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6 lessons I learned from 6 years sober


Today I have been sober for six years! I should be used this word -- sober -- by now, but sometimes it still shocks me that I'm the one saying it. That I've been saying it for six years. Over the past six years, I've taken away some pretty big life lessons from living sober. Here are the top six lessons I've learned. Even if you're not sober or trying to get sober, I hope they'll inspire you!  



It took me a long time to get and stay sober because there wasn't anything I wanted more than the rush of going out and drinking. It wasn't until I started Positively Present and started seeing a wonderful therapist that I realized that my alcohol-fueled behavior wasn't at all in line with the kind of life I wanted to be living: a positive, present one.

Once I had something that mattered more to me than drinking and the exciting possibility of having a wild night, I realized I had to change. I wanted to be more at peace with who I was and I wanted to make positive choices. With that at the forefront of my mind, I was able to begin making changes and, ultimately, was able to quit drinking. 



Cliche? Yep! But it's a oft-repeated phrase for a reason: it's true. What scared me most about the thought of sobriety was that I'd never, ever drink again. Telling me I can't do something is one of the quickest ways to get me to want to do it. So instead of focusing on the never, ever, ever part of sobriety, I choose to focus on a single day.

Whenever I'm struggling, I tell myself, "I'm not going to drink today." Today seems much more manageable than thinking I'll never drink again. This present-focused trick works for any negative behavior. If you're struggling to stay on track, tell yourself, "I'm not going to drink today" or "I'm not going to text him today" or "I'm not going to eat a whole bag of junk food today." If you're still struggling (as I sometimes am), break it down further and promise yourself not to drink, etc. for an hour. 



Sobriety comes with a variety of level of loneliness. First, there will be people who don't get why you're getting sober. Because you're not waking up in a gutter or destroying your life, sometimes people will have trouble grasping just how negatively alcohol has impacted your life.

There will be people struggling with their own addiction issues. Admitting you have a problem means they might have to take a look at their own actions, and this might be difficult for them. Rather than do this, they'll simply shrug off your sobriety as something dramatic rather than necessary. 

Also, being the only one at the party not drinking can be lonely at times. No one seems to care that I'm sober (people I know well are used to it and new people are usually impressed or curious), but it's still isolating, particularly when drinking used to be my go-to resource for easing my social anxiety. But, for me, the little bit of loneliness is worth the positive benefits of being sober. 



By far the hardest lesson I've had to learn is getting to know who I truly am without alcohol. When I drank, I became a lot of things I'm normal not: brave, social, adventurous. Through sobriety I've had to learn which traits are truly me and which were fueled by alcohol. And, in some cases (like socializing), I've had to learn how to cope with my anxiety sans alcohol, which has been challenging at times. 

Also, without alcohol to numb emotions, sobriety requires that you really get in touch with your emotions. Sobriety is scarily real. There is no escape from who you are or how you feel. My flaws and my feelings are glaringly obvious (as are my mistakes, which now can no longer hide behind the words, "Sorry! I was so drunk!"). 

Feeling all the feelings and being who you truly are is hard, but it's made me stronger than I ever was before. I'm more self-aware and much more in control of my choices than I was six years ago and no amount of partying could ever feel better than that. 



Triggers sounds like a word that should be reserved for hard-core drug addicts, but was all have triggers -- situations, people, or things that prompt us to behave in ways we'd rather not. Sobriety has taught me how important it is to recognize those triggers and avoid them if possible. 

Some triggers -- like a wine tasting -- are avoidable for me. Others, like a stressful day or a beautiful summer afternoon, are not. I do my best to avoid situations that will be difficult for me. And, for those that I can't avoid, I do what I can to make it easier on myself. For example, I know Saturday nights are hard for me so I'll make plans to keep my mind off of drinking or, if I have to attend a triggering event, like a wedding, I might leave a bit early if I feel heightened temptation. 

