Sisters In Sobriety

In today's episode of "Sisters in Sobriety," Sonia and Kathleen take a deep dive into the world of self-soothing and its crucial role in maintaining sobriety. Self-soothing isn't just about keeping calm; it's a vital skill for balancing emotions and preventing relapse, which can be a tricky path to navigate. Join them as they unpack strategies and personal stories, providing you with tools and insights to bolster your recovery journey.

Throughout the episode, Sonia and Kathleen will explore essential questions that touch the core of self-soothing: What exactly does it mean to self-soothe? Why is it so important, especially during recovery? How can you transition from harmful old habits to beneficial new routines that genuinely support your well-being? They'll also tackle the nitty-gritty challenges many face, like finding the focus to meditate amidst chaos or discovering hobbies that genuinely soothe rather than inadvertently stress you out.

Listeners can look forward to gaining a richer understanding of emotional regulation, the transformative power of mindfulness, and how to craft a personalized toolkit of strategies for tough times. Whether you’re just starting your sober journey or you’re a seasoned veteran, this discussion is packed with insights on fostering resilience and emotional autonomy.

Join us at "Sisters in Sobriety," where we mix honest talks with hearty laughter, all while supporting each other in redefining our relationship with alcohol. Don’t forget to check out our substack for a treasure trove of supportive advice and to connect with a community that roots for you every step of the way. Come for the strategies, stay for the stories, and leave feeling empowered!


03:19 - Discussion of common pitfalls when trying to meditate and how social media can be a distraction.
00:03:44 - Sonia and Kathleen address significant questions on beginning the self-soothing process.
00:04:12 - Kathleen describes various self-soothing techniques and emphasizes the importance of finding what uniquely works for each individual.
00:05:31 - Sonia relates self-soothing to the concept of infants learning to calm themselves, drawing parallels to adults in recovery.
00:06:09 - Exploration of how self-soothing helps manage triggers and stressors without resorting to alcohol.
00:07:00 - Sonia explains the emotional, mental, and physical aspects of self-soothing.
00:08:11 - Sonia shares a personal story about recognizing the need for self-soothing in challenging moments.
00:10:05 - Discussion on the transformation from using substances as self-soothing to finding healthier alternatives.
00:14:06 - The hosts delve into how the journey of self-soothing began with their sobriety.
00:15:00 - Sonia shares insights into the early difficult days of sobriety and finding things that calmed her mind.
00:17:20 - Kathleen discusses misconceptions about self-soothing and emphasizes its immediate and practical benefits.
00:18:35 - Kathleen explains the RAIN technique for emotional awareness and self-soothing.
00:20:36 - Discussion of specific triggers for self-soothing and personal responses to emotional challenges.
00:22:31 - Advice on recognizing the need for self-soothing and developing mindful awareness throughout daily activities.
00:25:20 - Kathleen clarifies that successful self-soothing is about managing, not suppressing, emotions.
00:28:01 - Sonia shares how self-soothing techniques helped prevent potential relapses during her divorce.


What is Sisters In Sobriety?

You know that sinking feeling when you wake up with a hangover and think: “I’m never doing this again”? We’ve all been there. But what happens when you follow through? Sonia Kahlon and Kathleen Killen can tell you, because they did it! They went from sisters-in-law, to Sisters in Sobriety.

In this podcast, Sonia and Kathleen invite you into their world, as they navigate the ups and downs of sobriety, explore stories of personal growth and share their journey of wellness and recovery.

Get ready for some real, honest conversations about sobriety, addiction, and everything in between. Episodes will cover topics such as: reaching emotional sobriety, how to make the decision to get sober, adopting a more mindful lifestyle, socializing without alcohol, and much more.

Whether you’re sober-curious, seeking inspiration and self-care through sobriety, or embracing the alcohol-free lifestyle already… Tune in for a weekly dose of vulnerability, mutual support and much needed comic relief. Together, let’s celebrate the transformative power of sisterhood in substance recovery!

Kathleen Killen is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) and certified coach based in Ontario, Canada. Her practice is centered on relational therapy and she specializes in couples and working with individuals who are navigating their personal relationships.

Having been through many life transitions herself, Kathleen has made it her mission to help others find the support and communication they need in their closest relationships. To find out more about Kathleen’s work, check out her website.

Sonia Kahlon is a recovery coach and former addict. She grappled with high-functioning alcohol use disorder throughout her life, before getting sober in 2016. Sonia is now the founder of EverBlume, a digital tool that offers a unique approach to alcohol recovery support.

Over the last five years, she has appeared on successful sobriety platforms, such as the Story Exchange, the Sobriety Diaries podcast and the Sober Curator, to tell her story of empowerment and addiction recovery, discuss health and midlife sobriety, and share how she is thriving without alcohol.

Her online platform EverBlume launched in February 2023, and was featured in Recovery Today Magazine and deemed an ‘essential sobriety resource’ by the FemTech Insider.
The company champions self-improvement and mindful sobriety, with support groups designed by and for women struggling with alcohol.

So how can EverBlume help you meet your sober community? By offering deeply personalized support. Members get matched based on their profiles and life experiences, and take part in small group sessions (max. 16 people). In your support group, you will meet like-minded women, discuss your experiences, and gain confidence, knowing you can rely on your peers in times of need.

Whether you identify as a binge drinker, someone who developed a habit during the Covid-19 pandemic, a high-functioning alcoholic, or an anxious person using alcohol to self-soothe… There is a support group for you!

