“WHAT AM I DOING?” AND OTHER QUESTIONS I’VE ASKED MYSELF IN MY EARLY 20’S

I’m turning 26 next month. Here are a few things I pondered over while trying to survive college, start my career and dodge dudes that didn’t like me.

This doesn’t require much of a preamble other than saying I’m turning 26 next month and saying goodbye to the first half of my twenties so I obviously have every right to write this.

I’M MATURE NOW MOTHERTRUCKERS. BEEP BEEP.

Here’s some of the questions I’ve pondered over, and what I’ve managed to sort out in terms of answering them.

“What am I doing with my life?”

There’s no wrong answer because it’s whatever is happening in the present. It’s an… ongoing answer? Kinda underwhelming, I know, but it’s a half-decent reason to rely on your intuition because you won’t know what you were doing in the grand scheme of things until the end. Not trying to be morbid!!!!! IT’S INSPIRING OK? Go see what you can get away with.

“What do I value?”

I feel like this is hard to know the answer unless you’ve actually thought about it. Once I made a point of answering this question with a pen and paper, I found it a lot easier to actually live out my values. I highly suggest it. Also can be interesting to look back on later because your values can change over time based on life experiences.

I know now that the number one thing I value is integrity.

“How will I know if I had an orgasm?”

I legit Googled this once. I’ll put it this way – you’ll know if you DIDN’T have one. How’s that for an answer?

“Are they into me?”

If you are truly unsure, I’m gonna go with no. See advice below. 

“How does XYZ person afford [insert whatever thing here]????!!?”

Ok, so to be clear, this is a rhetorical question because it’s nobodies’ business how you afford shit. Next, there are a few realistic answers:

  1. Debt. Maybe credit card debt.
  2. Support of some kind that relieves financial burdens and frees up income (perhaps from a sugar daddy who propositioned them in their Instagram DMs?).
  3. Responsible saving. Nobody wants to post about buying two-ply toilet paper on Instagram back to back with their photos from Fiji, but that’s the reality in some cases.

“What happened last night?”

I blacked out from drinking more than I have fingers and toes and teeth in my early 20s so I asked this a lot. Typically, I did something slutty. Or I came home at 3am and destroyed the kitchen making something to eat. Or both!

“Should I say something?”

Usually, yes. This applies to a whole bunch of situations. Have the damn conversation.

As a people pleaser and someone who has always struggled with this, I can safely say it hurts everybody involved more in the big picture when you withhold what you really want to say. Sometimes it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be, and sometimes it’s exactly as bad as you think it’s going to be. You can’t protect people from their own emotions, and you can’t control how people choose to react. All you can do is speak your truth when the time isn’t right (but don’t wait too long) and tell them whatever it is you need to say.

View this post on Instagram

I have chosen to have more hard and painful conversations in the last 18 months than I did in the previous 30 years, total. And I think it’s not a coincidence that the more I do it, the more comfortable I feel in myself— as myself. Conflict avoidance is a coping strategy, and a lot of us develop it as a completely understandable response to early life. 🙋‍♀️ But as adults, when we chronically choose the temporary relief of avoiding the hard thing over standing up for our own needs and owning our desires, we eventually pay for that chronic self-betrayal. For me, the price was an un-nameable and pervasive sadness, physical pain, heaviness and exhaustion. Every time I speak my truth, knowing it may not be what the other person wants to hear, I’m still a little surprised to look down afterwards and realize WOW I AM STILL ALIVE. Vulnerability will not kill you. The uncomfortable and temporary side effects of choosing yourself are badges of honor. They’re evidence that you are growing; breaking free of old conditioning and patterns that don’t serve you. Breathe and do the thing and remember who you are. That’s my self-imposed job description these days. #emilyonlife

A post shared by Emily McDowell & Friends (@emilymcdowell_) on

“Should I be saving for retirement?”

Yes, if it’s financially feasible, but also…no?

Anytime a question has a ‘should’ at the beginning I ask myself if I actually care about the answer, or if I feel like I’m *supposed* to care about the answer.

Doing certain things doesn’t make you more or less of an adult, and having an RRSP doesn’t automatically mean you have your life together.

“What should I do with my hair?”

I recently did something out of character and asked my new stylist this and he talked me out of doing something really dumb and expensive during our consultation.

Much like when a therapist tells you something is a bad idea, you LISTEN THE FRIG UP.

Sometimes in the heat of the moment we forget that bangs take approximately 9 months to grow out. Whatever you want is the answer, but it never hurts to consult an expert.

“Where do I go from here?”

This is basically another variation of “what comes next?” which is what this entire blog navigates through…arguably. In order to actually answer this question, I had to stop running away from it out of fear and accept that it was up to me to decide.

Sounds easy, but when you don’t trust yourself it kinda feels like hurling yourself off a cliff with a running start. How else are you gonna build self-trust though?????

Anyway, the answer is that I’m going to Australia. G’day mate.

