::Dry in January (and beyond) – Part One:

‘Tis the season for gathering with family and friends to celebrate the holidays and ring in a shiny new year. The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years are filled with endless preparation… planning, shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning… and celebrating… office parties, family gatherings, get-togethers with friends, New Years Eve soirees… Honestly? It’s no wonder we drink so much this time of year. It’s also not surprising that so many people vow to take a break or cut back come January.

Around this time last year, I was already plotting my exit from the alcohol-induced merriment that I’d grown so accustomed to over the previous twenty-some years. It was my survival mechanism. That is until I realized that I don’t want to merely survive the holidays – or life, for that matter. I want to experience it all fully. I want to experience every precious moment of this beautiful, messy, complex life without it all being dull around the edges.

Me. Not dull. (Oh, and I survived a trip to the mall – one week before Christmas – without a single drop of alcohol! I also left empty-handed.)

I’d wager a safe bet that I’m not alone.

After I “came out” sober, a handful of friends and acquaintances reached out with questions about how I knew I was ready to step away from the vino and go dry. (As a side note, I’ll tell you that coming out to my friends and family was really difficult. In fact, I didn’t even tell my husband what I was up to until I was 36 days in and he was the first person I told!)

As I approach the one-year mark, I’m acutely aware that there are a number of people in my circle who are trying to figure out what their relationship with alcohol is. You see, it’s not all black and white, cut and dry, one-size-fits-all. For those that, like myself, don’t identify with what we’ve been programmed to think of when we hear the word alcoholic or alcoholism, there is a lot – and I mean A LOT – of gray area.

Every single story is different. Every single reason for quitting is unique. Every single person is fighting their own battle. And every single story, reason, and person matters.

The reason I’m writing this post, and let me be frank, I never intended for this website to be laden with posts on the topic of sobriety. However, what I’ve discovered this year is that it needs to be talked about. These stories need to be shared. There is a real need for people to be transparent with their struggles surrounding alcohol consumption so that the stigma is removed and people feel safe to reach out to one another without fear of being judged or labeled regardless of whether they are fighting true alcohol addiction or not.

Besides, I’m a storyteller and the story I know best is my own so I’ll share as I please.

Anyway, a good friend sent me a text message a couple of days ago asking if I had time to chat. A few hours later, over coffee (though separated by at least 1000 miles) she asked me for some tips on going dry in January. I gave her a few suggestions based on a variety of practices that I relied upon during those first few weeks and months. Many of which I still utilize. Later, still thinking about our conversation and reminiscing my own start to the dry life – having no one to talk to, no guidance, no idea that there was a community of support and resources out there, and feeling like I was floating in space alone – I thought that I could offer what I didn’t have to anyone that is considering going dry in January or beyond. 

Therefore, part two of this post will be a comprehensive collection of every website, podcast, and Instagram feed, as well as products I’ve used, practices in my daily life, and tips that I discovered that have been a resource throughout my journey this past year. In the meantime, if you feel drawn to connect, ask questions about going dry in January, or just need to be reassured that you are not floating in space alone, please, please, please shoot me an email at hyla@hylaridenour.com.

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::A brief recap of NaNoWriMo::

Even though November is a distant memory, I’m still getting regular email from the National Novel Writing Month organization (NaNoWriMo). The messages in my inbox consist of requests for support, opportunities for writers to get feedback on their manuscripts, or alerts about new blog posts on topics such as maintaining creative momentum and the next steps in the pursuit of publishing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for supporting this awesome organization and welcome mail from them! However, each email has been a somewhat bitter reminder of my failed attempt to participate in the movement. (I wrote a little bit about what derailed my efforts here.) Having had a little time to reflect these past few weeks following NaNoWriMo, I’ve realized that I actually gained some solid insight from my attempt… even if I don’t have a complete manuscript to show for it.

Four things I learned attempting to participate in NaNoWriMo 2017.

Lesson #1

In the weeks leading up to November, I was at a complete loss for an idea – a story – to write about. Then, magically one day in the shower, I was struck by an idea. A good idea (at least I think it’s a good idea and that’s all that matters, right?)! For the past year, I’ve been so attached to the work of my first (still in progress) novel, The Colonel’s Keeper, that I couldn’t see past it or believe that I was capable of unlocking another creative treasure buried somewhere deep inside my subconscious. I was pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise!

