My Journey with Alcohol, Burnout, and Wellness

June 29, 2018

no drinking, sober, not drinking, proud to be sober, alcoholism, substance abuse
Before I start this blog up, I want to take a second to say that this is my personal opinion and journey with alcohol, burnout, and wellness.

Though I am a medical professional, I’m not one that specializes in treating and diagnosing addictions. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism or some other addiction, professional help is most often the way to go. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Association has a 24/7 hotline to speak with someone at any time of the day, free of charge.

Now onto my journey with alcohol, burnout, and wellness.

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Photo by: Jessi Paige Photography

Man, I wish that I could say that I’ve been a smoothie drinking, banana freezing, plant-eating wellness coach my whole life, but that’s not realistic. Most wellness coaches worth anything, have a “why”. This “why”, more often than not, has a darker background that stems from either themselves or someone close to them not being healthy.

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Photo by: Jessi Paige Photography

I do genuinely love wellness and a holistic approach to health, but if I hadn’t been exposed to certain things over time and walked certain paths, I wouldn’t have the deep and very personal appreciation for it that I do. One of the things that I’ve gradually become more mindful of, and taken head on is alcohol consumption.


Alcohol is something that wasn’t really spoken of growing up, and I wasn’t exposed to in my home. Both of my parents were extremely religious, as were their respective families. At the tender age of 14, I was somewhat suddenly signed to a modeling contract that took me promptly to New York City to live in a models apartment, and travel abroad working as a print and high fashion runway model. You may be saying in your head “I bet that’s when she started drinking”, but it really wasn’t.

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SO many things could have gone wrong at that point in my life, and though I was exposed to the existence of many things I had never been before, I managed to stay clear of drug abuse, eating disorders, and alcoholism. The main things that I attribute this to are a strong sense of self at an early age and good friends (even better than I realized at the time) like my oldest (and by far most dapper) friend Dandy Wellington. He’s a jack of many fabulous trades, was a stylist that I worked with at the time, and is now a bandleader, producer, performer, and jazz singer extraordinaire.

The fact that I was exposed to and not engulfed by these things, doesn’t mean that they didn’t affect me in some ways. I suddenly saw alcohol consumption, smoking, and sometimes drug use as a regular way of life, and unwittingly developed a skewed body image that has taken years of conscious effort to kick to the curb.

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Long story short, I’ll tell you all that I finished High School early (right after turning 17) and promptly began volunteering at a rescue squad as a first responder. This led me to the career that is still close to my heart in many ways, as a 911 paramedic, tactical paramedic, and finally flight paramedic and educator. EMS (Emergency Medical Services) is a HARD career choice, and if you think otherwise, you’ve never actually done it. It’s rough on the mind, and most definitely the body. We also know far more graphically than most people what kind of effects alcoholism, addiction, and drunk driving can have on society, families, and individuals of all kinds.

You would think that with this in mind, EMS providers would be less likely to drink. That’s simply not the case, as it is not the case for most medical providers and health care professionals in general.

I got into a rhythm of throwing myself into work all the time, acquiring new and interesting certifications, bumping up my resume before venturing on to more education, and not really taking care of my body or my mind. What did I do for fun? Once I was of age, I drank socially. Sometimes with brunch, sometimes over dinner, sometimes at a party, game night, or camping trip. Somehow the first thing that my coworkers and I wanted to do for “fun” or to “relax” after a shift of seeing families torn apart in mangled wrecks caused by drunk drivers or long time alcohol drinkers falling apart, was to go get a drink.

If that’s not a jacked up perspective and coping mechanism, I’m not really sure what is.

I continued on in this fashion for YEARS. I became known as the chick who was pretty badass, drank bourbon on the rocks, loved good beer, was a great shot (I still am, for you creepers out there), drove a really big truck, ate bacon like it was going out of style, and was headed to medical school. I worked my ass off and became the youngest female paramedic ever to be hired at my flight service, got the second ever perfect score on oral boards, and was promptly placed on the night shift.

For me, rock bottom with alcohol (and everything else) was night shift.

I’ll spare you a lot of the details, but there were many days that I got off at 0700 and felt compelled to either go out with coworkers and friends who also worked the night shift to drink, or went home and drank bourbon on the rocks in a bubble bath. At first, I wrote this off as the “normal” thing for night shifters, and justified it as part of life at this point since nearly every other peer and friend that I had was a drinker in some fashion.

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A photo from my old Instagram account. Obviously, a candle lit bubble bath with bourbon on the rocks.

I remember very vividly waking up one winter night at 6 pm, on a day off. I had accidentally slept my day away. All of my plans were gone, it was dusk, and I felt more alone and burned out than I ever had in my life. I gazed out the window at the naked trees and grey sky. I wept like a freaking baby, had a “nightcap” and then went back to sleep.

