MaryBeth Murphy has been a nurse for over 30 years, the majority of that time spent in pediatrics.
Just over 3 years ago, she broke her ankle and decided to use the time to get healthy. This included challenging herself to not drink alcohol. One seemingly “small” habit change and the trajectory of MaryBeth’s life changed forever.
Not only did she embrace an alcohol-free lifestyle in 2016, she took the opportunity to look honestly at her career and personal goals, bravely admitting that working at the bedside was no longer on that list.
MaryBeth is a holistic health and recovery coach, yoga instructor, reiki healer, craniosacral therapist and more!
I am in awe of this woman’s character and determination and honored to have interviewed her.
It is most certainly the Year of the Nurse, and I’m proud to share one nurse’s journey from daily drinker to holistic health coach!
Recover & Rise: Mary Beth, what do you consider yourself in recovery from, and what does your daily/weekly recovery consist of?
MaryBeth: I’m in recovery from codependency and alcohol. I’d say my issues stem from the combination of being a caregiver, empath and codependent. I utilize a patchwork of modalities – yoga, therapy, journaling, Recovery Dharma, meditation, She Recovers, craniosacral therapy, and Reiki to name a few.
Recover & Rise: You label yourself a high bottom/gray area drinker. Can you expound on that?
Mary Beth: Unlike some people with serious consequences, I never had a DUI, never drank at work (but was hungover!), and never lost anything significant due to my drinking habit. I was 15 when I started drinking at high school parties, a typical teen fitting in with the crowd. It felt like I found nirvana through socializing that way. I remember loving the confidence I felt while drinking! I drank a lot in my 20s, slowed in my 30s, then ramped up in my 40s to daily wine consumption – but it was “only” 3 glasses a night. My consequences were less tangible than many have experienced – I had significant self-loathing and mom guilt because I wasn’t present with my kids while drinking or during the morning after hangover nightmare. I was surrounded by drinkers so I did not stand out. When I contemplated quitting everyone said, “I wasn’t that bad”.
R&R: Since you didn’t have a “rock bottom”, tell us what led you to the decision to remove alcohol from your life?
MaryBeth: I was on vacation and was texting and walking after morning brunch (which included a flight of martinis) and tripped and fell. I broke my ankle and ended up in a lower leg cast for 8 weeks. This was my wake up call. Coincidentally, I had begun self Reiki about 3 months prior, and in hindsight, I believe it made me more permeable to my alcohol issue.
I took on sobriety as a personal challenge to be conquered and was amazed at how much better ALL areas in my life became. I was less depressed, more focused, and generally happier.
I didn’t utilize any formal support as I changed my habits. I did however change friends and leisure activities. I became a yoga teacher in my first year of sobriety. I also became aware that I was burned out working a the bedside and had zero tolerance for my long commute. I found the courage to leave that job. I began looking for career fulfillment and changed jobs a few times. I found She Recovers and dove into the world of coaching and women’s recovery.
R&R: You’ve been a nurse for a long time. Do you feel your profession played a part in your over-use of alcohol?
MaryBeth: Yes! But I never really understood my nursing career as a catalyst until now. How could I, a nurse, be duped by Big Alcohol? It still amazes me to think of how unconscious our society is over the matter. But all the risk factors were there: job requirements (assignments to multiple patients), long hours, lack of support when patients die, and lack of support with management (not being seen/heard). Not being taught about empathy and the importance of SELF CARE!
R&R: You’re absolutely right. Drinking to escape pressures of the career is common.
MaryBeth: Exactly. I had so much guilt and shame when it came to admitting I was using alcohol to medicate my underlying (self-diagnosed) comorbidities. I was a hard worker and a perfectionist. I volunteered for projects and delivered top-notch patient care. I taught Basic Life Support and loved being a member of the code team. But, looking back, my regrets lie with how hungover I was, particularly while raising my kids. I lacked presence, I felt like crap, I was very depressed.
R&R: Did you know any nurses who were sober or in recovery?
MaryBeth: No one ever talked about addict nurses. We would go out after work for drinks and it was all acceptable. No one drank to excess but 3 drinks would be normal. I think because I was drinking with the crowd I just didn’t think it was all that harmful. I was a drone, even with horrific hangovers.
R&R: What dynamics of our profession keep us from recognizing our own problem, or seeking help earlier?
MaryBeth: There’s a lack of support. We don’t feel safe to talk about our challenges. I think most believe they would lose their jobs if they admitted to any issues with drugs or alcohol.
I had no idea that there could be a life without alcohol. It never got bad enough to stop. Of course, knowing what I know now I wish I had addressed the issue years ago. This is why I am so adamant about advocating for sobriety. Get the message out. Wake people up!!
R&R: What do you want to tell nurses and hospital administration about this prevalent and dangerous issue?
MaryBeth: I bet 95% don’t even know they’re on the vicious cycle of alcohol/drug addiction. I had no idea how alcohol depressed people so profoundly. It’s all about education. It’s all about getting the sober-curious movement gaining ground. I believe we can stamp out the stigma of addiction. Let’s make alcohol like cigarettes…tell the truth!
R&R: Amen! I am 100% on board! Any final message for the readers?
MaryBeth: When I was drinking, I was living for everyone else. I was unfulfilled, lonely and depressed. Since dropping the drink, I have become much more spiritual. I’m fulfilled, surrounded by high vibration people, and happy. I have a holistic approach with my clients. Sobriety has opened me up to a whole new world of nursing. My life is mine now. I’d say it was totally worth the leap to sobriety.
R&R: I am so grateful for your candid sharing! You are filling the gap that is desperately needed in our profession – a role model for recovery! Tell us how we can find you.
Are you a nurse with a recovery story to share and want to help end industry stigma?
I want to interview you for the next “Year of the Nurse Spotlight”!
(Anonymous stories accepted)
Are you struggling with drugs or alcohol and want to talk confidentially to someone who understands?
Check out my website to contact me!
Are you a nurse who has questions about recovery and protecting your nursing license?
Please reach out!
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