Lesson #2

One of my concerns leading up to NaNoWriMo was whether or not I should finish my current manuscript first and either not participate or put it on hold to work on the new idea. I chose the latter. Even now, I’m not really sure I’ve found the right answer but instinctively, I feel like I should focus on one project at a time and finish what I’ve already started before moving onto the next thing. The preparation I did for NaNoWriMo has allowed me to create a pretty solid story and foundation for my next novel and I look forward to working on it at a later date. I even have a head start since I wrote almost 4,000 words! But that said, this experience taught me that I’m a one manuscript at a time kind of writer.

Lesson #3

Something I’ve been exploring this year is realistic vs. unrealistic expectations in relation to how much I can juggle at any given time. Beginning in January, I had four big projects vying for my attention. I was training for a spring marathon, studying to take an exam to earn my real estate license, trying to build my freelance writing business, and write a novel. I felt overwhelmed for the first few months of the year and not certain that any one of those things was really getting the attention they deserved. The first thing to go was marathon training. I got injured and then sick in February which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was forced to take that off the table. Later, I decided that my heart is not in real estate and decided to not pursue my license. That, of course, left the writing stuff, because honestly, that IS where my heart is.

The lesson here is that four is too much. Three is a little more manageable. Two is ideal. Two is my magic number.

As far as how this was applied to my NaNoWriMo experience, I guess that what I’m trying to say is that I simply had too much on my plate in November and I didn’t recognize that until after I’d already announced my participation. I’m hopeful that this will allow me to plan better for the 2018 event.

As a side note, this topic is something that I plan to explore deeper as we move into 2018 and I begin planning and goal setting. I have also discovered the paralysis that comes from having so many ideas, goals, and ambitions… basically, I recede into a prolonged state of disorientation and get NOTHING accomplished. I intend to streamline my workflow a bit better so I can truly focus on things that light me up.

Lesson #4

Time away from my first project has rekindled the desire to see it through to completion. Honestly, I was a little scared that if I took time away from writing The Colonel’s Keeper, I may not return to that work. Those few weeks – okay… months, if I’m being honest – that I put that project on hold and let my project have my attention turned out to be the refresh I needed. I’ve been slowly making my way back and feel recharged. NaNoWriMo gave me the opportunity to step back and take a much-needed break to process where I was and where I am heading.

I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next 10.5 months because now I need to finish the two manuscripts I’ve started so I can have a clean slate come NaNoWriMo 2018!

The write life.

How do we live the writer’s life? There’s only one simple answer: we write. ~Dani Shapiro

::Eleven::

Eleven months ago today was the beginning. A radical decision was instigated which would potentially forever change the course of my life and allow me to evolve into the person I so desired to be. Eleven months ago today was the first day I chose a sober existence. And now, 335 days later, I still choose it. Every single day I recommit myself to my choice and marvel at what I’ve gained on this new path.

I’ve been floating around lately, a little lost professionally, I suppose. My head swirls with ideas for stories, articles, essays, and the like but I’ve had a difficult time focusing my energy and effort on any of them. I thought this week would be a good week to sort through some projects I’ve started over the course of the year. To bring it full circle, I unearthed a folder of essays I began writing in the beginning stages of my new booze-free life. Since I have no plans for the small collection, I thought I’d share one of the short essays I wrote early on.

My intention is not to shame my family, friends, or readers who drink; we are adults after all and I truly believe “to each their own.” I would, however, like to offer some insight regarding my choice to remove it from my life with the hope that it might help someone else who is examining their own relationship with alcohol.

A couple of days ago I had one of those days. Prior to five months ago, it would have been one of those kind of days in which I would have tried to remedy the onslaught of emotions and angst with a glass, or six, of wine. In fact, I spoke with my mother-in-law a few hours after the incident in question and told her what had happened. She said, “Oh, girl, you need a glass of wine.”

The old me would have agreed with her wholeheartedly. In fact, by the time I would have spoken to her, I’d already be half a bottle in. But the new me? The sober me? Well, the last thing this girl needs is a glass of wine.