View this post on Instagram

This is a photo of me standing in my first apartment after I signed the lease in 2016. Just like then, there’s a lot of change and hope in the air right now. Two weeks from now I’m moving out of my beloved bachelorette pad and back in with my parents for a few months before an even bigger change. The day after I turn 26 I’ll be getting on a plane and going to Melbourne with a working holiday visa (no return ticket booked) 😅 This has been the year of big leaps, extreme discomfort and questioning EVERYTHING but I can feel it in my bones that in order to keep growing I’ve gotta go for a lil bit. I also want to be in a different setting to work on my book baby. But between now and November my focus is to be as present as possible and to remind myself to *let go* every time I feel myself trying to resist change. ⚡️🌊 #australia

A post shared by Raegan aka Reggie ⚡️ (@raegjules) on


Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM

OK I KNOW I NEED TO LIGHTEN UP – BUT HOW?

I thought I had to word vomit, exercise, or numb out all the darkness out in order to lighten up. I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is accept it, and light a match.

I know the moment I truly started on my self-improvement journey. I Googled ‘How to stop hating yourself’ in 2016, which led me to a book called Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself  that changed my life. You probably know the rest if you’ve read the post.

Recently, after a difficult but loving conversation with a dear friend about how our relationship was feeling heavy, I Googled ‘how to lighten up’ and found nothing useful. Not one single article or listicle I could relate to.

What the shit!!! It had worked once when I needed a solution. But this time I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the same.

If you’ve ever read my Instagram captions or my blog – it’s not a stretch to say I’m a heavy person. I’m introspective and tend to get myself elbow deep into the piles of shit most people want to avoid at all costs. It’s the reason this blog exists after all…but it also means I can also come off as intense and a little dark at times.

We all have dominant traits that make us who we are, but when they get out of control they can mess things up in all areas of our lives. We all find ways to manage the internal see-saw. 

View this post on Instagram

The part of me that hates myself screams “who the do you think you are trying to write a book? Trying to become boxing instructor? Who gives a shit. And moreover, what do you know about any of this?” The part of me that hates myself believes that my urges to numb out every emotion with a grocery list of unhelpful techniques will never change for good. The part of me that hates myself tells me that I am a burden to my friends and family. That I have too many thoughts and feelings. The part of me that hates myself uses shame and fear to motivate me. The part of me that hates myself uses “why even bother” as an excuse to avoid vulnerability. This isn’t about proving other people wrong. It’s never been about proving other people wrong. Besides, I learned a long time ago people’s conclusions about you are less about you, and more about them. I’m trying to prove that part of myself wrong. I am, in fact, becoming the person I also hoped, dreamed and fought to be. Sometimes that part of me just needs a little proof and a lot of love. Sometimes I need to force that part of me to stop yelling and start listening. This isn’t some Bell Let’s Talk shit that exists only one day a year. As much as I can write this caption, I can’t write a clean beginning middle and end to this. This is just what goes on in my head and my work is fighting back against it. Sometimes I have the strength to win that fight, and sometimes I don’t have it in me. And that’s when I reach out for help. 💭🤝 #wholeheartedliving

A post shared by Raegan aka Reggie ⚡️ (@raegjules) on

I used alcohol to manage as an adult. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I wasn’t an alcoholic before I stopped drinking almost 8 months ago. However, I showed signs of being a problem or grey area drinker. I would deal with negative feelings by drinking or eating them down so I could continue being the life of the party. I was still bitter and aggressive but at least after booze it was in a softened, silly half-cut kind of way. With alcohol, I could take myself from being in a mood where I wanted to cry from stress, to slurring sassy comments and texting people I shouldn’t be texting to generate some fun in the moment.

Alcohol was the easy lever I could pull anytime I needed to lighten up. 

When I first got sober, I lightened up immediately. I felt like I had found the ultimate life hack. All of the ease with none of booze-adjacent struggles. I was saving money! I was making better decisions! I didn’t have the booze blues anymore!!!

Then, inevitably, I dug into the work of recovery and shit got REAL. Sobriety and recovery are not the same, which is a fun fact that hit me like a brick to the face about three months in.

Believe me, I know I was a bummer to be around. I was groping around in the dark in an attempt to figure out how everyone else dealt with bad days on top of having, what felt like, a complete shit show of an existential crisis. I was doing my best, but I truly felt like I couldn’t lighten up.

So I tried all the normal stuff: yoga, meditation, therapy (the counsellor I had when I was in early recovery wasn’t a good fit for me unfortunately), journaling, and mostly texting and talking to my friends when I was feeling shitty. Which was a lot. I also revisited eating and Netflix as coping mechanisms.

