VIC 10 | Alcoholism

Sol Espinosa is a Holistic Nutrition Health Coach, a Mexican living in Australia, a married mother of two tweens, a marketing entrepreneur, and the daughter of an alcoholic.

For the majority of her life, she had a mother who was not emotionally available. A lot of inner work and her studies as a health coach have helped her navigate her mom’s alcoholism and family dynamics. Sol started her recovery journey a few years ago, which has been a painful but enriching experience.

In this episode, she will explore the gift behind the trauma, the power of self-love and the challenges she and countless others face within the cultural taboos of talking about the disease.

Learn more about how she broke her silence and is finding solutions to finding her voice, both for herself and Latin communities.

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here


Sol Espinosa On Alcoholism, Self-Love And Cultural Acceptance

I’m here with Sol Espinosa. She is calling in from Brisbane, Australia. We are super excited to have gone international at this point. Sol found the show and wrote in. We have had a conversation. She is delightful and has a story of her own that we would like to share. We’re going to ask her questions. What we normally do is have a conversation as talking to a loved one who has been dealing with alcoholism in the family. Sol, I’m going to ask you to take it away and tell a little bit of background story as to why you’re here, what your story is from Mexico, how you got to Australia, and those kinds of things.

How are you? Thank you so much, first of all, for having me. I’m so happy that I have this opportunity to talk and share some of my experiences. I’m a Mexican. I arrived here in Australia years ago. About my journey and my life experience with alcoholism, my mom was an alcoholic. She stopped drinking in 2021, not exactly because she wanted but because life forced her to stop.

She had an accident. She fell down the stairs of her house. That put her in a nursing home. In this place, alcohol is not allowed. That’s why she had to stop drinking, which is a very sad situation for her. People that are willing to stop drinking go through a process. This process is quite difficult. My mom had to stop from one day to the other with no support at all. That put her in a very difficult and sad situation. I can feel her pain with all these things.

I will go back a little bit about my background in this life experience. My mom started to drink before I was born. She used to drink every single day. That means that she was not emotionally available to me. For me, that was the main thing in developing a trauma. I started to do this healing process after my kids were born. It’s when I was at rock bottom.

To be honest, it was not intentional in terms of how I recognized that I had trauma from my mom’s alcoholism. It was more about how I could recognize in myself that there were so many things in my life that were not working like depression, anxiety, and those kinds of things. That’s why I started to try to help myself and to start looking after myself but not exactly because I was recognizing a trauma.

VIC 10 | Alcoholism

Your life wasn’t working and this was precipitated by your kids being born. The light bulbs went off at that point.

What happened here is that at that time, my friends also had their babies. The only thing that I could hear from my friends is that they were feeling so much understanding of their moms and even compassion. For me, it was the opposite. Now, I’m in a different situation but at that time, I didn’t feel anything but anger and frustration because, for me, it was like, “How could a mom take a decision to drink or do whatever they were doing and not look after their babies?”

That is what I felt. I felt terrible because I couldn’t empathize with my mom and with all these things. It was a bad feeling for me. That is what happened in this experience. From here, I started to do so many things. I did a lot of inner work. I also studied as a health coach. That also gave me a lot of tools to work from with this trauma and to look more at my health physically, mentally, and emotionally.

At what point did you realize that you were dealing with trauma?

I was so fortunate to have a group of very close friends. All my friends are on this spiritual path. I was attending a women’s circle. In this place, it was the first time that I talked about my problem. Probably most of the children of alcoholics are not allowed to talk at home about these things. Apart from my husband and my best friend in Mexico, no one else knew about this.

Until this moment.

Yes. I was, at that time, around 33 years old. I cried a lot that day and I didn’t recognize that there was a lot of pain inside me. I can talk now without crying. I haven’t been doing it so much.

Were you surprised?

Yes. This journey has not been easy. There have been a lot of pain and bumps in the road but now that I can see from another point, I can see the beautiful gift that I’ve had in this life experience. I believe if nothing of this happened, I would not be the person that I am now.

Can you say a little bit about the culture of Mexico relative to alcoholism?

In Mexico, there is a lot of alcohol consumption, especially in men and probably also in women but that’s a problem. If the male is the one that drinks alcohol, it’s something that is socially acceptable, whereas if there is a woman, especially a mom, it’s not. You cannot talk about these situations if your dad is an alcoholic. Imagine if your mom is an alcoholic. It’s even worse because it’s perceived as not good at all.

