Here I am, no makeup totally real and here is my very real story!
Hey there, I’m Lauren Center, the founder of Mindfulness as Medicine and The Mindful Drinking Challenge. I want to let you know that I didn’t create the challenge because I am an expert at drinking moderately, I know, weird but let me explain myself. I first joined Moderation Management back in 2014 when I my mom almost died from cirrhosis of the liver. I knew then that I had to pay more attention to my drinking. However, I needed help staying sober for 30 days, learning how to drink normally and why I was drinking to begin with. I needed it, couldn’t find it, so I created it myself. It has been a long road and lots of work getting here, but I did it!
After first finding Moderation Management and learning what healthy drinking looked like, my drinking slowed incredibly. I lost a bunch of weight, and once again remembered my goals in life. I enrolled in grad school and studied to be a therapist. I had a child and was living a great life. Every once in a while, when we had a babysitter or when I was with coworkers, I would overindulge but not never considered it a big deal.
Then, my older sister died from liver cirrhosis and esophageal varices due to the heavy drinking she did her entire life. My relationship with alcohol changed after that. Now when I drank, I became incredibly guilty and anxious. The anxiety I dealt with my whole life was also getting worse in general and I began looking for a solution but couldn’t find it. I loved grad school and learning about the different modalities of therapy but deep down I didn’t believe that any of these therapies could really help myself or anyone else experience real change.
My little brother had also started drinking more and more and I became desperate to find a solution. I started researching and discovered something called, Ayahuasca. This is a plant medicine that has been taken in the Amazon for many years. I learned that drinking Ayahuasca could be compared to 10 years of therapy in one night and could help people stop drinking and using drugs. I signed my brother and myself up for a retreat in Peru immediately and couldn’t wait to go!
After signing up, I was sent an email that explained the Ayahuasca diet that we needed to be on for the medicine to work. It told me we could only eat organic foods, couldn’t have red meat, and I couldn’t take drugs including sugar, Tylenol, or alcohol for a month. We were also instructed to practice yoga and meditate at least once a day. Although it wasn’t easy, I was able to do this; my brother was not. Since my brother wasn’t able to complete 30 days sober he couldn’t come to Peru. I was successful but It would have been much easier for me if I had support. This was when I first came up with the idea that would one day be The Mindful Drinking Challenge.
During those 3O days, I was feverishly writing and researching. I was losing sleep because the ideas for the challenge would come to me in the middle of the night. I probably drove my family and friends crazy because I couldn’t stop talking about this idea that I had! I then flew off to Peru alone in hopes that this plant medicine would cure my anxiety and I could finally move on in life and pursue my dreams.
While I did have an amazing experience and learned a lot about myself, Ayahuasca wasn’t the miracle cure for my anxiety that I hoped it would be. Actually, it had gotten worse. One weekend when my friends came to visit, we drank more alcohol than had in a very long time. Afterward, my anxiety was unbearable and I did something horribly scary and extremely dangerous to make it go away, I had a drink. My anxiety was so bad and I was desperate for relief. I remembered my sister telling me that if drank when I had anxiety it would go away, unfortunately, she was right. Now my drinking had gone from a fun thing I overdid once in a while to self-medication. I knew this was a dangerous slippery slope that would land me in the hospital just like my sister or my mother if I didn’t stop.
This fact terrified me, but what could I do? I had already been prescribed anxiety medication that didn’t work, I didn’t only have a therapist but I had studied the modalities in depth myself without finding the answer, and I had traveled to another part of the world to drink plant medicine that didn’t do the job. It seemed nothing worked, what was I going to do?
One day, hungover and having an internal battle about how to help myself get over this incredible anxiety I was living with, I decided to try a yoga class. I didn’t know anything about hot yoga and to be honest I didn’t think it would really do anything for me, I was very wrong! The room was extremely hot and positions so intense that I easily slipped into deep meditation. I left the room that day, lighter and happier than I had felt in a very long time! What the hell was this?
I went home and once again started researching and discovered mindfulness. I enrolled in several courses and the concepts blew my mind! It was so simple yet I was never taught any of this! If I had, my life would have been very different. I realized that meditation and mindfulness is what I needed to be both teaching and practicing! I earned my certification and reached out to a woman I had followed online for years who helps people turn their ideas into realities and we began working together.
Over next several months I worked my ass off developing my own mindfulness course, flight attending, and raising my family. I kept practicing yoga and my anxiety got weaker and weaker. I was also making huge differences in other people’s lives! One person who took my course was able to stop taking their depression medication, another who had been on disability for 10 years didn’t only go back to work, but began creating his own business! It was amazing! I was doing so well! Still, I occasionally found myself drinking too much and I longed for a community who didn’t get wasted for fun and for MM meetings near me. I reached out to friends who were members of Alcoholics Anonymous asked if we could hang out with but I always felt like I wasn’t part of their club. A club that if I wanted to join, I had to lie and say, “Hi my name is Lauren and I am an alcoholic” and that just wasn’t and isn’t the truth. I felt alone in my search for people who didn’t consider themselves alcoholics but also had hobbies that didn’t revolve around drinking.
Then, one day I thought maybe Moderation Management had a Facebook page. If I couldn’t connect with people near me, maybe I could online. I googled it and was surprised and happy to see that Moderation Management did finally have a page! I joined right away. I loved meeting like-minded people and made fast friends with many in the group! However, I still needed more! I need a face to face MM meeting near me and already knew if I created one, very few if anyone would show.
I used my new knowledge about the internet and I started my Virtual Moderation Management Meeting. It was a huge hit and I was then invited to the MM board meeting. At the meeting, I learned that MM needed help in creating their Dryuary program. I listened quietly and then it hit me… I had been working on this program for a year! I just hadn’t connected all the dots to put it together yet! While MM wasn’t interested in my offer to help them with their Dryuary program, I now had the push and knowledge I needed to make the idea I had for The Mindful Drinking Challenge the year before!
I took my knowledge about Mindfulness and what I knew myself and others need to be a successful at moderating and I created my Mindful Drinking Beta test. The beta test (in my opinion) had huge flaws and was kind of sloppy but even with all the errors, I still got great feedback and excellent reviews! I took the feedback and have now created a challenge that I am proud of and I am confident will bring real change in the relationship people have with alcohol!
As I said before, I am not a perfect moderator but I do consider myself a near perfect mindful drinker. What this means is that on the rare occasion I have a slip up, I able to use meditation and mindfulness to turn the relapses into blessings and self-therapy. Even when I think that I just drank too much because I got lost in the moment, I use my system to dig deeper into my mind and use the experience to make real positive changes in my life. They say relapse is part of recovery, this is only true if you learn from the experience. The Mindful Drinking Challenge provides the tools needed to do exactly that!
My story isn’t over just yet. I have at this point created a system that helps myself and others deal with the epidemic of stress, anxiety and depression that causes so much despair in the world we live in today. I have also created a challenge that utilizes this system and provides the steps that a person needs to experience 3O days sober and then healthily and mindfully reintroduce alcohol back into their lives. Now, I am working to build the community that will be the final and piece of this puzzle that I believe will lead to absolute success. If you are ready to join my community and be a part of something brand new that creates real change just click the button below sign up!