Mom Wine Culture and Alcoholism as a Military Spouse with Justine Evirs

Mom Wine Culture and Alcoholism as a Military Spouse with Justine Evirs

Mommy juice. Powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine.

The list of mom wine memes is long and vast. We joke about drinking wine as a necessity in motherhood but at what point has it crossed over into a coping mechanism.

At what point are you now a functioning alcoholic?

Throw in the military life culture where drinking is not only accepted, it’s expected.

I recently met a mom and she asked what I did it my free time. My response was, “you’re looking at it” and when I threw the question back to her, “I drink wine” was the response. Honestly, I don’t think that answer is out of the ordinary.

Join me as I have an honest conversation with Justine Evirs, founder of The Paradigm Switch as we discuss her struggles with alcohol.

We are going to be talking about the current trend in mom wine culture and break down stereotypes around addiction, dysfunction, self-sabotage and the recovery process.

How do you feel about the current trend in mom wine culture? How much is too much?

Here’s the full Facebook Live, or you can read the full transcript below. You can also see the rest of the episodes here.

Mom Wine Culture and Alcoholism as a Military Spouse

Mommy juice. Powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine.The list of mom wine memes is long and vast. We joke about drinking wine as a necessity in motherhood but at what point has it crossed over into a coping mechanism.At what point are you now a functioning alcoholic?Throw in the military life culture where drinking is not only accepted, it's expected. I recently met a mom and she asked what I did it my free time. My response was, "you're looking at it" and when I threw the question back to her, "I drink wine" was the response. Honestly I don't think that answer is out of the ordinary.Join me as I have an honest conversation with Justine Evirs, founder of The Paradigm Switch as we discuss her struggles with alcohol.We are going to be talking about the current trend in mom wine culture and break down stereotypes around addiction, dysfunction, self sabotage and the recovery process.Click the get reminder tab to be notified as soon as we go live on WED May 29th at 11am CST/ 12pm EST.And make sure to join the waitlist for my next live training by visiting this link >>> do you feel about the current trend in mom wine culture? How much is too much?

Posted by Health on the Homefront on Wednesday, May 29, 2019


Full Transcript: Mom Wine Culture and Alcoholism as a Military Spouse with Justine Evirs

Pam: Hello and welcome to our honest conversation today. I am Pam Chavez. I have Justine Evirs here with me and we are tackling a tough conversation, a very vulnerable one, so I really commend you, Justine, for coming in. We’re going to be talking about mom wine culture and when it crosses over from having a good time, wanting to have a drink, wanting to relax too… then it becoming about needing to have the drink and how that affects you and what plays into it. It’s interesting because this all started because I opened up about my marriage struggles, which was not easy to do. What felt like a very shameful secret, I was keeping to myself and I was tired of feeling like that. Because speaking to a bunch of my girlfriends, I knew so many of us have those struggles and I just wanted to release it. So I did. And the response was overwhelming with how many people reached out to me saying it felt like I was telling their story. And I really just realized that we need to have some of these tough conversations because it’s not about shame or guilt or anything like that. It’s just about being real and honest and it’s not easy. So I really appreciate you being here to open up about this. So, hello Justine. How are you doing?

Justine: I’m good. You know, I can relate to what you said. I recently shared my struggles with alcohol on social media because of that exact same reason. I felt like I knew so many people struggling and I really learned that my story was really common and not unique. And I got a lot of private messages and the details have just been coming out in real time. I just want to say just for the record that this is not easy. It’s a very hard conversation. I’ve probably meditated at least three times prior to going live. I’m definitely really nervous about it, but I also know why I’m doing it and it helps me calm my nerves.

I’m doing it because I wish that I would have watched this conversation. I wish that I would’ve heard some of the stories and had the connection to people who struggled with alcohol just like I have. So I could have asked for help sooner, right? Or recognized the signs and made better decisions along the way because I definitely made different choices, which led me to a different path. So I think that that is my “why”. It’s just as simple as sharing the story that I wish I would have heard, and maybe finding some identifiable and relatable common themes and giving myself a space to go, “Huh, that’s not just me, but someone else. That means that there’s a pattern here and I could make some different choices.” Because I think it’s a slippery slope with this topic, and I think that a lot of our societal norms really promote the slippery slope and no one knows the line. You’re not, or you are… there’s no in between and there are some signs in between that can make you realize, “I might struggle with this in the future if I don’t make better choices now.”