Current EverBlume members have praised the company’s unique approach to alcohol detox. “No one is judging me for not being sure I want to be sober for the rest of my life” ; “I felt so heard and understood and today I woke up feeling empowered to make the change in my life”.

Feeling inspired? Learn more about the EverBlume sobriety community at, or simply listen to Sisters In Sobriety.

Your sobriety success story starts today, with Kathleen and Sonia. Just press play!


[00:00:53] Sonia: Hi, we're Kathleen and Sonia and you're listening to Sisters in Sobriety. Thanks for being [00:01:00] here. I'm Sonia and I'm with my sister in sobriety. Actually, my sister in law, Kathleen. Kathleen, how are you doing today? Woohoo!

[00:01:08] Kathleen: good and I'm really good because a few days ago I finished my master's degree. Yay!

[00:01:17] Sonia: It's so exciting!

[00:01:19] Kathleen: Yeah.

[00:01:20] Sonia: is such a big deal. I don't remember what it's like for you to not be that busy, so I'm like, I think it's fascinating. It's gonna be interesting.

[00:01:29] Kathleen: It is, it is going to be interesting. I probably will, uh, start doing more things now that I wasn't doing before. So that's good. How are you doing?

[00:01:38] Sonia: I'm good. I'm in Toronto and we just had a birthday brunch with my nieces and I got emo because my oldest niece is 20.

[00:01:50] Kathleen: Mm hmm.

[00:01:50] Sonia: like, can't believe it. And I remember when she was born and it was really nice. We did this, where do you think you'll be in when your daughter is 18, so eight years, right?

[00:01:59] Sonia: I [00:02:00] like that kind of pause and think about like what the last, yeah. Like what the last 20 years have been like, and then like with the next, however many, yeah. So it was really nice.

[00:02:09] Sonia:

[00:02:09] Kathleen: So today we're talking about self soothing in sobriety. We'll talk about what it actually means, why it's so crucial for anyone in recovery. And let's be honest, why it's often easier said than done.

[00:02:23] Sonia: So what is self soothing all about? Well, at its core, it's about finding ways to calm our minds and bodies without falling back on old habits that in the long run do more harm than good. It's about figuring out how to be kind to ourselves in moments where the world feels just too much without needing an external substance to do it for us.

[00:02:44] Kathleen: But when some of us have spent years, maybe decades using alcohol or substances as our go to for dealing with life's ups and downs, developing new coping mechanisms can feel like learning a new language. It's all good. It's awkward, it's frustrating, and even [00:03:00] foreign at times. So we'll talk about the reality of trying to meditate and ending up scrolling through social media, the trial and error of finding a hobby that feels more soothing than stressful, and the surprising moments of peace we find in the most mundane activities like organizing a drawer or listening to a favorite song.

[00:03:18] Kathleen: Thank you.

[00:03:19] Sonia: We're also going to tackle some pretty big questions. How do you even start to figure out what works for you? What do you do when the healthy options just don't seem to cut it? And how do you keep trying when all you want to do is go back into old, familiar patterns? Whether you're newly sober and just starting to explore the world of self soothing, or you've been on this journey for a while but are looking for new strategies, this episode is for you.

[00:03:44] Sonia: For you, we're all about keeping it real here at sisters and sobriety. And we'll be sharing our struggles and successes and reminding all of you that you're not alone in this.

[00:03:54] Kathleen: So grab your favorite non alcoholic beverage, get comfy, and let's get into it. Let's talk about how [00:04:00] we learn to hold ourselves through tough times without letting go of the progress we've made. So Kathleen, as a therapist, how do you define the concept of self soothing to your patients?

[00:04:12] Sonia: So self soothing is a term that I use to describe various ways or techniques that people use to regulate their emotions and calm themselves when they're feeling stressed or anxious or upset. These techniques, these self soothing techniques really help us manage our emotional states and it can impact our overall well being and our relationships.

[00:04:36] Sonia: But self Soothing strategies can be really diverse and they're really tailored to what each person finds comforting and effective. So this might be physical activities like deep breathing, stretching or walking, or it can be sensory activities like listening to music or enjoying calming scents or taking a warm bath or engaging in [00:05:00] mindfulness practices.

[00:05:01] Sonia: So it's, it's all over the map in what it can be. But the key to self soothing is Really recognizing which strategies work best for you and it's about creating a personal toolkit. We love our toolkits here at Sisters in Sobriety that you can turn to whenever you're feeling overwhelmed. These strategies aren't just about handling in the moment stress, but they're about building long term resilience. What about you? Mm

[00:05:31] Kathleen: Yeah, The thing I always associated with that idea of self soothing is when it relates to infants, right? Like babies need to learn to self soothe and it's a skill to learn that ability to calm yourself down and reduce your distress and eventually fall asleep on their own.

[00:05:49] Kathleen: And so that they can do that without the immediate comfort from like a parent or a caregiver. And so. I think the principle of self soothing in that context is [00:06:00] helping infants develop the capacity to manage their own emotions and comfort. themselves, which is foundational, right? For emotional regulation.

[00:06:09] Kathleen: But I think when we apply it to recovery, there's a pretty strong parallel. It's a really crucial skill for adults. And I think it's a way to navigate waves of emotions. And we talk about triggers for drinking and stressors without turning to alcohol or substances. And so it's really about identifying And using healthy strategies and coping mechanisms to calm yourself down in moments of distress or high emotional trauma.

