The Roadtrip Sessions: Installment #2

Especially as a woman in recovery from religious trauma, self-loathing, perfectionism, opiates and alcohol, the ability to walk around with the experience that “I am absolutely OK just as I am” is nothing less than a miracle.

It’s been 10 consecutive days camping, hiking, swimming and posting up in driveways. The evidence is indisputable:

  • I have not changed out of my Olakai sandals, except for ONCE when I used the local Planet Fitness in Eureka California. My feet are toughened up for the barefoot season, to put it nicely. (I did book a pedicure today. I’m camping, but a girl still has needs.)
  • I’ve not worn a bra once, only occasional tank top like sports bras. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know I probably don’t NEED a bra. (refer to this early blog. Fair warning: not my best material. Raw, genuine, but pre-writing course and I’m not taking the time to edit.) From the looks of the locals, I don’t think this part of Oregon requires the undergarment.
  • My skin is glowing with summer tan. And by tan, I mean my freckles have grown together close enough that from a distance, if you squint your eyes, I appear to have a mild bronze sheen. I’ll take it, it’s the best I can ask for.
  • My eyes are sparkling, my gait nonchalant and my face relaxed. (Ok, that could be the botox I got right before the trip…) Schedules/plans/obligations are beginning to feel like a thing of the past.

It’s official. I’m in vacation mode. After a week of reveling in the foggy western coastline and brilliant green shade of Northern California’s Redwoods, it was time to head inland for sunnier times.

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Sunny spot just outside Eagle Point, Oregon

Meandering northeast, I stopped for the night in Eagle Point, Oregon where I met a charismatic, van-owning woman whom impacted my life significantly in a matter of hours. She gifted me a homemade smudge stick, added me to a women’s only online van community, and generously shared the journey of her grief/healing process when our conversation turned to aging dogs and loss of parents. She introduced me to Laurie Anderson’s documentary “Heart of a Dog”,  and showed me mementos such as a healing candle from her mother’s service, and gorgeous glass pendant created from her beloved dog’s ashes by Psyche Cremation Jewelry in Bend, Oregon (which as you know was my next stop!) Cassie – my own special canine soulmate  – is still very much alive, but a large part of my trip’s purpose has been to celebrate her life and prepare for inevitable loss as she begins to slow down at 14 years old. And always, in the back of my mind, are thoughts of how and when I’ll begin to deal with my father’s passing in 2017. So much occurred in one brief night at Eagle Point, it’s hard to explain in a paragraph. Just trust me; I was meant to meet this woman.

Tuesday allowed for a detour through Umpqua Hot Springs. I love hot springs! Growing up, I had a foggy sense of their existence as there are some near Baker Lake at our family’s annual camping location. But I only came to appreciate the rich, sultry liquid when my former partner and I visited Ainsworth Hot Springs in BC Canada (GO! there are caves to swim through. It’s breathtaking). Later, we enjoyed both primitive and man-made hot spring stops in Utah. I fell so in love with them, I have a future road trip planned entirely around hot pool destinations.

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Umpqua!

After soaking in nature’s steamy mineral bath (Cassie accidentally soaked for a second herself, thinking it was an individual dog-sized lake) we continued to Bend.

Bend, Oregon. Outdoor Utopia.

Every time I visit I resolve to relocating, along with thousands of other visitors who are searching for the perfect combination of city/country/mountains/nature/metro/hipster/family friendly/dog loving/sunshine/snow sports/progressive paradise.

But don’t tell anyone. If too many migrate, it won’t stay this way! (at least that’s what many of the locals will say if you mention interest in transferring your life to their precinct.)

Nowhere is perfect, but Bend is close. The downside is it’s verrryyy expensive, so I’ll have to find a longterm “Driveway Host” and live out of my van if I’m going to make the move. It’s not a completely preposterous scheme.