That’s what night shifters do, right? 

At some point, I reached out to one of my most important mentors and dear friend Corey Pittman. He was the first person that I ever admitted being burnt out too. The response that I expected from someone with so much clout and experience in the EMS profession was some kind of motivational something. The response that I received was drastically different from what I expected, and just what I needed to hear. He told me to get out of EMS, and when I said that I had no clear view of what else I would do in the meantime, I received a message that said “sometimes no plan is the best plan”. He assured me that personal health, happiness, and fulfillment is more important than any job ever can be. True story, Corey.

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I knew that leaving my job suddenly wasn’t an option for me, so I began making small lifestyle changes despite the ridicule of most of my peers. The first major one was a vegetarian, then vegan, lifestyle. I realized that the years spent allowing my life be filled to the brim by work, academia, and unfulfilling relationships had actually left me remarkably devoid of fun, joy, and excitement.

I walked into a local Muay Thai gym (which is now like another home to me), and began doing something I was so uncomfortable doing and pretty terrible at. Not because it looked good on a resume, because it would be impressive to my peers, or because I felt in some way socially obligated to do so. Because I liked learning something new, meeting new friends, and punching and kicking stuff (duh). Throughout these lifestyle changes, I noticed that I naturally began to drink less and less.

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My friends began to change, my activities began to revolve around things other than social drinking and relaxing the only way I had ever really learned how. I made a drastic switch from one full-time job to another, which was day shift, but admittedly more toxic in terms of work environment than I had experienced in years.

That’s where I still worked last year, when I began this brand and business that is LivingWells, to promote the very wellness and lifestyle changes that I had witnessed make a huge impact in my own life and the lives of my family members.

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For a while, I continued to get in the 12-hour shifts on my feet, get off late at night, work PRN at two other jobs, travel back and forth to Virginia to help care for a sick and dying grandfather, and run a business while training for Muay Thai fights. I knew that this wouldn’t be permanent, but had no idea of when I would take a big leap into self-employment and new chapters.

Finally, last summer after more and more workplace changes that were suboptimal, feeling stuck all over again, and thinking hard about it…I made the decision to leave the fuzzy comfort blanket that is a guaranteed paycheck and full benefits. I also made the decision to stop drinking completely, as the only time I did so was in a social setting out of a sense of obligation from those around me. When you start to take responsibility for all of your activities, and what you consume, the social obligation really isn’t enough anymore.

It wasn’t until I made the conscious decision and announcement to quit consuming alcohol, that I realized how big of a deal it would be to everyone besides me. How much everyone in my life who drank would scold me without even trying to, and act like I was the one making a weird decision. How central it actually is to the social lives of SO many people. How much those same people rely on alcohol to lighten their mood, loosen them up, and make “connections” with other people.

“When you start to take responsibility for all of your activities, and what you consume, the social obligation really isn’t enough anymore.”

Through putting my health and wellness first, and ditching alcohol, I narrowed down my circle of friends and calendar way more than I ever have before. I still continued to “go out” with friends if there was a birthday or occasion (tonic water and lime, please) and didn’t directly kick people out of my life.

It’s amazing how immediately uncomfortable loads of people in social settings get when you tell them you don’t drink, they ask “why”, and you reply with a simple “because I don’t want to”.

Since when is that not enough of a reason for anything and everything?

Since when can we not meet new people and laugh and smile without drinking a mood altering substance that our bodies essentially see as poison? 

A word on alcohol and dating

For some, being sober or just not being a drinker anymore may be a large source of anxiety when making new friends and dating. I personally made the decision to stick to my instincts, and realized that I would rather be single than with anyone who expected me to feel bad about my personal values; this goes for both veganism and not drinking.

Not only did this keep me away from what could have been foul and repetitive situations, it led me right up to the most loving, fulfilling, healthy relationship I’ve ever had in my life with someone who doesn’t drink and hasn’t for years.

These are two of the things about relationships to consider with the decision to cut out alcohol:

Be unapologetic and own your life choices You don’t have to apologize, make excuses, or explain yourself to anyone (unless you feel moved to in some way). The societal pressures of those around you actually have to do with them, not you.

It’s not actually a big deal Not drinking really isn’t a big deal. It doesn’t cost anyone money, kill their dog, slap their mother, or set their house on fire. If it is a big deal to someone around you, that’s on them. Furthermore, if they continue to pressure you and lack respect, they don’t really deserve space or time in the short amazing life that you have.

Where I stand now

 Will I ever drink again? I would suspect that the answer is along the same lines of my vegan diet.

Just like I won’t flip out if someone accidentally places dairy in my food, I won’t lose my mind if I for whatever reason imbibe alcohol again or have a craving for a nice glass of wine with dinner because of the taste.

Does this mean I’m not vegan and will start drinking again? No.