View this post on Instagram

I’ve been doing a lot of reading, writing, reflecting and questioning lately. I guess when I think about it, the other three all feed into my writing. I’ve changed a lot and done a lot since finishing my degree and getting an “adult” job. My opinions are different, my hair is different, my mindset is different. I am older. I am more educated on the ways of the world. I now need special cream for my face (goddam eczema). But there is one thing that steadfastly has not changed, and I hope never will: I love writing. It is a warm blanket after being out in the cold for too long. It is a way of making sense of the world. It is a way of bearing witness. It is a messy mud puddle that you can’t wait to jump in. It is an unruly teenager that sneaks out in the middle of the night but makes you proud at the end of the day. It is trying to herd a bunch of hyenas on acid. Here’s a pic of my writing happy place with a new backdrop. I definitely wrote this while feeling a writer’s running high. Let’s be realistic: It’s not always sunshine and rainbows and sometimes I gotta rip the words right out of me, but it’s meant to be. It’s still love even when it’s hard. #instarealtalk #truth #vulnerabilityisstrength #mentalhealth #bravingthewilderness #writersofinstagram #selfcare #selfacceptance #calledtocreate #winnipeg #everydaygratitude #liveoutloud #parentsupport #findyourself #shameless #gratitude #desksetup #deskdecor

A post shared by Raegan aka Reggie ⚡️ (@raegjules) on

Nothing seemed to help. I felt like a black cloud all the time, which was one of my biggest fears about giving up alcohol: I wouldn’t be fun anymore. And as it turned out, it sort of came true, but it taught me something really important.

I got into the toxic habit of treating a lot of close people in my life like my personal therapists. It’s healthy to ask for support and to talk things out, but there’s limits and boundaries to how much your loved ones can really help. Besides, now that I have a good therapist I’m trying to see regularly I can safely say that those are much more productive conversations and it means I don’t have to put the people in my life through unpaid emotional labour. Which isn’t cool.

Fortunately, my friends and family were willing to talk to me about what they were feeling instead of just running in the other direction.

So after my failed Google search, I started thinking about a new way forward in my recovery.

I thought I had to word vomit, exercise, or numb out all the darkness out in order to lighten up.

I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is accept the darkness and all that comes with it, and light a match.

I couldn’t find lightness in numbing because it obliterates everything — both good and bad. Denying negative or heavy emotions also isn’t realistic because it denies a part of you that exists for a very good reason. So now, I’m trying to stop grappling around for a lever or light switch and meet my internal struggles with unconditional acceptance instead of intolerance. I want to be empowered to make my own light.

Part of the journey has been figuring out the people, activities, and places that create light in my life. Especially my newly sober life.

So far, I’ve figured out that reliving ridiculous moments is a great way to light that match. My go-to memory involves a public park bathroom in New Orleans with a broken lock and yeast infection medication. Nothing reminds me how absurd life is quite like that moment.

Also on the list of things that seem to light a metaphorical match in the darkness: Being outside. Riding a good spin class. Looking at old vacation pictures. Writing. Laughing.

I’m looking to add to the list, but I’m still figuring it out. If all else fails, I just lay on the floor and listen to Magic by Coldplay. Can’t lose with Coldplay.


I recognize that seeking professional help isn’t always accessible or financially feasible. Here’s an article about different types of therapy options for different price points.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM

AMY WINEHOUSE WAS MY VULNERABILITY ROLE MODEL

I looked up to Amy in ways I shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

 

Amy Winehouse said, “I wouldn’t write anything unless it was directly personal to me just cause I wouldn’t be able to tell the story right.”

I still remember when one of my high school boyfriends broke things off with me. I think I was in grade 11. I spent all weekend watching her concert DVD and watching the 30-minute doc they made about recording Back to Black with Mark Ronson. She talked about falling in love with Blake and admitted to fucking it all up. She talked about lies and things being less than ideal by her own doing. It made me feel less alone every time I was in pain or did something stupid while drunk. It wasn’t the first or last weekend I shut myself in my house and did nothing but listen to her voice and words.

She was my role model. I looked up to her in ways I probably shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

To say I was a fan would be an understatement. I think I wanted to be her.

I owned Back to Black on vinyl and I never even had a record player. I watched every interview she had ever done well before she died about a million times each. I owned the only concert DVD she ever released. I bought a black Adidas sweater because I saw her wearing the same sweater in an interview (this was before athleisure came back in fashion). I read her biography a dozen times.

I can point to pieces of my past and personality and see her reflected right back at me.

The way I’ve ALWAYS done my eyeliner since the moment I started wearing makeup.

The way I say “yeah.”

The way I love playing pool like she did (I’m half decent actually).

The way I dealt with breakups with a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The cheeky way of talking.

The way I can’t help but be inappropriate sometimes.

The way I love jazz.

The way I used to dress (till I stopped wearing push up bras).

The way I never brushed my hair and wore it big. I still don’t brush it if I’m being totally honest.

The way I talked about myself.

The way I wished my eyes were just a little darker so they’d match perfectly.

The way I wear my heart on my sleeve.

The brutal blunt honesty in my writing.