  • “Driveway Host”: A van owner who offers other van owners a driveway, curb side parking, guest room or lawn to camp in. They may also provide access to shower, shore power, laundry, mechanical assistance, and if you’re really lucky, as I was – morning lattes and late evening dog-sitting.
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    Outside my Driveway Host’s house, with their pup and mine!

Turning the corner in my van, Bend’s city proper welcomed us. The sun shone, freshly filtered through tall evergreens; the Deschutes river burbled in the distance and mixed with a buskers ukulele, composed a uniquely local melody; the subtle smell of coffee, organic gardens, kombucha, hops, and cannabis (all types – CBD, THC, whole hemp) wafted through the air.

Between the the mountainous atmosphere and the eclectic yet cozy culture, I feel at home in this region of Oregon. Free to live my truth without judgment, criticism or dismissal, I feel at home in my mind, skin, and van. My quirky vehicle weighted down with a SUP, bike, wetsuit filled rubbermaid totes and a big-eared cattledog perched in the passenger seat is only one of many on the road. Walking through town sporting overalls, bikini top, and tattoos perpetually attached to a dog at the end of a leash could make me the town’s poster model.

This notion was verified at a food truck lot when I asked the bartender “Do you have anything non-alcoholic?” She smiled widely and listed 4 delicious options besides water, cola, or iced tea. When I googled “non alcoholic beer, Bend” about 5 articles popped up. This is my place, you guys.

The ultimate display of my comfort level occurred at Sparks Lake when I opted to sunbathe topless, completely unprovoked.

If you know me, you know this habit to be opposite my personality. Skinny dipping with friends? Sounds awesome! You go in the buff, I’ll wear prudish undies. Women’s only, clothing-optional spa? I option for clothing, thank you very much! And politely avert my eyes from those choosing otherwise. Not because I judge them; because I judge myself and my own thoughts. I often joke about refusing to go naked in my own sauna at home.  Raised in a conservative household, bodies were invariably covered with clothing. Which is fine. But I’ve had a bit of envy mixed with confusion and uncertainty around people who let it all hang out, in public no less than private. For instance, the free spirited nakeds at Umpqua hot springs. I myself was in a bold bikini, but the uninhibited confidence of those in the nude left me longing for even a hint of that character trait. Turns out, I’m not lacking it altogether. It simply took 24 hours in a safe environment before I could start expressing it.

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Rare sighting of Tiffany in her natural state

Of course, I kept my top within reach and every time a voice or footsteps got too close, I hurriedly clutched it against the “R” rated parts of my chest. My risk taking behavior was worth it – not a tan line in site.

Cassie and I have been hard at work trying to fit as many activities as possible in our time in Bend. We splashed in the river at Tumalo State Park. We jogged lazily around Mirror Pond, stopping to greet the geese. We bought hipster sunglasses and a variety of “Be nice, you’re in Bend” and “Ride Oregon” stickers. I drank many coffees at many shops and Cassie lapped up water from the plethora of dog bowls available around the city. We ate the best fried chicken po’boy I’ve ever had at ‘The Lot’ food truck park. And there, as if planted right in the middle of a Warner Bros rom-Com, we met the nicest boy with striking light green eyes and his sweet 10 month old puppy, Rolf. (names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Here’s what happens when people feel at home; we become relaxed, confident, at ease and at peace. Self-doubt and self-judgment slips away. We can begin to act without obsessively over-analyzing each move.

As I continue to mature in my late 30’s, I grow less concerned with anyone else’s opinion. But as a human, I have to admit I still fear judgment. I long for acceptance.

Especially as a woman in recovery from religious trauma, self-loathing, perfectionism, opiates and alcohol, the ability to walk around with the inner wisdom that “I am absolutely OK just as I am” is nothing less than a miracle.

When I initially entered into a contract with the state department of health, I lived a double life for about one full year. Desperate to preserve my reputation through anonymity, I went to great lengths to hide the fact I was on anti-addiction medication and attending weekly therapy and support groups. I spent a lot of that time considering whether my life was worth living.

