Welcome to the Unbreakable Boundaries Podcast
March 25, 2022

#55 Pamela O'Leary: A new year's resolution that actually stuck


My next episode includes a guest that made a new year's resolution to get sober and 4 years later, she is still sober. She talks with us about her journey into sobriety and how she did it. It wasn't the typical path, and it has shown to be successful for her. She writes openly about it in her blog titled "Wishes from the Bottom"

This was her first time speaking about and I am honored to have had her as a guest on this podcast. 

Pamela O’Leary is the Founder and CEO of Blossom Badass, an empowerment company. Previously, her background includes roles in management consulting, tech, the nonprofit sector and higher education, including work on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations.

Transcript

Transcripts are Auto-Generated

Jen: 

Welcome back to the unbreakable boundaries podcast with your host myself, Jennifer Maneely. In today's episode, I have a guest with me her name is Pamela O'Leary, she is the founder and CEO of blossom badass. And one of the reasons that I really asked her to be on this podcast. You know, if you've ever listened to any of my podcast before, you know, I love finding people that haven't always found the traditional recovery. And it doesn't always have to be the blanket solution. There's no real like, goals or format that this has to look like. I think it really comes from committing to yourself to be the best version of yourself and then taking mindful action in order to ensure that you are playing at your best. And this is something that Pamela has done. And she has been out on the scene you have Hi, Pamela, by the way, this show

Pamela: 

St. Patrick's Day. very ironic. Today, right?

Jen: 

It is it is. And so you have so tell my audience, how long you have sober.

Pamela: 

And thank you so much for having me here. I'm really excited. And I have a course that I am sober apps, I can tell you exactly. Yeah, at this moment, I had been alcohol free. With the grace of God, I thank you and my good friends for four years, two months, 16 days, 19 hours, 47 minutes and 40 seconds. I think it's great

Jen: 

that you have that app, what made you get that app?

Pamela: 

You know, I don't know. I think I got the app. After I was sober. I think it was probably maybe a few weeks after that would be really interesting to figure out what exactly I get that. But I knew I knew when I started because I intentionally started on midnight on New Year's Eve. So New Year's, December 31 20 2017 At midnight, and I stopped drinking although I was drunk at that moment, we can talk about that. And then well, we'll talk about the article that I already wrote. Um, but that app, I love having it oh my god, can I tell you how much money I apparently saved, which is insane. I estimated about $20 a day, which I obviously wasn't spending $20 Every single day, but I had memberships to Sonoma wineries. And when I would go out and drink, I would spend a lot of money on drinking out and it was Uber Ubers or the lifts back. So I do actually kind of think this is a somewhat valid estimate. $30,000 720

Jen: 

I 100%, I can totally see that. It's amazing how much this stuff especially like when you're drinking out, right? Like you're going out, going to a bar, those things are really expensive. And when you're someone that has a little bit of a drinking problem, we can drink a lot in a night. And it's like, you know, it doesn't even faze us to drop a couple $100 at a bar. So, absolutely. You probably is probably even more than that in my last. Yeah, in the last four years. Because real realistically, that's I mean, come on, you've probably spent more than what I can't really do math, but like $8,000 a year, eight times 432. So nine times four anyway, can't do something else, but it's a lot right. So it's like you probably did actually spend a whole lot more than that even in a year. On on drink

Pamela: 

calories. I wish there was a calories a bleep a pretty improvement and sleep weight loss. Like all the metrics, it's pretty cool when you try to actually quantify it because it's real.

Jen: 

So you this this is not a norm for people like sometimes we don't always have special days or things that we look forward to and say this is the day that I'm picking. Usually we don't even know the day that we got clean was really the day we were going to get clean. But you really kind of made a decision on December 31. From what I from what I heard, right so you said December 31. You were like okay, this is my last day drinking now you were pretty hammered on that day, but on your new yours resolution was to stop drinking and you achieve that, is that what I'm to understand?

Pamela: 

Yeah, and I have kept that and so maybe I'll just back up a little bit and share with you why I'm I intentionally had just had the start date and everything. Um, and we can, you know, please probe we can go deeper into this so on. And I'll just share with everyone this is my first time really publicly talking about it. So I am scared and I'm trying to be very brave and hardest my inner badass and I will probably cry and all feelings are

Jen: 

awesome, and that is harnessing your inner badass is to allow that vulnerability to come. I I am by the way, I am just very honored that you were willing to come on publicly, for the first time here. This is not a small thing. And I think, you know, in our hearts when we look at this, it's like, yeah, but I really want to help. And I think this can help. And so I really, really appreciate you being in that vulnerable place to say, Okay, Jim, but I'm scared. You know, I appreciate you acknowledging that, because this is very scary for us to talk. I mean, but so thank you. So anyway, December 31. Let's talk about that.

