I’m pretty sure most of us of a certain age have tried at least once, whether we admit it or not). Because damn it, if I sent you a pic, it was f*cking sexy. And if you share it without my consent, then you are just a big butthead racking up loads of bad karma for yourself. And none of that changes the fact that I’m proud of my body and not ashamed that I am a sexual being (although my sex life recently might argue that last point, I think).

Okay sexting and naughty pics was a bit of a digression from the main point, but you get the idea, I think. I’ll write more on The Anti-Stigma Project here in the blog as ideas come, and I’m also considering addressing this further on The Trish-tagram Feed, so check me out there too!

love from trish
+ radical self-care : woman doing yoga bow to city

Radical Self-Care

Let me kick this radical self-care rant off with an admission: I’m a totally Type-A, overthinking, overworking, overplanning person by nature, and it’s taken me a loooooong time to break myself of some really bad habits.

The early days

I straight-edged my way through high school entirely on the power of my ability to nerd out and get good grades, coming in number two in my class and giving a totally kick-ass (if I do say so myself) salutatorian speech at graduation, but never going out or partying or doing anything remotely “cool.” (I’ll bet you can imagine how popular that made me.)

Then after serving six years on active duty military service, instead of taking a break and getting some much-needed “me-time” in, I immediately jumped into a lucrative, highly upwardly mobile government contracting job, which basically involved working my tooshie off, hustling for new clients all the time, and doing the whole corporate rat-race thing.

Growing up

But let’s go a little further back in time for a minute. When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a whole lot of money. My mom loved us kids and did what she could, and we never went without the “basic-basics,” you know. But we also moved around a lot, lived with my grandmother for a while because we didn’t have anywhere else to go, and school field-trips and fundraisers were stressful times in our house, because the school’s general expectation was for parents to fork over money at these times — money we didn’t have. I mean, I used to hear about schoolmates going on their “annual family vacations” and that concept was so foreign to me that I couldn’t even conceive of what it must be like to have that much money.

Which is to say, growing up, I never learned to prioritize self-care. I mean, as far as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs goes, when I was a child, my family was still struggling to get all the basic-basic needs taken care of, never mind the higher-level psychological and self-actualization ones. And even as an adult, my natural inclination, with my whole Type-A, INFJ, 2w3 personality mix, was to push through the tough times, suck it up when things were stressful, and take care of everyone else’s feelings and needs before my own. So I wasn’t naturally inclined to prioritize self-care.

Learning to care for self

It wasn’t until sometime in my 30s, around the time when I first started questioning the role that alcohol was playing in my life (and realizing that, despite what advertisers and sitcom writers might have us believe, wine was, in fact, NOT self-care), that I really started taking self-care seriously.

radical self-care -- two people dancing the tango

This is when I consciously started making time for regular, healthy PLAY activities (like rock-climbing and taking totally awesome-sauce Argentine tango classes) and for healing and rejuvenation-oriented activities (like Bikram yoga, long-form Yang-style Tai Chi, massage, acupuncture, juice cleanses, etc).

I kinda started out doing “self-care light,” but eventually, I learned how to dive into radical self-care with a vengeance when I needed it. You guys, there were weeks when I would literally get a massage and/or an acupuncture treatment every day for 5 or 6 days in a row (P.S. community acupuncture and massage school prices totally rock for doing this on the cheap), because I could just feel my body, mind, and spirit crying out for nurturing and love, and I was committed to being kinder to myself than I had been in the “push through and suck it up” days.

But here’s the kicker: I never told anyone when I went on these week-long self-care binges, not family, not friends. No one. Why? Honestly, it was because I felt like people would look at me strangely or question what I was doing, like it was somehow possible to overdo it on self-care, and I was on some level afraid that someone would call me out and try to stage a radical self-care intervention. You know, like, be all, “Stop! Back away from the massage therapist! You don’t know what you’re doing! Can’t you see how this is hurting us?”

Is self-care really that radical?

