July 4th Weekend!

Happy belated 4th of July everyone! Hope you had a spectacular Red, White and Blue weekend! I sure did!

Friday night after work I met up with A at Friday Focus – a great NA meeting on W 12th and 5th Ave. Afterwards we got pedicures at our favorite nail place: Jay Nails on 10th St. It was really great to catch up with A since we have both been so busy the past few months. Especially because she’s expecting twins! I can’t wait to welcome Baby A and Baby B into this world in a few months!

Saturday night Leo and I took the Staten Island Ferry to see a Staten Island Yankees vs. Brooklyn Cyclones Minor League Baseball game!

Look how cute the stadium is! We were in the fourth row along the third baseline. Tickets range anywhere from $8 – $40 I think, but we pauid $16. They are cheaper at the Brooklyn Stadium, but the Staten Island game worked better for our schedule! Getting to Staten Island was really easy too. We took the subway down to South Ferry and then road the escalator up to the Staten Island Ferry building. We looked and looked but didn’t see any ticket booths. So I asked a police officer where we could buy tickets and the guy looked at me oddly and then said “Um, it’s free” he said. Really? Sweet! The Ferry left every 15 minutes, so we got on the next one and enjoyed the 25 minute trip with the sun and wind in our faces.

We arrived at the stadium, picked up our tickets and Will Call and headed to the concession stand. I was craving a hot dog and it was amazing. Yeah, if you haven’t noticed I’ve stopped the raw detox…it wasn’t helping as expected and I was done with depriving myself of goodies. Below was our second trip:

SO TASTY!

Leo and I then spent Sunday and Monday up in Connecticut. We ate out, saw Transformers and Pricelined a hotel so we didn’t have to drive back to the city for the night. We got a REALLY nice hotel room in Greenwich for only $55! And it was the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. I love fancy hotel beds…

Monday we played tennis, hung out at the pool and then drove home through some awful NYC traffic. Luckily we got home in time to put some burgers on the grill and enjoy Sunday night’s DVR of True Blood before the fireworks started. We couldn’t quite see the West Side fireworks from Leo’s balcony, so we climbed up this sketchy ladder to the top of his building and saw some of the show, but decided we’d have a better view of the show on the TV. Best part of the performance? Katy Perry performing her song Fireworks during the NYC fireworks- I bet she’s been waiting all year to do that! Here’s my attempt to take a picture of the festivities of the TV:

Overall it was a great weekend. I managed to get some serious relaxation in, take a practice exam, get to a meeting with A and have lots of sober fun with Leo. Still dealing with my headaches, but I’ve surrendered to the fact that I can’t fix them myself and I need to just keep doing what I’m doing to take care of myself on a daily basis.

What’s your favorite thing about July 4th?

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It’s That Time of Year

I hope you’ve all had a chance to read my two recent guest posters – Alicia and Christine. Please let me know if you would be interested in sharing some of your recovery or life changing experiences on SATC!

As for me, things are settling down at work for the time being. My headaches continue to rage. Studying for exam number two is about to ramp up. Still in the decision making process about returning to graduate school or not. I know it sounds silly to study for this exam again if I’m still not sure I even want to back to school, but it’s all about creating options and choices. Luckily my sobriety has allowed me to succeed in my professional life to the point where I have such choices. Amazing!

Next month I will celebrate 4 years sober. It’s been such a marathon of anniversaries in my network lately, although I suppose because my network is so big there is always someone celebrating! I have to say – the summer was a great time to get sober. I still view the year starting in the fall and ending in the summer, rather than starting in January. Years and years of being in school engrained that in me I think. So getting sober in the summer allows one to start the new year off fresh! However, I’m a firm believer that ANYTIME is a good time to get sober. You can start your life over any time you want.

About this time four years ago I was in the beginning of my relapse. I woke up one morning, decided that I was 21, living in NYC for the summer and therefore I should be able to drink just like everyone else. Afterall, I thought, it was just alcohol. How much harm could it do? Well it made me crazy is what it did. And the first night I was texting around to relapsing addicts I knew trying to get drugs. The first night. It was clear to me that alcohol wasn’t working for me and in the end it’s not what I really wanted. By the grace of God I never did find drugs during my 3-4 week relapse. And by the grace of God I was able to return to the program, fully surrender and stay sober since then. Some people say that relapses always teach you something. What it taught me was that I could choose to drink and be miserable or I could choose to be sober and be free.