[00:06:39] Kathleen: And so, just as with infants, the ability to self soothe for people in recovery is a really big step towards emotional independence and empowering yourself to handle life changes in a healthier, more constructive way.

[00:06:55] Sonia: So what, what might learning to self soothe mean for our [00:07:00] listeners?

[00:07:00] Kathleen: Yeah, I always, try to look at things from, a mental, emotional, and physical level. So, I think it's learning to calm yourself in those three ways. without running to an unhealthy habit. So, emotionally, I think it's about recognizing. what you're feeling in the moment. Is it stress? Is it loneliness?

[00:07:19] Kathleen: Is it anxiety? can you name the emotion and allow yourself to experience it without judgment and then guiding yourself right back to a state of calm and balance through techniques that actually resonate with you personally. So if it's meditation, journaling or a hobby and mentally, I think it means it.

[00:07:41] Kathleen: Challenging those thought patterns, right? And that's what I've been working on lately that lead to that. distress. And so learning to speak to yourself, I know we talk about this a lot, self compassion, learning to speak to yourself with kindness and encouragement. And physically it can just take the form of different activities that help you [00:08:00] release tension and relax.

[00:08:01] Kathleen: And so it could be exercise, yoga, deep breathing, or even, we always talk about a hot bath. So what is self soothing meant to you, Kathleen?

[00:08:11] Sonia: So what it means to me is really actually I'm going to speak about this more broadly. It really means awareness because if you don't have the initial awareness, that's something. Is not right within you or you're not feeling like you're you have a challenging emotion coming up And that you're able to like you mentioned Label what that emotion is.

[00:08:37] Sonia: I think that there's no point in even talking about self soothing, to be honest, until we get the awareness piece first. So it's really recognizing that there is a need for self soothing and what is going on within ourselves. So for me, self soothing has been really about. [00:09:00] Understanding and recognizing when those emotions are coming up for me and pausing for a moment and just saying to myself, Oh, that's interesting.

[00:09:07] Sonia: Like, that's anxiety coming up for me right now. I think in the past, I would jump from, I would have an immediate trigger for, anxiety or stress and then look for a substance and whether that be, um, alcohol, drugs, food for me. I had, you know, past binge eating problems. And so I think that, that very much I had to get to that awareness piece.

[00:09:37] Sonia: What has self soothing meant for you?

[00:09:39] Kathleen: For me, it's really been a process. So you know, right, that I grew up in a really tough love environment. So I was not soothed. but I also didn't see healthy coping mechanisms modeled necessarily. So to some extent, growing up, I was always self soothing because no one else was soothing me. And [00:10:00] when I was younger, I really, I escaped by reading and I think a lot of kids do that.

[00:10:05] Kathleen: And then I found drinking and every other technique of self soothing went out the window. So I used it for every uncomfortable emotion. And I don't think I ever told you this, but I look back, there was a weekend, a few months before your wedding. And I had. decided not to come and it made a huge rift in my family and instead of dealing with it and talking about it journaling about it like what I would do now I drank and I remember I started to drink on Friday night when I got home from work and then I found a excuse to do brunch the next day and so I drank all day the next day and part of it too wasthat my partner at the time was also used to using substances to self soothe.

[00:10:54] Kathleen: And so, and he was also a tough love person. So I was just sort of stuck in this loop [00:11:00] of don't talk about uncomfortable things and then using unhealthy ways to deal with those emotions. So for me, getting sober was a huge change of having to deal with all these feelings and talk about them. But also, I had been surrounded by people who weren't necessarily used to this.

[00:11:18] Kathleen: A version of me that wanted to talk about all the things.

[00:11:23] Sonia: I didn't know that that was, that weekend. Was it, you mean, the weekend of our wedding that you were drinking or the weekend you decided?

[00:11:30] Kathleen: there's a really weird story that I had decided like a a month before, Hey, I'm not going to come to the wedding. There's a lot of like drama surrounding this. And then this is so weird. My parents are in Toronto.

[00:11:44] Kathleen: We're going to drive to Philadelphia andmake you come to this wedding. We'll see you. We'll see you soon. And so that was Friday, they called my work and they said to the secretary. Let Sonya know we will be there when she gets home tonight.[00:12:00]

[00:12:00] Sonia: Oh my god.

[00:12:03] Kathleen: I was like, is this a joke? I had no

[00:12:06] Sonia: knew

[00:12:07] Kathleen: Oh my God. So when I got home, and they weren't there, I was like, oh, thank God. I just started drinking.

[00:12:14] Sonia: What happened? They didn't come?

[00:12:16] Kathleen: No, it was really weird. I don't know if it was like a threat or like a tactic. This sounds so

[00:12:22] Sonia: Oh my gosh.

[00:12:24] Kathleen: 35 year old woman, like, scared of my parents showing up

[00:12:30] Sonia: Oh, I would be the same, though.

[00:12:33] Kathleen: To drag me to this hybrid Indian wedding.

[00:12:38] Sonia: It was a really good wedding. I just want to say that it was a really good wedding. You would have had to do a lot of self soothing with alcohol at our wedding, I'm sure. So it's probably good you didn't come.

[00:12:48] Kathleen: It was either self soothing, right, at that point, that actually, that's a really good point. I would have had to self soothe, but because I didn't know how to do that at the time, I would have acted out,

[00:12:56] Sonia: Okay, so I think now we've come to this place, we [00:13:00] understand that it's a good thing you didn't come to the wedding because you would have caused some sort of scene.

[00:13:05] Kathleen: and I'm not even a scene y person,

[00:13:07] Sonia: You're not.