Coming out as a sober, recovering individual gave me the freedom to learn to love myself. I started, of course with a blog. Eternally a work in progress, my confidences waxes and wanes. Many times, prior to meeting a new person or entering unfamiliar territory, I have a debate with myself: “Do I share about sobriety? How much is enough, how much is too much? Will I be judged for my addiction? Will I be dismissed for my past mistakes?” Recovery is not the only factor in my self-imposed deliberation. There’s also my fervent liberal views, Buddhist inspired meditation practice, advocacy for LGBTQ….and Oh Yeah, my passion for hippy van-living.

For four days last week, in Bend, I was nearly 100% free from the inner conflict of how much “myself” I “should” be. I shed my armor and glowed with authenticity. I gathered courage and seized the idea that this roadtrip was welcoming me home to myself.

Find the place that makes you feel most at home and allow yourself to practice being you. Once you encounter the joy and liberation this brings, you can’t settle for anything less. You’ll discover acceptance is defined only by you; those that can’t or won’t accept your truth – even if you love them – have no say in the matter.

I feel exceptionally lucky that traveling landed me in a community that called for me to come as I am. Looking forward to a She Recovers Retreat as my next stop on this adventure, I realize I have many of these spaces. It’s not just luck though, it’s a choice to engage with others who are authentic, seeking transformation and letting go of old shame, stories and habits that poison their perceptions.

It’s a life I’m deliberately cultivating, filled with strong women, opportunities for growth and endless possibilities to experience intrinsic wholeness.

Where are you most yourself? Where can you shed armor and glow authentic?

Where do you feel you need to dampen your shine, or conform to the “norm”?

I challenge you to push yourself to glow more often, more places, regardless of opinion or circumstance!

Looking for support, structure and accountability to make this a reality in your life? I would love to accompany you on your journey.

Cheers and Gratitude,

Tiffany

Email me: tiffany@recoverandrise.com or make an appointment for a FREE Discovery Call here! 

Recover and Rise: Life and Recovery Coaching for your highest well-being

The Road Trip Sessions: Installment #1

It’s been a minute since I’ve written. More like 6 months actually, since I began working dayshift at the hospital.

Turns out I love working dayshift, but between the new hours and teaching during the school year, I have a lot less time to write. So I’ve been saving ideas, jotting down titles and a few paragraphs here and there in anticipation of summer when I work a lot less and (in theory) have a lot more time to do what I love. Which is write.

Now it’s summer and I’m on a multi-week vacation traveling through the beautiful PNW with (in theory) unlimited opportunity to write and create!

Maybe you don’t know, but I own a super sweet 1987 4×4 Volkswagen Syncro (though if you’re my precocious bandana wearing, sarcasm dripping student whom I will not name you might say “we have very different ideas of what a ‘sweet’ vehicle is.”) He’s right, it’s not a sports car. But she is sweet! Despite her unreliability and inability to go over 40mph uphill, Serendipity Syncro has been a miraculous addition to my life.

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Initially I planned to travel internationally for summer vacay. Last year, I spent a week in Iceland and a week in Europe and can’t wait to get back. But Cassie the Wonder Dog is finally slowing down a bit at 14 years old. She’s begun limping after even moderate hikes or beach days. There’s no way I can spend weeks away from her, knowing we don’t have that many summers left together. img_7463 If you could see her face and her wagging tail when we arrive at the shore or mountain trailhead, you’d understand.

Cassie and I are now on day 4 of The 1st annual PNW Recover and Rise Roadtrip. It’s really all about my pup having a big summer adventure. South down the coast, into the Redwoods of California, back up through Bend Oregon, and then taking a ferry onto Vancouver Island. Basically, I’m doing my best to explore all the accessible outdoor utopia possible in 21 days’ time.

Right in the middle of the trip is She Recovers Yoga Retreat on Salt Spring Island (read all about my love for it HERE!) It will be so nice to meet friends in the middle of the trip. I love traveling solo, but I’m not immune from loneliness. The retreat will give me a chance to connect, eat food prepared by someone else, laugh, deepen my recovery, and I’ll still have a week afterwards for solitude in the woods (and surfer boy stalking in Tofino!)