I’ve spent a number of years drowning my sorrows and coping with life’s challenges and discomfort by self-medicating with alcohol. In fact, my husband and I even shared a hashtag (#needadrinkstat) that we’d send one another whenever we were feeling the need to escape; when everything just seemed too much. Alternately, I’ve also used it to celebrate anything and everything. New job? Check. Made it through Tuesday? Check. Birthday? Anniversary? Christmas? National Haiku Day? Check, check, check, and check.

After a while though, I hated to think that I “needed” a substance to deal. I was very much aware of the fact that I didn’t need to drink but rather chose to. Rather than taking some time to sit with how I was feeling and figuring out how to create a strategy to rise above whatever was conflicting me, I’d try to ignore it by numbing it temporarily. Most of the time, it would make me more emotional and feel worse the next day. For the record, trying to get your shit together seems a zillion times more challenging when you’re hungover.

The lesson here is that I’ve learned what I do need to cope when life throws a bushel of lemons at me. It sure as heck ain’t a margarita. Rather, it’s a hug, a nap, or a hot bath. It’s a cup of coffee or tea accompanied by a small chocolatey treat. It’s a workout, a walk, or a few minutes submerged in a good read. It’s a quiet space to clear my head, light some palo santo, and take a few deep breaths. It might include scrolling through a few inspiring Instagram accounts; especially ones that belong to my sober sisters. It’s learning to let go of the negative shit and remembering that whatever sparked my distraught will pass.

We don’t need alcohol but we choose it above other remedies because it’s what we’ve been programmed to do. I don’t need alcohol to celebrate or mourn or unwind at the end of a rough day. I need to nurture my spirit in the most compassionate way possible, not poison myself with intoxicants that temporarily blur the lines. I’m hoping next time I run into a similar scenario, my well-meaning loved ones will say something along the lines of “oh, girl, you need a bath!” or I shoot a message to my mister that says something like #needsomepalosantostat.

 

 

::November was like WHOA!::

November was a wild, wild ride!

If you’ve been following along, you know that I spent pretty much the entire month on the road, traveling with my mister who was hired on a film project that shot entirely on location in Idaho. I feel so very fortunate that we could experience this adventure as a family – which also allowed us the ability to spend time with our loved ones that live up north. Idaho is a stunning state that speaks to my innate desire for slow, soulful living. I really enjoyed exploring the small communities that we stayed in, meeting new people, and being enveloped in the vast and diverse landscape.

I’m happy to be home now though and looking forward to a somewhat quiet month and holiday in LA. One of the takeaways from our month touring the Pacific Northwest is how much I crave slow living. I love, love, love travel and adventures and such, but I also love the simple kind of life and am determined more than ever to create that existence despite living in a bustling city.

There were a lot of highlights this past month!

➼ Reaching 330 days of sobriety and surviving the beginning of the holiday season without the desire to drink.

➼ Attempting to participate in National Novel Writing Month. It did not go as planned. However, it provided me with the opportunity to develop new ideas for my next novel and I did write 3,895 words.

➼ Witnessing my daughter and her partner complete the process of purchasing their first home!

➼ Spending time with my parents. Although brief, we got to celebrate the holidays with my mom and dad and I really enjoyed being with them.

➼ Thanksgiving. Over the years, it has become my favorite holiday.

➼ Visiting our family and friends while up north and savoring every second.

➼ Feeling loved by friends in LA. Making friends as an adult is really hard. I’ve been fortunate to find a few wonderful new ones within my CrossFit community who messaged me several times while I was away to tell me they missed me and looked forward to my return. Their messages made my heart melt.

➼ Deciding, officially, that we’d spend Christmas and New Years in Los Angeles. We have never not spent Christmas with our families but given our recent travels, we’ve decided to stay put in December. We are embracing the choice and looking forward to a quiet holiday.

➼ Attending four (yes, only four) CrossFit classes. However, the cool thing is that each of those classes was at a different gym in three different states!

➼ Savoring the last two days of our journey back home by traveling the 101 from Tillamook, Oregon, to San Francisco. We slept in a yurt and cooked over a campfire the first night and stayed in the heart of San Francisco the second night waking to views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

➼ Growing. There has been a lot of growth beneath the surface this year and I feel like November was a big month as part of my evolution. I will probably elaborate on this more in a separate post in the coming weeks.