[00:13:08] Kathleen: yeah, and and yes, I did drink heavily the weekend that you did get married. It was American Thanksgiving and I did drink a lot that weekend and kept opening Facebook to see if there were pictures of the wedding and being like See any pictures of a brother's

[00:13:25] Sonia: you want to watch our wedding video sometime?

[00:13:28] Kathleen: not really. No, I Mean

[00:13:33] Sonia: It was a really beautiful wedding.

[00:13:35] Kathleen: I, yeah, like I do, but then I don't because it'll make me sad for like multiple reasons. But and I, yeah, and I'm working on not thinking that, um, divorces are failures. So it's not to be, I think your

[00:13:48] Sonia: I don't think it was a failure. I don't at all. I don't think it was a failure. I learned a lot from it, but let's get back. Let's get back to the topic at hand. I know you're learning to self soothe without [00:14:00] alcohol, and I know that's been a big part of your journey. So, did that start before you got sober?

[00:14:06] Kathleen: No, for sure not. When I got sober, I had no idea that learning to self soothe was even part of sobriety. So it's funny. I used to like use the term self soothe, like really jokingly, like with my employees when I had my business.

[00:14:20] Kathleen: So when people would ask me questions that I knew they could like Google the answer to, I would be like, You need to self soothe. You need to self soothe.

[00:14:28] Kathleen: And so in my mind, it meant you don't need me, right? Trust yourself. And I think that has some of the elements of self soothing, but it's not necessarily what I see. Now, a self soothing,

[00:14:40] Sonia: Okay. So, when did you, when did you first realize that self soothing would need to be a part of your sobriety journey, and what did it look like?

[00:14:48] Kathleen: yeah, when I initially got sober, I was really white knuckling it because I didn't have any of those mechanisms, but I knew without labeling it that I needed to find [00:15:00] things that calmed my mind down. I had a lot of trouble sleeping when I first got sober. and this sort of brings it back to the infant concept is that we have to learn healthy ways to soothe ourselves when all of our physical needs have been like objectively met.

[00:15:15] Kathleen: Right? Like I wasn't. Hungry. I was tired. I needed to sleep. Um, but you know, by trial and error, I just sort of figured out things to self soothe. And, at first I didn't label it, but I would, I would have called it, how am I going to stop from having a complete meltdown?

[00:15:33] Kathleen: And so I would call it now there's a very specific feeling, which was like the feeling before the feeling. Of wanting to drink. So it's just like a very short period where you have an option to choose to do something different. And yeah, my mental spiral in that way leads to physical symptoms. Right? So part of my self soothing now is to soothe my body.

[00:15:56] Kathleen: So. I tried a few things. So physically I [00:16:00] tried exercising in really tough moments and it didn't work for me. Right. there's a combination of, I can't do this when I'm freaking out. And also I would do it and it wouldn't work. So it doesn't mean I don't work out. It's part of my like regular self care routine, but it's just not part of those self soothing techniques.

[00:16:17] Kathleen: And so we're not talking about things that reduce the Overall need to self soothe, but what can you go to in those specific moments? So for me, it's really unusual and probably, yeah, again, happened just by accident was like drinking something warm because I think the physical manifestation for me is in my chest.

[00:16:37] Kathleen: And so drinking herbal tea or like hot water with lemon really helps. And there was this period of time, I remember a few years ago where I got a hot water bottle from like Amazon and I put it on my chest. So yeah, they, they just came about from a need to calm myself and that commitment to not drinking because that's such an easy way.

[00:16:57] Kathleen: And so I just didn't want to use alcohol to deal with [00:17:00] those feelings because they would just come back stronger once I sobered up. And so, um, Yeah, in time, I've definitely developed different techniques to deal with the emotional and mental parts of self soothing as well.

[00:17:12] Sonia: What are, what do you think are some common misconceptions about self soothing that you think need addressing?

[00:17:20] Kathleen: Yes, I know we've talked a lot about self compassion and self care, but I think self soothing for me has a more linear time component. So it's not about, long term practices for like personal peace. Like that can be part of it, but it's more about having a few practical strategies Calm yourself when you're in like real emotional distress.

[00:17:43] Kathleen: So, you may be learning to practice meditation like I am, right? Um, as part of my self care routine, but I, I can't use it as a self soothing technique yet, right? doesn't calm me down in that way yet. It may. So yeah, if a bath calms you down, then [00:18:00] do it. So how can someone identify?

[00:18:03] Kathleen: I know we've talked about my physical and emotional sensations, but how can someone else identify the physical and emotional sensations that indicate a need for self soothing?

[00:18:12] Sonia: I think it's being able to stop in the moment when you sense something is wrong. So what I talk to my clients about, and for those clients who are listening to our podcast, they'll be like, Oh yeah, Kathleen always says this. I'll say, where is it showing up first in your body? So generally, um, before we have the thought or the emotion around it, our body knows first.

[00:18:35] Sonia: So I often will say, you know, can you recognize. What is the sensation in your body? And it might be in the chest. It might be in the stomach. It might be in the throat. Does the throat close up a little bit? If you're getting anxious, do you feel butterflies in your stomach? Um, usually it's in the physical way.

[00:18:53] Sonia: So I, I think that Having an understanding of what's happening in your body first and [00:19:00] recognizing that something's a little off, um, is really a good indicator to self soothe. And I, I wanted to mention A really good acronym called RAIN.

