Ray of Light Interview No. 40 :: Jeni Cahill

Every Friday for the entire 2017 calendar year, I release a new interview + a newly created mixed media piece of art as part of my weekly Ray of Light Interview Series: Women in Recovery. This series features brave, kickass, beautiful women who have chosen to embrace an alcohol-free lifestyle. The light was dimmed for these women when they were struggling with alcohol (either a little or a lot).  I wish to honor them for their brave choice to ditch alcohol, rediscover themselves through sobriety + shine bright in the process.  You can access links to the entire series by clicking here.

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Jeni Cahill
Mama. Writer. Cook. Teetotaler. 
Love Warrior. Artist. 
Instagram handle: @the2smama

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
We met pretty quickly after the secret Facebook group for the HOME podcast opened its online front door. I believe we met as two of the first thirty or so women in the group.

What is your sobriety date? October 3rd, 2015!!!!!

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
Yes. Not daily anymore. I remember when I was 1 month and I counted days for the first 3-4 months then gradually it turned to weeks and now months.

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting? If so, please share.
I use CleanTime Counter. It’s a simple app. I like things as simple as possible these days.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
God is first for me. I grew up Mormon but when my grandma died in 1994, my mom stopped going to church which meant that we (my sister and brother) would, too. When I was about 20 I found the book Conversations With God: An Uncommon Dialogue by Neale Donald Walsch. There was a sentence in the beginning of this book of God asking  “Do you think I know not what I do?” I remember being completely swept away right then. I re-read this over and over. I ended up getting the whole series of the Conversations With God books and with that, I found myself on a spiritual quest. I would go on to read Gary Zukav, James Redfield, Paulo Coelho and Eckhart Tolle. I was thick into reading, writing and art for some years.

God has always been very important and real to me and I've always held my relationship with Him very high. There was a time though that I specifically remember thinking to myself that I couldn't remember the last time I had actually prayed. I had to be during my mid-twenties or something. That stunned me that I had actually forgotten about God. How could this even be?

Life would happen and I found myself drinking regularly. God would save me from this even in my early thirties. God was always there even when I was a mess. I always knew I was loved by Him even when I forgot about him.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic? No.

If you do not identify with the word alcoholic, what do you identify with?
I simply say that I do not drink. I do believe a habit (just like any other) is started and then a sickness begins to fester throughout the whole body. I think the reason the addiction takes hold is because there is not just one single part of the body being affected but, rather, the mind and every other organ in the body, as well as the literal energy around us. We become sick and there is no magic pill like there is for so many other illnesses. The best I can explain it is that I just cannot mess with the stuff at all. I do not have a label for it but alcohol is not something that I can manage or trust myself with. When I was drinking I never knew how it would affect me emotionally and the not knowing was the worst part but, of course, I still drank. As time went on, it got worse. It became sad. I was breaking my own heart.

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  1. Prayer (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit)
  2. Journaling
  3. Motherhood

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
My decision came in the form of total and complete desperation. The day I decided I was done I woke up still drunk from the night before. The feeling of total dread and worry and panic, skimming through my mind about everything that happened the night before and, although technically I was ok and so was my boyfriend, I truly was not okay. This was not okay. I had to stop and I knew I had to stop that day. I had to and I would. But I did not know that I would really be done until I was. I said out loud many times per day that I wanted this more than ANYTHING else in the world. I meant this with my whole self. I didn't feel like I was forcing it. I wasn't trying to convince myself of this. I truly meant it. And at this point in my life I was in the process of looking for a new house and I was taking all the steps one would do to purchase a home. I slammed on the brakes and put a huge halt to that and anything else that would require my attention except my daughter and my job. I HAD to be done for good, forever. I was going to fight for my life.

Are you more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
I'm way more connected to nature which gives me inspiration. I've always been a creative person though. I quit writing in my late-twenties for a few years and I would even talk about this with my mom often about how much I missed writing, but I couldn't bring myself to do it because I would have to cry and I was so tired of crying. But in sobriety, one of the best parts has been just this! I actually look forward to big emotions and welcome the toughest ones. The clarity and realization that has come has been so instrumental in healing many parts of myself that I wasn't able to feel or even look at before. I wasn't able to bare pain and so I wouldn't purposely try to touch it, which is what writing made me do.