I'm not sure why this is, but simply being aware of a trigger makes it easier to cope with. Maybe it's because you have an idea of why you're feeling the way you are and, with a solid explanation in hand, you can better choose how to react rather than impulsively responding. For example, let's say when you're really stressed at work, you're more likely to snap at your children when you get home. If you're aware of this, you can do a few things to make it better: try to lessen the stress at work, try to minimize stressful feelings by calming yourself on the ride home, or explain to your children that you've had a bad day and you might need a little less interaction that night.

Knowing your triggers is incredibly helpful, even if you can't always avoid them. And this goes for all kinds of situations -- what triggers you to feel angry at your partner, what triggers you to feel extra stressed out, what triggers you to eat an entire gallon of ice cream. So often we're impulsively reacting instead of thinking about why we're making the choices we are. 



Wallowing in the past does absolutely no good. You cannot go back and change it (no matter how much you might like to!). To be truly present, you have to accept what's past. But accepting isn't the same as forgetting. And, when it comes to sobriety, it's critical not to forget the bad things.

Yes, that sounds exactly opposite of saying positively present -- focusing on the negative aspect of past -- but romanticizing the past, especially if you're trying to get or stay sober, is dangerous. It's hard sometimes not to long for the days when I was laughing with friends, a cold beer in hand, or hitting the dance floor with my Red Bull-and-vodka-fueled confidence, but I have to remind myself that it wasn't all laughter and dancing. 

Drinking had serious consequences for me and, while I certainly don't want to dwell on the past, sometimes I have to recall some of the negative situations I encountered as a reminder to myself that I am better -- and safer -- when I'm sober. 


I also made a YouTube video (warning: it's a long one) about why I chose to get sober and I go into more detail about these six lessons. You can watch it below or click this link.  




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positively present picks : july 8, 2016

Inhale Exhale


“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”

Scott Adams



June Favorites! : my new YouTube video on things I'm loving this month

In Praise of Short-Term Love : wow. this video really made me think...

Unicorn Paperclip Holder* : do I need this? yes, yes I definitely do.

5 Tips to Deal with Insomnia : great advice for sleepless nights

The Mana Journal : I love the concept + layout of this beautiful journal

10 Ways to Increase Your Concentration : really motivating tips here

Happy Socks Summer Sale!* : I absolutely love these cute socks

Less Hate, More Love Pins : get yours now + support a great cause! 

The Difficulty of Being Present : it's so, so hard sometimes, isn't it? 

Increase the Power of the Law of Attraction : focus on what you want

Irregular Choice Shoes* : OMG. how crazy / cool are these shoes?!

You Don't Have to Do It All : yes, it's okay to say no + focus on you 



Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"What's It Gonna Be?" — Shura
"Stone Cold" (Cover) — Mackenzie Johnson
"Silver & Gold" — WILD
"Sincerely" — Stephen
"Sledgehammer" — Rihanna
"New Start"— Jole
"I Love the USA" — Weezer
"Let It Go" — James Bay
"Sit Still Look Pretty" — Daya
"You Don't Think You Like People Like Me" — Alex Lahey



Check out my reading list on GoodReads.

The Year We Left Home*
Jean Thompson

A Certain Age*
Beatriz Williams


I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present
Dani DiPirro 


Links marked with asterisks are affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page. 

reaching rainbows: an interview with dallas clayton

  Powerful questionsAll images via Dallas Clayton


You know that feeling when you get the chance to interview one of your favorite artists? Yeah, I didn't either... until last week! I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the brilliant and talented Dallas Clayton on positivity and his work and I'm so excited to share our little Q&A with you. If you're not familiar with him, you should be! He's an amazing author, illustrator, public speaker, mural painter, and adventure seeker. Check him out at

DallasYour work always seems to come from a positive place. Have you always been a positive person? If not, how did you acquire such an optimistic outlook? 

It takes effort, I feel, to want to be better and to want to make things better. I don't know that my goal is positivity so much as an honest attempt at celebrating that which I find beautiful.

There are plenty of people who find chaos and destruction and tumult and distress beautiful. In many ways this is because the traditional standards of beauty seem foreign and unrelatable to them.

If everyone arounds you thinks the color blue is beautiful and you think everyone around you is terrible and oppressive it can be easy to see the color blue as terrible and oppressive too.