Pamela: 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. And thank you for making me feel safe. And for the invitation and creating this dialogue. And we need to talk about this more, everyone needs to talk about this more, because the way especially in the United States, and frankly, in cultures, cultures around the world, and binge drinking is normalized. It's now arised. In India industries that I've worked in political industry in Washington, DC, it's very much like a part of the job and an expectation of the job, which for me, it just kept normalizing. Right? I was in a lot of cultures that normalized and valorize this and so, um, ah, okay, so that those stuck with the decision, there's so many different directions, we can go. Um, I September 2017, I was raped. And I was drinking while I was raped. And of course, it's not my fault. It's not because I was raped because I was hurting. Absolutely not a terrible human being man did something terrible to me. And I don't want to call myself a victim. So it wasn't my fault. And alcohol was involved. And I knew um, so in 2014, I moved to the Bay Area from Washington, DC, where I were I worked for many years. And as I was saying, every every night, Jen for seven years, I drank pretty much. It was literally like a part of our job. We went to happy hours and networking receptions all the time to network for work. And I mean, it was super fun. But it was also this was just this normal culture. And I didn't know the car. We got around on the you know, the subway or cabs then then there were Ubers and lifts and stuff. So actually, no, I was I was, I was in DC, really before Uber and Lyft came out. So it was cabs and I didn't drive basically. So drinking was very conducive. And all and no, all my friends were doing that. All my colleagues were doing that. So then I moved to the Bay Area, and I live in the suburbs. And I lived in San Mateo on where I had to drive to go to many of my friends were in San Francisco, I would drive to them I would drive to Palo Alto. And I'd have to be in this situation of how do you safely get back in so sometimes I would leave my car on places. And so I was starting, you know, I one time on my like monthly pilgrimage basically to Napa, Sonoma, I sprained my ankle drinking and wearing my cute platform wedges. And it's like, that was an indicator. I didn't listen to the realizing. And again, Bay Area. drinking culture is very different from Washington, DC drinking culture. And I was drinking more than my friends. And so all these things I started to notice. But then what really kind of got me was, it was starting to impact friendships of mine. Friendships of like, over 15 years. We were very close friends, but my inappropriate, offensive, disrespectful drinking behavior had started to have fall out in those friendships. And so that was where it was starting to really wake me up. And I was talking to my therapist, and I hated her. But she was kind of pushing me in a way and she was great. And like, Thank God for her, but she was kind of pushing me like, you're kind of an alcohol without saying it that way. And we're doing it a nicer way. Like, you have a problem with drinking. Let's try moderation. Let's try two nights or two drinks a day. And I was like learning whatever, I'll try it. And I couldn't do it. I think couldn't do the moderation of two. So all this is before I'm sorry if I going back and forth.

Jen: 

Okay, I have a couple of questions. So let me ask you. So when your therapist said, Let's try moderation. And she goes, let's just have a couple of drinks a night. What was your initial reaction to her saying that?

Pamela: 

And here's my first profanity as a part of my I was, I was like, fuck that, like, I don't have a drinking problem, like, fuck you. And don't tell me this, like, don't, you know, psychoanalyze me and do all this. And so I was I was very resistant to it. I was like, Okay, well, whatever, we'll try this this to drink thing, and I couldn't do it.

Jen: 

Right. And when you realize that you couldn't do it, what was going through your head at that moment?

Pamela: 

I think it was. And I had a lot of other things going on in my life at that time, and a lot of other big just personal professional decisions I was making, and just, you know, stress as well. Um, so I was like, I don't want to deal with I, even when I did therapy in Washington, DC, what are the two things that I never really got to address, but I knew was one of them was the striking thing. So I think it had always kind of, I knew I drank a lot. I had an I'm an Irish, Irish American, my last name is literally O'Leary, I have certain I had an absurd tolerance for a petite young woman like me, and I could outrank the guys. And so again, there's some stupid pride in that, which is complicated to but, um, and I, you know, so I was, I was resistant, when she said that, and then she kind of was starting to say, oh, you should go to an AA meeting, I was like, fuck a, I don't want to do that, that I don't forget that. I'm not that I'm not because I think, with so many things in our society, it's this or it's that, like, so for so for rape, it's, we think it's just someone being kidnapped in the alley and being raped. And that happens. And that's very terrible. But it's also most often acquaintance base rate, right? With someone that you know, which is what happened to me. So it's the spectrum of, and even some people we'll talk more about, but people didn't call my rape rate, even people I deeply love and that was shitty. So with alcoholism, to alcoholism, substance abuse disorder, whatever we want to officially call it, it is a spectrum to right there are people who are very, you know, have a very severe significant form of it and do need to go to rehab or whatever, and God help those people. But I'm also an alcoholic, and I didn't need that. On which made it perhaps even harder for me to identify a name that I was an alcoholic when it's it came in, in different form. So and and so let's, let's go here, because

Jen: 

it's like you said, this, these things, substance abuse, issue addiction, what do you whatever you want to call it, there is a spectrum. And I love that term. I don't know if I've, I think, you know, for a lot of us, we look at it just like one way or another, right? Either you're this or you're that. And it's not that right. Like a lot of people have different stories. And that's why I think it's really important for us to talk about more about what works for different people, and what sometimes just end up having to be right. So when you when when she said go to an AA meeting. What was your because it this is not a judgment, because I totally like when I first started because I am 12 Step right? I did do the 12 steps only because literally nothing else worked. I tried. And I was you know, desperate. And if I could have done it any other way I would have right but this was this was my journey. And that's that's all that it is. But I definitely had a lot of resistances mostly out of just a preconceived notion of what it meant to be either an alcoholic or an addict. So what was that like for you like when you think about a people or 12 Step people or whatever? What comes what picture comes to your mind?