Why is self-care such a radical concept these days, anyway? I mean, I know we can’t all have week-long self-care binges all the time. Well, my lifestyle certainly doesn’t allow for it, anyway, LOL. (If yours does, I totally envy you! And also are you looking for a sugar baby? J/K. Sorta.) Seriously though, why is having the audacity to suggest that taking a break and recuperating from the stress of your day-to-day every now and then such a hard thing for most people to swallow?

Why are we so quick to say, “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the money”?

radical self-care -- woman reading a book on sofa with towel wrapping hair

There are lots of self-care activities that don’t require much money (like relaxing in a long hot bath or spending an hour stretched out in the sun reading a good book), and lots that don’t require much time (like doing just a minute or two of meditation or even just pausing to take a few deep breaths).

In flight, we all know that in the event of a sudden change in cabin pressure, we need to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others. Yet we often don’t follow that advice when it comes to “real life.” Don’t we want to be at our best, to be our best selves, when dealing with those we love? When going into life-changing business meetings or even just when heading to a coffee shop (where, who knows, we just might meet one of the future loves of our life)?

Nobody wants to be a hot mess

Here’s what I’ve learned is true, at least for myself: Radical self-care is not selfish. It is also not an indulgence (unless you choose to let it be… although you have to first have the resources to get all indulgent and opulent with your self-care). It’s a necessity. For fucking realzies, you guys, I turn into a hot mess if I don’t take care of myself, and I don’t like being a hot mess. So I do the damn thing.

I feel like if more people treated self-care as a necessity, there would be a lot less pain and suffering in the world. Because people who aren’t taking care of themselves properly just don’t do as well as they could at spreading love and joy in the world. I mean, just look at that guy in traffic behind you leaning on his horn. Need I say more?

Well, regardless of whether I need to say more or not (I actually do have lots more to say on this subject), I think that’s a good start for now. Keep an eye on the blog for more radical self-care articles in the near future!

love from trish
+ pouring water from water bottle into glass


What is teetotaling?

I like to use the word teetotaling as the overarching term to describe my sober lifestyle, because it seems like when people hear the the word “sobriety,” they tend to either shut down or layer a sh*t-ton of their own emotional associations over whatever is being said. (P.S. In case you were wondering, “sober” ≠ “somber,” because sober folks are super f*cking fun, y’all.)

Anyway, my own personal definition of teetotaling is living a life free from the influence of alcohol. In other words, being committed to living a life OVER the influence rather than under it. This makes sense for me, since alcohol has been something of a sticking point for me over the years. (Which is a total understatement, okay?)

Now some people go even further and extend the teetotaling definition, pledging to total abstinence from all intoxicating substances, in some cases even including abstaining from caffeine in their teetotalism. (Knowing myself, I’m not sure I could commit myself to no caffeine at this point in my life, honestly.)

Exercising sobriety

But no matter what your personal teetotalism or sobriety goal looks like, or even if you’re just sober-curious, I believe we all have the right to embrace a sober / teetotaling life, without getting f*cked with by others for making that choice. And that includes not getting f*cked with for stumbling along the path.

Because living a sober lifestyle is a strong, bad-ass journey, and it just makes sense that any journey that requires strength and bad-assery also takes practice to get right. I mean, god knows it took me a f*ck-ton of tries to get to where I am, and I’m still learning new things every day that I walk this path.

This is why the phrase “exercising sobriety” has an honest, solid ring to it, for me.

Because if you are at ANY point along the sobriety continuum — and that includes falling flat on your face after getting a few days, weeks, months, or even years under your belt — then YOU ARE DOING THE DAMN THING, y’all. You’re doing it! You are exercising sobriety.

teetotaling pic - silhouette of woman running with definition of the word "exercising" as it relates to exercising sobriety

Sometimes it doesn’t look pretty, no doubt. But when it comes to doing hard things, failure is absolutely 100% a building block toward success, if you let it be.

How my alcohol story began

I’ve been living a sober lifestyle for almost a year now (as of the writing of this article), but I was drinking for a good 20 years before that, so I’ve got lots of experience with alcohol’s many faces — definitely enough to know that alcohol never did me any favors. But it’s a tricky mistress, alcohol. When it’s got you in its grips, it makes you believe things about yourself (and about it) that aren’t necessarily true.

