Veronica has worked as a therapist specializing in addiction for over 10 years; her experience includes working with young people in the criminal justice system, primary care adult treatment, outreach services and in private practice. Veronica has also worked in local government (in the UK) delivering the local drug and alcohol strategy.
As a recovered alcoholic and drug addict she has personal experience of what it takes to recover from an addiction. Veronica struggled with alcoholism through most of her twenties. As a binge drinker, she was aware for some time that something was wrong but was unable to define what it was. A chance meeting led to her finally getting help and turning her life around. Although never a daily drinker, in the height of addiction Veronica was unable to go to work without the aid of a drink. Her life and confidence were in tatters. She now uses this experience to help and inspire others. She fully believes that all alcoholics and addicts can recover. If they have access to the right kind of help, they can then go on to live lives 100% free from addiction. Veronica is committed to educating and informing the public on problem drinking and addiction.
Clean Date: May 2nd, 2000
This episode was brought to you by Sober Nation.
Here are Veronica’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights and suggestions for the Newcomer:
Omar: So Veronica, let’s dive right in. Tell us about how your life is today, your routines, your hobbies, your daily routine including recovery, and give us a brief overview of your website and your book.
Veronica: Okay. Basically I’m a stay-at-home mom really at the moment. Two young boys, 4 years old and almost 10 months, two miracle babies. It’s incredible how my life has changed, because I’m 42, so I had my baby when I was 42, so I was quite late to all of this.
Omar: Is that why you call it the miracle baby?
Veronica: Yeah, very much yeah.
Veronica: A real miracle to have both of them, really. My life has really … I’m a housewife and I’m a stay-at-home mom. How did that happen? It just did a shock to me. My day-to-day life is very much just looking after my children and all that kind of stuff. We just recently moved, trying to get organized. In my old life, I was an addiction therapist for many years in the UK and London. I had a practice in Harley Street and Cambridge, which I loved. I love being a therapist. It’s weird, because I still identify. “What do you do?” “I’m a therapist.” I actually haven’t practiced for … Well, since before my first son was born, so it’s been a little while. I do hope to go back to it soon once my kids are a little bit older.
Veronica: I’ve been in recovery for a long time. Like yourself, very passionate about that whole world. There’s still so much work to be done. My husband, many years ago before we were married, just said, “You just come out with the best stuff about recovery and drinking. You should write a book. You should write a book.” Marched me to the table and made me write this book, and I just threw it together and found just an amazing editor to work on it with me, because I’m really basically almost illiterate. She really helped me make it into something that was actually readable, and I’ll be eternally grateful to her. We knocked it together, and put it out there, and it’s just done incredibly well. I’ve been so incredibly touched by the people from all over the world who’ve emailed me and just got in contact somehow just saying that it really helped them.
The reason I wanted to write it is I felt there was a lot of information in books about the very practical side of drinking, but I didn’t feel that … There wasn’t enough information about how an alcoholic thinks and feels, and the feedback I was getting is that I explained that very well. I wanted to put that into a book so that more people could get that information. I’m not the science person. I don’t even know what the legal drinking limit is. I couldn’t tell you, because I don’t remember those kinds of things, but what I can tell you is … My book touches on this a lot, is that for instance, how alcoholism is really driven by fear, the fear of everything, the fear of nothing, and how that just gets completely out of proportion in us. Therefore, drinking’s only a symptom, and maybe we’re just trying to manage that fear and internal condition that we were born with or we just grew in to. That’s kind of really my passion, is the inside, spiritual … If you don’t take care of your insides, nothing else works in your life.
I wrote the book, and then the blog came from that, and I love doing that because I just love interacting with people. It’s really great for me now that I am at home with my kids that I do feel like I’ve at least got a foot in my industry and in my world with my people, because you are my people.
Omar: We are your people.
Veronica: Yeah. I just make these amazing connections. You’re in Costa Rica, I’m in New York. It’s amazing. I’ve just go this network, and I just love this online world of recovery that I’m part of, just interacting with people. I’m just having a tremendous amount of fun with that, and it really keeps me sane.
Omar: Veronica, what was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Veronica: I’d have to say nothing, because I just … I was so done. I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired, I would have followed any kind of basic instructions if you’d have promised me at the end of it I’d just feel all right. Nothing was stopping me. I think it was more when I hit my emotional rock bottom, and then I had to really … At about three years sober, and then I had to do all this work by myself.