Pamela: 

Yeah, and again, I I'm afraid to say anything because I want to recognize that that is God's work that is life changing. It helps families and helps individuals It has been many people I love dearly are also committed to 12 step and re and so I have nothing but mad respect and appreciation for what they do for the world. And it has just not been a part of my journey in four years. I've been to four a meetings and I actually think it was only the first year that I went, um, yeah, okay, no, here we go. Here we go. So, um, I hope it's okay, that I say this, um,

Jen: 

it is that I'm going to set the context later. Because I do I do want to make sure that people understand why I'm asking this. And then it's not a judgement, because I do think that, yeah, me? Absolutely. If you're not part of the world. I think, subconsciously, a lot of people on the outside do create visions and pictures of what that is. And it's not accurate. But I think it's interesting. And I think that's part of what I want to dispel is those kinds of frameworks that people have of going, Oh, no, no, no, my loved one couldn't possibly be one of those people. And so they are just struggling with this over here. They couldn't possibly be one of those people. Right, right. So I like talking about the pictures that we create, or we think of when we think about this stuff. So then we can talk about what it is really. And so I think it's interesting, because I think it's not just you that's ever created a picture when someone says maybe you need to go to AA, right? It's I think the majority of us are like, that's not me. Because we have this vision in our mind of what that is. And so that's what I'm curious about was what is your vision of what that is not that not that it's was accurate? And you know, better now, right? But at that point, when she said,

Pamela: 

go to AA.

Jen: 

What, what, what vision pops into your mind when you think about or when you thought about that at that time?

Pamela: 

Yeah, I think it's hard for me to put myself back into that perspective, but we'll try. And I guess, let me I'm gonna ramble. And please bring me in if I need to. I at this point, so we're talking, you know, January 2018. Starting in February 2012. I started a deep fucking empowerment journey and healing journey, I broke up with a partner who I was with for many years that I was married, lived with. And that was devastating. And then I had a number of professional very serious mishaps and so I I had done a shitload of work. I had done therapy, I had done coaching, I had done landmark education, I had done retreats, I had done multiple healing modalities, I spent, I went into credit card debt, I was working in nonprofit at this time, so I was making zero money. But I knew I needed support. So I spent a lot of money and since thank God, it's all paid off. And it has gotten me to where I am so I had already done a lot of my work I had started to seriously look at my shit and I think that so my first a meeting and I hope it's okay that I named the organization because it's the fucking most badass organization on the world. And I guess it was March 2018 I'm really want to look at the dates but I believe I was then so newly sober like two months sober that was my so lesbians who tech is an insanely amazing conference and community like none other and I'm an ally and I am part of that community. And I won't I love how they welcome people obviously being the most fucking inclusive organization that they are one of their kind of events, side events thing was actually a 12 step meeting and a meeting. And one of my friends in the community was also newly sober. And that friend took me to my first day a meeting that was in San Francisco in the Castro with predominantly lesbian identified people. And so that's pretty the most fucking inclusive a meeting you could ever have. And so and it was it was very positive for me. And then I think I went to maybe one or two locally and in the cemetery area where I was living and and when I saw that first one was really awesome. And it made me think, okay, I want to go to some other ones, but then I went to the ones around here. And, again, people love hate landmark education. It has changed my life. And I did it. Like I said, February 2012. I did a whole curriculum for living for courses and since I've done more courses, actually, I my last landmark class was a month before I got sober. So actually, that was a huge thing. Yeah, the last I did the second Communications course, a month before I decided to get sober and I think that was wildly instrumental, my empowerment journey. And, and so yeah, we're going 1000 different directions. And I hope this timeline all makes sense. But so for a here's why I don't ah, maybe I can answer that question. Okay. You want me to answer that one?

Jen: 

Yes. Let's Well, yes.

Pamela: 

Let's go there. Okay, um, again, with nothing but love and respect, and that for other people. This is This is life changing. And I really don't want to disrespect it just for me. This is not the path. I when I have gone to meetings, I'm Oh, yeah, I went to Okay, so I've only been to four. And I went to two also. And another amazing community. I'm a part of this also super inclusive Renaissance weekend also had, and that was my one year celebration. And I think I have fortunately done a lot of the healing work that I think 12 steps provide. Yeah.