For instance, the first time I got drunk, it was a conscious choice, oddly enough (I do all kinds of oddball things, though… so… spoiler alert on that). I had been a straight-laced, nerdy, highly unpopular kid all through high school, and my first year of college I decided to change that by getting good and sh*tfaced with some so-called “friends.” And lo and behold, sh*tfaced me felt like FUN ME! I finally felt like one of the popular party girls. I finally felt UN-shy!

And I was hooked from that moment, I think. Not chemically or physiologically hooked (thankfully I never got to that point), but hooked on that feeling of being a funner, cooler, more popular version of myself.

The lies alcohol tries to sell us

Funny thing is, though I didn’t realize it at the time, that’s one of the big lies that alcohol tries to sell us. We don’t get better. We get sloppier and sh*ttier and less emotionally intelligent, we become more easily manipulated and taken advantage of, and we devolve and become less capable at life in general, both during and after drinking binges, because the hangover backlash is just as bad as the sh*tfaced-ness of the drinking itself. But we’re usually surrounded by other equally sh*tfaced souls when we’re in the thick of it, so it’s hard to tell.

And I didn’t look back or re-examine my relationship with alcohol for years. I should have. Alcohol gave me TONS of signs that it was an abusive lover, but I ignored them all. I let my mind gloss over that time in my 20s when alcohol let someone take advantage of my body without my consent (to this day, I still have trouble labeling what happened, because of my sense of culpability in “letting” something happen to me by getting that drunk). I conveniently forgot most of what happened on that lonely Valentine’s Day long ago, when alcohol spun me out on a maudlin emotional roller coaster and made me act like a crying, drunken fool in the middle of a packed dance club.

To be honest, I did try a few periods of alcohol abstinence in my 20s and 30s, mostly knee-jerk reactions to some embarrassing drunken incidents, periods of abstinence which began with me promising myself to never let that happen again and ended with me thinking, “I’ve got this, I’m totally under control now.” I really wasn’t in control, of course. It was a lie I was telling myself.

The problem with functional alcohol abuse

But for a long time, I was never out-of-control enough to reach the critical pain point that ultimately made me change my life (and I think that point is different for everyone). I mean, I had my work life and my social life in order for the most part, at least on the surface of things. I wasn’t out getting DUIs or drinking at the office or anything like that. I was developing my career and building a business — a business that, ironically, involved supporting clients in their recovery efforts at both in-patient and outpatient substance abuse rehabilitation facilities.

And I couldn’t even tell you exactly when I realized with 100% certainty that something had to change for me with alcohol. But I can tell you this: It was years from the time I had that realization until I was actually able to successfully cut alcohol out of my life.

I mean, all I really knew was that I was tired of scouring my phone for drunken texts that I may have sent the previous evening. And that I was scared of waking up one more time in the middle of the night with the beginnings of a hangover so bad I literally felt like I was about to die. And that I was ashamed of feeling like a hypocrite at work, giving advice to clients in recovery that I wasn’t taking myself.

There are no quick-fix sobriety solutions

teetotaling pic: people at a yoga retreat

So I spent several years trying everything I could think of to quick-fix my way out of the psychological addiction to alcohol, including going to yoga retreats, participating in juice cleanses and water fasts, and even spending time in an ashram basically trying to chant away my problems.

And though some of these teetotaling attempts stuck with me for a few months, none of them worked in the long-term, because life was always there waiting for me when I got back to it, you know? And I hadn’t dealt with any of the underlying reasons I was drinking. And really, there is no quick-fix substitute for something that you’ve used as a quick-fix solution for almost everything that life has thrown at you for all of your adult life.

The only way out of the alcohol trap is by going through all of the things that you used alcohol to avoid before — by learning to stay with discomfort rather than running from it, by learning to feel all the feels, by learning to love yourself even when you’ve been taught your whole life that you’re not enough or that you need to be more or better to be worthy of love, by learning healthier coping mechanisms.

Finding your teetotaling community

So there was a point along my teetotaling path when I did what a lot of people in similar situations do and tried Alcoholics Anonymous, since it seemed to work for so many people. And the enthusiastic acceptance and support and sharing that I found there was a breath of fresh air for sure, but there were a lot of other aspects of AA that weren’t quite a good fit for me.