She taught me authenticity because it just oozed out of her. Despite being someone who acted like she didn’t think very highly of herself, she couldn’t help but be anyone but herself. Before I ever opened a Brené Brown book, I listened to her music and learned what vulnerability looked like. I saw her using art to tell the stories of her life and make peace with them in her own way.

She’s also goddam ruthless, which you’ll know if you watch enough of her interviews.

Even then, there was something about what she created and how she embraced her messy, aggressive nature. She was never quoted saying anything good about herself, but she was always honest even when it maybe made other people uncomfortable.

She just…wasn’t guarded. You can tell she literally didn’t know how to be. If you watch any interview with her you can see her emotions all over her face, in her expression and through her eye contact and body language. If she didn’t want to be there you could tell. If she was upset you could tell. If she didn’t like the questions she was being asked you could tell.

There were a total lack of walls, which you could argue hurt her in some ways, but made her utterly unforgettable in others.

She’s a beautiful singer and songwriter, yes. She was volatile, yes. But what she really taught me was about putting it all out there. Ugly stuff and all. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a great role model for kindness or dealing with your problems and pain the healthy way, but that’s ok. Nobody is perfect, and she never tried to pretend she was.

I remember where I was when I found out she died. I was sitting in class and my friend texted me and asked me if I had heard. I didn’t think it was true. I had been following her in the news because I had heard she was going to put out a new album soon. When I saw my friend later that day and she confirmed it I started crying right then and there. I don’t even think I could fully appreciate the impact she had on my life until I became an adult.

I grew up believing struggle was part of being a creative. Believing alcohol was part of being a strong saucy woman. Believing being raw, direct, uncensored and borderline offensive or difficult was charming. Believing relationships had to be difficult, rocky and messy. Believing destroying your own life was part of living your life.

Then she died. Way too young. And I realized then, and even more now, that she taught me so many amazing things, but also so many destructive things. You never get the sense that she’s overly happy about being famous.

View this post on Instagram

Amy Winehouse at the Union Chapel in London, UK. November 24, 2006 📸 Photo by: Jill Furmanovsky __ Photographer Jill Furmanovsky recalls, — "I took live photos of Amy Winehouse for MOJO Magazine at Union Chapel in 2006. She seemed particularly happy that night and made references to a loved one (Blake) who was in the audience. I asked Amy if she cared if I took a quick picture. The road crew was loading and a cold wind blew through the open stage door Amy did not care, she forced herself to stand against the wall in the hallway, raising her head to catch the light while the autumn leaves blow." — Jill __ #AmyWinehouse #AmyNeverDies #JillFurmanovsky #Uk #RockPhotography #RockArchive #UnionChapel #2006 #Photo #BlackAndWhite #Amy #Icon #Legenday #AmyWinehouseNeverDies

A post shared by Amy Winehouse Ⓜ (@amywinehouseuk) on

Like I’ve said before, when you don’t like yourself very much it’s easy to spot in others. I could never shake the feeling that she was incredibly insecure, despite being so bright and amazing. I used to read it as being humble, but I don’t believe that’s what it was. I believe it was self-loathing.

She may have had a shaky personal life, but you could always tell writing and performing was the one thing she truly loved. We all need a thing, but sometimes it’s not enough.

It’s not a coincidence that I believe the most powerful, deep, soul touching writing comes from a very personal place. Just like the way she felt about music. She didn’t give a shit about being famous, or being well-liked, she just wanted to tell her stories and make her vision come to life.

You can judge her. You can pity her. You can love her the way I do. You can listen to her music. And you can learn from her. But truthfully, the world will never forget her and her music because she’s unforgettable.

She made me feel seen. She made me feel less alone. She made art and music that made me realize that you can put your everything out there, but you have to be strong enough to handle the criticism that goes with it. Resilient enough to handle the hatred for being different. Love yourself enough to know that you have to live with your fear and love it to death instead of trying to silence it because that’s courage.

I related to her. Her aura. Her dark nature. Her sadness. Her regret. Her flirty self-concious energy. Her way of brightening up other people’s lives but seemingly not being able to turn the light on for herself because she couldn’t locate it.

The way she so obviously went against the grain, almost sometimes seemingly just to piss people off but really because pain speaks volumes. She’s why I feel compelled to write about my own fuckups. But there’s one thing I really think she missed in some of her art, which was the gratitude and light parts of life. I would have loved to hear more from her about the good. That’s one thing we didn’t have in common, but I do believe if she had stuck around a little longer she would have found a way eventually to make art that didn’t come from a place of low self-worth.

She wasn’t the hero I was ever supposed to have, but we can’t help who we fall in love with. Being proud that her art and life (from afar) was part of my journey, and writing about that journey, is something that only Amy could have taught me how to do.

Please do me a favour today, and everyday, and remember that addiction doesn’t discriminate and sometimes there are factors in people’s lives that add kerosene to the fire. Not everyone has the tools and what it takes to extinguish that flame.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM

ON REALIZING THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY: FORWARD

I’ve finally figured out how to describe what it feels like to go from who you were before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of…grieving?

