In this first minisode of The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast, host Ashley Loeb Blassingame and producer Christiana Kimmich are joined by author and life coach Debbie Hickey. Debbie candidly discusses the feeling of overwhelm, and how being overwhelmed can affect a person’s journey. Unlike our typical episodes, sad are a series of unscripted, unedited, and open conversations between our host and guest. You can listen to the entire conversation here.

Overwhelm

At a rather young age, Debbie found freedom in alcohol. It helped her escape from the pressure she was putting on herself to constantly achieve. “I knew I had potential, but I could never gain momentum on anything, so the margin between where I was and wanted to be was so huge, that I started to feel bad about who I was which caused me to start drinking.” 

Debbie recalls feeling awful after drinking or getting high, waking up saying, “Oh my god this is horrible. I hate where I am in my life…” Debbie started attending Al-Anon meetings, where she remembers an eye-opening moment realizing that she was an alcoholic. 

When she started on her sobriety journey, she realized that she often felt overwhelmed, to the point where it was difficult to do the everyday things that needed to be done. Even when she feels overwhelmed 29 years later, she’ll use some of the same tools that she used in the beginning of her sobriety. 

Debbie recalls that, “When I was first getting sober, it was frantic and chaotic. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s possible to have a different, less overwhelming, way of living when you can reach out to other people and find the solutions to help you.”

Tools Of The Trade

Early on, Debbie would find herself projecting outcomes before experiencing them, and regardless of how things were actually going, she’d hold on to her projection of how the situation was going to play out. To her, the idea of not knowing what was going to happen next was bad, so her projections helped her in the moment. 

It turned out for Debbie that projecting the future wasn’t good for her. One of the key tools from the start of her recovery was having a sponsor, who helped Debbie realize that projecting was not a good thing for her to do. In an effort to help stop this habit, Debbie had to be reminded that she needed to stay in the moment and take one thing at a time. Debbie remembers that, “Sometimes I just have to break it down. I have to pull myself down to the most simple terms of what I’m doing and regroup myself.” 

One of the points that Debbie remembers from her sponsor is to “just do the right thing whatever that might be.” Taking care of her fundamental needs helped Debbie stay grounded and helped her with her feelings of overwhelm on her recovery journey. To this day, whenever Debbie feels overwhelmed, she’ll break whatever she’s doing, or needs to do, down to the most simple terms and do the next right thing. 

Mindfulness

Practicing “doing the next right thing” is something that helped Debbie be mindful of what was happening around, and to, her. Part of her mindfulness practice was being sure to stay on her life path and not force herself on to other people’s path. 

Debbie remembers thinking, “Does getting sober and living a more peaceful, sober, centered life mean that you don’t accomplish your dreams and goals?” As she continued to practice mindfulness, Debbie realized that she became more organized, which helped her reach her dreams and goals, while staying on her own path. 

Then Debbie had a difficult question: “How do I appropriately align myself with the humans that I come into my life, what is my role, and am I supposed to say something or not?” She’s learned that when things are better aligned, the experiences she’s able to have with the people around her are more meaningful.

Riding Out the Bumps

Debbie will be one of the first people to say that being in recovery is hard. “I can take up a drink today – I could, I’m not cured. I have to treat my alcoholism every day in some way, shape, or form.” What helps Debbie treat her alcoholism and the people that she’s helping is recognizing that she’s been through it – there are hardships and that while she doesn’t like the hardships, she doesn’t like it to go to waste either.

Debbie believes that when people are open to and accepting of the hardships around them, they are able to grow in their own life journeys. When she goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she still says to herself, “Look at these human beings that are coming together to help each other,” and sees it as an amazing expression of people trying to help and heal themselves and one another. 

*Quotes have been edited for clarity.