The cone of silence around women and particularly moms in Mexico being alcoholic or drinking heavily is quite severe.

It is. Everyone has their pain and their process but being the child of an alcoholic mom could impact you even more because that is your role model. She is a person that is most of the time with you at home raising you and nurturing you, especially if you are a girl. This connection that you have or the line with the maternity side is only from your mom and all the generations. That part also has a double impact on my point of view and in my experience because I cannot talk about being the child of an alcoholic dad. My dad was not an alcoholic. He had a very good relationship with alcohol. He used to say that he’s the one that drinks the alcohol. The alcohol doesn’t drink him. I learned that from him.

Everyone has their own pain and process but being the child of an alcoholic mother could impact you even more because that is your role model. Click To Tweet

Do you have brothers and sisters?

I have one brother and he’s not an alcoholic. He likes to drink but I couldn’t say that there is a problem for him with alcohol.

Is he older or younger?

He’s older. That is why I’m talking about this relationship with a mom being an alcoholic because I could see the relationship that my brother has with my mom. It’s nothing similar to the relationship that I used to have with my mom because boys are disconnected a little bit more. It depends on the personality but that is my perception.

Were you able to talk to your brother about this?

Not really but we both know that my mom had this problem. What happened is my mom now is living in a city called Mérida where my brother lives. Before she stopped drinking, my brother sometimes shared with me some bad experiences that he had with my mom dealing with alcohol. He’s more focused on that specific time but he is not worried, or at least that is my perception. He was never worried to stop her drinking. He probably has his own traumas but it’s something that we never talked about.

You didn’t talk about it when you were growing up. I’m imagining that it felt pretty isolating.

It’s isolation not only with my brother but also with my dad. My dad passed away but we never talked about this, not even among us. We all knew about this situation but we never talked about that.

The first time you said this out loud other than your best friend and your husband was in a group of women in a spiritual circle and you’re surprised by your reactions emotionally at that moment.

Now that I’m more willing to talk and share more of my experience, every time that I talk with someone different, I can find that there are much more feelings still that I need to release and work on even though I have been doing a lot of inner work. It has been a long process but I also truly believe that this is a lifelong journey. I don’t like labels. I don’t want to label myself that I’m the child of an alcoholic and always go with that but I am still conscious that I need to check myself to be sure that I’m fine. Saying that is a self-care routine and a self-love routine as well.

Inner work is a lifelong journey. Click To Tweet

I do agree with you that it’s a lifelong process as we age, mature, and grow. In my experience, my mom was addicted to prescription medications. I jokingly say that every decade in my maturity, growth, being a mom, and so forth, I told a different story because I began to see it differently. I worked my way through the anger about it and the sadness about not having the mom that I wanted.

This evolution of emotion and the journey that a lot of us go through relative to understanding, “This is what happened to me. These are the stories that I can tell. Is this story working for me? Do I want to elevate in the course of the story that I tell myself? Will this serve the next best version of me?” Has that been your experience?

There is also something very important in realizing that our brains are so cheeky. We normally tend to exaggerate things and elaborate stories because we want always to be right and to be like, “Poor me.” We are living probably a story that didn’t even exist. It’s up to us if we want to go out of that story. That’s okay. That is what it is. My mom decided to leave this experience because, in the end, that is what it is. It’s that life experience that she chose but that is nothing related to the experience that I want for myself. That is not linked to her and it doesn’t have to be that way. You need to learn to separate these two things.

You bring up a couple of great points. One is that life shows up in all of our lives and all these different forms and fashions. Our show is geared toward the loved ones of alcoholics and addicts. At the same time, the other piece of this is we get to choose day-in or sometimes minute-by-minute how we interpret, how we decide to be in that moment, who we decide to be in those moments, and who we decide to evolve towards. We’re a choice all the time. My experience has been and you’re also speaking to this. There’s a level of awareness that goes with this as the child of an alcoholic or an addict that you are at a heightened sense of awareness on a regular basis. Given that heightened sense of awareness, you get to choose what you do with that.

VIC 10 | Alcoholism

You always will have the choice of whether you want to do A, B, or C. From my experience, we need to stop seeing ourselves as the victims to stop that cycle because, in the end, it’s up to you the life that you want to live. You deserve to live and you are worth enough. You have a better life than what you had maybe. It’s up to you if you still want to live in that past or if you want to live in the present moment one day at a time. I choose to be a better version of myself and to live this life rather than the circumstances chosen for me.