I’m not an expert. I’m just here to share my story. And it’s nice to do that in a safe environment. I appreciate you creating this platform and having these conversations because I do think people are really ready for it. Especially in social media the last 10 years, we’ve had this, like, perfection, right? I think social media is feeding into that, so I always love these vulnerable conversations. I never envisioned that I would be on the other end of one, but that’s how the world works to prepare us for the future. I don’t know what will come from the future, but I’m just focused on doing the right next thing and somehow it all just unfolds pretty naturally for me.

Pam: So take me back to sort of the journey that you went through. So it just started out, of course, with having a good time, enjoying a drink and then it progressed to, you know, needing it. How did that look for you? How did that play out?

Justine: I mean, honestly for me, I started drinking at a very early age – at 13. For me, it was pretty normal. I grew up in a very heavy drinking environment. I always grew up thinking that people who didn’t drink were odd and weird. So by the time I joined the navy at 17, I was pretty ripe for a lot of port calls and a good time. I was all about it by that point at 17 in my life. I definitely was always (I still am learning) that I still have a fun personality… but I always was the party girl. I was always the fun one in the room, the loud one in the room. That was normal to me. I just thought that was me. We’ll talk later about how that is me, but what I’ve identified along the way is that it did all revolve around alcohol. It progressed in a way that was just very normal to me. There was no other way. Friday nights always involved alcohol, going out to dinner… always involved alcohol. Hanging out with my friends always involved alcohol. I didn’t hang around people who didn’t drink. That just wasn’t in my vocabulary. That wasn’t my crowd. I just never gave my body or myself an opportunity to explore anything different. And the moment that there wasn’t alcohol involved, I would be like, “I don’t like this. Who does this sober?” And 21 years of that will add up. I quit drinking when I was 34… so it adds up over time. A norm begins to progress before you even know it.

Pam: And going into the military… oh my gosh, that is like drinking culture, you know? It really is odd if you don’t. It was such a smooth transition for you. Like, “These are my people!”

Justine: It really was. Like, “These are my people. This is my tribe. We get each other. They’re fun. Fun people make sense.” I come from a phenomenal family with phenomenal core values, but alcoholism runs in my family. It runs in most people’s family. I don’t think there’s any one… I don’t think I’m unique. I think that everyone watching this or that will watch it, knows someone in their family or a friend that struggles with alcohol or addiction of some sort. I remember being younger and being like, “Oh, I just had all these things happen to me when I was younger.” And I would drink over it and have such a resentment over it. And the reality is… who’s growing up in a perfect situation, you know? Who’s really growing up in a commercial? No one is. Even before social media. Family is a journey, you know, where you’re all learning together. I think when you’re young you think your parents have it all figured out and then as you get older you realize, “Oh crap, no one has it figured out.” You learn, like, “Oh shit, I don’t know what I’m doing either. I just focused on doing the right next thing.” You know, we’re all just humans with different experiences and we all have had different experiences. And we believe in things we believe in, and we have the core values based off of those experiences. And if you’re lucky enough to find other people who share those, you’re on the right track. But we all know that there are seasons in our lives and those people may come and go. People serve a purpose in your life at certain points in your life. So I was definitely the party girl. I was definitely the girl that never wanted the party to end. Everybody has a friend like that. That was me. What I now know is that I never wanted the party to end because I never wanted to stop drinking. That’s the hard part. I never wanted to stop drinking. I knew that the moment I started drinking, it was all cards in – “I’m all in”.

Pam: Do you think that was covering some loneliness maybe? Or that you didn’t want to go home? Or because just, “Nope, I just enjoy the alcohol.”

Justine: Yeah. I mean, I think I just have always really, really, really liked alcohol. I remember people used to say, “What are your hobbies?” I’d be like, “Day drinking.” I have day drinking glasses. I have different colors, different bathing suits… Like, that was me. That’s my identity. I partied hard. I think the thing that allowed me to be okay with that is because I also got a lot of shit done, right? I was very high achieving, very functioning. I was a great mom. I’ll never take that away from myself. The reality is that I was a great mom. I still am today. I’m a better mom today, but I was a good mom.