I couldn’t find a photo I liked for the header so please enjoy this photo of me from Grade 7 when I still had a unibrow but didn’t really know *how* to pluck it and only wore black t-shirts because I always had sweat stains. Simpler times.

I’ve always had a habit of talking about who I used to be. Especially when I would go on  dates, which, as my counsellor has pointed out to me, isn’t really relevant to who I am now.

It’s no secret. I have a lot of regrets and pain in my past which is why it’s such a *subject* for me. I mean, I’m writing a book about some of the stories FFS.

I’ve spent WAY too long ruminating it and letting things that happened years ago dictate how I would feel about myself on a day to day basis. I’ve allowed regret to make me feel like a Bad Person. I don’t know when, but at a certain point I have accepted and fundamentally acknowledged that my past is a part of me, but it isn’t *me* anymore.

So I asked myself the other day, at what point does the past intersect with the present?

When does the ‘before’ become the ‘who I am now’?

And how do you know when you’re internally shifting from one to the other? How do you know when it’s over?

View this post on Instagram

I only have a handful of photos from when I was a teenager because I didn’t have Facebook until I graduated high school. I almost completely erased them all or lost them over the years. This one is from 2008. In most of the pictures of myself from this time I am drunk, and if I recall correctly, this photo is no exception. I couldn’t bear for many years to look back and reflect on this time I spent struggling, feeling misunderstood and trying to fit in. It would always bring back a flood of memories about eating disorder recovery, depression, therapy, pain, binge eating, drinking till I blacked out, heartbreak and academics. Even typing this I still remember sitting in a bathroom stall scratching the skin off my knuckles till they bled. I remember shutting my parents out. I remember having my first panic attack. I remember believing that I was only in university classes in high school because I knew how to work hard, not because I was smart. But I also remember wearing a hoodie with a tall collar to cover up hickies, winning an award for having the highest grades, setting the carpet on fire in the drama room, making out with boys in forests and under bridges, fighting with my one of my best friend’s and making up in a food court (thank god @jocelynhummelt ), getting an underage drinking ticket, writing a 30-page screenplay, giving people who tried to cheat off me the wrong answers and being an unpaid production assistant on sets 😂 I haven’t always been able to look at photos like this one and remember both sides of the same period of my life. The parts that make me laugh and the parts that hurt my heart. I know it’s the magic of hindsight, but also I’ve learned that you can’t have one without the other. I still have both sides in me and that’s ok. I was messy, deep, loud, raunchy, creative, all over the map and over the top then, and I still am now. I wouldn’t change any of it.✨☺️✌️#10yearchallenge #throwbackthursday #tbt #teenagerposts

A post shared by Raegan aka Reggie ⚡️ (@raegjules) on

Grief is associated with death. Which totally makes sense. But I think it also can be a way to describe the natural response loss or perceived loss, not just of someone or something you loved, but of anything. I’ll give credit where credit is due – I started thinking about grief differently when I read chapter seven of Rising Strong by Brené Brown.

I think this is the best way I’ve found so far to describe the internal shift between the before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of grieving.

Now, I won’t say that what I’ve felt is anything like losing a loved one who was close to me. I wouldn’t ever make that comparison. But I do find it interesting that the emotional process of moving through grief has been similar.

By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief and loss below is a briefing:

  1. Denial and isolation;
  2. Anger;
  3. Bargaining;
  4. Depression;
  5. Acceptance.

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

I think it clicked when Brené explained in Rising Strong that change that is perceived as loss can spark grief.

I guess 2019 has been sort of a weird grieving process for me. A confusing, emotional, slow, weird sobering process letting my past go. A movement between the ‘before’ to the ‘who I am now.’ I’ve written about on my blog while I was in the early stages of it, but I’ve always struggled on how to express what this whole thing has felt like now that I can get my head around it.

View this post on Instagram

Sometimes our past has the ability to confront and/or overwhelm us. When triggered we tend to lose perspective and begin to act from a place of insecurity, fear, and hurt (rather than awareness and authenticity). When being faced with our past, it’s important to remain aware, engage in a dialogue with ourselves, identify our needs, and seek perspective or support (if needed). •• • • • #selfawareness #awareness #reflection #relationships #boundaries #triggers #mentalhealthtips #selfesteem #mentalhealth #psychology #psychotherapy #counseling #therapist #selfdiscovery #selfcare #selflove #lifetransitions #identity #authenticity #emotion #privatepractice #onlinetherapy #onlinecounseling #millennialtherapist #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters #past

A post shared by Sara Kuburić, MA, CCC (@millennial.therapist) on

It’s a confusing process to release your past self and way of life. It’s that moment where you deeply realize everything is different and there’s absolutely no way to go backward. It’s only forward from here on out.

For some people this might feel more like one chapter ending and another beginning, or a subtle slow shift until one day you realize you deal with things so differently you barely recognize yourself.