We are so much more powerful than a lot of us believe. Do you feel like that moment, when you chose to share your truth with the circle of women, was the beginning of you taking your power back?

That was the starting point. Breaking the silence was such a powerful thing. It’s that empowerment to see what I want to do for myself. It truly didn’t happen on purpose to overcome this trauma. It was because of my life in general. The first time that I talked with a friend a couple of years ago, I mentioned in a conversation about my mom’s alcoholism. She shared with me also that her dad was an alcoholic and that she used to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. In that group, they could also receive help, not for the alcoholic but for the family.

Until that point, I was not aware of this. I never knew that there was help outside. I never thought that being the child of an alcoholic first was a problem or an issue that you could take action on. For me, it was like, “There’s something there.” I never knew about this. I wish I knew about these groups years ago because it took me so long but I’m here and I’m happy.

One of the things that I found fascinating about your story was that you didn’t even know that there were self-help groups, Al-Anon, or anything that would be of service to you as a loved one of an alcoholic. That was fascinating. It’s coupled in the way that I think about this with the notion that the industry is geared towards fixing or taking care of the alcoholic or the addict.

That’s why the show was born. It was because I couldn’t find the resources in one place that I needed and I wanted to navigate this at a higher level. That’s how that came to be. What I want to do is I want to highlight the importance of you having the courage to break the silence and then how important that community was for you to create a safe space where you could break your silence.

It was everything to me because I felt supported and they love me no matter what. It was important for me in that journey to have this community. You need a community regardless. Anyone needs a community and that feeling of belonging, especially this group of kids of alcoholics. We need that because we need to feel that safe space to share, express, and talk. You can release so much by talking and self-listening to yourself as well. You can know how to regulate your feelings. For me, that has been very important to have this support.

It’s super therapeutic to have a space where you can talk and hear yourself say it because most of us are carrying this around in our heads for so long. We might journal about it but it’s a whole different thing when you say something out loud. You’re almost like, “Did I say that?” You have another window into what’s rattling around in there and it gives you more to work with around your journey. That part is fascinating to me.

This is also part of a self-care routine and self-love. When you are trying to get that help and support, bring up your best friend or whoever you feel comfortable talking with and express how you feel, it’s part of the routine of self-care. It is so much needed for everyone, especially for this group.

Self-love and getting help and support are also part of a self-care routine. Click To Tweet

Was your experience of breaking the silence and finding a safe group where you could break that silence with beginning to tell your story and to come in connection with your emotions around your story the opening for you in terms of the importance of your self-love and self-care?

It was the starting point because you are lost. When you just talk to yourself, it’s a spaghetti mix of thoughts inside you. You don’t have that clarity. You need to express to start, first of all, understanding yourself and who you are. Know yourself and I didn’t know myself at all. After knowing yourself, then comes self-love. When I’m talking about self-love, that is something that you learn at home. If we can see with a magnifying glass, this problem of alcoholism or any addiction might be a problem of lack of self-love of this person.

If you are living as a child in an environment where there is no self-love at all, you are learning that or not learning. That is so important. For me, it’s probably a key element for your physical, emotional, and mental health. If you don’t know yourself, if you don’t love yourself, and if you don’t have self-care, then what can you do? You are just surviving every day.

If you don't know yourself, don't love yourself, and don't have self-care, then you are just surviving every day. Click To Tweet

We talk about moving from crisis to struggling, to surviving, and to thriving. What you’re talking about is elevating above surviving into that thriving space. Part of that thriving space is recognizing who you are in this, beginning to step into your self-care, breaking the silence, creating a great community, learning who you are, and doing self-exploration with others. There are a lot of people who don’t know who they are. To be able to create this space, I want to emphasize that I believe it is a courageous act. We talk about the five acts of courage. One of them certainly is the self-care component. We have to, at some point, recognize that we are worthy.

This is a pillar of your life. If you don’t learn that one when you are a kid, then you need to find out the way to learn it later on in life. You are completely right as well by saying that most people don’t know themselves at all. In my personal experience, I don’t even know, for example, a simple pain. If I have pain in my tummy, I knew that probably certain foods weren’t good for me. I need to stop and think, “When I feel bad, this food is not good for my tummy.” It’s that deep understanding or a relationship with a person that you know is not a healthy relationship. You don’t know yourself so you keep going because you are just surviving. You are numb. You cannot feel. It’s a loop.