[00:19:11] Sonia: And it there's been a few practitioners who have used this and kind of changed it along the way. It originally started with a woman named Michelle McDonald, but the, the acronym RAIN that I typically use is from Tara Brock. She is an amazing, psychologist. She is an author. She is, an educator.

[00:19:33] Sonia: She has her own podcast, but she talks about RAINN as the acronym of recognizing. So the R is recognizing what's happening. So is there an, is a feeling, a sensation? What's happening? There's like butterflies in my stomach. Allowing the experience to be there just as it is. And so this is really key.

[00:19:54] Sonia: You're not like self soothing to distract yourself necessarily. you're not trying to push it [00:20:00] away. You're just allowing it to be there and you're noticing. So the I is investigate with interest and care. Oh, that's interesting. I'm anxious. I wonder what that brought that on. And then the self soothing is nurturing.

[00:20:13] Sonia: So nurture with self compassion. So recognize, allow, investigate and nurture. And I use this acronym a lot for myself personally, and I also use it with clients.

[00:20:24] Kathleen: so thinking about that, what situations trigger the most intense need for self soothing in your experience? Oh,

[00:20:36] Sonia: answer, and this is going to be different for everyone. For me, I am triggered by being overwhelmed and stressed. That really prompts self soothing, like the need for self soothing for me. And as you know, if anyone questions my parenting, for example, Oh,

[00:20:57] Kathleen: questions your parenting, yeah,

[00:20:58] Sonia: isn't it fun when [00:21:00] someone questions my parenting?

[00:21:02] Sonia: So, so I, I know you have, I know you have, so I recognize in myself, okay. Like for me, the heat, like, let's say it's someone questioning my parenting or like making a. An unwelcome suggestion about my parenting. I feel heat coming up in my body. I feel it in my stomach first. It comes into my chest. I notice it now, so I'll be like, Oh, that's interesting.

[00:21:28] Sonia: I'm having that feeling again. Is that anxiety? Is it anger? What is going on? Um, what triggered that? And then I Just allow it to be. And then I also am like, okay, what nurturing do I need now? For me, I have many different self soothing techniques, but let's say it's in the moment I will do some deep breathing.

[00:21:48] Sonia: so I think that it's really going to be individual on what emotions and situations trigger the need for self soothing.

[00:21:57] Kathleen: advice would you give to someone who finds it [00:22:00] hard to recognize when they need it? To self soothe, which that's what I was like, too.

[00:22:05] Sonia: it takes practice. I think awareness Mindful awareness takes practice. It's not just like sitting in meditation. That's not what this is about. This is about having many moments throughout the day where you're fully present with what is here right now. And it can help sometimes by starting to practice with, every time I brush my teeth, I'm just going to be brushing my teeth.

[00:22:31] Sonia: So it doesn't necessarily mean you need to be aware with negative emotions right off the bat, but just try to be aware. of anything in the present moment. And it becomes a practice. And with the practice, you get better and better as you practice. And now I would say, I also started out not, even though I meditated, I wouldn't say, I was mindful during my day.

[00:22:55] Sonia: And so that really shifted for me. And I am very, very mindful, [00:23:00] especially, as a psychotherapist, I naturally will have emotions come up because I'm human when I'm sitting with clients and I will need to recognize for example, but that's like anyone, you could be sitting with a friend and they say something andyou start feeling something in your body or there's anxiety or stress and Start recognizing them.

[00:23:20] Sonia: But I do think that it begins with just start being aware of all things in your life. And it does, it just can be a few moments throughout the day. but just start.

[00:23:30] Kathleen: yeah, the idea of I'm still struggling with naming my emotions. Right? And so love talking about my divorce, but the only emotion I can label is sad. Right? And I know there's other emotions there. There have to be right. There has to be. resentment. There has to begrief. I hate using that word, but you know what I mean?

[00:23:53] Kathleen: Like there are other feelings there other than just sad. Andyou're right. I need to learn how to label them. What did [00:24:00] successful self soothing look like? Like in terms of how you feel before and after you

[00:24:06] Sonia: I'm going to get to your question in a minute, but I actually just want to touch on what you just said about naming emotions are really hard. And that also is something that gets better with practice. In my, in my psychotherapy practice, I actually have a pillow that has a feelings wheel on it. I use it all the time because people are like, Oh, I don't know.

[00:24:26] Sonia: What is it? And I'm like, look at the wheel. And Honestly, it can be really helpful to have a list of what possible emotions are to help you be like, Oh, actually, that's disappointment it is so helpful. And I have had clients say, I'm sad. And I'll be like, okay, tell me more about what is the sadness?

[00:24:46] Sonia: what's the quality of the sadness? And they're like, I don't know. And I'll say, look at the pillow. Tell me what what is and they'll be like, oh, it's this or it's this or it's this and it's like, okay So the more we understand the better [00:25:00] it is So I would definitely recommend just Google feelings wheel Google feelings or emotions list and it can be really helpful But in terms of your question, I'm gonna go back to your question, which was about what does successful selfsoothing look like so Self soothing I want to be really clear is not pushing down your emotions.

[00:25:20] Sonia: I repeat, it is not pushing down the emotions. It is also about allowing the emotions to come up, but not getting hooked into them. So we aren't going to soothe necessarily to distract, although healthy distraction is a thing. And we're going to talk about that. But it is a, and it's not about making them go away.

[00:25:42] Sonia: Self soothing is to help you ride the wave of the emotion. Here's the thing if you have a momentary emotion of anxiety, unless you get hooked onto the thought that is also causing the anxiety, you can ride the wave through it. So self soothing is [00:26:00] to really help you ride the wave to the other side.