But once I read Rising Strong, I realized it’s felt a lot like grief. Which is kind of upsetting in itself, because who am I to compare losing someone to leaving behind a part of myself? But it’s a loss. I held onto it so goddam tight. But now that I’ve forgiven myself and come to terms with almost every part of it, it’s feeling like getting out of bed in the morning and not knowing what to do with yourself. It’s having nostalgia about the past, while knowing you can never go back. 

It’s saying goodbye to the story I’ve always believed to be true about myself.

View this post on Instagram

My past self still haunts me. Not always, but sometimes. Slipping in when she finds an opening. She is a spectre. Not quite a memory — a way of being. Coming back to remind me that at one time I was a different person who set fire to everything just to watch it burn. I can’t see her when she visits me but I know she’s there. I can feel her replaying old memories on a projector onto the back of my mind. The full body sensation of shame that puts you right back there in that moment when your world revolved around whatever was happening. I feel my spine tingle, and I know I’m not safe here. I plant my feet and observe that everything keeps moving even if I stop. I can’t go back to that place and time where she was thriving and making me believe that destruction was the only option. I remind myself she’s a spectre. Gone but never forgotten. Her lessons and scorched earth are part of who I am today. She left me with almost nothing so as an act of survival, and mercy, I left her behind so I could start over. I was built from a new blueprint on the rubble she left behind. #realtalk #poemsofinstagram Photo by @mskanishaszekely

A post shared by Raegan aka Reggie ⚡️ (@raegjules) on

I can say “I’m different,” all I want, but it really appears in the smallest of moments.

Walking home through downtown late at night totally sober and passing groups of people on the street searching for where to go next. Hearing slurred voices cheering and yelling and conversing while I’m on my balcony. Feeling the twinge of desire to participate but knowing that’s not my path anymore. Finding my way in this new way of life. Smiling to myself and sleeping soundly. 

Being so fully present that I can’t ignore things anymore. Learning how to tell people when I’m hurt and tackling conflict head on. Accepting that my “cut and run” mentality has kept me emotionally protected but not connected for far too long, and knowing it isn’t brave. Coming face to face with my people pleasing tendencies. Looking around and realizing the people I love most are imperfect and worthy of love, and so am I.

Having those dates where you return home and walk in the door and either a) smile to yourself as you hang your keys up and brush your teeth because it felt GREAT b) come home and yell WHAT THE FUCK MAN to yourself in your apartment and go straight for the carbs because you are seriously questioning your own judgement or c) come home, let out a big sigh and text your friends asking “why do I do this shit again?” Trying very hard to not overthink shit, but also not ignoring the obvious. Yenno?

Laughing. Laughing so much. For me, laughing at when shit goes wrong and knowing it’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean I’m a Bad Person. It just means shit happens. Being able (for the first time in my life maybe) to not take everything so seriously!!!!!

Sitting with the moments where it occurs to me I’m not living my values and feeling the bodily sensations come over me. Feeling the shame story cloud my brain. Sensing the alarm bells go off in my head to drown the feelings – peanut butter, Netflix, anything – because they are seriously uncomfortable. Resisting the screaming urge to turn away from myself in that moment. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. Finding the courage to get curious. Exploring ways forward that are within my integrity.

Realizing my tendency to worry endlessly. Realizing my tendency to overload myself even though time and time again it sucks the life out of me. Realizing my codependent tendencies. Owning my tendencies and accepting it all. In some cases, admitting that if I can’t find a solution on my own, maybe a therapist can help. 

Being truly, truly happy in a way that I don’t think I could really feel before.

Catching myself hustling for the approval of people who will never understand me, love me or respect me. Finding out that connection really has to begin with how you feel about yourself. Knowing, deeply, that you cannot plant a flower in concrete and expect it to grow. 

Letting go of the sense of certainty about my future I clung to so tightly. Deciding to uproot myself for a while (fall 2019) because it feels right. No clue what I’ll come home to or how I’ll feel on the other end of the extended trip I’m planning. Dealing with the fear related to that.

Crying so fucking much. Because there have been many times where I can’t keep it together during these confusing times where my past tendencies push up against who I want to be now. Releasing because my body can’t keep things packed down anymore after years of doing that.

Forgiving myself for what I cannot change and allowing it to make me better. Because as I’ve figured out the hard way, there are no other options or shortcuts past this part.

“…When I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.”