That is not to say that I haven’t been miserable in sobriety – I have been miserable many times, sometimes for months and months. The difference is that when I’m sober I get to make the choice to sit in my misery or walk in the solution. If I drink or use I don’t have that choice. And today, a relapse wouldn’t mean misery – it would mean death for me. I wouldn’t lose my apartment, my job, my friends, my family – I would lose my life. That is my belief and I’m sticking to it. So as long as I don’t want to die, I will stay sober. In order to stay sober I need to go to meetings, call my sponsor everyday, do service, do my stepwork, call a newcomer, etc. I need to be reminded of the destruction of my past and the promise of my future. I need to be taught how to live more comfortably in the gray.

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Sobriety and All Those Fun New Addictions You Never Knew You Had

Below is a fantastic guest post from Christine L. @fordrunksonly. She is a published author, and the links to her book are down below. Enjoy!!

I’ve been sober for a lot of years now and I’m glad of it. There is not a single thing I miss about drinking – not one. There is not a single extra drunken argument I feel I missed out on by stopping when I did, not a single public vomit caused by excess consumption of poison that I think would have made my life better, not a single desperate one night stand that I wish I had experienced instead of giving up drinking. Not. One. Single. Thing.

But…

Addiction is a many headed beast and like the Hydra of Greek myth, when you cut off one of its heads, two more grow.

I gave up drinking and in order to squash my craving, I promptly began to eat twice as much. Particularly sugar. Now, many a good old timer will tell you that that’s ok, your body is craving sugar for energy or maybe that your body is craving sugar because there was so much sugar in the alcohol you drank and now that you have stopped, it doesn’t know what to do with its excess insulin.

There is some truth to all of this – but in my case, the fact was that I had always hidden my embarrassing emotions behind alcohol and when I stopped, I needed to find some place new to stash them away out of sight. What hiding place could be more perfect than under a great big piece of chocolate cake or in between a few layers of cream biscuits?

Unfortunately, eating lots of cake makes you fat and I didn’t like being fat. I wish I could tell you it’s because I was health conscious but really, it’s because, as well as drinking, I also had an addiction to male attention and I didn’t get enough of that when I was chunky.

So I stopped eating sugar compulsively but of course then I needed something else to stuff my feelings with so out came the cigarettes! I had smoked since I was 14 years old but when I curtailed my post sobriety eating, my cigarette consumption probably doubled.

While all this frenzied activity was going on, I also had three intense relationships in my first year of sobriety. My sponsor tried to explain to me why this wasn’t such a good idea. ‘You know, I love cars,’ he said. ‘I love the way they look. I love to check them out. I love to fantasise about owning them.’

‘Uh-huh,’ I nodded. Like a good little sponsee, I hung on his every word and waited for the next pearl of wisdom to drop.

‘Well, you know,’ he finished, obviously trying to be gentle. ‘I’ve had to accept that I can’t test drive every car I fall in love with.’

I looked at him with my head on the side like a stupid puppy. What did that mean?

‘Just like you can’t test drive every guy you fall in love with!’

Oh. Okay. Now I get it.

After my first year of sobriety, I began to modify my relationship behaviour using the tools of several  12 step based programs CODA, ACOA and the mother of them all Al Anon. It’s been a long complicated road for me relationshipwise. I was selfish in the extreme. For me, romantic ‘love’ truly was all about how he could make me feel and how much excitement he could provide for me. When he stopped making me feel good and I no longer felt the adrenaline rush of ‘does he/ doesn’t he?’ I was gone. Onto the next! Hi ho Silver and away! Until I was sober, I had never been faithful in a relationship in my life. I had lied without thinking and was basically disloyal in just about every way you can name.

When I was about ten years sober, I had a very bad relationship. It lasted 18 months and was so traumatic that it seemed to take me years to recover. Since my early teens, I had gone from relationship to relationship, always looking for the next big thing, the new excitement, the deeper connection. This relationship was so difficult that I found myself unable to contemplate any others for several years.