For one, I never got on board with the idea of labeling myself an alcoholic. I’ve never been a fan of labels in general, but the “alcoholic” label in particular strikes me as an incredibly stigmatizing label to slap onto a bunch of people who are already going through a tough time. And I was really not on board with the idea of accepting that I was powerless over alcohol, which is basically one of the underlying assumptions that AA is built on. I mean, call me crazy, but I kinda believe that making HUGE changes in your life requires a sense of empowerment and agency, not the opposite.

Anyway, AA seems to work well for a lot of folks, and that’s awesome, so I’m not knocking it, but it just wasn’t the right recovery community for me. So I puttered around on the internet for a while (I’m talking years, you guys), researching various alternative recovery groups.

And there are a bunch of alternatives out there, but the problem I ran into was that a lot of the group listings I found were old and outdated, listing meetings that were no longer taking place or regional groups that no longer existed or meetings that were so small it was impossible to attend without feeling singled-out or spotlighted. At one point, I even thought about trying to find an inpatient program somewhere that I could afford (a tall order in itself), but then I realized that would put me right back into the quick-fix cycle I’d been in before, because my life would STILL be waiting for me when I got out.

The perfect storm

But persistence pays off, because one day fate (and Google) finally steered me in the direction of the Tempest Sobriety School (which was then called the Hip Sobriety School), and I signed up for the summer 2018 session, and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself, because it’s where I found a community of people who just felt like my people, if you know what I mean.

People were sharing stories that I could relate to. People were offering words of support that sounded like they could have come from my own head. And there was no shaming and no blaming and there was no prescribed schedule for doing anything and there were no prescribed “steps” that needed to be taken in any particular order or even at all.

There was just a lot of love, and a lot of tips and tools and stories to learn from, and a lot of really great folks. It was a perfect storm of collaboration that came together in a way that spoke straight to my battered but hopeful soul. And it was the community that stood with me as I walked out of the fire and into the light of a teetotaling lifestyle.

teetotaling pic: one headshot of trish from may 2018 with a hangover compared with another headshot of trish from may 2019 sober and happy

Embracing all parts of yourself

But Tempest wasn’t the be-all and end-all for me, to be sure. With the growth and opportunities I gained from that incredibly valuable experience, with my newfound ability to embrace more of a real sense of myself and who I actually AM in the world… I’ve continued to grow, and branch out, and make new connections, and become even more of an independent thinker (is that even possible?!)… and I have actually begun to move away from some of the philosophies and thoughts I originally learned as a part of that community, and to make my recovery process more individualized and specific to me, and to my needs.

And that’s not a bad thing, I think.

Worst behaviors, best intentions

Here’s the thing. I believe that all behaviors, even the worst-seeming ones, like alcohol overuse, have a positive intention at their root. For instance, sometimes a behavior is attempting to protect you from something, like a painful feeling or a hard truth. Or sometimes a behavior arises because part of you knows that you really need a break but you’re not allowing yourself a moment to rest.

Ultimately, what this meant for me was discovering that overcoming alcohol was not about disowning or divorcing myself from a part of myself (which was what I had been trying to do for years unsuccessfully), but embracing that part of myself instead, getting curious about what it was really trying to accomplish for me, and looking for healthy solutions to meet those needs. This was not a quick-fix process, and it’s ongoing really, as I will always have new things to learn about myself, and spiritual growth is a lifelong process.

Becoming whole

Anyway, all of this has led me to believe that being fully present in your body, your mind, and your spirit — being fully present in your LIFE, in essence — means acknowledging, caring for, and exercising ALL of the different parts of yourself, even the messy, emotional AF, reckless, sh*t-stirring parts of yourself, so that all of these parts get healthier and become part of a healthier whole self. 

teetoling - robot - not an autobot transformer but kinda looks a bit like one

Like… you know how the Autobot Transformers can unite into one super-badass hunk of highly functioning machinery?

Yeah. Kinda like that. Like an ass-kicking Teetotaling Bot.

So I’m gonna write a TON more about this stuff, but I think that’s enough for right now.