Pam: I think that’s where so many people can keep functioning as an alcoholic, because they’re like, “No, but I’m getting it done. I’m doing good and this is helping me relax. This is helping me enjoy it or get through the tough times.” You know, in this military spouse life too, where there is so much pressure on you, you know? It can definitely become a coping mechanism to make the days pass,

Justine: Yeah, and I think it quickly became that. I don’t know when it began to go south. I think that I’m still figuring that out and honestly I’ve kind of given up on trying to figure it out, because it involves a lot of shame and a lot of living in the past and beating myself up, and I’m at a point now in my sobriety where I’m just moving on. It is what it is, and I went through that for a reason.

Pam: And you’re 16 months in, is that what it is?

Justine: Yeah. And you don’t have to have all the answers, so I’m past trying to figure it out. I’m also past beating myself up for it. I definitely quit drinking along the way in that 21-year career of drinking… I definitely knew there was a problem several times into it. And I quit drinking before and I knew that. So some of the progression as I look back on it… I knew that I had to quit drinking because it was affecting me, so I tried things like, “I’m going to become a fitness instructor because if I’m a fitness instructor and I’m really into fitness, then I’m running all these half marathons and I’m running marathons and I’m a Kettlebell instructor and I’m doing all these things. I’ll stop drinking. I won’t have to spend the morning tired and feeling like crap.”

It worked for a little bit, but it comes back. And then when I had kids, it’s like, “I want to be a mom and it’s going to be great and it’s all gonna go away and I’ll start to be mom and cook dinner every night and be this perfect person.” And I did it for a little bit and then it comes back. And I think then it was like, “Okay, my kids are getting older. The fitness instructor… that didn’t work. I’m just gonna become this business woman that I know I can be, and start picking this back up again.” And it worked for a little bit, but it comes back. And it’s this haunting process that it comes back. The rules come around, like, “I’m only going to drink on the weekends” and “I have one at work events”. You try to control it. I know that if I have to, then I’ll stay out and have a good time. And you create all these rules around your drinking and it’s just exhausting and then you realize none of that’s working. You still are drinking.

And at this point, now you’re becoming a person, when you drink, that you don’t like. You’re becoming a person that you don’t like, doing things that you don’t agree with. You’re treating people differently than you would if you were sober and you just get tired of it. And that’s when the depression and the shame really starts to take a toll. And you think in that moment that you’ll stop, but you don’t. And that’s when it spirals into what people think is an alcoholic, right? What society thinks is an alcoholic. That’s the stage that it begins to go dark where you are so depressed about this problem have you don’t want to reach out to anybody and you just want to drink alone. Now it’s not even fun any more, it’s just like, “I’m just going to drink alone and do this thing and distract myself from everything that’s happening.” And as a result, you isolate yourself. Your relationships go down the tube. Your work starts to be affected. Your relationships are affected. I became angry at the world, and it was a downward spiral. And I think that is what people think of when they think of an alcoholic. Right?

But people don’t understand that there’s four stages to alcoholism, and the fourth stage is that, “I gotta have a drink in the morning to function” stage and there’s so much you can do to prevent even getting to that stage. You can quit or make different choices now before you even get to that stage. I don’t think you have to earn that stage to say, “I may drink a little different than most people.” And for me, I would watch other people drink and I remember being envious of like, “How do people go to dinner and leave like a half a glass of wine on the table over here?” That’s mind-boggling to me. Like, I still can’t even… But I’m like, “Yeah, that’s because you’re an alcoholic, Justine!”

Pam: Right. Don’t waste a drop!

Justine: I’m totally the lady at the party that’s like, “Party foul! How dare you spill that wine!” And we joke about it and that’s totally fine. I remember going through two babies in diapers and deployments and having so many friends over and drinking wine… and we were harmless. You know, those were harmless days just having fun. I wasn’t at that stage at that time. And so I think that’s what scares me… how do you really know the difference? Honestly, my answer is that only the individual knows. Only they know if they’re abusing it or if they are struggling inside. And I think if your answer is yes, then do some research and look into it. Because I wish that I would’ve had the courage to stop when I started having those thoughts.

Justine: I wish that I would have had the urge to not get to that last stage of secretly drinking during the day. And you know, I could have gotten worse. Like, I really got to that early stage four very early. I was still very highly functioning. I could have put some rules around it again and totally gone again and would’ve been totally fine. But there were so many other things that were happening in my life that would look very differently now if I wouldn’t have made the choice to say, “You know, maybe it’s not the third drink. Maybe it’s the first one.” Because I’ll have been like, “Well, after the third drink, that’s when party girl Justine comes out.” So it gave me this room to have one or two, and then if I have three then, you know, it’s game on. “Are you sure you want to have this?” It wasn’t drink three. It was drink one.