The first night of our adventure was spent in Manzanita – one of my all time favorite beach towns for long sandy walks, sunset gazing, and lazy river paddle boarding. It’s got enough shops and restaurants to keep everyone in the family happy without feeling overly touristy.  418423e6-882a-4dd9-ad1e-801e22204c08Most of the cafes and stores have “dog hitching posts” right outside next to big bowls of cold water. But this time I was only there for a safe (free) place to sleep. If you’re a vanlifer like me, you can join the impromptu campground on the vista right off hwy 101 that overlooks the vast ocean.

Thursday morning after procuring coffee, Cassie and I headed south with a goal to hit Coos Bay by evening. We drove through Pacific City about breakfast time and decided to stop. Pacific City is a surfer’s dream; known for it’s northwest waves, dory boats speeding onto the sand, and a larger than life rock that arises out of the sea high into the sky. Many memories have been made at this beach…learning to surf with my brother and his wife, horseback riding with my daughter in the bluffs, watching the 2017 full solar eclipse on my birthday with good friends.

Pacific City is also the place I had my first wicked “public” hangover in over a decade, and began to realize I might really have a problem.

We were camping with my brother and his friends, all surfers from the Portland area. I was excited to spend time with him as an adult. We were getting to know each other in a new way as we finally shared some hobbies such as snow skiing and paddle boarding and had more in common than the wounds of our childhood.

It was summer 2013 and I was drinking most days. Not drunk every day… but definitely drinking most days. I was also taking Vicodin frequently. My use of pills had already surpassed medicinal for migraines and encroached on recreational…though not yet addictively. Surfing was an excellent excuse for recreational opiate ingestion.

If you haven’t tried surfing yet, you might not understand. But trust me, there’s a lot of pain involved.

Surfing is F’ing scary. As in the scariest sport I’ve ever attempted, especially along the WA and Oregon Coasts. The waves tumble humans like socks in a washing machine. Surfboards are not soft when they swing back and hit you in the head, and the thwack in the skull only adds to the disorientation of being somersaulted by the salty water.

I have a deep love of the ocean; am mesmerized by it, and take every opportunity to be close; to hear, touch, and smell it. But I also have a very healthy fear of the dark liquid filled with unpredictable sea creatures, slimy kelp, and thrashing waves.

(Don’t let this deter you from trying surfing. Really. I totally recommend it. Somewhere warm like Hawaii or Costa Rica.)

In my mind, a pain pill or two was justified. Just enough to calm my nerves and prevent the pain I knew was coming after hours being beaten by the cold water.

Surfing was also an excellent excuse to drink – as if I needed one. Hanging on the beach seems to erase any sense of time. A cold beer at 10am was not unheard of, even for non-alcoholics. We were on holiday! We could live it up, let loose!  Socializing with new friends on a camping trip automatically called for alcohol lubricant.

In hindsight, self- medicating never works. Or when it does, it comes with intolerable consequences and suffering. The surf session ended, and night came. I remember downing large glasses of red wine, refilling my glass when no one was looking and feeling worried that we’d run out, so I’d refill it again before it was empty – to get my share. By morning I had no recollection of interacting with my brother or his friends. I also had no idea if the Vicodin/alcohol combination had helped me avoid the pain of surfing, because I was suffering the anguish of the worst hangover I’d had in years.

Humiliated, I dragged myself into the kitchen. Sharing a beach house meant taking turns with meals, and it was my turn to make breakfast for the whole crew. Sluggishly, I cracked eggs into a bowl and haphazardly whisked them around. A sick feeling rose from my belly and I desperately held back to need to vomit. I looked at my brother with embarrassment and panic. Our friendship was new and delicate; my need for him to see me as cool still strong. Even as an adult, I craved big brother’s approval. Limp and sweating out toxins, I was certain he’d be as disgusted with me as I was with myself.