We keep repeating the same loops. We’re habit machines. You hit a point where this wasn’t the life that you wanted. It wasn’t working for you anymore. At that moment, you chose to do things differently whereas a lot of people continue to do the same things and expect a different result, which we call insanity. You stepped into your courage and action in breaking the silence, creating a great community for yourself that was safe, and then starting to build a lifelong practice of self-care and self-love at this point. Could you speak to three things from a self-love and self-care perspective that you have now built into how you live the life that serves you to live at a higher level?

One of the things that are working very well for me in terms of self-love and self-care is establishing a morning routine. That is the key. I try to wake up between 4:00 and 5:00. Meditation for me also is one of the best things that I have been doing in terms of self-love. Journaling as well has been helping me and building this community. I’m not good at asking for help but I have been learning to raise my hand and say, “I need help.” These are the things that have been helping me, and because of my background in health coaching, it’s to eat the right food.

I want to be clear with people that are reading this. These are actionable items and things that you can take hold of that will make a material impact on the vibrancy and healthiness of your life. It begins to help you take those stair steps up towards thriving even in the midst of this chaos. Wherever you are in this disease, these are things that have material benefits every day.

I want to ask you about the asking for help because I find that this is a global issue for a lot of people. Somehow we got the message that we’re supposed to do this by ourselves or in life generally, and we’re not supposed to ask for help. One of the things that I’m super focused on relative to training is the skillset and the practice of asking for help and why it’s so critically important.

We are not alone and we cannot survive by ourselves. We need the people as much as they need us. I haven’t met any person that is not happy to help. Everyone that I know is happy to help. For me, if I know that I can help someone, that makes me so happy. If I know that, why am I not asking for help?

We cannot survive by ourselves. We need people. Click To Tweet

In giving people the opportunity to help you, there’s an energetic circle of asking and receiving. If we only give and don’t receive, there’s a break in the energetic circle.

It’s even the opposite. If you don’t feel that you can serve someone else, for me, it makes me feel not good. I like to help. It’s a loop.

The other thing that you wrote about was managing stress.

I was willing to talk about that. Managing stress is so important. As a Health Coach, I specialize in hormonal health, specifically in adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is nothing else but prolonged exposure to stress. I reckon that is exactly what happened when you live as a kid in this environment in constant stressful situations. There was nothing else but stress at home. That is a prolonged period of stress that you are living through all your life. When you go and reach your adult life, your adrenals in this case are exhausted. You cannot cope anymore with the stress.

I remember that my dad always said to me, “You need to learn.” As a kid, I was always stressed and angry all the time and those kinds of reactions and he said to me, “You need to learn to control yourself.” I always ask myself because I never ask him, “Why don’t you teach me?” As a kid, I would love to have this guidance. I know it now because I have been practicing so much. There are so many tools that you can use to manage your stress. For sure, you cannot control what is happening at your home and the stressful situations.

You cannot control if your mom or your dad is going to drink but what you can control is the way you perceive things and also manage your stress levels. How? Meditation, journaling, and exercise. That’s another thing. They’re very important. There are certain foods that can lower your stress or keep you calmer. Naturally, I was interested in this topic of hormonal health and adrenal fatigue because I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue myself. Now, I understand why. It’s to keep an eye on that. Once I recognize there is a problem, then I can do something.

Given the times that we’re in, there are so many people that are dealing with stress and anxiety that are unskilled. In my way of thinking about it and going through this myself, I’m uniquely qualified as you are to help people skill up in learning to handle the world that is surrounding us and taking our power back in terms of who we decide to be in this craziness that we’re living in and the stress of the world that surrounds us.

How do we create buffers and stress-free zones and do a better job of protecting ourselves? It’s the self-care component. Everything is interlinked on so many levels. I understand adrenal fatigue. I had that myself. Have you experienced in the work that you’ve been doing as a health coach people who are addicted to the cycle of stress?

In the end, it’s like a drug as well. It’s a loop because it feels like something familiar that you do need it. It’s nothing different from any addiction.