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking? 
Most definitely! I actually get things done. I stopped making excuses and procrastinating. I keep my word and my integrity is at a level I never knew before. I’m on time and if something does come up or plans require changing or adjusting, I am honest about this and am not afraid of disappointing people and then making it worse by telling lies to soften the circumstances. I just say what’s what and tell the truth. The best part of this is that I can unashamedly and confidently teach my seven year old daughter how to do the same thing, because now, I’m not a hypocrite. When we are honest I believe that’s when we are most free and with freedom we can be our most productive selves in any circumstance.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
How safe I feel. Safe with myself. Safe to wake up. Safe to go to sleep. Safe to drive. Safe to answer my phone. Safe to be a friend. Also, my social anxiety being lifted. No more hangovers and wasted days. The unfolding of my life and the realizations I’ve come to understand now. Being able to sit with my feelings and actually feel myself welcoming them, even the very painful ones. Motherhood and being fully present for our relationship. The way my compassion and empathy has elevated to such high levels. All of the women I have come to know and seeing the relationships unfold. I know there are most certainly some relationships that will be lifelong.

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
We have all been there. I did not know my last day would actually be my last day until it was. I do not think anyone did. The beginning is hard and there is NO WAY AROUND THAT. You must go through the pain, not around it. The promise though is that once you get through that door, when the key finally turns, you'll know it. The tears and anxiety will lessen until you no longer feel struggle. I remember everyday for the first six months thinking about alcohol on some level, even if it was that I wasn't going to drink. Or that I passed a liquor store 50 times a day and I noticed it. The drinking dreams will stop. Sometimes that would be the worst part, the drinking dreams, but know that you are normal. They happen and they will stop.

The decision to finally, once and for all, stop drinking or stop whatever it is that is keeping you bound, came for me in the form of wanting this MORE THAN ANYTHING and I found myself circling around a thought that would keep me sober, which was this: If I can't trust myself to keep this promise to myself and I can't stand up for me, then I can never expect anyone else to keep their promises to me or stand up for me. And so there I was, setting the standard for my life and everything else would follow.

Also, pray on your knees and thank God daily for all of the ways He relentlessly has chased you. Follow your heart when the Holy Spirit speaks. Never hesitate!! Follow that unmistakable push and pull.

Can you recommend three books, bloggers or teachers that have helped you on this path to sobriety?

  1. Glennon! 
     
  2. I Am Second Film Series/Stories
     
  3. Laura McKowen (she was my way in and it was beautiful)

Are you part of a tribe or a recovery community that supports your sobriety?  If so, how did you figure out how to find that tribe/community.  What was your path to discovering it?
Yes. I am part of the HOME podcast secret Facebook group. I found the co-host, Laura McKowen, first through her blog “I Fly At Night” and then heard the HOME podcast when it was just starting. Shortly thereafter, Laura and her co-host, Holly Whitaker, announced that they were starting a secret group on Facebook. I immediately joined the group and from there I would come across all of the women and the most important ingredients that I would need to help me form a solid foundation from which I stand now today and where I am able to recover out loud and proud!

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
That I have confidence in who I am and that I can confidently bare my testimony of this with other people. I am proud that I can teach my daughter by setting the example I want her to follow. AND, most important, that God heard my prayers. Use me God, use Me, and they were answered.


POSTSCRIPT FROM JENI

 Tuli + Rad 2017

Tuli + Rad 2017

My recovery story cannot fully be told now unless I include my nephew Rad in it and how he made us a family of three. I've had several people write me letting me know that they've been following Rad's story and saying how they've even had dreams that included him in them and how they pray for him and they even send me random pictures of merchandise that says "RAD" on it. He's quite special and apparently to more people than I actually knew. To read more about how Rad came to be with us, please click here.