Pam: So how did your marriage come into play? I mean, when you met your husband, when you got married, where were you at in the stages and did he ever confront you or anything like that?

Justine: Yeah, I mean, I was a party girl. My husband is a very level-headed man and I think that’s what attracts me to him the most.

Pam: Yeah. He’s your North Star.

Justine: Yeah, he’s a very logical man. But we were young. And when you’re young and have fun and these things, it’s a slippery slope. But we’re 15 years into our marriage, three kids in… I mean, that in itself affects of relationship. And when you become more worried about having fun and drinking, than being a responsible human being… And I think I look at it as almost like an out-of-body experience where it’s easy to hide behind that when you’re young and everybody’s partying around you. But as you start to hit 34 and 35 or a certain age, you’re the only one still partying. Everyone else has kind of moved on and it’s like, “Jeez, Justine, you know what… how many times are you gonna stay out until 3:00 AM and still show up for work and do it.” But I was just exhausted and people would say like, “I don’t know how you do it, Justine.” And in my head, I’d be like, “I don’t know how I do it either. But I love it.” I just had a weird love for it.

Pam: Like an infatuation or something?

Justine: I thought it was normal. Now I don’t think it’s normal.

Pam: Right. And I feel like the drinking culture in the military… the age extends further than it does in your college years and then sort of move on to your career and all that. So many of the functions and so many of the events are centered around families, but alcohol too. So yeah, it’s a tricky thing. It’s a tricky thing. I think it’s so prevalent that it’s harder for people to evaluate themselves and how they’re doing, because they feel like everybody else may be doing it too, you know? So that self-reflection and tough love is easier to think… “Okay well, I don’t know if I want to confront that just yet. Look at them! And let’s go out with so and so!”

Justine: Yeah. I can’t speak for everybody else, Pam. I can only speak for myself. I just know that I loved those environments and I promoted those environments. I made others feel bad for not wanting to be a part of that environment. I think that I don’t know the line. I definitely would be judging of others if they didn’t partake in those events. I know how hard it is to not partake in those events and still feel like your own human being along the way. I think that’s why I’m willing to have this conversation, because I think that people need to take ownership of their own feelings and until people start to set boundaries right, it’s gonna keep happening. I think that boundaries are important and those who don’t respect your boundaries are not people you want to hang out with anyway.

For me, I still do all that. You know, I’ll still go to these functions and I just have a diet coke or a water and I realized that everyone around me was not drinking as much as I was. So that was a big shocker for me. I’d been going into the functions ready to drink and ready to party and have a good time. What I realize now when I go to things, is that it validates that I am an alcoholic because people aren’t drinking that much, Pam. There’s a group that does, maybe. Those were my people. And this is, for me, not judging others because I find it fascinating seeing those who can drink responsibly. I know a lot of people who can, and this is maybe where like maybe the genetic component comes in. I just never was one of those people. It’s just not my experience. I wish I had a different story. This is just my story. I just never was one of those people that can drink responsibly. And I wish I had the courage to admit that sooner. Because of the environment and the societal norms… that feeds into it. And people know you don’t have a problem, you’re fine. You get up and go to work and you’re functioning. It’s like, “Okay, if I’m still functioning…” And the reality is… if you’re online taking that alcoholic quiz and you’re checking all those boxes… And you don’t need to make a full-blown big deal about it. Although maybe you do. If you’re dramatic like me and you’re hardheaded like me and that’s the only way you’ll get through it, then the universe will take care of that. You’ll progress and you’ll get to that point and you’ll have the gift of desperation and you’ll have to go the extreme route. Because I’m stubborn and there was no other way for me. But I think that there are plenty of people that could maybe just be more mindful of it. I don’t know. I wasn’t one of those. I mean, addiction is a tricky thing. For me, there’s no way. I tried. I just shared with you all the rules I set, right? That was me trying to be mindful.

Pam: So how do you feel about the current trend of mom wine culture and all the memes and all the “fill the coffee cup with wine”?

Justine: I think it’s great for alcoholics. Yeah, it’s great. I think it’s a phenomenal time to be an alcoholic because no one will know.

Pam: Right, it’s a big joke.