My teenage years felt a lot like that, looking around at everything that was blue and calling it stupid. Since then, I've grown and explored and met people and raised a child and fallen in love many times over with the world, so the most honest thing I can do is to say "I too have hated the color blue, but have you ever looked at the color blue from this angle, it's pretty rad - also colors don't actually exist in the real world, just in your brain, so if you don't like the way a color looks, make up your own." That's what I'm trying to do most of the time. 

You have so many wonderfully inspiring works of art. Do you have a favorite piece? Why do you like that one the best?  

I like to live in a world where favorites and ranks don't matter so much. Sometimes the feeling of a brush on a page or a stick of chalk on the sidewalk is reward enough.

The things I like about making work will no doubt be different than the things you like about taking it in. A nice feeling is when someone else takes my work and makes it their favorite, and then turns it in to work of their own. I like that. 

Rainbow Dallas ClaytonYour "Reaching Rainbows" design is one of my favorites. What inspired you to create that? What does it mean for you? 

It's been a slow evolution, like most ideas. Just sketches that become more defined with each iteration.

I like the thought of people lifting, reaching, celebrating. Nothing in their hands but potential. This is the core of it. Where it lands, I have no idea.  

What inspired or encouraged you to pursue life as an author, artist, and illustrator? Did you always know this would be the path for you? 

The longer I live, the less of a choice it seems. Like asking someone why they chose to be a person.

Author and illustrator and artist are just titles to make it easier to have conversations, but what we are really saying is "why aren't you doing what everyone else is doing?" The answer to this is because "I am not everyone else, just as they are not me." 

If you could tell your past self one thing, what would it be? What would you tell your future self? 

I think my past self and my future self talk all the time when I'm not around. Mostly, I imagine they are having a real laugh. 

What's one thing (creative or otherwise) you'd recommend that Positively Present readers do today to help spread positivity in the world around them? 

Right NowFind someone who seems like they are all alone and talk to them. 


Thank you so much to Dallas for taking the time to answer these questions! He's such an inspiration to me -- his artwork, his lifestyle, his attitude -- and I'm so grateful to have had a chance to connect with him. I hope you enjoyed learning more about him. Check out his work at, where you can visit his beautiful shop, pick up one of his books, and learn more about his illustration. And I highly recommend following him on Instagram. His work brightens up my days and it's also so inspiring to see people around the world sharing his inspiration and spreading positivity! 




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positively present picks : july 1, 2016

No Apologies for Being


“When are you going to realize that being normal isn't
necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage."

Alice Hoffman in Practical Magic


Less Hate, More Love Pins : get yours now + support a great cause! 

On the Importance of Drawing : this really makes me want grab a pencil

Now on YOUTUBE! : check out my first two YouTube videos :) 

How to Love in the Present Moment Without Fear : hard, but worth it

Illustrator Class : just started this one over at Atly + love it!

Don't Ask for Permission : instead, try showing up with intent

Leftover Wrapping Paper? : use it to make this beautiful collage

The Surprising Psychology of Going on Vacation : interesting!

Inflatable Pizza!* : if I had a pool, this would be in it for sure

How's Your Relationship with the Sun? : I could really relate to this

The Art of Being Happily Single : yes, you can be alone and happy

Refuse to Worry : exploring the difference between worry + concern

Ink & Main* : get 20% off custom cards with the code SUMMER20! 



Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"Wild" — Troye Sivan + Alessia Cara
"I Took a Pill in Ibiza" (Cover) — Sonna Rele
"Bitter Leaf" — LANKS
"Arkansas" — Garrett Kato
"Oasis" (Cover) — Jasmine Thompson
"Cinnamon"— Jome
"Over Your Shoulder" — Rudderless
"Words" — Birdy
"Chasing the Sinking Sun" — Shout Out Louds
"July Flame" — Laura Veirs



Check out my reading list on GoodReads.

The Biographer's Tale: A Novel*
A.S. Byatt

Once Upon a Time There Was You*
Elizabeth Berg


I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present
Dani DiPirro 


Links marked with asterisks are affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page.