Check out the article index, the category listings, and the search bar on the right if you’d like to tool around on the site and read more about becoming teetotally awesome. 🙂

P.S. Check out my teetotaler tattoo (part of an awesome movement aimed at re-branding the concept of living alcohol-free from one of restriction to one of freedom… and well… it also has a bit of a more personal meaning specific to me that I’ll keep to myself, at least for now)! Squee! Teetotaling rocks!

love from trish
+ woman in front of yellow travel trailer

Full-Time RV Living

Full-time RV living rocks, people. It’s not easy, and it’s not for everybody, but if it tickles your fancy and you’d like to give it a try, I’m going to lay out some of my thoughts and experiences on the matter here in the blog space.

Why full-time RV living?

There are so many different reasons that people choose the full-time RV lifestyle, and often it’s not one single reason but a combination of many that tips the scales in RVing’s favor.

Sometimes its financial reasons; a lot of retirees these days are finding themselves trying to stretch their retirement dollars further, and full-time RV living can fit that bill, if you do it right. (A word of warning, though: On the flip side, it can also be way more expensive than expected, if you don’t plan things out. More on that in future blog articles, I promise.)

Sometimes its being at a crossroads in life, wanting more, wanting freedom, wanting to travel and roam and see the world and sometimes just generally wanting to break free of the blah, humdrum mold of the life mainstream society tries to force us into — no matter whether you’re blue-collar or white-collar, younger or older. I’ve met people from a really broad range of demographics in the RV lifestyle, even having just been a part of it for a little over a year now.

For me, it was a combination of all of the above reasons — having just gone through a rough divorce, moving around restless and groundless for a while between staying with friends and staying with family, feeling the desperate need to have my own private space again, and really wanting that private home space to give me back the sense of financial security and personal strength that it felt like the turmoil and uncertainty of the whole divorce process had just ripped away from me.

The joys of house-lessness

It might seem crazy to some, but living 24/7 in a 20-foot-long space (or a 30-foot-long space, or even a 40-foot-long space, if you’re livin’ large in RV style) is actually a lot more freeing than you might imagine. (If you’re curious, my space is about 20 feet long for now, but I’m thinking of upgrading it in the future.)

I mean, think about it. You don’t need to be tied down to a rental contract or a mortgage. And upgrading an RV is a heck of a lot easier than upgrading a sticks-and-bricks home. With a lot less paperwork required, too! And I’m all for that.

But also, for me, full-time RV living has connected me more deeply with nature, with my community (people who get me!), and with a deeper sense of myself, better than anything ever has before in my life. And in that sense, the RVing journey has been a really emotional one, but in a really good way.

full-time rv living -- woman standing at door of trailer

It’s also just really an awesome-sauce kind of magicalness to be able to hitch up and head out anywhere, anytime, and take your whole life’s worth of “stuff” and your comfy familiar bed and your own food and your awesome dog-daughter and ALL of your toiletries with you (without having to choose only what will fit in a quart-size ziploc bag and a few 3-ounce containers!).

The challenges of RV life

It’s not all puppies and roses, though, don’t get me wrong. Just like with any other life endeavor, RV life comes with its own set of unique challenges. There’s a steep learning curve that needs to be respected when jumping into the RV lifestyle. An RV needs a lot more active maintenance and upkeep than a brick-and-mortar home, and things tend to break a LOT more easily, even in a brand-new RV (watch a video sometime on YouTube of how these things are basically slapped together on the assembly line in under an hour, and you’ll see why).

So you have to be ready to roll with the punches at pretty much any moment, and you also need to educate yourself to make sure you’re not neglecting any critical maintenance that might develop into a HUGE problem down the road.

For instance, a lot of newbie RVers don’t know how important it is to level the RV whenever they camp (if you don’t level, you’re setting yourself up for your fridge to break down in the future, because this causes cumulative refrigerator damage that you probably won’t even notice until it goes belly-up). Newbies also often don’t know that they need to check the seals on their roof every year or so and do some resealing if needed (or suffer irreversible roof damage as a consequence).