Jen: 

Hold on one second. Your microphone went weird. Oh, can you hear me now? Yeah. Okay. I don't know why it just kind of it kind of went weird. So hopefully I remember to edit this out. But if I don't, you know, keep it moving to university, I need to shut up about as well. And here's Okay, so let me let me make you feel a little bit better about this. Yeah. Okay. So, um, the 12 steps. And I think you're exactly right. So the 12 step programs are really designed to help someone in a in a, literally, it's step by step, get to that place of healing, of getting to that place of empowerment to uncover who you really are. And that's, there's like a journey. So like, if you go into self awareness training, like you say, like, you are already doing the self awareness, you are already doing the empowerment. Most people that go into 12 steps have had zero have any of these, they tried the therapy they've done, like, but you know, most of the therapy didn't work, because they were just telling the therapist what they wanted to hear. And it wasn't really ever a true healing journey. Right? Yeah. 12 steps is designed to be able to do that from a peer to peer perspective, right. These are not people that are trained on how to, you know, empower someone or help someone heal. These are not therapy modalities, these, this is a spokes on a wheel in terms of it's not the end all be all for everything a person to help themselves, it is just a way to lift people up in an empowerment. So what I'm hearing from you is you already had a big foundation of someone that takes when you go into the 12 step programs I've been in there for for a long time, the amount of work that you did was of that of someone that has probably six or seven years, so we're already that has only done the 12 steps. So you're saying that it was like Well, I'm I'm kind of in a little bit of a different path. But I'm still doing the things that AA or NA, or any of the 12 steps. If I was to do that, this is what I would be doing. I just found it in a little bit of a different way. Through through a different role, right, but it's still the same core concepts. Yeah, yeah. As providing so I just want to kind of help and make that you know, have people understand that this is where sometimes people's paths can diverge, but the core concepts of the reasons why the 12 steps and any other what doesn't matter, Celebrate Recovery, smart recovery, dharma recovery, this is what we're doing. So you're you found that in a different way. So but it just wasn't a and that's okay.

Pamela: 

And I and I think it's it's how are you entering the journey right and and maybe maybe if I had had a different path that they would have been that entry point into my my healing journey on but I unfortunately had had you know landmark and other things come in to my life and I had very intentional create my own empowerment journey this business I'm now building today but I'm and when I, when I went to AA meetings, it made it It made it kept kind of I felt like me It kept it in this like, Oh, I am an alcoholic. This is so bad. I fucked up. What am I like? Like it kept? There wasn't an element for me. And just in my limited experience, there wasn't this deep. Possibility. Moment. And, and, and, and, and again, I'm a big fan of your language creates your world. And if we're if we're stuck even if you know I'm an alcoholic, I prefer to say I'm sober. Sure I am an alcoholic, but I'm sober. Right? It's the same word but damn sober is is possibility it's, it's, it's clean, it's strong, it's empowered, I want to,

Jen: 

I want to attach to that work. Right? And I think and this is where like, sometimes we have to look at the frameworks under which language we're operating under. Right? So and I'll just give you an example. So I don't I don't identify. Like, my whole identity isn't around me being like an addict. Right. But in terms of continuing to say. Like, I remember when I first said those words and really meant it. To me, that was an empowering moment. Yeah, right, where it was like, I feel free for the first time in my life to be able to embrace the fact that I have this issue, right? That's the framework under which i i personally operate under. Not everyone operates under that framework, right. So they may want to use a different word that makes them feel empowered and free and strong in themselves. Right. And so it doesn't have to be that now the 12 step programs have, you know, we have our social, unwritten social contracts of language and verbiage and that anymore to create that sense of community, and that we're all this same, not so much to keep us necessarily down, but I hear what you're saying, you're going, I want to feel this empowerment, I want to feel like I don't have to constantly be held back in my life. And I think that's really important. And I think that's really what we want to all get to. And not everyone has it? Honestly, sometimes. And this is why I think it's really important for people to have recovery mentors, aka sponsors, or whatever, especially in the 12 steps. Because, you know, if not, it's kind of like the blind leading the blind. So, so, you know, I think you're, you're on on that, though, have an AA is a little bit more of a build, like I said, you have to really go for a really long time to start even kind of feeling that empowerment, and, and it's mostly because of where people are coming in at zero healing, completely destroyed. They don't have money to invest in like other things like, Oh, you because you had even mentioned, I put myself in debt to get this healing to get this empowerment. Well, some people, they don't even have that option.

Pamela: 

Yeah. I had access to credit cards. Yeah.

Jen: 

Yeah. And so I think I think quite a few other people that I have known have taken a different journey, where it's like, I really want to change my mindset. And so they go get like mindset coaching, or they go get, you know, empowerment, they go get other things in different forms. And this is the free version of Yeah, yeah, I have that. Right, that takes years and years to develop a good understanding of what the 12 step program really is. So but I love No, but I love the path that you did take. I love that. Because I think that's where we all want to be, is in that place of doing the courageous thing empowering ourselves, how are we speaking about ourselves in the language and I don't cosign all of the language that we have used in 12 Step programs, I don't I'm like ah, that's not that's not good. But you know, we're we'll work on that.