Justine: Yeah. It lets people live in this mental prison of self-hatred and thinking you’re crazy. Because I thought I was crazy. So that was crazy. For a long time, I thought something was wrong with me. “Why can’t I just drink normal like everybody else?” I just always have to be this dramatic thing. Well, the reason why is because you’re an alcoholic, Justine, and alcoholics can’t drink normal. Either I was born that way or it developed over time. I’ve stopped trying to figure it out because it doesn’t matter if factor. The fact is that’s where I’m at right now.

Pam: So how did you get out? How’d you get on the other side?

Justine: I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Where you’re having a lot of physical symptoms… and I was noticing that I was very ashamed of the amount I was drinking, so I wasn’t sharing. So pre-drinking before pre-game. I was ashamed of the amount that I was drinking. I was ashamed of being the 35-year-old in the room who’s acting like a damn 16-year-old. I wasn’t happy.

Pam: But you were cognizant of it, you realized it though?

Justine: Yeah, I’m really grateful for that because not everybody is. I was really grateful for that. My kids… I have a daughter who just went off to college and could be watching this. I’m thinking of her. I’m thinking of my 12-year-old, my 10-year-old, and realizing the example that I’m setting and knowing that I don’t want to be that person. And not wanting to lose my marriage over something ridiculous. So I told my friends. I was really finally willing to look inward on whether I was an alcoholic. And I checked all the boxes. And it is not easy. I was in denial for a long time. It wasn’t until this year, only probably about four or five months ago, that I finally admitted like, “No, you’re an alcoholic.” It still blows my mind. I still have to be reminded on a daily basis.

Pam: But once you admitted it and you faced that, were you able to start getting into the recovery process? Because it normally takes people not the first time of sort of opening up. You know, you may open up to somebody and then you go back to it. It was too scary.

Justine: I definitely did that over the last 10 years. I went back and forth. Yeah, so I definitely have my relapse. But there’s no rock bottom medal, you know? Everybody’s point of desperation looks different. So I had definitely gone back and forth with, “I have a problem. I don’t have a problem. I think I have a problem. I don’t have a problem.” You know? And every time you stopped and then you start again, you make an excuse. You’re like, “Oh, I’m fine. I’m cured. I got this. I’m totally in control.” What happens though? The pattern is, as I look back on it, every time I did that, I went deeper into the addiction. So you never pick it back up and start from the beginning. You always start from where you left off. So you go deeper and deeper and deeper. And two years ago I lost my grandmother to alcoholism. But my grandmother was sober the entire time I was growing up. I remember seeing all her AA chips and she was this working woman, you know. She was the only sober person that I knew, but I knew that she was in recovery. She was sober for 30 years and my grandfather passed away. My whole family, we would always do these Tequila shots because he was a tequila connoisseur. I know everything I know about Tequila thanks to my grandfather. Everybody has a grandfather that! So when he passed, we did a Tequila shot in his honor. In that moment we did a Tequila shot in his honor and she did it with us.

Pam: And that was it? That’s all it took?

Justine: Yeah, that’s all it took. And in my head, I’m thinking just like everybody else’s thinking right now. “It’s just one shot. Where’s your willpower? How weak are you?” 30 years in like, this is no big deal. And of course we were like, “What? Wait, what? What’s going on? Are you sure?” We pause for a minute, but we didn’t stop her. I didn’t know anything about the disease or anything about the process to be like, “No, no, absolutely not. Let’s go to a meeting or something.” And I four years later, she died. Her body picked it up exactly where she was 30 years prior to that and she drank herself to death. And watching her progress… I quit drinking about six months after she passed because I had that in the back of my head. And maybe she’s guiding me. Maybe she’s not, I don’t know. But I was like, “That’s mind-blowing to me.”

Pam: That you picked right back up again after 30 years. One drink. Yeah.

Justine: That is the power of it. So my mission is to honor that every day. I know what it looks like if I do drink again. Maybe I’m not at that stage yet, but I don’t want to find out. Because she changed a lot. Everybody has got their own journey, but I wish I would’ve had the courage to stop when I did, or at least be willing to say, “I just don’t drink like the rest of you.” Everybody else is having a good time and going home and me, I’m like, “I don’t want this party to end. I want more. Where can I find more?” And it’s not normal. Everybody has different experiences, but I’m only here to share mine and that was mine. And I wish I would have heard someone say those things when I was in it because I would’ve been like, “Holy cow. Okay.”

