The 4C’s- and I’m Not Talking About Diamonds

The beautiful thing about life is we have the ability to choose how we want to live it. Whether you realize it or not, you are completely in charge of the decisions you make.

There are many aspects of my life which are unconventional, and perhaps even misunderstood by others. As I tossed and turned in bed last night, thinking about a brief conversation I had about going car-free, I pulled out my phone and started to take notes.

Reflecting on what is “expected” versus living a life that best suits my values has elevated an immense amount of stress and anxiety, not to mention has bonded me even tighter with others who feel the same. From living minimally to standing firm in my choices, my life has completely changed for the better since embracing a few principles.

I used to do a lot of work with diamond companies and jewelry designers, so the 4C’s are something I used to write about often. I may not be a woman who dreams of the day she will get an engagement ring (I gave back a 1.51 princess cut diamond in 2008 when I decided to move to San Francisco), but my own 4C’s of life quality- instead of diamond quality- are important details that shape my life today.

Car-Free

“Car-free has gone from something where it’s for people that can’t afford a car to people who can afford not to have a car,” Ryan Johnson, founder of Culdesac, told me. As the first car-free neighborhood in the United States, Ryan is starting with Tempe, an area of Arizona which relies heavily on driving. Created to encourage residents to walk, enjoy experiences in their community, and connect with one another, Culdesac is a concept I’ve been living for the past six years- even though there are cars all around me.

Making a conscious choice not to drive came easily after spending the past six years living in New York and Boston. I loved walking the city, taking pictures wherever I went, and embracing the sights all around me. Public transportation is something I began to enjoy- not dread. Whether it was looking out the window in a cab, reading on the train, or listening to music while I waited for the bus, I used my time well as I commuted, a drastic difference from sitting in traffic and feeling my blood boil.

I’m sure one day I will drive again, but for now, I can afford not to- and I’m a lot healthier, more eco-conscious, and financially responsible as a result. I wonder how much money I spent on gas in the past, driving aimlessly to alleviate my anxiety. Today, I opt to walk to cure stress- and it works a whole lot better.

Clutter-Free

I used to love “stuff.” My closets were filled to the max, I pushed things under the bed, and I forgot what I even owned. This of all changed when I left NYC in 2016, moved back to Michigan for the summer, and later took a one-way flight to Boston (when this blog began!) with three bags. Everything I needed was transportable via car (Uber, specifically), making my move a piece of cake.

I started over completely when I moved back to Michigan this past October, now living in a townhouse with my cat. With an empty apartment and a few bags full of clothes, my mom and I set out to decorate my place with a minimalist aesthetic with functional details.

Everything has a place and purpose- with the clean colors and pops of red, green, and gold sprinkled throughout the house, I can easily move something from one room to the other and it fits in anywhere. I don’t own anything for the sake of owning it, and my closet only consists of items I wear.

Cocktail-Free

I first got sober in 2011- but didn’t stay that way. Apparently, I hadn’t had enough “yets;” those destructive and life-shattering events which make people say “I need to stop.” You see, even though my mental health was deteriorating and my relationships, finances, and dignity suffered, I hadn’t been through enough.

It’s a pretty twisted way to think about it- who wants to keep drinking just so they can experience the hospital multiple times, months in detoxes, far-off rehabs, or living with 20 other sober people? Well, I’ve officially done it all. That’s the thing about addiction- you never think these things will happen to you. The voices in your head tell you you’re okay; that nothing bad could happen.

Well, it did- and it all made me so much more appreciative of everything I have today. Would I go have a drink to “fit in” or shut someone up as I did nine (or even three) years ago ago? Absolutely not. I don’t have to get into the nitty gritty with people I just meet, dates, or acquaintances, but if they want the truth, I’m happy to share what it was like to physically detox for weeks, not be able to eat or walk, and be stuck in a hospital.

I’m good on the cocktails, thanks, but feel free. My own sobriety isn’t something I would ever want to push on someone else- but it’s a choice that has given me the opportunity for a brand new and much better life.