What almost stopped me was the realization when I was doing the work, was the realization that I was completely responsible for the experience that I was having, and that I could no longer stay stuck in my story of what happened to me and what they did, and what she did, and why I was like this, and it’s not fair, blah blah blah. I realized that I was responsible for the experience that I was having and that absolutely terrified me, because once you realize that you are responsible for your internal condition and for the experience you’re having, it’s scary, and it’s seductive to want to go back to the, “But my mom did this and my dad, and it wasn’t … And it’s not fair that all these awful things happen.” It’s seductive. I remember being on this see-saw of whether I jump off the cliff or whether I don’t jump off the cliff, but there was no going back for somebody like me. I could not go back to the place that I’d come from, so I had to jump off the cliff and take that responsibility, and I’ve never looked back.
Omar: No, no. You haven’t. I’ve been exactly where you are at in that moment, and for me, it was the most liberating experience.
Veronica: Yes, once you jump. Once you jump, yes.
Omar: Yes. Yes.
Omar: Because you spend all this time, all these years, all this energy blaming people, places, and things all around you, and then finally you do enough work where you recognize and you realize, “I had a part in all of it. I had a part in everything.” From that moment on, you can make the decision on whether or not you want to walk into the next train wreck.
Veronica: Then you realize, “Oh my God! Then I have the power!”
Veronica: “If it’s actually not all these things being done to me as is what I thought it was, actually I have the power to change my experience,” which is basically, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you.” Then I have all of this power that I never realized I had, and that’s the liberation. You’re absolutely right. Then the liberation and the freedom. When we talk about freedom, when I talk about freedom, the freedom that comes is the freedom in our minds. It’s to have that freedom in our minds to finally be the people that we were meant to be, because I’ve never had that before.
Omar: Yes. Complete and absolute self-acceptance and self-love. Beautiful. I love it…
At what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that aha moment in recovery when you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recover?
Veronica: I think it was the first time I was in a meeting and I had the guy talk about fear. That was when I realized I was an alcoholic. I didn’t relate to any of the stories, and that’s when I realized it was an internal condition and not an external one. Completely in that second, completely saw that I couldn’t drink or use drugs, swore that I had no power over them, and was like, “Fine. That’s great. I’ll stop all of that then. I have absolutely no interest in doing any of that, because I get it.” I had hope because people kept saying, “You do this work, and amazing things happen,” so I was like, “Yup. Sign me up. Off we go.” It was that moment. I spent ten years looking for help and not understanding what my problem was, so to have it all crystallize, I was just relieved and ready to get busy.
Omar: That’s something that I really want to bring home to the listeners, because like you, it took you three years into recovery before you had that really big breakthrough. The one that told you that you’re good enough just the way that you are. What’s wrong with “him” that he doesn’t see the kind of person that I am?
You never know. It could be one year in, two years in, three years in. For everybody, it’s different, and for many of us, we want that to happen overnight. I come in, I’ve been to five meetings, and I’m waiting for my white light experience. You’ve got to do the work, and then you’ve got to have hope and faith, because when you’re ready, your higher power will just deliver it to you.
The Sermon on the Mount – Emmet Fox
Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to a newcomer that you read in early recovery?
Veronica: Yeah, I was looking at these questions kind of thinking about this, because I love reading. I’m a big reader, and since I’ve had kids, I think I’ve read about two books, and I can’t remember anything that happened really. I say, “What book did I read?” Actually, it was a book called The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox.
I have to confess I’m not a Jesus person, and I’m usually put off by anything that contains what seems to be just about the message of Christianity, but someone said, “Read this book. It’s a really, really interesting book.” I read it, and I just thought it was absolutely fantastic, and I recommend it to a lot of people. I was trying to find my copy of it, which I can’t find anywhere, so I actually just ordered it again on Amazon. I found a quote that I know I’ve underlined in it that I just really sums it up for me. If it’s okay, I’d like to read it out.
Omar: Yes, please.
Veronica: Okay. This is from The Sermon on the Mount, Emmet Fox. It’s called The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life, is the subtitle. “All day long, the thoughts that occupy your mind, your secret place, as Jesus calls it, are molding your destiny for good or evil. In fact, the truth is that the whole of our life’s experience is but the outer expression of inner thought. Now, we can choose the sort of thoughts that we entertain. It will be a little difficult to break a bad habit of thought, but it can be done. We can choose how we shall think. In point of fact, we always do choose, and therefore our lives are just a result of the kind of thoughts we have.”