Oh, and let me tell you, my (brand-new!) RV tub was leaking for a while and I didn’t know it. If I hadn’t found and corrected that problem, the flooring underneath it (conveniently tucked WAY out-of-sight, to where I had to unscrew a wall panel to see the problem) could have totally rotted away in time, leading to all sorts of issues.

My city water valve connection also cracked and totally flew off the side of my trailer and sprayed water everrrrrrywhere a few months back, necessitating an emergency mobile RV repair visit. But that’s another story I’ll get into later. Ahem. And it was totally not my fault, let me just say that, too.

Getting ahead of the learning curve

Like many things in my life — including my oh-so-brilliant purchase of a used stick-shift THREE-CYLINDER Geo Metro that I bought way back in 1995 sight-unseen and with absolutely ZERO idea how to drive a manual-transmission vehicle — I jumped into RV living with a hope and a prayer and lots of positive thinking. LOL. (Ahem, I did learn how to drive that car, in case you wondering, and I totally rocked it. Even though its awesome three-cylinder-ness took about a full minute to get up to freeway speeds, and on-ramps were a bit like playing a game of chicken with the flow of traffic because of my pokey roll.)

full-time rv living -- trailer and truck at a campground at night

So I’ll be honest, you all. I had no idea how to tow a travel trailer (or tow ANYTHING actually), and had never been comfortable driving anything bigger than a compact car prior to starting my great RV adventure. But I pulled on my big-girl-pants and went out and got me a truck and a cute little Gulf Stream trailer (yes, cuteness was a selling factor… I’m a bit of a sucker for cute stuff) and got rid of my (also very cute) little green Mazda2, and hit the road.

But I did do some research first, and I actually found a bunch of online training courses that were SUPER helpful, both for learning how to drive a tow vehicle safely AND for learning how to RV safely and smartly. There are live, in-person options as well, some of which I attended, and some of which I tried to attend but fate intervened. More on that in future blog articles, for sure! Because safe RVing is super important, y’all, and I see a lot of travelers on the road that I don’t think have all the info they need, and I’d like to help change that, if I can.

It’s the RV life for me!

I wasn’t sure I’d love full-time RV living when I started out, but after a year, I’m hooked. I know a lot of people don’t understand why anyone would prefer an RV over a non-mobile-home, but living this way feeds my flame so much that it’s just ridiculous. And you guys know I’m all about being true to your self and living your authentic life.

I’m definitely not nearly as nomadic as a lot of others I see in this lifestyle, since I tend to like to hang out in one spot for a few months before moving on (with water and electric and sewer hookups, cause I’m fancy like that… but also because I haven’t gotten around to all the necessary boondocking upgrades yet), but it suits me. I tried the whole moving-around-every-day thing for a bit, and it was fun and I saw a lot, but it was also tiring, and I wasn’t able to take as much time as I wanted to do all of my self-care stuff, which is so important.

But that’s not to say I don’t want to travel more in the future. My upgrade plans right now include getting a bigger rig that I can leave in one place for months at a time as a kind of home base, and ALSO a small camper van that I can toodle around in all over without having to worry about rough/windy/curvy roads, overhead clearance, turn radius, and all that jazz. It’s good to have dreams, right?

More on all this stuff soon! Hope the road of life takes you somewhere interesting in the meantime.

love from trish
+ group hug at dawn

Ethical Non-Monogamy

Hey peeps. Okay, so. Living an ethically non-monogamous lifestyle isn’t for everyone. In fact, some people might find the very idea of ethical non-monogamy downright offensive.

To be sure, choosing a way of life so different from the socially accepted Western standard isn’t necessarily easy or popular. So we ENM types tend to be a relatively small but very interesting and often very outspoken group.

What is ethical non-monogamy?

ethical non-monogamy pic: two women and a man embracing and smiling

The term “ethical non-monogamy” actually encompasses a very wide range of relationship frameworks and styles, many of which are misunderstood, lumped together with often-unrelated relationship styles, and stereotyped and stigmatized in ways that don’t necessary lend themselves to intelligent discussion. I’d like to change that.