Pamela: 

But you know, in all of this, it's also funny and I'm taking so many different tangents so Ramya but last night, I was literally talking to my best friend on about how I'm considering going to a because the final frontier I feel like For my sobriety and again, it's an ever evolving fucking final journey. But I'm, I'm really struggling with sobriety and romance and intimacy right now. And I do think I've knock on wood, I think I'm good Irish Catholic, myself. And I think I have I really, I'm come to terms with my rape. But I don't know how to do romance and dating so far. And I think having a sober community. So literally last night, I was talking to my roommate, maybe I need to go to AA, because I know there are some specific conversations, specifically around sobriety and intimacy. And so maybe I will become an A person who knows,

Jen: 

well, and I, I'm so grateful for like, even for like, my, my, my recovery mentors in the past, which we call sponsors and whatnot, because they have and it's, it's, it's always like, when you go into a community, no matter what, you still have to filter through and find your people, like, everyone is for everyone, right? So like, it's like, okay, what are we looking for? This person seems to kind of understand and have that and can help me. Because I will tell you, man, that that's one of the first things that we really hone in on as part of the 12 steps is that relationship and intimacy because we're so destroyed in that area in so many ways, and we've done so much damage, we don't have a good relationship with ourselves sexual health is out the window. I mean, it's, it's the romance, it's hard. I mean, we do we spend a lot of time talking about the first awkward, you know, sexual moments sober for like, the first time it is hard, it's awkward, I have a next month will be 15 years. I, I don't, I still don't have it. That's still trying to figure, I'm still trying to figure my shit out. In that area. This is the hardest area that we have. And it's something that we talk about the most. Because this is the one that we I think across the board, that we struggle in the most, that we have to help each other and pull ourselves together and finding other people that can relate to us and be like, totally been there. This is what has helped me from a peer to peer, right? Because they can really fully embrace and understand the challenges, the obstacles, the feelings, and then what to do about it. So, you know, it's it's definitely a thing though, you're right. It's a thing, as it gets very underestimated, and under talked about, as part of what is going to help someone the most, I don't think we talk about it enough. I don't even think we talk about it enough. In 12 steps, I think people are, this is where it's like the blind leading the blind. But, you know, when I'm mentoring someone, this is a, this is one of our first conversations, because like, we got to talk about it. You know, I don't need to know every detail of your sex life. But we do need to talk about it. So cuz we I was like, We got to make sure you're practicing healthy sex, you know, have healthy sexual relationships with other people. And it's not always like that, so can be challenging. So anyway, tangent, um, we love what we do love tangents. But this again, so we know we've spent a lot of time talking about a that wasn't your path. And let's talk about because it wasn't your path. Um, let's talk about the first 90 days that you got sober.

Pamela: 

Um, I think those were the perhaps well, I don't know if I would say those are the hardest. Um, I think the hardest, almost exactly a year later. Act it was actually under it was almost exactly a year that I was hitting sobriety that I found out my dad had terminal cancer. And so I would say same sober during his last six months on Earth were the hardest, but the third first 90 days, they were hard. And I noticed myself getting very irritable. And and I practice restorative and yin yoga. My friend Robin Jaffe is an amazing instructor. And if I didn't go to her class at least once a week, I would fucking lose my mind. So we're starting in yoga was very important for me, and I was like, I have to go. Um, but I just remember being very irritable. Um, again, I had it Yeah, we didn't we didn't go through, I'll just do like a one minute recap. Basically, I realized I had drinking problems before I was raised on from moving to the Bay Area having to drive and then talking to my therapist having the loss of friendships that I got raped, and frankly, I have been raped before rape is again a spectrum on and on form of on unwanted digital penetration. But for whatever this was the time I finally called it a rape. And alcohol was involved. So for me, that was a big like, Oh, shit. So and there were a number of things. So that was September 2017, was a rape November, some of my girlfriends my clothes, some of my best friends are like, and they drank a lot, too. And they were exploring their relationship with alcohol. They're like Jayla was so hot. She's 50. She doesn't look like she's 50. She doesn't drink. Let's stop drinking January 1 to actually Jen. That's what I think. I'll put the gym and I was like, when they said that. I was like, I don't know if I can do it. I don't want to do it. But then I thought about it and going into the My training of glamour education was like, if you're going to get sober, why fucking weights start. Then I started around thanks, November, Thanksgiving, unintentionally went down to South Africa in December, and I was like, Well, you can't be in South Africa in Cape Town and not be amazing wines. So I chose to drink. And then I that's the whole story that I wrote about. And in fucked up, hit rock bottom on New Year's and I was like, and then by myself this necklace, you can read the story and the thing I wrote but like, that was I'm never drinking again. So at during those 30 days, those 90 days or whatever the I had had enough, like, I'm going to stop. Oh, shit, I'm going to stop all I'm really going to stop. So I had not enough of that, like, Fuck, I'm not. And I bought myself this very expensive necklace that I wear every day. And actually, in those first 30 days after sobriety, one of my girlfriends who was into gemstones and stuff, one of my best friends like one of my sisters, she's like, Oh, Tanzanite is the gemstone of alcoholism. I was like, Are you effing kidding me? Universe? It's like, yeah, I was like I did. And again, I don't, I kind of been open to all of that stuff. It's not why I bought it. But wearing this every day reaffirms it for me, so. So those 90 days were tough. They haven't been the toughest of my sobriety. The toughest was when my dad was dying. But it was really fucking hard. Those first 90 days, I'll pause there.