[00:26:02] Kathleen: Okay. So can self soothing Can it be a form of avoidance? Like, how do you balance that need for self soothing or facing and processing the difficult emotions?

[00:26:15] Sonia: so I think this is a really good question. Healthy distraction can be okay. And I know you hate to talk about grief, but I have worked with people in deep grief. I've myself been in deep grief and I often recommend that sometimes in that initial stage of really like intense grief, there.

[00:26:34] Sonia: There can be healthy distraction and that's okay because someone who's just lost someone dear to them, whether that's through death or other means, divorce, et cetera, you can't be in that pain all the time. it's too much. So there can be healthy distraction, but it's Knowing that that is just momentary, right?

[00:26:55] Sonia: So what I'm talking about is momentary discomfort [00:27:00] is just that it's momentary. So most people don't ever actually ride the wave of that momentary discomfort. They seek comfort immediately somewhere else, like whether it's alcohol or drugs or food, or it can be lots of things. So the self soothing, having these tools.

[00:27:19] Sonia: Help you ride those waves of challenging emotions and get to the other side and the waves can come up a lot of times during the day depending on what's going on your life. So if you're going through a divorce or if you're going through trying to get sober or anything, like something really difficult, if you're going through any sort of suffering, which is common in life, it happens to all of us in life, then those waves can be more intense.

[00:27:44] Sonia: And then other times in your life, there might not be as many waves. So self soothing really can help you get through those waves. Does that make sense?

[00:27:54] Kathleen: Yeah, it really does.

[00:27:55] Sonia: Sonia, do you think that self soothing techniques can help avoid [00:28:00] a potential relapse?

[00:28:01] Kathleen: Oh, definitely. I think that the feelings that you just described, those emotional and physical sensations, for me, are potential triggers or warning signs of returning to drinking. So, for myself, if I'm at a, let's say just 5 out of 10 on the scale of distress, if I don't self soothe at that point and let it get to a 10, then, I'm going to drink.

[00:28:26] Kathleen: And so that's how important self soothing is to me. And I've gotten to a nine, probably during my divorce. I don't know if you remember the incident at the lawyer's office the first time. Yeah. So the first time I had to go in person to the lawyer's office. Office about the divorce and I kind of still hadn't accepted it was happening

[00:28:45] Kathleen: and then I remember getting back in the car and I had a full meltdown in the parking lot and I called you and Once you like talked me down from the ledge We decided that anytime I have to go to the lawyer in person.

[00:28:59] Kathleen: I would do [00:29:00] something fun ish for myself. And so my lawyer's office was in this cute little town. And the next time I went, it was like September and I got a pumpkin spice latte. And then I went and walked around this cute little boutique after. And it was something that I thought I should just be powering through.

[00:29:19] Kathleen: Like this wasn't a self soothing thing. Like it's serious. It's a lawyer's it's divorce, but you know, really there was a huge opportunity there. For self soothing and I don't think I was giving myself permission to do that until you gave it to me.

[00:29:38] Sonia: I didn't know that.

[00:29:39] Kathleen: I think that was honestly, that was, and I probably think you know that, that was the worst I think I've ever

[00:29:45] Sonia: Yeah.

[00:29:46] Kathleen: been in the

[00:29:47] Sonia: Yeah.

[00:29:47] Sonia: Oh

[00:29:47] Sonia: Yeah, Yeah, for sure I

[00:29:49] Sonia: remember

[00:29:50] Sonia: that.

[00:29:50] Kathleen: And it was like a Friday afternoon, who

[00:29:53] Kathleen: it was like, let's remind you you're alone this weekend, woohoo! Um. Yeah, it sucked. but how do [00:30:00] you ensure that your self soothing techniques are healthy and not inadvertently harmful? Like nine pumpkin spice lattes may be harmful,

[00:30:09] Sonia: So this is again, very individual. For example, food can be a technique used to self soothe and that can be totally okay for some people. It can be okay to have I don't know, like a meal that is self soothing or a dessert, but if you're diabetic or you have binge eating disorder, then maybe not.

[00:30:29] Sonia: And you're is that. I would often self soothe with sugar and, desserts and treats. And so having one, cookie with my tea in the afternoon is like a very soothing activity. It could be self soothing, but I. have a problem doing that. I would have the whole bag of cookies.

[00:30:48] Sonia: That's not okay. I don't feel good about anything after that. So exercise can actually be the same for me. Exercise is a major way that I self soothe. and for someone else [00:31:00] that can get into that cycle of exercising all the time. It could become an addiction. Then that might not be good. So.

[00:31:08] Sonia: When the root of your self soothing is avoidance, no matter what, then there could be a problem with that. I've talked to several clients recently about spiritual bypassing. And this is a thing that I did for a while, and I've seen it in clients, is, especially going through my divorce, is I would hide in meditation.

[00:31:26] Sonia: I would hide in my spirituality, my spiritual practices to avoid, and I know that sounds, that can sound a bit weird, but it wasn't done to help me ride the wave of the emotion, it was done to try and numb myself. So, I think that's the difference. Are you trying to numb yourself or are you recognizing, okay, here is this emotion.

[00:31:48] Sonia: I recognize this emotion and this emotion is not going to last forever. How do I get through to the other side of this emotion? In what ways do your self soothing [00:32:00] needs change depending on your environment or the people around you?