The Book of Forgiving

View this post on Instagram

As I write this, I’m sitting on my balcony listening to Beyoncé’s Homecoming album drinking a non-alcoholic beer thinking about every summer before this one. I’ve never felt this different. Maybe it’s because for the first time ever, summer doesn’t really represent what it once did for me. It doesn’t hold the same kind of reckless promise, but I’m realizing that’s for the best. Summer doesn’t mean I start worrying about wearing shorts or preoccupying myself with the grand question if this is the summer I will *finally* grow a thigh gap. The answer is no. It will always be no, and that’s a-fucking-ok with me. Hotter weather just means I continue to wear what’s comfortable and makes me feel like…me. The idea of an open afternoon conjures bigger plans then sitting outside getting sunburnt while drinking pitcher of sangria followed by a nap to sleep it off (only to wake up in the evening hungover). It might mean I get up early to go for a hike or read a chapter of a book on some good grass somewhere. It definitely means no hangovers. Summer doesn’t mean I feel heightened expectations or weird irresponsible urges to have a fling. Be impulsive because of the heat and beer. Avoid tough conversations because they aren’t “good vibes only.” Summer just means I’m gonna keep doing me, loving the absolutely shit out of the people in my life and being honest with myself and others about what’s working and what isn’t. I don’t need to go wild to feel alive anymore. The start of this summer feels wayyyy different than every single previous one, and I’m just gonna tip my head back, feel the sun on my face and take it all in 🌞 P.s. The day after a breakup I was trying to distract myself so I ended up spending like $200 on decor in Marshall’s and bought this stone squirrel. Her name is Spinelli 🐿 #sobercurious #summer #livingoutloud #wholehearted

A post shared by Raegan aka Reggie ⚡️ (@raegjules) on

It’s quite simple: I was always worthy of love and belonging but I never believed it, so I never acted in ways that aligned with those beliefs. Even now I struggle to believe it half the time but half the time is better than no time. I am still in it, this process. Progress over perfection and what not.

I suppose I am grieving the part of my life where I did not love myself. Where everything was a sign I was a Bad Person. Where there was very little questioning and a whole lot of self-destruction. Where I only directed criticism at myself and not kindness. Where I so badly and deeply wanted connection but was too scared to show up authentically in order to really let it happen.

It’s weird…because I thought at many points in my life I did this work already.

I thought I had done it. But I know better now. Even as I write this I’m still not done, but I know there’s a difference between this process and maturing.

Maybe there were some token moments of accepting that I couldn’t change the past, but they weren’t coupled with a healthy dose of compassion and forgiveness. There was an attempt to own my story and who it has made me into, but no execution. I wasn’t ready to accept my story.

I know it’s different now because there’s only one way forward.

Which is what my favourite movie scene is all about and I will endlessly repeat this quote because it’s too perfect:

I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you any good at that?

Silver Linings Playbook

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM

“SO…WHY DON’T YOU DRINK ANYMORE?”

I didn’t (and don’t) really know how to explain my reasons because I’m still figuring them all out. It feels like trying to tell a story that I’m in the middle of.

I was working my last event as the Market Lead for Bumble in Winnipeg. It was a Bumble Bar Tab, which is where local teams of city reps set up at bars and give free drink tickets to people who show their Bumble profiles. Even though I was working, I got hit with the “so, why don’t you drink?” more times in one night than all the times in the four previous months combined since I stopped drinking.

IMG_0186.jpg

I wasn’t upset, or emotional. Just stumped I guess? I hadn’t really found a good way to answer that question in a way that felt genuine to me. There are also a million answers I could share.

I mean…I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t left standing there with my mouth open trying to figure out what the hell to say to a stranger who knows nothing about me or my story.

I’ve never gone to AA or worked the steps because stopping was a choice for me, but for many it’s not. The stigma and shame around talking about any type of addiction is often so bad that it makes life worse for those affected by it, which is FUCKED. While not everyone knows someone battling alcoholism personally, grey area drinking is quite widespread and unquestioned. Let’s be honest – not many of us actually know how many drinks a week is past the threshold of harmful for us, and not many of us count or care.

I love this quote from Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington:

Booze is deeply interwoven into almost every aspect of our lives—both at work and play, and from our family time to our love lives. And while I still don’t identify with the term “alcoholic,” my research, both academic and in the field, has actually led me to believe that anybody who drinks on a regular basis is addicted to alcohol to some degree—the negative consequences of this addiction more acute for some, depending on individual life circumstances.

I didn’t (and don’t) really know how to explain my reasons because I’m still figuring them all out. It feels like trying to tell a story that I’m in the middle of. I told myself so many times that once it’s been long enough, then I could talk about it.

So I haven’t been saying anything. Because I’ve been waiting to be on the other side of this transition where everything is figured out, neat, tidy and triumphant. Because that’s an easier narrative to swallow, and we all know that.

It’s the classic, “I was doing my thing, which led to a downturn of some sort, which meant I struggled and got a little dirty but now I’m back up, better than before, I’ve showered and inexplicably own a Ferrari!!!!!!”

But that’s not what this process has been like. At all. It largely has not been all that fun, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been rewarding.

What about the part where you’re figuring out how the hell to get back up in a way that doesn’t screw things up even worse? What about the part where it takes a while and/or multiple tries? What about the part where you don’t feel like yourself? The FOMO? It’s easier to look someone in the face and respect them when they come to you standing tall and triumphant with their shit figured out.