Jen: 

So so this is this is you bring up a couple of really interesting things. Because I think when I'm talking to families that have loved ones and substance abuse, they get into recovery, they kind of know the beginning stages are going to be a little off. And I think there's an underestimation of how challenging it is when we have to start going through real life things. Like, you know, your dad getting sick. And you said he passed. Yeah, and those are the things and it doesn't matter if you have are in the first year, or if you have 10 years or whatever. Those are really, really challenging. I also think it's really interesting because you brought up a year and I I've done a lot of like blogging and talking about what happens to someone in general, not even when like even on like, if there's nothing really going on in their lives, how what you just described happens to almost all of us, and I don't think the families really understand that it's not a straight line, like recovery, and I'm sure you can attest to this. Your sobriety journey probably hasn't been a straight line. It's been a little bit a little wavy Ray you know, you get your ups you got downs, sometimes you're moody sometimes you're not, you know, it's just and I think that's really hard for families to understand because it's like, well, your life just doesn't snap into some normal you know, straight line up just because you you guys sober we're actually having to deal with what's really going on with this now. What are the emotions that our words were challenged with?

Pamela: 

It's a permanent, it's a permanent grief is permanent and sobriety is permanent. These are two kind of weird, funky permanent states that I am experiencing, talking simultaneously. But like, my every drink, I say no. So every time every drink I say no to it saying yes, I love myself. I'm strong enough and I am going to have weirdly brag about this. I like to smell my friends. strengths. So I'm still do go out to bars and go into and again, that's hard and we can talk about that. But I love smelling their drink and having it in my hand and I'm like, Oh, this smells really good. And being like, no. Yeah, to have my greatest fucking weakness in the palm of my hand. And to be able to say, No, that's like, my biggest power move. And I love doing that. Yeah,

Jen: 

and I think I think that's, you know, this is where it's, it doesn't always look the same for everyone. I don't. I mean, I can go into a bar, like, just the other day. I was out having lunch with a friend, and she's not in recovery or anything. And she got a drink, and she could not tell for the life of her. She wanted to change vodka to whiskey. And she couldn't tell when it came if they actually changed it or not. So it was like, well, let's see. And I took a whiff. And I said, that is definitely whiskey. She's like, okay, good to know. Because it's like, she got like, some nose blind. I don't go around doing that a lot. But it was like, Oh, I know that smell. That is whiskey, that is definitely not vodka. She goes, Okay, good. They put they made the drink. Like I like. You know, that? Right? Right. So, um, you know, I think I think this is, this is one of the things is we have to figure out what works. And I think when, like, for me, I'm probably not going to go into a crack house and be like, this. This is great. I'm so strong. Right. Um, but for other people, I think I think that is a great place to be to say, I have, you know, my, my, the thing I'm saying no to, I'm going to consistently, just say no, and especially in that world, that is, as we were talking about in the beginning, it's so such a social norm. I mean, when you really think about how people grow up, thinking alcohol is the end all be all. I mean, I like I remember growing up, my family could not wait to turn 21. So I could feel like I was part of the family and drink those kinds of thoughts. Right. And it's, it's so powerful when we get to stand on our own and say, That's just not my path. And I'm okay with it. It's like a full acceptance of it. So I think that's just an amazing, I think you have an amazing story of what it can look like, for someone who really just commits to themselves and say, I'm going to do this thing. Now. In order for me to achieve that goal, what do I have to do for myself? And I think that's what you've done, right? You're like, Okay, I'm going to do this thing. And now I'm going to figure out how to make that happen.

Pamela: 

Thank you. It's, it's, it's, and with the grace of God, I'm Catholic with a deep affinity for Judaism and I love praying with my Muslim friends as well. And Hindu friends. It is an it's a commitment to an ever evolving version of my best self. Every drink, I say no to is saying yes to I love myself, and brings coming sober and staying sober is the best decision I have made in my life.

Jen: 

Yeah, yeah. And hasn't been easy every day. And yet, still the best decision,

Pamela: 

still the best decision and you know, every year is, I do a little celebration and commemoration kind of thing at the at the moment that it happened. And I hope to God every year, it gets bigger and bigger, bigger, but I could relapse at any moment. Any, if I just drink one drink, it's all gone. And that's the easiest fucking thing to do. And I've wanted and I want to do that all the time. Um, but I hope I never relapse and God help those who do and it's a part of the journey, but I hope not to for that to happen. Yeah.