[00:32:04] Kathleen: Yeah. for the most part, your techniques are pretty universal, and adaptable, and those are also probably the ones that are most effective. And so I move around a lot, so I can't be dependent on An item. Or an actual physical place. So a really good example though, in therapy, I have, what we call a safe calm place that I think about when I'm trying to get out of tougher therapy session headspace.

[00:32:29] Kathleen: She'll be like, let's go to the safe calm place. And so I find something like that, where you, that you can click into wherever you are, like you could be on a plane and be like, I'm really stressed about. You know, X, Y, Z, and you can go to your safe calm place. And so my safe calm place is looking at my Adirondack chairs from my kitchen window.

[00:32:50] Kathleen: how can you gently guide someone towards recognizing their own need for self soothing without overstepping personal boundaries?

[00:32:59] Kathleen: Yeah, I've [00:33:00] struggled with this one for sure. not with my clients, but with, with my family and friends and my daughter for sure. and I really do think that you have to model it so you can talk about your own personal experience. I will say to my daughter, for example, I'll say, Oh, I'm having a hard day.

[00:33:22] Sonia: or I'm feeling really anxious right now. I'm just going to go and take a few deep breaths or I'm going to go do yoga or whatever, or I'm going to go for a walk. so I'm modeling that for her. She's definitely getting to that tween age where she doesn't want me to tell her what to do, but I don't think anyone really wants us, wants people to tell them what to do.

[00:33:42] Sonia: So I think it's modeling it and how it can be useful is. the best way to, to share that with people. How do you think self compassion plays into the process of self soothing?

[00:33:54] Kathleen: Yeah, I think that what we were just talking about how you, you sort of

[00:33:58] Sonia: Mm hmm.

[00:33:59] Kathleen: [00:34:00] right to self soothe in that one scenario. And I think that you have to have self compassion to give yourself that permission. You need to understand that your feelings are valid and that These sensations are real and they deserve your time and attention.

[00:34:15] Kathleen: So you really can't judge yourself. And, you know, you, you said it at the beginning too, like you need to just pause. Right? And I think self compassion plays a huge role in sobriety. And I think without it, we really fall into that shame and

[00:34:28] Sonia: Yeah, I think so, for sure. I think the self compassion plays such a huge role in it. And I know for myself, the root of my drug addiction was completely self soothing. that is what I sought with using drugs because, I've talked about this in previous episodes. I have ADHD and I didn't know I had ADHD until, you know, just in the last five years.

[00:34:59] Sonia: I was [00:35:00] constantly striving for perfection, I was overachieving, my brain was constantly going a million miles a minute, I had tons of work pressure, and for me, you know, my drug of choice was cocaine, and that would calm my brain. So it would also, I thought, help me do all the things I needed to

[00:35:22] Sonia: do to be worthy.

[00:35:25] Sonia: And that is a tough pill to swallow. I shouldn't say pill to swallow, but you know what I mean? Ha ha ha. it was tough for me because once I stopped using cocaine, I had to, well, I thought for some time, well, I'm not. What do I need to achieve? Like I'm not that calm person. I'm not able to do the things I wanted to do.

[00:35:50] Sonia: And so with that had to come a lot of self acceptance. maybe I wasn't cut out at that time for the corporate world. Maybe I wasn't cut out for [00:36:00] such a high. Stakes job. I mean, I didn't know right. I didn't know I had adhd. So My brain was working differently than other people's brains so for me, it was really like self the need to self soothe was really at the root of my addiction And so I had to learn other ways to self soothe to be able to be The person that I am.

[00:36:25] Kathleen: So how can someone begin to integrate self soothing techniques into their life, especially if they're new to the

[00:36:31] Sonia: I'm just going to keep saying this, but like awareness is first and foremost, you can't self soothe what you don't. happening. so awareness is first. We've talked about that enough, I think in this podcast, but then make a list of self soothing techniques and make a list of all of them.

[00:36:49] Sonia: Make a list of the ones you have now. And even if they're quote unquote unhealthy, like make a list, put those in the list. And then even ones that [00:37:00] you think you could use that you don't have in your life right now. And then look at ones which are not the healthiest for you long term. And maybe think, okay, what is the alternative I'm going to use to that?

[00:37:11] Sonia: So, I'll give you an example that's not related to drugs and alcohol, but when I get stressed, I still want to have sweets. Like I really want to have sweets. And now I'm like, no, if I, I have to recognize, Oh, I'm feeling anxious. I'm feeling stressed. That's interesting. Why is that? So I'll investigate that a little bit.

[00:37:32] Sonia: I allow the emotion to come in and the physical sensation. And then I'm like, okay, how am I going to nurture myself? I'm going to make myself a tear. Or I'm going to go for a walk, or I'm going to listen to this one song that I want to listen to right now. So, having those things right at your fingertips, knowing what you're going to do is really, really helpful. What advice would you give to someone who struggles to find self soothing techniques that work for [00:38:00] them?

[00:38:00] Kathleen: Yeah, so we,talked about trial and error, but also think outside the box. So, it's great to look at other people and see what works for them, but know that those things aren't always going to work for you. So, I'm sure, I'm sure you find that incense you burn very,

[00:38:15] Kathleen: soothing,

[00:38:16] Sonia: Not for you.

[00:38:18] Kathleen: but I've, no, I've tried incense.

[00:38:20] Kathleen: It just doesn't work for me. but something that does work for me, which is so. Not what I'm like, but it's like a mantra. And so I, and I've told you this,but I am my own home. So, I've been Not quite successfully dating. And I get this very specific type of stress associated with it.