He surprised me by gently taking the whisk and bowl out of my hands. Smiling kindly he said in his soft voice “go back to bed.”

“But…but…” I’d expected to at least be made fun of, if not seriously scolded. “But I have to take Kaytlyn horseback riding”. My daughter didn’t love the beach, so when I dragged her along on family trips, I tried to reward her by finding a place that offered horseback rides.

“I’ll take care of it,” he offered. His compassion evoked tears. (It still does.)

That afternoon was spent half asleep in the back of a camper van (very different one than I’m traveling in now), holding my stomach and sweating out the previous night’s indulgence in poison.

You’d think I’d learn. But if that was the case, “alcoholics” would not exist. By evening I was eating dinner at Pelican Brewing – the local brewery on the beach with an awe inspiring view of the jutting rock and salty horizon –  ordering a 7.5% IPA, trying hard to forget my misery.

The sight of  Pelican Brewing looking out over surfer boys still got me excited this trip…but not for the same reasons it used to. My current visit to Pacific City feels like worlds away from that disgraceful day.

I woke early and hangover free. Facing the water I laid out my yoga mat and drank from a large jug of cold water. Then I moved into a series of sun salutations, hip openers and standing poses as the ocean lapped the shore and wetsuit clad surfer boys and girls caught wave after wave. The water seemed to move in rhythmic undulation rather than a tortuous washing machine.

Cassie panted in the sand nearby, having completed her daily task of stick chasing in foamy whitewater and sniffing other dog’s behinds.

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Breathing in the sea air, I remembered that hard day and felt sadness for the woman I was 6 years ago on the same beach. I wasn’t ignorant of the risks of alcohol but I was  oblivious to the dangerous fire I was playing with.

My brother had no idea I was insidiously turning into a pill addicted alcoholic. He couldn’t have known. Years later, when I was once again too ill to share in the fun while visiting his family, I’m sure he was aware.

As I lay in child’s pose and let the ocean breeze sooth my sadness, I wondered if had I been shamed for my hangover, would it have made any difference? If I had been told to suck it up, make the eggs and get to the horse barn, would I have felt such strong remorse that I would reject alcohol and pills from that day forward?

I know in my heart that wouldn’t have been the case. I would have simply spent the day in greater shame, with more tears. I would have drank more that next night in secret, vs having my beer in public. It’s not hangovers that pushed me toward sobriety (though I’m relishing in my freedom from them now!) it was the realization of everything I was losing, neglecting, and missing out on while escaping through drugs and alcohol.

I’d like a do-over of that weekend. I’d like to re-experience squishing my body into a cold, salty wet suit, feet perpetually coated in sand, and the sound of my brother and child playing guitar together as we roasted marshmallows in the backyard firepit. I would do it different. I’d drink la croix, be the first to bed after washing dishes, and the first one up when the sun started to rise. I would make strong coffee and Swedish pancakes for everyone to wake to. When I whisked the eggs the only feeling I would have rising from my belly would be excitement for the day that lay ahead.

Reflecting on hangovers doesn’t feel great. I purposefully don’t spend much time in shame or regret because a) it sucks to do so, and b) research shows it’s not an effective way to change habits. Instead, I deliberately try to use memories as a way to cultivate compassion, heed teaching, and experience gratitude. Traveling sober is giving me an opportunity to re-create experiences. As I adventure, I’m looking for ways to heal, hope and love.

Vacation can be triggering for those recovering from substances. Old habits and stories are ingrained deep in our psyche, conditioning us to believe being on holiday inevitably means being drunk. The good news: sober travel is not only possible, it’s magical. (And it’s a good thing, because my VW van requires every bit of attention from my clear and sober mind!)

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Have you traveled or vacationed without alcohol and found it to be enjoyable?

What do you love about it, and what has been hard?

Make sure to follow me @scrubbedcleanrn and http://www.facebook.com/recoverandrise/ to see pictures and stories of my #Recoverandriseroadtrip !!