Jen: 

Yeah. And, and I think here's, here's what I admire is when we go into that place of thinking that it can't happen to us or it wouldn't happen to us or there's just no way I would go back there and, you know, all those kinds of things. I think that does us a disservice. And I think what's really important for for us and for you, and what I like to hear is someone that can say, I can relapse at any time. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how long I I've had sober it only matters what I do today, because all of that, you know, doesn't matter if I don't constantly wake up and make a decision every single day. And, you know, at this point, like, I don't think about it every single day, but I do take steps back and go, Where is where am I at in my recovery right now. And if something really traumatic was to happen, say, you know, a parent or whatever is my recovery, where it needs to be in order to support myself through something like that? And if the answer is no, then I need to figure my shit out. You know, and that's kind of my gauge of where I'm at. You know, Pamela, I just really, really, again, want to thank you, we're kind of coming up on time, I do want to just talk a little bit about your blossom badass, because you own your own empowerment company. And I love that idea. So just tell me a little bit about that idea and what you do.

Pamela: 

Thank you, and we may change the name I'm still figuring that out, but I definitely Will these be like a hashtag tagline and I'm trademarking that soon. So, um, and you know what, now that I shared what I shared with you earlier, I'm like, Oh, this makes a lot of sense. And it's it parallels my sobriety journey because I'm, you know, I'm not yet married, I hope to be married someday. But my sobriety is the biggest vow that I've made to myself and and as I've talked about, and thank you for letting me share my journey has been this kind of create your own adventure of empowerment and healing with 1000 modalities and, and I with with the blossom badass, I think I want to focus on on, I identify as a cisgender woman, and I want to focus on starting primarily with women and those who identify as such, and then ultimately would love to serve all forms of underrepresented communities. But how I especially when I serve people who are starting their journey, right how when they're and I, I identify as a recovering alcoholic, I identify as a recovering perfectionist, I identify as a recovering insecure over achiever and all that perfectionism and secure over achievement is definitely tied to the alcoholism. And that could be a whole conversation but and I really want to particularly serve insecure overachievers, and on their journey, especially career women who are Go Go, go go go and burning the fuck out? How can we help you to blossom as a badass and to commit to this ever evolving version of your best self? And, you know, there'll be a variety of products in the future, but I my first offering will be an empowerment retreats. So right kind of how landmark was for me of like kick starting that journey, and exposing to like, I don't even know all the modalities that were out there and options, and everyone's journey is different. But I want you to know, what are the options out there for you in terms of healers, in terms of practitioners, classes, and everything. So, we will guide people on this journey of defining success and happiness on their own terms and loving themselves, thus, being able to actualize their potential in the world and make it a better place.

Jen: 

Well, and I think, I think that I just love that because so many people, you know, they they'll, they'll say, like, Oh, I know that certain things need to change or whatever. And it's like, where, where do you land then? So it's like, okay, I have these changes. I'm not even 100% clear on what the changes are. I just know that something's got to give something needs to change. And it doesn't have to be around alcohol or anything like that. But it's like the perfectionism that you mentioned, you know, the the noise, the brain chatters that we have the voices that tell us that we're no good. And we're not enough and all of those things, and I think that it's important to go, Okay, we're going to, we're going to kind of help you start to really blossom into who you really are, so that you can get away from all of the stuff that's holding you back. Because sometimes we're like, but that's just me, but is it? And that's the question is is like you don't have to accept certain things if they're not serving you. And then it's like, well, what do we do about it? It's not an identity thing. And I think that's where we get confused. It's like and I think a lot of people we've talked a lot about like anxiety and depression and it's like, but you don't have to, like you don't have to stay stuck in that identity of it. Like there we can get out of that we can blossom into clearing those things out and being more grounded and going okay, like I have and anxious moment what's coming up, like, we don't have to stay in the surface level, we can go a little bit deeper, what I hear you offering is the very same thing that like recovery, empowerment, motivation, any of those things, the core concepts are all the same. How do you stop getting in your own way?

Pamela: 

And you absolutely 100% There's parallels between all of that, and that empowerment is not a solo endeavor. Right? I mean, beauty of a and many of these programs is to find that safe space, where you've been in your head forever, and thinking, Oh, my God, and to know that other people are having those same thoughts and to be able to talk about it. That's what I want to be able to create. Yeah, yeah. And I