Child-Free

I’m not here to offend anyone who is a parent- but making the decision not to have children is a big part of my life. At 35, it’s important for me to be transparent with others about my wishes.

Having a family is expected for people. Nevertheless, the idea of family gives me anxiety. I love my mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I don’t know if I am fit to step outside of myself and care for another human. I’m a lot to take care of. I would never want to neglect or affect someone else because of my own preoccupation- which is also why I’ve been single for half a decade.

Call me selfish, but I call it self aware.

Children give people a sense of purpose, and it’s wonderful to see friends of mine parent some amazing human beings. I look up to them, but instead of being a parent myself, I see myself as a mentor or teacher, not a mother. Writing alone gives me a sense of purpose. I share some of my most personal and intimate details of my life, so I would say that’s a little bit of a sacrifice, right?

Opening up to people about my mental health, life choices, sobriety, and self-acceptance helps me to better understand myself as well as benefiting others through my own experiences. If there is one life I can touch, my writing here has served its purpose.

Finding peace, purpose, and passion may not lie in what the world tells you is best for you- that’s something you need to find within yourself.

Booze-Free Bliss: A Conversation with Sober Girl Society’s Millie Gooch

Photo: Sober Girl Society

With 2020 around the corner, now’s the time to start thinking about New Year’s Eve plans, resolutions, and goals for what’s around the corner.

As I reflect on 2019, one of the major themes is how many amazing people I’ve connected with and gained inspiration from- especially other sober women.

One of those people is Millie Gooch, founder of Sober Girl Society. From her cheeky Instagram posts to those adorable enamel pins, Millie inspires other people to embrace their sobriety, one post, event, or booze-free beverage at a time.

I got the opportunity to ask her a few questions, from her own New Year’s Eve plans to how she decided to start Sober Girl Society (and yes, I am a proud member!).

When and why did you decide to put down the booze?

I’ve always had a very all-or-nothing relationship with alcohol. Blackout binge-drinking was my specialty because I never really saw the point in just having a couple. I could happily turn down a glass of wine at dinner but on a night out I’d be buying two triple-vodka Red Bulls and then mixing them into a pint glass.

Towards my mid-twenties I started to suffer with horrific anxiety (intensified by hangovers) and I began to realise that my one woman missions to get completey annihilated were becoming less about the party and more about a deep sense of self-loathing and unhappiness.

When I came out of a 6-year relationship at the start of 2018, my drinking escalated quickly in an attempt to patch up my heartbreak and in Feb 2018 on a particularly nasty hangover, something inside me snapped and I realised I could either continue in self-destruct mode or strap on my big girl pants and rebuild myself. To do this, I knew something had to seriously change and for me, that was my drinking.

I can completely relate to the “all or nothing” drinking. What tools did you use to help you stay sober when you first put down alcohol?

The first thing I did was listen to The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray on Audible and that was the motivational kick up the butt I needed. After that it was podcasts, finding new ways to relax (yoga, dancing, writing) and travelling.

How did you think of SGS?

I think it’s actually something I was trying to find for my own journey and just couldn’t so I decided to create it myself. Sobriety has made me a ‘see a problem, fix it’ kind of gal.

I was 7 months sober when I started SGS so I’d kind of already got past those initial stages and wanted something for the ‘what next’ to keep me motivated, hold me accountable and remind me why I stopped in the first place.

I always say SGS isn’t really about how to get sober because I’m not an expert but it’s more about staying sober and all the wonderful things that can happen when you are.

Millie Gooch

New Year’s Eve is coming up- what are your plans?

I’m actually at a wedding – 2 of the most difficult things in sobriety are weddings and New Year’s Eve – so I’m combining them because I do love a challenge.

How do you recommend other people stay sober on NYE?

Do things you actually like doing with people you actually like and if that means sitting at home alone watching season two of YOU on Netflix then do exactly that. More often than not I drank because I was anxious, unhappy, bored or because I thought it would make whatever I was doing, wherever I was or whoever I was with more fun.