Did you end up dealing with this yourself? I know I did. I remember being in my 30s and going until I hit the wall. I thought that was what success was. When I hit that wall, I pulled back to look and see, “What’s going on here?” I did the doctor stuff but there’s only so much they can do around that. They can’t break your pattern of stress. You have to learn to almost decouple yourself from the pattern of being a stressor. It also goes hand in hand with growing up in a very chaotic home because when you grew up in chaos, that’s what you know until you decouple it. Even when things are calm, you create stress because that’s what you’re comfortable with.

That is what I was trying to say. That is what you know. Your comfort zone is to live in this stressful situation. That’s why stress is going to be there always. It’s how we can be able to manage stress. It also is something that we need to monitor always. Even now, I fall into that loop of stressful situations going on and on in certain behavior. There are two things. One, I have the awareness. For me, it’s easier to recognize that I’m falling again into that loop. That for me is the most important thing. I have the awareness. Second, I have the tools to know what to do but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be again stressed because stress is there.

We’re human. It’s not about the stressors. It’s about who we are in the midst of everything. I talk to the execs that I work with about tooling up and skilling up to be the calm in the storm because the storm is here. It’s happening everywhere. It’s happening in our families, globally, our companies, and all around us. How we choose to show up in the midst of the storm is our choice.

The choice is a matter of perception. How do you perceive things? Sometimes when I wake up, I can see my bed that is not done. That made me so bad and mad because I’m perceiving in a different way. Probably that day, I didn’t sleep properly because of whatever happened but the other day, it’s the same situation but I’m calm. For me, it’s a perception. We have the choice to see things in the way that we want to see them.

VIC 10 | Alcoholism

We’re getting closer to the end of our conversation together. This has been fantastic. What I want to reiterate to people is that these are all skills that we can all learn. It’s a choice as to whether we decide to take this on, step into our power, have the courage to speak our truth, and tell somebody that we trust. Journal, exercise, eat well, and change our perception has been a big part of my journey. It’s changing the story I’m telling. I don’t know if this is your experience but I will check myself like, “Is that the story that I want to tell because I realize I’m making it up? If I’m making it up, sometimes I want to tell a different story that serves me at a higher level.” Do you find that for yourself?

Yes. When you have this journey of spirituality, you are more aware of that. In the end, you are going to create a life that you want to experience in this life. It is the same as the alcoholic. They are choosing to leave that experience, and it’s okay. That works for them. It’s a matter of choice to create the story of our lives.

As we wrap up, I love that we’re creating the stories of our lives. Are there 1 or 2 thoughts or wisdom that you would want to leave our readers with that are so powerfully important to you in living the life that you have chosen to live?

I would say compassion. For me, that has been so powerful in all senses. Compassion for myself is recognizing that I’m a human being. Even now, sometimes I am in a stressful situation or sad or angry. I have the right to be in that in that position. What is probably not right is to stay there for a long period of time, have compassion for why I’m feeling this way, and love myself regardless.

I have so much compassion for my mom and so much love. With all that anger that I have to release, even feelings of hate at a certain point in my life, and everything, I was able to turn it into compassion because I can feel her and her pain. I know where this addiction comes from. Most of these people have traumas that they were not able to overcome. They didn’t have the tools, knowledge, and support.

I’m lucky and blessed to have this life of experience, have these tools, and feel the way I’m feeling, especially with my mom. I can see that my relationship with my mom has been improving so much in a short period of time, not because she has been doing something different. She stopped drinking but even before that, it has been so much better. It’s because I could see through another lens her life. I feel compassion and immense love for her. Compassion for her and also for ourselves is so important.

What a remarkable journey so far. I so appreciate you. I appreciate you reaching out and us connecting and starting this journey. Who knows where this might lead? This has been a great conversation. I have a deep appreciation for you.

Thank you for having me. Thank you for this opportunity and for this space to talk. In this world of coaching, when you are coaching someone else, it’s also coaching for you. In this case or this conversation that I have done with you and for the community is also for me. It’s a win-win situation.

When we have conversations like this, both of us will leave as different people in a more powerful way. I am forever shifted because of the power of this conversation with you. I am so grateful for that and to have another kindred spirit around on the other side of the world from a completely different culture than mine. This is what being a global citizen and being a human and part of humanity is all about.

Thank you so much for having me and for this space. It’s great. The work that you are doing is amazing. I’m so inspired, so thank you for that.

Thank you.

 

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About Sol Espinosa

VIC 10 | AlcoholismCertified Nutrition Holistic Health Coach specialised in Adrenal Fatigue en Love n Thrive