I am truly looking forward to settling in for the season and wish you and yours a magical December!

On location in Cottonwood, Idaho, at Dog Bark Park Bed and Breakfast. No joke. You can sleep inside that beagle!

 

 

:: Mid Month Check-in ::

This morning, after a period of disbelief over the fact that it is officially the middle of November and one week until Thanksgiving (how can that be?!), I started to slip down the slope of self-criticism. For starters, my intention to write a 50,000-word novel as a participant of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) went down the shitter about three days in. I also promised myself that I’d practice my handstand skills every day. And seek new freelance writing gigs. And… I’ll stop there. The kicker is that I also volunteered myself to work behind the scenes on social media content for a film being shot on location in various parts of Idaho. So all of that while traveling and spending several hours each day on set too. Doh.

Almost two weeks ago, a newsletter landed in my email inbox from writer, artist, and fellow sober sister, Tammi Salas, that really hit home. In it, she talks about how, and I’m summarizing here, overachievement is a type of drunkenness. We set these lofty goals and create high expectations and it does feel a little like being drunk; because when we’ve altered our state of being and inhibition has left the building, anything is possible, right?

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

You see, just because I quit drinking alcohol over 1,000 days ago doesn’t mean I still don’t get drunk. I get drunk on ideas and to-do lists sometimes. I get drunk on overachieving and seeing if I can channel my inner-Martha Stewart on-demand. I get drunk on unattainable goals. And, I most definitely get drunk on unrealistic expectations. This, my friends, is when I am most definitely NOT (emotionally) sober.

She goes on to say that we can give ourselves permission to stop the insanity and that it is okay change our minds, our direction, our plan, our whatever. We have the power to quiet that nagging, insistent voice that says we have to do ALL THE THINGS. We don’t. We really don’t.

This has been a recurring theme for me quite some time and I’m so over it! I will definitely be doing some personal work in the coming weeks and months to free myself from this cycle. (In fact, I’ve been trying to read Present Over Perfect for a few months now and it seems fitting that I dive back into that asap!)

I should note that while the past few weeks have been a whirlwind, I’ve gotten to explore Idaho and see parts of the country I’d never seen before. I fell head-over-heels in love with the city of Coeur D’Alene which is now in a heated battle with my number one dream city to live in, Bend, Oregon (or central Oregon in general). I’ve met a number of great people and spent time with old friends. I’ve worked alongside my husband on a film set for the first time and in a few days, will witness my son act for the first time as one of the characters in the film. And, I’ve still got ideas and stories floating around in my head that I am determined to craft into manuscripts.

Oh, and today I practiced my handstand so not all is lost.

If your curious about my behind the scenes work on the film Mischief Upon Mischief, follow along on Instagram at @MUMMovie.

:: Where did October go? ::

I cannot wrap my head around the fact that October has already come and gone. It’s absolutely, hands-down, my favorite month of the year. I could wax poetic about my love for October for days. However, I’m incredibly busy and don’t have that kind of time right now.

This October was wild; a whirlwind of milestones, travel, and trying to keep my head on straight in the midst of it all.

 Began the month in Prescott, AZ.

Celebrated turning 40 years old.

Got three new tattoos.

Enjoyed kayaking Watson Lake with my boys as a belated birthday outing.

Attended 19 CrossFit classes (in four different states!)

Climbed to the top of the rope at CrossFit for the first time.

PR’d my back squat.

Reached 300 days of sobriety.

➼ Closed out the month in Idaho.

Enjoyed spending time with my daughter, in-laws, and parents.

Savored all things autumn in the Pacific Northwest!

Started prepping for National Novel Writing Month.

November is going to be another crazy month filled with a ton of travel and adventure, work, projects, and challenges. But that said, I’m thankful for this life we’ve created and for the opportunities that have been given to us.

Have a great month!

:: National Novel Writing Month ::

Several years ago, in early November, a flier at the public library caught my eye. The handout was promoting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the challenge created by the organization that encourages writers to complete a novel – or 50,000+ words – in the 30 calendar days between November 1st and 30th.

It was already several days into the month, if not a week or more when I saw the flier. I considered joining late but ultimately ended up passing on the opportunity, putting it off for another year when, I dunno, I’d be less busy.