For the first time in my life, I no longer wanted a man around. But what would I do with these damn feelings now? Dammit all, I discovered gambling. I punted for a few years, never catastrophically, I never spent my rent money or took food from the kid’s mouths as I have seen in many tragic cases. But it was definitely addictive behaviour. By this time, ten or so years into the program, I recognised I was in trouble with gambling fairly early in the piece. I could see very clearly that gambling isn’t about money, it’s the way the fall of the dice or the turn of the card consumes my mind and takes me away from the humdrum of daily life. There it was – that adrenaline rush again.

Gambler’s Anonymous took care of my gambling as I have found the 12 steps do each and every time I need help with an addiction.

I guess this probably makes it sound like I was a total mess for years after I gave up drinking. Well, that’s not  strictly true either. I was simply a human being trying to comes to terms with having a disastrous illness that I would have to manage for the rest of my life in order to live peacefully. During the same years that I was smoking, gambling and using wild men and chocolate cake  to keep me away from that first drink, I also learned how to be a great mother, a loyal and supportive friend, a reliable employee and an all round open hearted and loving human being.

Progress not perfection! Plugging the jug (I love these crazy old alkie sayings!) really is just the first step in a life long process that we call recovery.

Christine L. @fordrunksonly

I have a written a novel about addiction and what it does to families. Have a look at it here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Anzac-Girl-ebook/dp/B004VS7I8E

and here:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54178

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I Stopped Smoking

I haven’t had a cigarette in 19 days. Impressed? Probably not, since you may not even know that I was a smoker. I never officially “quit” but I just stopped smoking and stopped buy cigarettes and now here I am 19 days later. I’ve quit before and it has always been a struggle so this time I just wanted my body to naturally release itself from the need for nicotine. Oh heyyy, it worked! I think quitting caffiene first was helpful, and changing my diet into one with mostly fruits and vegetables helped to stabilize my mood. I have learned that all the things I love too much in recovery: sugar, caffeine and nicotine (the “safe” substances) tend to mess big time with my state of mind. You don’t notice it until you give them up completely.

Without caffeine I sleep better. I don’t have any less energy during the day unless I eat a heavy meal – that makes me feel sluggish. I miss the taste of Coke Zero and Iced Coffee, and I do miss the initial “I’m awake!” feeling with the first sip of the day, but other than that I’m OK with being off caffeine. I know what you’re thinking… “Clarissa, you could have caffeine-free versions of those beverages.” Yes, that is true, I could. Except decaf coffee still has caffeine in it and caffeine free diet soda is not really in the cards for a healthy lifestyle. My disease is really testing me though – this morning I saw a sign for Kahlua Iced Coffee being served at a restaurant around the corner from my office. REALLY? Why didn’t I ever try that when I was drinking?? Sigh. I think I drank enough Irish Coffees in Europe to make up for it though.

So, back to the no smoking thing. I smoked a few times a week in high school because I thought it was cool, and I loved the rush of escaping off campus to have a few butts with my “badass” friends – smoking was illegal at school. Also, I wasn’t really 18 yet. In college, I didn’t smoke much. Please, I was an athlete. But when I got clean my 3rd year in college, I started smoking half a pack a day. Giving up being on drugs and drinking all the time  was incredibly hard cold turkey. I needed a vice – just one last thing that I could have to calm my nerves down. Over time I was just smoking maybe 5 a day, and then when I started working it was down to 2-3 a day, more on the weekends. For the past year I had gotten down to 1-2 a day and then when I got serious about fixing my headaches a few months ago I was at 1 every other day and now I’m at zero. I can’t say that it’s helped my headaches at all, but it definitely cuts out the remaining moodswings.

Leo hated it when I smoked, but he also hated my moodswings more, so it was a toss up. I quit three years ago for about 6 months. But I quit for Leo, which was not a smart idea because I ended up resenting him for it. Recently, I stopped smoking for myself. I want to get better more than I want that 5 minutes of calm at night. My digestive system has righted itself again too. That is not to say I don’t want to smoke. The past few nights I have contemplated bumming one off a friend, but I haven’t. I’ve decided not to buy my own packs anymore, but if I bum one from someone I’m not going to scold myself. It would be great if I didn’t smoke at all, but I’ve gotta be easy on myself. I’ve already given up so many other things in life – I’m not going to be a source of my own stress. So I haven’t “quit” I just have “stopped” if that makes any sense. Either way it means I’m not smoking, but for me it’s less stressful than saying I have quit.

