I was always a good student. I was at the top of my class in high school and graduated suma cum laude with a degree in math, chemistry and physics. The thing is, I needed to be good at school. I needed one place in my life where I felt like I excelled. A place that was safe. A place where I felt that life made sense.
I grew up in a tumultuous household wrought with brutal violence, gross narcissism and severe mental illness. I say that now, but at the time, it was the only home I knew. I didn’t know that I was experiencing child abuse. I didn't understand the extent to which my home life was dysfunctional. I didn't know any other way of being other than the way I lived: feeling alone, feeling bad, feeling scared and feeling trapped.
As I kid, I coped with these feelings by pouring myself into books, by obsessing about excelling in school and through countless hours sitting at the piano. When it got really bad -- (and when I say bad I mean blood, belts, rage, bruises, fists, fury, and heads smashed against wooden stairs. Repeatedly. I mean wailing for mercy and unimaginable terror. I mean black and blue. And blood red.) -- I'd simply escape out the back door of my mind to go somewhere nicer, somewhere safer, completely dissociating from my surroundings.
To complicate matters, I was raised Mormon. I so wanted to be good. I wanted God to love me. I wanted to go to heaven. I prayed every day and went to church every Sunday. By the time I was in high school, I was going to church five days a week for seminary and was also the church organist on Sundays. Looking back, I can see that I approached church in the same way that I approached school and piano: by trying to earn love and approval through achievement and effort. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be loved and protected. I wanted to belong and to feel safe.
At fourteen years old, my bishop hired me to babysit only for me to arrive at an awkwardly empty house (not a kid or wife to be found). I knew I was in trouble, faked nice for a little while and then called for help. To be clear: this thoroughly pissed him off. The following Sunday he began the service by having the congregation stand in prayer. There was a sinner among them, an evil temptress, a Jezebel who had the devil inside of her. I was that Jezebel. I was that sinner. I was that evil temptress. I walked out of church that morning never to return and shortly thereafter, I went through the grueling ordeal of excommunication from the Mormon church. (You can watch me tell this story here➞)
At that point, everything I thought I knew about God was obliterated and I began my life-long study of philosophy and spirituality. I poured myself into Eastern philosophy, Buddhism, Taoism and anything that didn’t have to do with the God and Jesus that had disappointed me so painfully. The trauma I endured through leaving the church coupled with a childhood of crippling physical abuse didn’t make it easy to bounce back. For nearly thirty years I had a stubborn grudge against the word “God,” and don’t even get me started on the word “Jesus.” Yet, my voracious appetite for philosophy, psychology, and spirituality kept putting those words back in my line of sight. I had been deeply wounded and untethered by losing my faith, yet, unconsciously, I kept circling around spirituality, faith and God.
At twenty four, I lost my mom to cancer. At this point I still hadn’t dealt with the depth of damage that my childhood had left in its wake, and instead had put all my hopes into having a mom that someday would love me and cherish me like I had always hoped for. The day she died, the possibility of having a mom who loved me died with her. Grief stricken, confused and traumatized, I spent the next ten years in a haze. I started drinking. A lot. Vodka to start and then over time converted to the pretty drunk of white wine. I battled with my weight and went through bouts of starving myself, working out like a maniac and using alcohol to keep the demons of my past at bay.
Something shifted for me when I had my daughter, Isabelle. The unbelievable love I had for her broke me wide open. I’d sit in her room in the middle of the night sobbing with adoration. I felt so lucky to be her mom. I was so in love with her and completely in awe of her. The stark contrast between what I felt as a mother and what I had felt as a daughter highlighted the severity of the abuse I had endured.
At this same point in time, my marriage was failing. My husband and I were both products of severe dysfunction and what initially drew us together wasn’t enough to keep us there. I began to understand that something had gone desperately wrong and that I needed to get help.
I thought that I went to therapy to figure out how to divorce my husband, lose weight, quit my job, move somewhere I loved… in other words, I thought that these were the topical fixes that would bring me happiness. Instead, I did a deep-dive into my childhood wounds and began to look at the broken pieces.
I became a voracious student of self-help. I bought books by the truck-load and started piecing together tools to help me transform my life. I went to seminars and workshops. I poured myself into my yoga practice and began seriously studying yoga philosophy. I became interested in the field of life coaching and decided to sign up for training.
In 2005, my life coaching career started off with a bang. Within a few months of training, I was helping one of the most respected life coaches in the country, Dr. Martha Beck, run her life coach training program, set up her corporation and was traveling with her for big events. I was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show shortly thereafter. Life was good. I had clients lined up for miles.
I had originally thought that I needed to get a divorce, lose weight, move and quit my job to be happy. What I found was that I got happy, changed careers, moved, lost weight and eventually filed for divorce.
In January of 2009, my personal life began to implode. At the height of the subprime mortgage crisis, I filed for divorce, leaving me a single mom with two upside-down mortgages and $571,817.68 in debt. My coaching business practically collapsed overnight (people don’t really want to hire an unhappy life coach, who knew?).
At that point, I decided to get real: come clean to my clients about my debt (you can read some of those posts here➞), write about how my dysfunctional relationship with money mirrored my dysfunctional relationships with men, my family of origin, and myself. Money sobriety was my first step to recovery. I stopped fronting; no more buying Gucci dresses because I was afraid to admit to my rich friends that I was flat broke. No more credit cards. No more debt. And in 2011, I paid the whole damned thing off ( read that post here➞).
The next step in my recovery was to get sober, for real. I got down on the yoga mat and this time I handed my life over to God and began to learn how powerful faith and surrender can be. I dumped my last bottle of chardonnay down the sink and ended up clearing my life of every toxic relationship I’d had (which was almost all of them). I took myself to zero to get clean. I lived a minimal and simple life with my daughter. My life coaching practice thrived again and I had never been happier.
In 2014, I decided to combine my twenty-year love of yoga with my time-tested list of life coaching tools. Through incorporating yoga into my coaching sessions, I began to witness miracles on a daily basis. Women who couldn't leave abusive situations were suddenly, easily, setting healthy boundaries. Women who had always hated their bodies began to find love and appreciation for their own skin. Women who lived in financial fear began to breathe easily and point themselves in a steady and guided direction. More than anything, they began to feel safe to feel what they feel. To be alive. To be the full expression of who they are. You can read the full story here➞ .
My road to recovery, to healing and to thriving was a long and difficult one. But, in the end, I found my way to freedom, to love in the truest sense and to a life full of joy. I love who I am, the people around me and the work that I do in this world. I feel very fortunate to be able to share my work with others, to help others on their journey to healing, recovery and ultimately to help them create a life they love.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sad, or angry, or ashamed — because I do, often. But now, my human experience of life is in a technicolor vibrancy that I never knew was possible before. I find beauty in the variety of feelings, experiences and relationships that life offers.
I have a deep sense of purpose and know that the wounds of my past make me the fiercely strong teacher, writer and coach that I am today.
This work has taught me that nothing is wasted. No part of our story, no piece of our suffering, no step in our healing was for nothing. Each tiny way that we turned toward ourselves, each minuscule step we took toward love, it all counts. My stories help others heal and your stories help me heal. The sacredness of our work together, the humanity of this work overwhelms me with tenderness. There’s not a single one of us left untouched by grief or heartbreak, this is a human condition. And it is beautiful.