Jen: 

think I think, more and more this one, I want to say about the 12 steps, and then we'll we'll kind of close this out. But they gave me a very, very strong foundation. But I you know, we have to kind of start fine tuning things we have to put in, you know, the, the walls and the electricity. And sometimes I think people forget that, there's more than just that, it's like, if you really want to take it to the next level, you're gonna have to find someone that can get you to the next level. And that's what I have found for me is is like, a lot of my journey is not part of the 12 steps, but it definitely gave me the support that I needed. But to really get to where I've been, in terms of being very comfortable with myself, accepting myself empowering myself, the courage, the the language, stuff that you talked about took another, it was, you know, something a lot more like what blossom badass is, and that's what it looked like for me. And so I definitely encourage anyone that's like, Okay, I am, I need my, something's got to give, I need my life to change. And I need someone who can get me to where I want to be. And help me figure out what that even is. It sounds like that's what you offer. So that could be someone, you know, families out there that are listening. Maybe you're like, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, I need to change something in my life, something's got to give them tired of sitting around. And just in despair, right. So I think they should definitely reach out to you, I will have all your information in my show notes. So I definitely encourage you. But again, I thank you for coming on. Thank you, again, just for allowing this to be your first time that you've really publicly, I think this was great. We went into so many places, and we could go into so many more. And I love those kinds of conversations where they kind of just zigzag and the conversation goes, you know where it goes. Because we talked about a lot of really important things. It's like you said, we got to talk about this thing, these things. So thank you so much.

Pamela: 

Thank you. Can I just share a few words? Yeah, absolutely. Number one, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity and making me feel safe and comfortable and creating a dialogue. For so many people, whoever's listening to this and so you for your commitment to changing this in the world. Thank you, Jen. To anyone listening, I'm happy to connect with you, you know, you'll find me in different ways. And thank you for listening and for, for everyone's curiosity and exploring this topic for themselves and people that they care about. And, and I think there's many women like me, and I think we're kind of an archetype of alcoholics that aren't necessarily you know, I don't want to blame Greek life, but I was a sorority girl, I was the political professional. I am a high achieving stressed out, ambitious career woman, insecure overachiever, a recovering perfectionist, I think there's a lot of us who don't recognize that that's substance abuse disorder, that's actually alcoholism. And even our culture glorifies you know, all the drinking culture, champagne for breakfast and everything. Like, I think, again, it's everyone to make that decision on their on their own journey. But I think for people to I think there's many women like me, who just never recognize it as such, and I hope they come to their own self compassion journey of does this serve me or does that not? Or could I live a different way?

Jen: 

Yeah, absolutely. And, and I think this is that's a really important thing is finding more and more ways of that's not in the 12 steps because I just don't see, you know, the local Congresswoman or the DA or the ADA down, you know, the row they're not You're not going to find them. I don't know judgment but you're not going to find them in 12 Step meeting. You're just not they but they do. It doesn't mean they don't need a place to kind of go you No, I want to kind of take step away from this, the social drinking and all this and really kind of not wake up in the morning and feel like I have to have my mimosa.

Pamela: 

I know they exist. And I almost ran for office and I did run for office. And that's why I also didn't talk about it for a long time. And so I help all the women who are in those positions corporate and even, you know, corporate political, who don't feel safe. I pray they find those spaces. Yeah,

Jen: 

right. And I hope maybe someday you rethink about running for office. I think you have a lot to offer. Thank you. Not just, you know, not just in a, you know, recovery or anything like that, but just, you know, overall, I think I think you have a lot to offer and you can really help a lot of people just kind of be you know, how do we be our best selves, even if we're a politician?

Pamela: 

Thank you will YouTube to consider that?

Jen: 

Maybe yeah, I've never thought about it. Um, but anyway, thank you again, for coming on. And thank you for listening to this podcast. If you want to listen to more, or find more information out about this podcast more of what I do to help families you can go check out my page at unbreakable boundaries podcast.com. That's where you will find the show notes to this podcast. This the podcast page. It's full of other great podcasts just like this one, and just a great resource to look through. And please remember to share this podcast with others because you never know who may need to hear this people are often hiding their battles in this arena and sharing is a great way to provide this valuable resource to a person you may not even know who needs it. And don't forget, there is always hope, even when things seem the most hopeless

Pamela O'Leary Profile Photo

Pamela O'Leary

Founder and CEO of Blossom Badass

Pamela O'Leary is a diversity, equity, and inclusion expert. She has been an Adjunct Instructor at American University and Trinity Washington University, where she taught courses on women’s leadership, gender and politics, and nonprofit management. Pamela is the former Executive Director of the Public Leadership Education Network. She currently facilitates a Women in Management (WIM) group at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She served as an appointed commissioner on the Planning Commission of the City of San Mateo and the Commission on Aging of County of San Mateo. During her elected term, Pamela was the youngest elected member of the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee.

In 2013, she was invited to participate as an Expert at United Nations meetings in Geneva and New York for the UN System-Wide Action Plan (SWAP) for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. At the US House of Representatives, she proposed and led efforts to successfully pass a resolution condemning rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (H Res 1227, 110th).

She was selected as a 2016 Impact Fellow at Singularity University. In 2018, she received the Women of Influence Award by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Pamela has been featured in the The Los Angeles Times, National Journal, and The Washington Post. She was profiled in Joanne Cleaver's book The Career Lattice as a case study of a high achieving millennial. Pamela has a M.A. in Applied Women's Studies from Claremont Graduate University, and a B.A. in Environmental Science from the University of California, Berkeley.