[00:38:40] Kathleen: And I just remind myself that I'm not looking for someone to complete me and that I'm my own home. And so that helps a lot. So wherever I am, I'm fine. I'm complete. I'm enough. And it may sound like a strange self soothing technique, but it works. Whenever I just say, I am my own home. [00:39:00] automatically feel calmer.

[00:39:02] Kathleen: Can you share a self soothing technique that you find surprisingly

[00:39:06] Sonia: I have so many of them. It was tough for me to. To figure out which one and I'm not I was originally going to share one of my mindfulness techniques, but I'm not going to I'm going to reserve that for an episode on mindfulness, but I love a cozy warm blanket and, Sometimes I will just even put that blanket on my legs.

[00:39:28] Sonia: Like if I'm working at my desk, I will put it on my legs. I love, I have a nice, like warm electric blanket, not in the middle of the summer I use it, but I find that really self soothing. So I will put that on myself. I also have, I guess it's like very sensory for me. I, I also have like a body pillow that I use when I sleep and it's got this really fuzzy pillowcase on it and I find that really soothing.

[00:39:56] Sonia: So sometimes if I'm having a moment in the middle of the day and I do, I work [00:40:00] from home, I will, go and just lie with that pillow for a couple of minutes and then I'm good and then I'll get up And carry on.

[00:40:08] Sonia: So how can self soothing techniques evolve as one progresses in their sobriety journey?

[00:40:13] Kathleen: They definitely evolve. I think as much as you're evolving, your techniques are evolving. So when I'm going through changes, my self soothing techniques are adapting and, I just added one actually, like, last week, where I have this very specific issue sometimes of feeling ungrounded, like almost like, not like I'm in a dream, but that just my mind is sort of in a loop or a narrative of things that I don't know to be true.

[00:40:40] Kathleen: So it's just like this story, right? That I'm telling myself using like a few assortment of a few facts.

[00:40:46] Kathleen: so it's just like this story, right? That I'm telling myself and someone suggested that I put.

[00:40:51] Kathleen: a hand on my heart and a hand on my stomach and take a deep breath. And I found it worked really well for now.

[00:40:58] Sonia: I love that

[00:40:58] Sonia: one. [00:41:00] I love that one, Sonia. I doubt, I'll do like two hearts, or two

[00:41:04] Sonia: hearts,

[00:41:05] Sonia: two hands on

[00:41:07] Kathleen: I do that.

[00:41:07] Sonia: love that one.

[00:41:08] Kathleen: heart.

[00:41:09] Sonia: Yes.

[00:41:12] Kathleen: Do it too. I do that too. Um, so yeah. How do you assess the effectiveness of your, self soothing techniques

[00:41:20] Kathleen: over

[00:41:21] Sonia: are you getting wound up in the emotion, and it's lasting for a really, really, really long time, and those stories are just going round and round in your head? are you turning to things that you wish you weren't? I think that's a really, really good if things aren't working so well, you might be still turning Things that aren't necessarily healthiest for you in the long term.

[00:41:42] Sonia: but when you're not as much, I think that other self soothing techniques are probably taking more prevalence in your life because let's be real here. Like it's not about removing stress. It's not about removing suffering. that is. That is the human condition. We are going to have suffering in [00:42:00] our life.

[00:42:00] Sonia: I'm sorry to say, but we are. And so what are the ways that we can cope with that? And you can tell by, are you turning to things that you wish you weren't, I think are going to also be helpful. I mean, not everyone has time to do this, but I think it can be helpful to keep an emotions journal and track how long that you've felt that emotion.

[00:42:21] Sonia: a few months ago I timed an episode of anxiety, not a panic attack, I was really anxious and I timed if I didn't go to anything, didn't, I wasn't looking for any self soothing in that moment, but how long would it last and if I just was aware of it, just aware of the emotions coming up, if I was aware of what it felt like in my body and it was five minutes.

[00:42:43] Sonia: Just five minutes. That's it. So I think self soothing can help cut that down and then also can help in the long term just have better practices. What do you, what resonated with you the most in today's episode?

[00:42:59] Kathleen: So many [00:43:00] things like self soothing is like a big, it's like a big part of my journey. And so actually just the last thing that you said, I think resonated the most with me, which is the emotions journal and sort of tracking it because I think I'm always so, impatient to get out of it, out of the emotion and to fix it.

[00:43:18] Kathleen: And, yeah, that really helped I need to sit with it a little bit more and maybe not definitely self soothe, but like, let's figure out what

[00:43:26] Sonia: Yeah, exactly.

[00:43:28] Kathleen: So yeah. What resonated with you

[00:43:32] Sonia: What resonated with me is that really self soothing can look like so many different things, right? And for one person like you, a pumpkin spice latte is like a great way to self soothe when you're doing something difficult, like going to your lawyer's office for someone else that might, 10 of them might not be self soothing.

[00:43:51] Sonia: So I think it's really what resonated with me is like, just even from your example, it's really. an individual thing, [00:44:00] like what you're sure there are some that could be common, but like I burn incense, you don't, that doesn't really work for you for self soothing. So it is really individual. And I think I would just encourage all of our listeners to take a few moments and make that list of.

[00:44:18] Sonia: what self soothing practices you have and what you could have and what would work for you in a healthy way longterm. And then what doesn't

[00:44:26] Sonia: Thank you so much for listening to sisters in sobriety and we will see you next week. [00:45:00]