I’m ethically, socially, and personally inclined to eat the way I want to eat, and drink the way I want to drink. But I am still a human who learns, grows, and feels the freedom to change as slowly or rapidly as I want.

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If you don’t think alcohol is too common, or think it may not be the most central thing to socialize, check out this poll that I took on my Instagram Story the other day out of nearly 2k followers.

In the best case scenario, this blog and my journey with alcohol, burnout, and wellness lead you to think about what you’re consuming.

alcohol, alcoholism, stop drinking, no drinking, social drinking, dangers of alcohol, EMS, emergency services, drunk driving, wellness journey, alcohol journey, burnout, burned out

Do you drink? Have you been able to break the cycle from alcohol, social drinking, or burnout? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

For more daily inspiration and recipes come and see me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. If you’re interested in learning more about who I am head to this page or my personal Insta. See you there 😉

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  1. Derrick says:

    This is very interesting to me, for a while I have convinced myself that drinking a beer or three will calm me down as many have said, ” can you just not sit still for 5 minutes” the answer is no, I’ll rest when I’m dead. This is a personal challange to me not to drink not because you are but because there is no good reason for me to do so. Thanks so much for sharing
    This is gonna be hard for me but very possible

    • mwells says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Derrick! Making personal choices like this and others is what life is about, in my opinion. If something doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t need your time, energy, and money.



  2. Michael Maher says:

    Ive been around Emergency Services and alcohol for 25 years. “Back in the day” when it was the weekend, the FMH ED nurses we went to clubs with, would get off work, and we would go to Arthurs for breakfast. It always struck me odd that they would drink beer and eat steak at 9 AM. “It’s dinner time for us”. Ok, fair enough. Fast forward 12 hours, its 10PM and club time … Still drinking alcohol. My joke was “9am was your dinner, now it’s just alcoholism”. And we all laughed. Probably some truth to that when I think back.

    I never felt the need to drink, despite my peers. Ive seen crack being smoked and cocaine being done….but just never really wanted to imbibe. Plus they all loved the full time DD. 🙂 It is something that can get away from you…before you know it. I’ve seen it.

    • mwells says:

      Exactly! Arthurs is still a hopping spot for day drinking when people get off of a night shift. It’s easy to laugh it off and not validate it as alcoholism, but it is. Thanks for taking the time to read and sharing your thoughts and experience, it means a lot. Though I was mostly a social drinker and never felt the need to partake in harder substances, it’s amazing to me that alcohol is horrible for us and the most legal of all.



  3. Howie says:

    I miss you. And btw, I still have the Baptist drink machine token you initialed for me. So now that you’re basically famous, I may put in up on eBay……

    • mwells says:

      Miss you too, Howard! I expect some kind of commision if the coin sells on eBay, but I would give it a couple of years for maximum value 🙂

  4. This is SUCH a great post and I wholeheartedly agree with your points that people reacting negatively has everything to do with THEM, not me, not you. I don’t drink often, but I haven’t decided to “stop” drinking (yet). But I don’t drink at ~80% of social events where I’m the only one not drinking and it makes me sad and kind of annoys me that people feel the need to pressure me into drinking. I love your reminder that I don’t have to explain myself. I blamed it on marathon training for a long time (which was also true) or “I’m a lightweight”, but now I’m not training for anything. I really like your approach of just saying, “Because I don’t want to.”

    • mwells says:

      Hey Teri!

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I’ve never blamed it on marathon training (because I’ve never run a marathon hahah), but when I initially began drinking less I would blame it on cutting weight for my Muay Thai fights. We never have to explain ourselves, and sometimes a reminder is all we need ;).



    • Brenda says:

      Teri–thanks for posting this link on your blog. It took me a while to get the courage up to click on it and finally read it. I announced to my husband this week that it is time for me to cut back on my wine consumption. Tonight will be the first big test–we are going to visit our friend who drinks WAY too much EVERY night and is sneaky about refilling glasses.

  5. Ronnie Radon says:

    This is a impressive story. Thanks!

  6. SarahMLSsbb says:

    I’m 39 and might have the equivalent of 1 drink per year. Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics and I never dared to chance turning on those genes. Watching people ruin theirs and their families lives and die of liver failure makes it much less appealing. Even in college I was only tipsy once and never drunk. As a life long migraine sufferer, the idea of intentionally giving myself a hangover (sounds like a self inflicted migraine to me!) seemed dumb. I still get strange looks occasionally when everyone is drinking socially but me, but I don’t care. I don’t even like the taste of alcohol, I’m a mocha girl instead and that’s that.

  7. Katie says:

    Someone I follow, Nicole Antoinette, also sober, has said numerous times “you don’t have to be at rock bottom to want to make a change”. This is a perfect example of that sentiment. *hugs*

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