Have you ever smoked / tried to quit?

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Bits and Pieces

Hi friends! Hope you all had a great weekend! If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out Alicia’s awesome guest post from Friday (below)!

My weekend was pretty good and my head semi-cooperated. Friday night Caron and I had our typical girls night at the movies – we saw Bad Teacher with JT and Cameron Diaz. It was…funny but not as good as expected. Also, Justin Timberlake is a horrible actor. Sigh. On Saturday I hosted a luncheon for some summer camp alumni friends of mine, went into the office for a few hours and then spent the rest of the evening with Leo. On Sunday Leo and I brought some of his guy friends out to Connecticut to play tennis and hang out by the pool. It was fun, but next time I’m definitely bringing some GIRLS with us! Also – if you missed the season premiere of True Blood last night, please watch – so glad it’s back!

Non-alcoholic Vampire Beverage

Other than that things are business as usual with me. Tonight is the last night I will chair at the Clubhouse for probably the next year while I serve as Treasurer. And in honor of my last night charing, Porsche is speaking for me! I am so grateful for having the chance of doing service for the past year but in all honesty I will not miss my last-minute speaker searchs. It will be a great adventure to serve as Treasurer for the next year – service helps me stay sober.

Still looking for some more fun guest posters! I would love for SATC to be a forum for anyone who has changed their lives and has something to say about it. Hopefully this summer will be filled with lots of fun, sober and headache-less summer activities for me to post about too. Additionally, I may start posting excerpts from my writing during high school and college when I was in over my head with depression and active addiction. I used to think my best writing came out when I was miserable…I’m not sure that’s true but some of it is heartbreaking to read now.

How was your weekend?

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Terrible Twos By Alicia

My friend Alicia has graciously offered to guest post for me – so here’s the first one!

I’d like to punch someone in the face.  Who? A mean angry sober person, a room terrorist, a bully!  In my mind, the best way to deal with bullies is to beat them up, right?  Throw a drink -er – soda in their face. Right?! No, I’m told I should feel compassion. “Pray for them.” “Some are sicker than others.” “This person is suffering.” I smile when I hear this, and think, I like to make them suffer. Not really sober thinking…and I’m 14 months sober. Not a long time but enough time. In what some call the terrible twos.  What’s funny to me is I always thought I handled things pretty well.  I thought I was dealing with my feelings, dealing with my emotions. In truth lashing out was my first reaction to most emotions.  That’s not really handling things well, I can see that now.  In the past when I’ve lashed out there were always consequences. Usually, a broken hand, or being 86’d from a bar…fear and shame. The shame lasts the longest and hurts the worst.  I can’t even remember how many times I’ve thrown a computer, phone or punched a wall in anger or frustration.  Or the one time in the last year before I came in when I punched a guy square in the nose in a bar.  Those actions never really felt good, but they were all I knew how to do when I was in a rage.  Almost like a baby who throws a violent temper tantrum when they don’t know how to deal with their feelings.  But, thank God – because of My HP, and this program, I now pause before I act.  It’s in that pause that the better choice rises up through the muck and mire of stunted thinking.
Feelings are my friend, I don’t have to fear them.  I drank to avoid feeling feelings. Now, I am not afraid of being upset, or hurt or sad. It’s normal to feel things, my problem is I didn’t know how to cope with them. Didn’t know how to process them.  One of my ‘oh snap’ moments in my first six months was when a sober friends said to me,  “Feelings are not facts.” That saying helps me to remember that I don’t have to react to every emotion I have at the moment I’m having them.  Also, pick up the phone, talk to someone, and just pause to have a clear idea of what I’m feeling and what I’m reacting to exactly.  Today when feelings come up, whether they are new feelings or familiar feelings I don’t try to hide from them or push them back down.  Sometimes I’m confounded because I don’t always know what to do with them, or even more surprising if I should trust them. 
I use a simple word for what it feels like to have all these emotions,  all these emotions that I marinated in Vodka for years, madness.   Now don’t get me wrong I don’t think I’m mad, crazy, psychotic, no… I think I’m overwhelmed with feelings and have no idea how to process them.  An emotional hangover leaves me just as confused and paralyzed as the old liquor induced ones did. But, now, I pause and I ask myself, am I angry or  embarrassed or afraid? Or threatened?  These all felt like anger when I first came in the rooms.  All these questions help me identify with more clarity what it is that’s going on inside. Then I talk to someone else and reflect. I try to figure out what is making me so angry instead of just being angry.  
The other day the aforementioned asshole was really rude, mocking and obnoxious in a meeting. Heat and rage rose up in my body.  I almost blacked out I was so angry.  I had the choice. Should I lash out? Ever single bone in my body was telling me to just do something!  Another voice was saying to trust what I’ve been told this last year and pause when agitated.  I was clearly agitated. This is much harder when you are actually pissed off.  It was a crossroad.
I made a sober choice. Yes,  I got angry, but I did not lash out. I made a statement but did not scream.  Later that week I had a dream.  I was in a similar situation and I exploded. There was a screaming match, throwing a chair…my subconscious was giving me the chance to act the way I wanted to act.  To my astonishment, when I woke up, I felt horrible.  I felt ashamed that I had lowered myself to his level.  As my head cleared I was relieved that it was just a dream.  This was a revelation to me.
It was the first time I knew something emotionally, not just intellectually.   My sober self merged with my instinctual self for that moment.    I learned something in my heart that day.   I learned that all the emotions that I’m feeling ~ first, don’t have to take over. They don’t have to rule my life.  They don’t have to present themselves in a raw rampant form shooting out of me like a bullet. Now, I can process what I’m feeling and behave according to the situation. Now that I know better, I do better.  I know that I can feel angry but not have a knee jerk reaction to it and feel worse because of my behavior. 
OK,    I’m going to blast, hit a meeting with one of my BFF in the program.    Yet, another 24 goes by, keep it simple.