I honestly believe it’s easier to say no to drinking when you’re happy and relaxed in your activity, company and surroundings.

Photo: Sober Girl Society

I’m really interested in these “booze free bars” and pop ups I am seeing in London. What can you tell me about them?

We are very lucky in London at the moment, pubs and bars are really recognising the demand for good alcohol-free drinks and some bars like Redemption (three venues across London) are completely alcohol-free. We also had Sainsbury’s (one of the biggest UK supermarkets) open a pop-up non-alcoholic pub called the Clean Vic (a pun on The Queen Vic from TV Programme Eastenders) in the summer and it was packed!

I’ve got my SGS pin to represent in the US! How can other women get involved?

Come follow us! At the moment we’re expanding our meet-ups across the UK but for those we can’t reach in other countries, we have threads where you can find your sober sisters.

There’s like countless friendships, a 30 strong group of women in Phoenix, meet-ups in Australia and a sober events company founded in Manchester because of those threads.

~

You connect with the Sober Girl Society community on Instagram and shop the goods on Etsy.

Photo: Sober Girl Society

Three Years: The Truth Will Set You Free

Three years ago today, I wrote my first post on Mindful in Style.

I had just moved to Boston and was interviewing for jobs.  Blindly moving to a city I barely knew, the guy I had met at a Mississippi treatment center picked me up from Logan Airport and helped me get settled into an Airbnb.  Three years ago today, I was afraid of telling the truth.

Interviewers would ask me why I moved.  “I like it here,” I would say.  “It’s slower paced than New York.”  My story of Boston being a “balance of Michigan and New York” only got me so far, so I would later tell them about the guy who I was “dating.”  People assumed it was a pretty serious relationship, but I smiled and shook it off as being an anchor for getting me to the city.  That was the truth.  I just left out the part about him being a heroin addict who lived with his parents.

~

Now back in Michigan, I’m still asked why I moved.  “Why did you live in New York?  What brought you back to Michigan?  What were you doing in Boston?  How was San Francisco?”  It’s as if they have never met someone who wanted new experiences in their 20’s.

I wish I could answer, “I have suffered from anxiety and depression my whole life, accompanied by a drinking problem.  Moving gave me a sense of starting over.  I enjoyed hiding from others, but most of all, myself.”

No, you can’t say that.

I’m so sick of being PC to make other people feel comfortable.

Three years ago, despite writing about my life, telling the whole truth wasn’t an option.  I wanted to appear together and sensible.  I wanted to fit in with the business people of Downtown Boston; the people with their high rise parking spot, kids in private school, and house in the suburbs.  I didn’t want people to see my struggles or to question whether I was a viable candidate, friend, or roommate.

Three years ago, I was still afraid of being me.

My resume isn’t linear, and neither is my life.  I have never been the person who would stay in an unhappy relationship, job, or living situation; I have taken control of my decisions, whether they have been rational or not.  I have done the best I can while coping with old pain, trauma, and insecurity.

Three years ago, I was still willing to fit inside a box that wasn’t meant for me.  I sugarcoated my opinions and the person I was.  I tried to write to appease people, even if it wasn’t for myself.

People often look at me and say, “you couldn’t be an alcoholic.”  I just smile.  For as long as I can remember, I have been a book cover that is continually judged.  They see a smile and red lipstick and assume everything is polished and conventional.

Three years ago, I would have been mortified if a boss or acquaintance saw my blog.  Today, I hope these people do.  I hope they realize that life is much more complex than what you can see on the outside- and that within the book they’re judging is a person who has limitless potential in a world that lives within a tiny bookshelf.

This next year, the year of 2020, I have set an intention to continue to use my voice, live fearlessly, and learn to accept that any judgment is not about me- it’s about the little bookshelf that has yet to expand their horizons.

Being back in Michigan hasn’t necessarily been easy, but this time, I don’t need to change myself- I just need to lose my expectations of what the rest of the world may think.

Here’s to the next three years.