Speaking at Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba

Last week I gave a presentation at Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba entitled The Backpack Chronicles: The path to sobriety and mental wellness through nature.

I had no idea how many people would show up and I imagined anywhere from one person to a packed room with standing space only. A Facebook event had been created but from former experience in hosting direct sales parties, Facebook RSVP’s are never accurate. I figured too that because the topic is on mental health, the people who would be interested in the subject may not want to come out because of their own personal matters with anxiety or having a rough time with depression.

Seven people came to hear me speak, which I think was an incredibly perfect number. It was my first time standing in front of a group of people to share some nitty-gritty details about my path to sobriety. There was a familiar face in the crowd too which put me at ease. I jumped up and gave her a big hug as soon as I saw her walk into the room.

I created twenty-four pages of speaking notes, that read like a diary kept safe with a little lock and key. I spoke and told my story using meaningful photos on a PowerPoint presentation. I had a lot of fun creating my presentation.

I elicited laughter from the group with the authentic humour I added into my narrative. It was sweet to see people smile and to chuckle at the lighter parts of heavy topics. I like to find silver linings in hardships.

I chronicled my innocent childhood days and the destruction that came in my adolescence and young-adult life. I also proudly spoke about being a Royal Canadian Sea Cadet and how the program gave me discipline and structure that I needed. Without the cadet program, I would not be who I am today.

I spoke about the complicated hurdles that I encountered during my first year of sobriety and what it was like to find my footing on shaky ground as the only real-life sober person I knew in my circle of friends and acquaintances. I have since met others who are sober or choose not to drink alcohol for a handful of different reasons and there is a comfort in not feeling so alone anymore.

I declared that it was during the second year of my sobriety when my life really started to open up and hiking became a strong part of my growth. The rewards I had earned were starting to flow in. The removal of alcohol created more space for me step outside of my comfort zone and to welcome in new experiences.

Removing alcohol from my life and embracing a sober lifestyle has opened up more doors for me than I ever thought imaginable. It was liberating and therapeutic to share my story with a group of people. I can see first hand why the memoirs I read one after another have captivated and moved me. There is something very powerful about bringing people into your journey and giving them a glimpse into what broke you down and what made you stronger.

Be well.

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