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Peaceful Friday

Finally have a moment to breathe a little bit. This week has been so busy. Headaches have been on and off but I’m a little more at peace with the fact that all I can do is take care of myself and if that doesn’t solve the headaches, that’s OK. I don’t have control over my body the way I used to think I did. This is just part of HP’s plan for me I suppose. All I can do is weather the storm and try to stay positive when the lightening strikes.

It helps a lot that I have a sponsor who meets with me weekly! Last night we read through chapter three together and went over my first step assignment. Next up: step two! I’m really enjoying my time together with ASL. It is really nice to be accountable to someone every single day. Sometimes I feel like a newcomer with all my assignments, but it keeps me plugged into my recovery every day, multiple times a day. We could have talked forever last night over delicious coconut water. I am very grateful to be working the steps regularly again! To have someone to speak to about my dreams and fears, to hear the solution in her responses.

It’s been raining most of the week here in Manhattan. Let’s hope this weekend gets nicer. Caron, her Hubs and I are going to see Bad Teacher tonight in Times Square – I hope it rocks.

My guest posters are working on their pieces, so look out for them later today and next week! Thank for everyone for your offers of service!

How has your week been?

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This is Incredibly Hard

Happy Tuesday! Life is busy as ever with me. My family reunion this past weekend was incredibly beautiful and relaxing and I was headache free on Saturday which was nice. I wish I could share some pictures with you but my camera is at home. Perhaps later this week!

Work has been busy, but in the good way. My headaches, on the other hand have completely devoured any sense of well being I once had. I am in pain most of the time and also frustrated with the lack of relief. I feel as if I’m doing everything possible to help myself and my health and it seems to be worse than it was just a few months ago. I know I’m not in charge of my own life, but it’s incredibly frustrating not to be. I know I need to have faith and to trust in all the processes I’m going through, but the pain makes it so hard to believe most days. Physical therapy, acupuncture, significant diet changes, off caffiene and nicotine, on medication and herbs, there just doesn’t seem to be an end to it.