A few months ago I started thinking about it again. At a third of the way through the manuscript I’ve been working on since January, with a goal completion date of October, I figured I had plenty of time to finish my current work and then get ready for NaNoWriMo. Then life and procrastination happened. I missed my self-imposed October deadline and – in the spirit of truth-telling – I’m not even two-thirds of the way finished and we’re well past mid-October.

Regardless, I signed up for NaNoWriMo anyway. Without a single idea or spark of inspiration, I created an account on the website and then contemplated not doing it at all, rather continuing the work I’ve been doing on my first novel, The Colonel’s Keeper. I watched the first half of the month go by without anything to work from… no plot, no outline, no characters to develop, no nothing.

And then BAM! The gods and goddesses of inspiration responded to my pleas while I was in the shower yesterday and an idea slowly started to form.

I guess at this point, I have no more excuses…

Working Title: Take a Lover

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: In 1932, nineteen-year-old Scarlet Mills is a liberal arts student on scholarship at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Suffering from anxiety and depression following years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, she writes poetry as a means to cope with her pain while pursuing a degree in creative writing. After a chance meeting with an eccentric painter from Mexico, the pair becomes friends, then lovers. The encouragement by her lover to pursue her writing and sexuality throughout their brief relationship takes Scarlet on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Visit the National Novel Writing Month website for more information or to commit to writing your own novel next month!

:: 41 x 41 ::

It has already been one week since I turned 40. Gah!

My productivity pity party showed up again yesterday afternoon as I started running down the mental list of the things I’ve not accomplished as I settle into this midlife state. I’m talking big things as opposed to the small tasks on my daily to-do list. Unpack from my trip, for example. I’ve been home for four days and my bag is still in front of my closet save for a pair of workout pants and socks I’ve taken out. I’ve also neglected to clean the bathroom or write a thank you note to dear friends who sent me a sweet birthday gift but they’ll get done eventually.

What I’m referring to is the unfinished manuscript that is a good eight chapters from completion. The half dozen or so articles that I’ve started with the intention of submitting to publications that haven’t been touched in months. The books I excitedly purchased and couldn’t wait to dive into that remain unread and are now covered in a nice layer of dust on my nightstand.

As if this weren’t bad enough, out of the blue I remembered my 40 by 40; a list of 40 things that I had hoped to accomplish or do before I turned 40. First of all, I never wrote down 40 items. I only made it to 19. (I believe there was another version of this list but I’ve lost track of it if there ever was.) Of those 19, I only completed five. Granted, a couple of them were a bit deal, like running the Boston Marathon. A handful of them are things that I no longer desire while others are mainstays; write a book, get published, etc. I wrote the list in June of 2013.

The moral of the story is that in more than four years, I only accomplished five out of 19 goals. It’s painful to admit that.

However, I feel some sort of resolve to try again. This time, giving myself only one year to accomplish 41 things. As it were, given that I’m already a week in, I’ve 51 weeks to get some shit done!

As of right now, my list is still only partially filled in but here are a few examples of what it includes:

  • Finish my book (duh)
  • Submit said book to publishers (double duh)
  • Get published in a magazine (print or online)
  • Backpack to Havasupai Falls
  • Visit Joshua Tree National Park
  • Explore Ojai
  • Visit Zion National Park
  • Hike to Angels Landing
  • Brew my own kombucha
  • Walk on my hands for at least 6 feet
  • Read/finish at least a dozen books
  • Continue to work to grow my business so my income is consistent at the rate I desire
  • Manage social media content for a small film/production
  • Invest in a good camera and put it to good use
  • Spend an afternoon in Venice and walk the canals
  • Go to Moon Juice
  • Increase the number of unbroken pull-ups I can do each month (I’m currently at one. Ha!)
  • Spend the holidays with family and friends

(I will note that one of my life goals is to visit all of the National Parks. I’ve been fortunate to visit a good handful of them already but have a long way to go before I can say I’ve been to all 59 of them.)