That’s the kind of stuff that’s in it. I remember reading that going, “Wah …” My brain exploded. I was like, “Oh my God! I get that! My outer life is just a manifestation of how I’ve been feeling inside. No wonder it’s been shitty. No wonder it’s been crap.” I just … I was like, “Oh, I don’t remember any church person ever saying this to me.”
It’s a book on metaphysics, and it’s a book that really … For recovery is an inside job, and it’s really a book on metaphysics, and it’s being an inside job. For spiritual growth, for really wanting to just really get down and dirty with that stuff, I think it’s a great book. I really like it.
Omar: That’s a beautiful, beautiful verse. I have that book at the house. My sponsor gave me that book many years ago. He gave me that book, and he also gave me The Spirituality of Imperfections.
Omar: Those are two books that he gave to me. I started reading The Spirituality of Imperfection, and yes, the Emmet Fox book has been recommended a few times. I’m just not a reader, right? I’ve been waiting for it to come out on Audible so I can download it and listen to it. I listen to all my books. But that is a beautiful, beautiful passage. I’m definitely going to have to give it another shot here.
Veronica: It’s a thin book, so it’s not big. It’s really easy, and you can do it in and out a bit as well. It’s really fantastic.
Omar: What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Veronica: The best advice I’ve ever heard, if I can re-frame it in that way, is there’s a saying that my sponsor has. “If I’m okay with me, I don’t have to make you wrong.” My life is so wonderful now, but it’s not perfect, and I’m not perfect. I know when I’m not doing the work myself that I need to be doing. As soon as other people start really irritating me, basically my husband or someone I work with. As soon as I start just getting a bit like, “Oh, I can’t believe they did that,” or, “Can’t believe they said that,” As soon as I start thinking that, I’m like, “Oh, I’m not all right.” I need to just go and look at something. Usually, I just haven’t done an inventory recently, or just maybe not taking care of something, because when I’m all right with me, you can do whatever you want. If my husband’s having a bad day, I can just let him have a bad day rather than get into it and escalate it into an argument or something.
Veronica: It’s just different. It’s just a different way of being. It doesn’t mean being detached or not involved with people, it just means not being attached to outcomes, or manipulating or controlling outcomes, all of that kind of stuff. You just let things unfold, and know that something bigger is taking care of things and not you.
Omar: Can you repeat that again, the advice?
Veronica: If I’m okay with me, I don’t have to make you wrong.
Omar: Ah, that’s beautiful. Okay. I love it, and I totally get it. I totally get it, and I recognize that in myself, especially when I start talking to myself. When I start talking to myself about somebody else, and having a conversation, right? Back and forth? I go, “Whoa, uh oh. Uh, yeah. I’d better get to a meeting or call somebody else, because it’s starting.” I’m off-center, and I need to pull myself back in. I totally get it.
Finally, If you could give a newcomer only one suggestion, what would that be?
Veronica: Find somebody who has what you want and ask them to show you what they did. I mean that like not the person who has a Mercedes. The person who is comfortable in their own skin, who likes themselves. I always tell people if you’re looking for a sponsor, for instance, is interview them and spend time with them. Are they in a relationship? Is there relationship one that you would like to be in, like a relationship like that? I did that with my sponsor. I was around him and his wife a lot, and they just … I just thought, “That’s what I want. I’d really like to be in that really nice relationship that they look like they’re in together, and that’s what I’d like in my life.” Just how they dealt with people, like just … I thought that, “I’d like to be able to do that. How do you do it?” Interview people and find someone who has what you want, and beat a path to their door.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER!
“Find somebody who has what you want and ask them to show you what they did.”
Omar: Wow. That is gold. I love it. That is really a great suggestion. I love it. I was going to ask you one more thing. Oh, yes. How can our listeners get in touch with you? Please tell us your website, the books. Tell us how we can get a hold of you, and all your media outlets.
CONTACT Veronica Valli:
Veronica: I love telling those positive stories. There’s a contact page. I’d love to hear from people, and love to get feedback from my book if it’s helped. It means incredibly lot to me when people have really resonated with that.
Thanks again for your SHAIR, Veronica!
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.