It’s harder when they’re vulnerable and gritting their teeth just to get through to the day. Eventually, they will be ready to fully rise, not the same person they were when they fell.

I’m not just talking about getting off the sauce. We are conditioned to celebrate and tell the stories that talk mostly about the after, but not what it took to get there. We reflexively look away when we see someone struggling.

As usual, I’m not coming to you pretending to be on the other side of some sort of mountain with all the answers and a really fancy car (again, how?????? also FUCK YOU STEVE from YOUTUBE AND YOUR FERRARI).

I’m so sick of reading stuff that skips over the awkward, struggle-y bits. If I wanted you to think this was easy, I’d wait a year and write a blog post then about my life transformation and blah blah blah buy this coconut water that will also heal your childhood trauma or whatever.

IMG_0569.jpg

At the end of the day, I have so many ways I could answer the “why” of being booze free and I haven’t settled on one good one yet. So here’s an array for your enjoyment:

Non-verbal answer

Laugh and shrug. Maybe at the same time????

Real answer

I love making pancakes and dancing in my living room to Lizzo on Sunday morning and nothing harshes that vibe quite like being hungover.

Sarcastic answer

Because I don’t need to be drunk to make terrible jokes via text and eat an entire large pizza to myself.

Awkward answer

It’s a long story.

Subtext: you’re a stranger and I’d probably only tell you once I’ve had a minimum of five drinks……….which isn’t gonna happen……sooOOoooOOO this is where I bite into my mozzarella stick and stare at you while chewing slowly.

Short answer

I didn’t like the person I was when I drank.

Shorter answer (also good for making people regret that they asked)

Alcohol makes me sad and slutty (lol).

Vulnerable answer

I didn’t like the decisions I made and the things that happened. So after some self-reflection and time spent experimenting and being sober curious, I decided that cutting it out pretty much entirely (aka not saying I’ll never have one ever again, but it’s definitely not a part of my life anymore) would be for the best.

Practical answer (good for a date I think but don’t take my word for it)

It’s just not my thing anymore. Also, do you remember that commercial from the 90s where they said everybody has a thing? What’s your thing?

Accountant answer

After Q4 of 2018, things were volatile. The forecasted losses were much greater than the projected earnings so we made some cuts and calculated risks. After an adjustment period and minor recession in Q1, things seem to be looking up!

Proud answer

Because it was a good choice and one I made for myself when I was at my happiest, and no matter how hard it’s been I’ve never regretted it for a second.

Sassy answer

Because everything in my life felt like it was already changing anyway, so I figured….fuck it. What’s one more thing? NOTHING IS PERMANENT. In with the old out with the new weeeeeeeee. I took my old drinking habits and threw them in a dumpster along with some other baggage and lit a match and let it all BURN.

Long but short answer

[Tells story of 2019] So yes, I had a quarter-life crisis as soon as I turned 25. Was that your question?

View this post on Instagram

125 days ago, I made the decision to become booze free 🎉 It wasn’t because I got pregnant (lol) or because I started taking a medication that didn’t mix well with alcohol. I didn’t hit rock bottom. I didn’t do it because I’m trying to cut fat for summer (F$CK DIET CULTURE). I didn’t wake up with a hangover and say “never again.” I didn’t have some sort of spiritual awakening and decide to become *pure.* For the past two years, I’ve been experimenting with periods of abstinence, questioning my relationship with booze and exploring how it makes me feel and why I drink. So I guess you could say I’ve been some variation of sober curious for a while now. This isn’t anything new, but talking about it is….new. I wasn’t classified as an alcoholic by any means, which is why I want to be clear that this was a choice. Drinking behaviours and alcohol use exists on a spectrum, and I think people often forget that (Google ‘grey area drinking’ if you are curious). However, it can’t be denied that there’s a huge stigma around talking about this sort of thing. For people living with alcohol use disorder quitting is not an opinion. It’s a necessity to stay sober. On the plane home from New Orleans, at one of the clearest, happiest moments of my life I started to ask myself these questions: “What is the role of booze in my life?” “Am I the person I want to be when I drink?” “Why am I drinking so much?” “Who am I without alcohol?” The answers were right there. I couldn’t ignore them. Especially since I know that denying the truth to yourself is the quickest way to set fire to your inner peace. So here’s a question that has nothing to do with alcohol but everything to do with personal growth: Are you clearing enough room to ask yourself tough questions? Are you staying curious and nonjudgmental toward yourself and your own behaviours? Most importantly…are you ignoring the answers when they come to you? #sobercurious #boozeless #thedrylife

A post shared by Raegan aka Reggie ⚡️ (@raegjules) on


To be clear…I realize nobody is trying to be an asshole by asking. They’re usually just curious. Also, I go to LOTS of social events where nobody even notices. I don’t judge – people let me do my thing and I let them do theirs. I just thought this topic would be a good way to get the conversation started 🙂

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.44.18 PM