There are still plenty of blank spaces which I’m sure will fill in the coming weeks. Maybe even months. I will also make sure that I find a balance between some of the loftier goals with easy to accomplish ones, like visit such and such restaurant. For now, I’m trying to shake off the disappointment and refocus my energy so that I can move forward instead of remaining stuck in this paralyzing rut I’ve found myself in. It’s also nice to know that at the end of the year if I don’t accomplish everything I set out to, I can put them on my list next year.

Onward.

:: A Look Back at September ::

I realize that we are already a third of the way through October as I write this but in keeping with my self-inflicted assignment to recap each month, I’m forging ahead.

Early in the month, I found myself in a bit of a funk. I had made little progress on the novel manuscript I’m writing, a contract with a client that I was really grateful to be working with came to an end, I wasn’t seeing any significant progress from the time I was putting in at CrossFit, and my 40th birthday was rapidly approaching. Also, my family and I decided to take a new approach to schooling for our son this year and I stepped into the role as “learning coach”. As it turns out, this is a WAYYYY bigger commitment than I originally realized. Wildfires ravaging my home state and the failing health of both of my grandmothers did not contribute favorably to my state either.

For someone who is very “productivity” driven (How much can I get done? What did I accomplish today? How many items on my to-do list did I check off?), I found that I was picking myself apart for what I didn’t achieve and feeling awfully guilty about it rather than patting myself on the back for what I did get done.

On that note, I recently heard a great remedy for this. Instead of focusing on the daily accomplishments or lack thereof, lump everything together weekly. Afterall, there is only so much we can do on any given day with the hours we are alotted and some days it is just going to be easier to fly through the to-dos. However, when you look back over the course of seven days, you typically get more done than you realize. Right? It’s a work in progress but I’m trying to accept what is and do the best that I can.

Anyway, in the end, September finished on a high note.

➼ Attended 24 CrossFit classes and one Olympic lifting class.

➼ I PR’d almost all of my lifts, successfully completed three unbroken toes-to-bar, and made the leaderboard for a WOD that consisted of 7 rounds of rowing 350 meters with a two-minute rest between sets.

➼ Ran 20.25 miles and walked or hiked 21 miles.

➼ Completed ten writing assignments for clients.

➼ Wrote four chapters for my novel.

➼ Survived the first month of coaching my son as we transitioned to a virtual learning environment.

➼ Drove the longest distance (to-date) by myself.

➼ Spent the last few days of the month with my mister in Arizona and got to visit Sedona for the first time where we hunted for vortexes and I fell in love (hard!) with the painted landscape and vibrant community. (This was the highlight of the entire month, for sure!)

:: August was outstanding!::

With the arrival of a new month, I’ve spent much of the morning reflecting on August and all that I was able to experience and accomplish. Over the course of those 31 days, I didn’t realize how much fun and magic I was packing into it!

On a blog I previously published (www.wasntjustthewinetalking.com, which is still active but irrelevant since I’ve shifted my focus from running and no longer drink, FYI), one of my favorite features was my month in review. The practice of acknowledging these little details is such a great way for me to express gratitude and marvel at how awesome this life of mine is.

I’ve struggled hard to keep any sort of regularity with my postings here but I’d love to return to the habit of sharing my monthly reflection and review for the sake of the practice.

August was an outstanding month!

➼ Started the month of August in Oregon and spent a total of 13 days there.

➼ Closed on the sale of our home in Oregon of 18 years.

➼ Celebrated our daughter’s 20th birthday.

➼ Spent some quality 1:1 time with my mister in Cali.

➼ Awesome road trip with my mister stopping in Guerneville, CA, and Ashland, OR, on the way to our destination and Dunsmuir, CA, on our return trip home.

➼ Visiting Autocamp Russian River – an Airstream and luxury tent hotel – and roasting dinner over the fire pit, stargazing, and soaking up time among trees with my mister was a huge highlight!

➼ Spent a lot of time with my daughter, parents/in-laws, family, and good friends.

➼ Witnessed the totality of the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse and saw a handful of shooting stars.

➼ Attended 21 CrossFit classes. (I’m completely obsessed and hooked!)

➼ Ran 16.25 miles and walked or hiked another (approximately) 24 miles.

➼ Attended one yoga class.

➼ Completed 14 writing projects for clients.

➼ Finished reading two books.

➼ Completed writing a chapter for my novel.

➼ Reached 239 days of sobriety.

Happy September!