Polyamory is…

Word choices are often a source of confusion regarding ENM. To start with, “polyamory” is a term that is often used interchangeably with “ethical non-monogamy” as an overarching alternative-lifestyle umbrella. However, some people in the ENM community use the term polyamory differently — specifically to describe relationships that involve loving more than one person simultaneously (this makes sense, with “love” being the “amor” part of the word “polyamory”).

Swinging is…

Polyamory in this “amor/emotional love” sense stands in stark opposition to the swingers’ lifestyle, in which sex with more than one person is the norm and partner-swapping is common, but emotional intimacy is typically NOT on the table. In fact, some life-partnered couples enter the swinging lifestyle with the express agreement that they will not fall in love with or develop feelings for any of their swinging partners (something that even some of my swinger friends will admit is sometimes easier said than done).

Sidenote: Swinging has actually never been something that appealed to me, since I’ve always fallen pretty squarely in the demisexual camp (demisexuals need to feel some deeper sense of connection to another person in order to be attracted to them).

Polygamy is…

Side-sidenote: Before we move forward, I’d like to clear up another common misconception. Polygamy and polyamory are NOT the same thing. Polygamy refers specifically to multiple spouses, a practice heavily stigmatized and often railed against by those with strong religious and/or moral opinions. Polyamory is a more broad term in that it refers to multiple loves or relationship interests, regardless of marital status.

With that said, it is very interesting to me that while same-sex marriage has been gaining ground in the political arena, any hint of moving toward a multiple-spouse system is still met with overwhelming disapproval by the majority. Seriously, y’all, some politicians and special interest groups have actually used the public’s general fear and abhorrence of polygamy to rally support against same-sex marriage by arguing that legalizing same-sex marriage will pave the way for legalizing polygamy. And while I have no strong desire to marry at this point, I would like to see this whole situation change. It makes me sad. Equality for everyone, am I right?

Cheating is…

Most importantly, ethical non-monogamy is, by its very definition, not cheating. Yet “cheater” is a derogatory label that is often wrongly attached to a person who publicly declares themselves to be a part of the ENM community.

So let’s deconstruct this whole “cheating” concept for a minute and get to the bottom of the problem. I think we can all agree that cheating on a lover is unethical, right? Well, this may surprise you, but in fact, it IS possible to cheat on a lover even if you are both openly polyamorous. Because anytime you sneak around behind a lover’s back and do something sexual or intimate with another person that you feel the need to hide or lie about, that’s cheating. And sadly, that still happens, even in the ENM community.

You might be asking yourself now, why would you need to cheat if you’re polyamorous? It does sound a little crazy, but it happens, for any number of reasons. Sometimes because one partner doesn’t like something about a specific person that their partner has expressed attraction to and asks them not to pursue that person as a romantic interest. Sometimes because one partner meets a new person and hits it off really well with them and things get hot and heavy and cross sexual lines quickly, in violation of pre-established relationship rules with another partner (more in the blog later about my own past experiences with opening up an existing monogamous relationship and how setting up RULES like that are bound to cause problems for you).

Informed consent is…

And all of that is to say, living non-monogamously and ethically means taking steps to ensure that everyone involved in or impacted by a relationship is aware, informed, and willing and able to give consent to being a part of what is happening.

On the flip side, this open communication and awareness also means that anyone has the right to revoke consent to being a part of what is happening and walk away at any time (although in any long-standing ENM relationship grounded in mutual respect, in my experience, this is a drastic step that is often unnecessary when ALL the parties involved in a situation or issue can talk things through, even those not directly dating each other… which is a type of family-style roundtable communication often referred to as “kitchen-table poly”… which might mean a series of serious discussions about whether the needs of all involved are being met, whether anyone’s personal boundaries need to be redefined/re-examined, and/or what’s at the heart of anyone’s squicky feelings about X, Y, or Z).

ethical non-monogamy pic: 3 men and a woman embracing and smiling

The bottom line, though, is that ethical non-monogamy is built on the foundation of INFORMED CONSENT. And that’s not an easy thing to establish. It requires maturity, self-awareness, and the ability to stay with moments of discomfort — skills that are beneficial in ANY relationship model, but that are practically indispensable in ethical non-monogamy.