Pam: That’s a tough one to put out there, so I really do appreciate it and I absolutely know that somebody needs to hear it. That will definitely benefit someone. And all the while going through this, you were building an amazing business, which is what’s so crazy. I mean, you truly were one of the highest of the high functioning alcoholics. I’m sure there were the moments that didn’t necessarily feel like that, but do you want to dive in and talk about your work a bit? I’ll put up some links for how people can find you.

Justine: I think it’s two separate things, but what makes it feel as one is that I am the founder. And I think when you are the founder and the leader of an organization, it’s an extension of yourself. It forces you to look inward. I’m convinced that ideas are cheap and execution is where the money’s made. And I’m also convinced that a startup can die based off of your ability to look inward… your ability to assess your strengths and weaknesses and be self aware and be able to lead in a way that is for service of other people.

It’s not a coincidence that when I founded the company, as I have progressed, the company has progressed and I think early-stage founders feel that way. Now we’re at a point where it’s two separate things. We’ve grown so much to where the company is an extension of me, but I honestly… the company has changed my life. I don’t know if I would have made that decision when I did if it wasn’t for that. If it wasn’t for my kids and the company and knowing that this is the moment that it’s all going to be stripped away from me if I don’t make this decision to lead by example. And actually the words that are coming out of my mouth, I’m doing too. We’ve all worked for leaders that say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” I knew that I didn’t want to be that person. I knew I had this dirty little secret that kept creating chaos in my life and would bleed over into other areas of my life. And I knew I had to figure that out.

It’s really interesting now because I was really into fitness and eating healthy and all that, thinking that my drinking would go away. Funny how it’s all coming back. It’s all coming full circle now to where almost a year and a half into this, all those things weren’t wasted. I’m coming full circle and really becoming who I always envisioned. But if would’ve told me a year ago that this would be the case, I would’ve thought you were crazy. And it’s just gotten harder and harder and harder because you can always trade in one addiction for another if you’re not careful. People do. I for sure have an addictive personality where if it’s not alcohol, it’s work. If it’s not working, it’s food. If it’s not food, it’s working out too much. It used to be portrayed as passionate. It is passion, but it’s too much passion. Sometimes it’ll put you on a wrong path. I was a little too passionate. It’s a little overboard. A little too much alcohol. It just, like, amplified it.

I carry a lot of shame because there’s a lot of people that could be watching this right now that know “that” Justine. Because this really wasn’t that long ago, Pam. I think I’m learning that Justine is still there. How I feel right now is that Justine is still there, she’s just more intentional. She has more focus. And I know that if I don’t do certain things to keep myself grounded, myself and others around me will suffer as a result. So I’ve just learned over time and honestly, the biggest anxiety I carry is like, “How do I teach my 18-year-old daughter to do that? And how do I teach my 19-year-old sister to do that?” You know, because you just learn by doing. But I think maybe just lead by example and just be that person in the room and allow people to figure it out on their own because the mama bear in me wants to fix everything for everyone. It all has to be in all these boxes. But I can’t control any of this.

I mean, the Paradigm Switch is doing really well. I feel really privileged and honored and grateful to have made it this far when in reality, all of the cards were stacked against me. And we’ve managed to come out of it. We just hired our first full-time employee. We’ll announce it next week. Today we just announced 14 more scholarships. Without a doubt, this is my life’s work. This is my passion and my personal struggles have no bearing on my ability to execute in those areas. Anyone that thinks that it does is sadly mistaken. Because if anything, I’m much stronger than I was before. I’m better and faster and stronger and I have more balance. I’m doing more in less time.

Pam: You’re being much more conscious in your day to day. Especially with the grounding and stuff. Every single person needs to be doing that and will have a better life if they do those things, you know? And you obviously have perseverance like crazy, so that’s a great driving force for whatever you do. And then to have found what your love and passion is through your work… You know, you created that. It’s a great way to channel it.

Justine: Yeah. It’s dangerous though because I’m definitely a workaholic too. So it’s definitely dangerous and I have to be very mindful of turning it off. And I think I’m finally figuring that out. These are things that I’ve learned in the recovery process. The not drinking alcohol was really hard at first, but there’s all these other things waiting for me on the other side that I didn’t anticipate, like my inability to turn it off or my inability to admit when I’m wrong or my inability to ask for help. These are constant themes in my life. I don’t like to ask for help. And now I’m in a place where I’ve found these common themes and I’m able to identify the stories that I tell myself and they’re just made up stories based off of experiences I had when I was younger. And it’s kind of all bullshit. It’s like… I’m going to rewrite that story now, you know? And I don’t need to go drink a bottle of wine and feel bad about it. I’m going to go and rewrite the story and show up different tomorrow and that’s it, you know? And it’s less talking, more showing up and allowing it to work out the way it needs to work out. The one common theme with sharing this story today and in all my life has always been about me being who I wish I had. I think there’s a lot of dumb mistakes on me, but I just didn’t know any better. And I’m pretty hard headed too. I am a very stubborn person.