Unfortunately headaches are not like a cold – they are very nuanced and can change and be caused by a zillion different things. I feel like a cripple though – I can’t wear contacts anymore, I can’t seem to do as much socially as I was before and studying for my next exam seems to be incredibly difficult to do after a long day of working on a computer under bright flourescent lights. All I want to do is curl up on my couch and try to zone out before going to bed early.

I hate being negative, I hate having problems and living in the problem. I am trying to live in the solution the best I can, it just doesn’t seem to be that simple in this case. It’s so hard to be positive when my brain feels like its swelling and full of gravel. I just can’t take it anymore. I’ve had more health issues in the past 2 years than all the years before that combined. It’s a signal – my body is telling me that something is very wrong, I guess I just wish I knew what that was. This is a practice in the third step…turning my will and my life over to the care of the God of my understanding. I’m experiencing a challenging situation and as with most situation like this I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel but with these headeaches, it’s really hard to see that light.

I miss writing about all the fun things that I do here in the city. Unfortunately I’m just not doing as much lately and/or I just don’t have the brain power to write about it…hope things start to clear up soon. I’ll keep praying.

Have you ever had a problem you can’t seem to fix?

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First Step Discoveries

Hi guys and gals! So glad to be getting in some guest posting volunteers- it’s going to be a diverse next few weeks! Please let me know if you’d like to guest post by sending an email to soberandthecity@gmail.com! I have space for many more. Today Thursday is SATC’s “Friday” as Leo and I will be at my family reunion for a long weekend. Hooray for frequent weekend vacations…I’m liking this trend. It was ASL’s anniversary yesterday!! WOO HOO!!! Congratulations my love! I am sad I won’t be celebrating with our sponsor family tonight as Leo and I will be on the road all night.

One of my first step assignments with ASL is to write out my using/drinking history in a sort of timeline and/or to write about my last night of drinking before getting sober. My last night drinking was pretty boring and lowkey as I remember it (the tail end of a relapse), so I chose to do the timeline. We haven’t gone over it yet, so I won’t spoil our time together by giving you all the lowdown on here, but I have to say it was pretty incredible to see how far it went back, and to remember all the things I experimented with an ultimately abused along the way.

It was also pretty striking to see how much alcohol was involved in my story. Although I identify myself as an alcoholic today, I view the terms alcoholic and addict synonymously. To see the presence of alcohol in nearly every season from Spring 2001 (age 15) to Summer 2007 (age 21) was really interesting. Alcohol was never really my “drug of choice” because the morning after was always worse with alcohol than with other things. I did drink to fall asleep and to check out a lot though. And alcohol was always a good chaser to any pill or drug I was taking because it enhanced my sense of euphoria. Especially when my tolerance became really really high, I needed alcohol to help speed up the process. I was a very impatient addict – SURPISED??

I still believe that if alcohol was the only thing I was abusing I would have never come into a 12 step program at 21. It just didn’t do it for me the way other drugs did and to be honest, there was nothing wrong with binge drinking where I went to college. I hated being sick more than I liked drinking, so that also forced me not to drink heavily sometimes for days or weeks at a time. After a while I learned I could just drink a six-pack or a bottle of wine (or two) to get that buzz without needing to vomit or getting a hangover the next day. It was more like a glass of milk with dinner though, it was never the main course. But it was always present and I think I didn’t really address that in my early recovery.

I love this journey of self discovery….I never know what I will remember or what I will realize next.

What does your history look like?

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Guest Posters Wanted!

Hi everyone!

My posting has been pretty intermittant the past few weeks and I apologize for that. Work has certainly started to get in the way of my blog and I still can’t seem to get rid of these headaches which basically dictate my mental state every day. Needless to say, I think it’s time to ask for some help!

My friend V gave me a suggestion last week and I’m taking it!! I’ve decided that over the next few weeks I would love to have guest-posters write for SATC. You don’t have to have a blog to guest-post. You don’t even need to be in recovery! My only ask is that you are someone who is working to change your life somehow – in ways big or small – and want to share about it in this forum. You can be anonymous or you can promote yourself and your blog.

If you’d like to guest post – please send me an email at soberandthecity@gmail.com with the subject “Guest Post” (so I don’t overlook it!) and let me know what day you’d like to post over the next two weeks and generally what you’d like to write about and we will coordinate from there. Pictures are welcome too!

Want to write for me??

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