A path of personal growth

Basically, being successful at an ENM lifestyle means being super f*cking honest about every damn thing, really, and having all the uncomfortable, hard conversations that you’d rather avoid if you had a choice. Bottling up your feelings or having communication problems in a monogamous relationship is problematic. In a non-monogamous relationship, it’s catastrophic and completely UNWORKABLE. In short, being ENM means a lot of self-exploration, a lot of owning your own sh*t, and a lot of personal growth, which makes it a tough road to travel and not for the faint of heart, but one full of amazing and beautiful things too. Anyway, if you’re thinking of traveling this road, don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Why ethical non-monogamy?

When I was growing up, a part of me always questioned the standard relationship narrative — the story that is given to us as children about what a good relationship “should” look like. Typically, the standard narrative follows the lines of the so-called “storybook romance” — one cis-gendered male and one cis-gendered female meet, date, fall in love, get married, and have 1.5 children together, and live happily ever after. (And sometimes there’s a princess in a castle that needs to be rescued or some sh*t like that. Ack. Don’t get me wrong, I loved thinking of myself as a princess growing up, but I don’t want to be rescued. I want to rescue myself.)

Now the standard relationship narrative is all well and good for some, but the reality is that this is a very restrictive view of relationships, and the way that many of us identify and/or choose to live our lives does not fit this mold at all. I’ve always believed that my heart was big enough to hold the whole world, and the idea that I couldn’t have romantic love for more than one person at a time (yet loving my mother, my brother, my sister, my dog, and my best friend at the same time was perfectly acceptable) always rubbed me the wrong way.

Full disclosure: I’m also a little hedonistic and always wanted to have more than one lover at a time, LOL. And now I can! Yay!

Love without limits

Seriously though, people connect with each other so differently and every connection we make to another person brings something unique and special into our life.

ethical non-monogamy pic: group of people standing around awkwardly

And I don’t want to cut myself off from awesome potential connections just because I have awesome existing connections. Why do we do this anyway? We don’t do it with friendships. Can you imagine? “Sorry, I already have a best friend, so I can’t make friends with you. Nope. Move along.”

So basically, I subscribe to the idea that life is not a zero-sum game. It isn’t “this person OR that person.” It can be this person AND that person AND that person over there too!

Scarcity thinking

I think the zero-sum viewpoint is at the heart of what many people find threatening about those who choose ethical non-monogamy, because ENM reflects what is essentially the polar opposite of the scarcity perspective on relationships. Scarcity/zero-sum thinking goes along the lines that there is just not enough to go around, and that if you “have” this person, then I can’t “have” them and neither can anyone else (and don’t even get me started on the ownership assumption that underlies this perspective, but more on that in future blog posts for sure).

Another big problem, for me anyway, with the scarcity thinking reflected in the monogamous relationship model is that, when you know that you will only ever have access to one romantic partner at a time, what often happens is that that ONE person ends up being pretty much expected to meet ALL of your romantic needs, which is not only unrealistic but also really just a lot of pressure to put on that one person (they have their own needs and issues to deal with, after all).

Emotional vs. sexual monogamy

And before we wrap this particular discussion up, here’s another curveball for you… not all emotionally intimate relationships are necessarily sexual. And yet emotional monogamy is another expectation that the standard relationship narrative tries to saddle us with (cue the “work wife” / “work husband” jealousy memes). Scarcity thinking would have us believe that having more than one close, intimate relationship connection will somehow subtract from the specialness of all the other close, intimate connections we make.

But we don’t feel the same way when a family decides to have more than one child. And yet, isn’t the issue at heart the same? In fact, when expecting a second child, parents often spend a great deal of time reassuring their first child that they won’t be loved or cared for any less just because there’s a new baby in the picture. And I know some people might argue that love for a child is different than love for a partner. But love is love, isn’t it?

Anyway, a bunch of food for thought and consideration, and a few snippets of my personal take on the many facets of ethical non-monogamy and the many questions and issues that come up about this topic. In case you can’t tell, this is a topic I have a lot of passion about, and I can’t wait to get more in-depth on this in future blog posts. Stay tuned, y’all!

love from trish