Pam: We have a lot in common!

Justine: Yeah, I do not like to be told what to do. I can’t stand it. I think the addiction feeds that Justine. I think that the alcohol for me was like, “You don’t take that shit.” It was just all those voices that we all have. Whereas now without the drinking, I have another voice that I hadn’t heard before. Well, I have heard it before. It was in there, but I think as it progressed, it was silenced. Now that true Justine is back. I still like to have a lot of fun. I’m still hilarious. At least I think I am. I still like to crack a lot of jokes. I still probably cuss way too much and I’ve still make all these mistakes. I’m just more aware of it and I’m showing up with more compassion and more empathy, and vulnerability. You know what, I’m not perfect. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And guess what? There’s no manual, so we’re all in it together, you know? And I want to be surrounded with people who are willing to say that. I want to be, as Brene Brown would say, in the arena with people who are getting punched in the face just as much as I am, but are being compassionate and helping each other rather than judgmental and punching each other behind the back.

Pam: And that’s another reason why I wanted to do this. To bring people to me that are like that. That are willing to get out there and talk about it and talk about the struggles. I’m bringing my tribe to me. We have different struggles. They look different. But some of the feelings inside are the same, you know? So if somebody is watching and alcoholism isn’t their thing, or addiction or anything like that, but so many things run parallel in life. It may not have been alcohol addiction that they went to, but maybe it was relationship issues or maybe toxic relationships, not setting boundaries. We can all relate to it. It just may play out in a bit of a different way.

Justine: Yeah, mine is food, work, booze. When I’m stressed, it goes in that order. It’s like food, booze, work. My desire to drink has actually gone away. I never thought I’d ever say that to be honest. I wasn’t going to share, but I’ll share… about four months ago I started working the 12 step program because I needed more tools. I don’t want to paint the picture of willpower and perseverance. There was a lot of that, but it came to a point where that was only going to take me so far and I needed professionals and tools. I needed to meet other people that were like me because I was surrounded with so many people who weren’t like me, or who were but weren’t willing to face it. And I needed more help. And I have a lot of shame around that. It reflected in my business too.

Six months ago I was looking around and I was like, “Man, we are creating a culture of overworking, doing all these things all the time.” And yeah, we’re living in our core values and we’re being authentic and having really honest and tough conversations. But we’re almost creating this “work, work, work, work” busy culture. And about six months ago I realized this is not helping anybody. I need to just own this as the leader and say, “We’re not doing that anymore. We’re no longer impressed by you being busy all the time. Pick three things you’re going to do today and get them done. Stop telling me how busy you are!” But I was doing a lot of like excuses and so we’ve made a lot of changes and I now it’s just a completely different look inside. And it’s even helped me. Now I’m able to say, “I’m feeling this way and here’s why I’m feeling this way. Can we create some transparency around this?” Because we’re a distributed organization in four different time zones so it’s not easy. Communication is so important and self-awareness is really important. And being willing to ask for help, right? Really, really important.

Pam: I don’t like asking for help. I don’t like feeling dependent on somebody. That comes from a lot of stuff.

Justine: Me too. I’ve had to rewrite that story because I’m the only one suffering with that sort of thing. I’m the only one suffering in the room by me having that mentality. And I think that feeds into the mommy wine club of where women are today in our role. We have a lot of pressure to do it all and not need help and not be dependent and have our careers. And I think that we talk a lot about that at Paradigm Switch around the fact that you can do it all. Maybe not today, but let’s create a little bit more intention. So we have some new stuff out really wrapped around that. And it turns out it really is an extension of myself. It’s an extension of the things that I’ve learned and the things that I see over and over and over in our community. I’m just thinking about it in terms of the experiences that I’ve had professionally. I have the experience to be able to bring that to the table. And I just so happened to be solving that problem within our own community. I have the 10 years of experience and I’m still learning some things, but it will come together. And I don’t know that we’re the ultimate solution. I think we’re a part of the solution.

Pam: And it’s a darn good one too. It’s awesome. I’m super excited to see everything that’s coming out. So how do people find The Paradigm Switch?

Justine: You can just go to, join the movement and that will redirect you to Mighty Networks, which is the platform that we host our community on. We’ve always been known over the last two years as a scholarship opportunity and a community, and the two are very separate and we were kind of living and breathing in these two opportunities. We’ve provided about 90 scholarships to date. We just announced 14 more today. We have doubled down on technology.

Our mission is to empower you to work anywhere in the world. What we have identified through about five scholarship cycles the work that needs to be done to get you to that sweet spot of meeting the scholarship and how will you apply it and goals, et cetera. There’s a process there. And what we launched probably about three months ago is what we’re calling the Get Switched course. So the Get Switched course is an online course. The first module’s about headspace. It allows you to look inward. What are your goals? What are you doing with this? We’re all so hungry for an opportunity where we kind of grab everything, but our core values are to be authentic, own who you are, where you are at this stage in your life, and then be brave enough to own it. You need to be brave enough to step out and have that honest conversation not only with yourself but with your family, with your friends. And you need to be kind because not everybody’s going to agree with your decision. The reality is that you’re doing this for you, not for anybody else. And that’s why at Paradigm Switch, we really pride ourselves on only serving the military spouse. We’re not serving the veteran. We’re not serving the service member or the children. This is about you and you only, giving you that space to look inward.

And the last few are Doers & Dreamers and Get To Yes. And that is really around the fact that you have to put in the work, you have to earn it. So there’s essays and we expose you to remote work. We introduce you to instant teams. I think what’s going to happen out of that is that I’m developing some new things right now. So I can’t go into too many details about what’s coming over the next six months but there’s a whole scholarship opportunity and a community is going to come together. We’ll cover what is your why? How do you get grounded? How do you really have that sense of peace with yourself? How do you get to that point? Because when you’re interrupted every two to three years, you have to have that starting point. I don’t care how old you are, where you come from, what your race, what your gender is. If you do not have your center core values for yourself, you’re not going to do well. And I think any American or any human in this world can relate to that.

And so how do we get people to get to that point quicker and let’s have an opportunity waiting for them on the other end of it? So it’s being built right now and the main thing is to just join the community and join the conversation and network with everyone. It’s just a global network of people who believe in that vision. We expect to have more messaging coming soon. We have a big announcement coming on Monday. And that’s it.

Pam: Exciting stuff. Yeah.

Justine: Well, thanks for letting me share. It was definitely a very honest and raw conversation. It was a very personal conversation and a very work-related conversation. And I feel like in this moment, my personal life and my professional life came together. I’m uncomfortable, so anybody that’s watching and doesn’t think that I am uncomfortable… I feel very vulnerable. I feel like I’m naked in the middle of the road and everybody’s watching. But it’s the truth and that’s all there is to it. So thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

Pam: I really appreciate you letting yourself go there. Because I know that’s not easy and that it’s very fresh and very raw. So I am very grateful for that. Thank you very much.

Justine: I want people to think of that those stories as separate, you know. Know that there’s someone building this organization with intention, but The Paradigm Switch is changing my life just as much as it’s changing other people’s lives. And I don’t want to be known as that alcoholic that’s leading that organization – that’s super embarrassing.

Pam: Well, all they have to do is Google you and they can see the list of amazingness. Like it’s really incredible all that you’ve done and all that you do. I totally fangirl over the strides that you’re making. I know this journey of starting something up and it is really difficult. And you have made such huge progress and everything, so it really is amazing.

Justine: People forget we’re two years in and I’ve had my whole dream job on the side while I was doing it. So six months into making that entrepreneurial leap, it doesn’t feel new anymore. It feels like we’re really turning the corner to be a well-established organization and there’s just a lot of work that needs to be done now.

Pam: And you’re partnering with some great people and making an even bigger impact. That’s incredible. Thank you so much for joining and we will see you next time. Next week, I’m actually… I won a ticket to a wellness business summit in Toronto, Canada on Instagram. So I am not going to be having an episode next week because I will be in Toronto, but that’s super exciting. So my kiddos are going to go visit my best friend (thank goodness for best friend!) and she’s helping me out. Then we will return the following week after that. Thank you so much for joining us and being apart of this real honest, vulnerable conversation. And thanks so much Justine for sharing.

Justine: Of course. Thank you.

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