Courtney: Beginning Again (And Again)

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Courtney embraces the mess. She records chaotic workout videos from home, where she’s currently raising three kids as a single mom. So why should her sobriety journey be any different? As Courtney has recently realized, her recovery from alcohol — which she began six years ago — will never really be over. Courtney talks with Stephanie about approaching recovery as something non-linear and lifelong, and how that might just be the most empowering part.

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To follow along with a transcript, go to shortly after the air date.



Courtney, Stephanie Wittels Wachs

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  00:00

Hi, Last Day listeners just a heads up today’s episode discusses suicidal ideation. If this is a potentially triggering topic for you, feel free to sit this one out. If you do stick with us, please listen with care.

Courtney  00:16

I would block out I would end up in hotel rooms with friends of people and have to go find my car. The next day I had a friend at the time we call it project unicorn. Like I’d wake up and have a code phrase and be like Project unicorn who would be like, all the while, you know, parenting these kids and running this business.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  00:35

Courtney Wycoff is a mom of three and entrepreneur and a badass innovator in the fitness space. And she’s been all of these things for a good long while, even during a period of her life that was very dark and heavily colored by substance use. So many of our listeners understand that recovery doesn’t come easy to anyone. But Courtney is sort of perpetually chipping away at it. And does that work ever end? No. No, it does not.

Courtney  01:08

I want to get to a place where you know, I have so many years and I’ve figured this out and recovery is done. Like I’ve completed recovery. But it’s not. I am recovering. It’s a constant daily practice.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  01:33

This is LAST DAY, a show about the moments that change us. I’m your host Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Today, the story of beginning again and again and again. And what it means to show up for yourself and your community every single day, whether you like it or not. When I wanted you to spare my life, I had no doubt in my mind. And you read down the lie. I don’t do that for anyone else. I want to let you know. Okay, you’re the only one.

Courtney  02:26

The only way I can start.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  02:31

In addition to being all of the cool things I set up top, Courtney Wycoff is also like, how do I put this my hero, someone I organically want to serenade. And for the last like nine years, she has guided me through my own fitness journey from the other side of a computer screen.

Courtney  02:53

Alright, hi everybody. This is Courtney from Mama’s strong. I am here to help you begin again at any point in the day even if it’s 11:58pm.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  03:04

When I saw Courtney an action for the first time. I basically knew right away that we were going to be friends. But like besties, you know, like, in one of the first videos I saw, she was doing a workout next to a basket of overflowing laundry. And I thought, oh my god, this woman she gets it. She is me. Courtney doesn’t shy away from the mess both literally and figuratively. And it’s probably my favorite thing about her. Exhibit A of messy shit that feels impossible when you’re in it. Postpartum depression. And that is where today’s story starts. It is 2012. Courtney is living in Houston, Texas. And from the outside, she looks like she’s doing great. She has a very cool, asymmetrical haircut, she looks super active and fit. And she’s just had her second baby. But behind closed doors, it is a totally different story.

Courtney  04:06

My partner would put me in a recliner in the nursery, because I’d had a C section so I couldn’t get up and down myself. And so he would put me in a recliner and kind of set up stuff around me that I might need in the middle of the night and then just put the baby on top of me. And, you know, if I needed to get up in the middle of the night, then I could do that without getting any help without waking him up. And I think what happens to anybody in that situation is the exact same thing that happened to me, which is extraordinary pain because you’re suddenly very invisible. There’s suddenly this dynamic in the world that shows up in our culture in particular that says like, this is normal, it’s just hard. But becoming invisible when you’re in pain is not hard. It’s like so damaging. All it would take is somebody walking in and saying to you oh this is really hard. I’m probably gonna fall asleep but I’m here with you. I really need to breastfeed from You don’t need to like, I don’t that actually probably wouldn’t help if you did anything and do it wrong and and make it worse, but like, just be with me just make sure I’m not invisible. That would have changed the course of everything in my entire life I feel like.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  05:17

But back then, no one was sitting with Courtney in the middle of the night to make sure she was doing okay. And that loneliness took her mind to a very dark place.

Courtney  05:30

How do you deal with that sort of invisibility? How do you deal with that sort of pain? I want to go away, but I don’t I want to live. But I also want to die. So what’s the space between?

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  05:42

You want the pain to end? It’s not I want to kill myself. It’s I want this pain to end. I need relief. Yeah. So, as you’re experiencing all of this, with the three month old baby in tow, are you expressing this to anybody? Are you sick? Like, is there support? Is there a doctor or their friends? Is this all happening in your own mind? Or are you saying this out loud? To anyone? Are you even able to put words to it at that point?

Courtney  06:14

I don’t think I told a soul. You know, no one’s ever asked me that. I I don’t think I told anybody. Now if I did, it still feels like an island at the time. And I think that’s the truth of trauma. That’s the truth of postpartum depression or any type of depression is perhaps I was saying things to people, and perhaps certain people were worried. Do I remember that at all? No, not at all. So yeah, I felt like I was an island, I certainly wasn’t talking about it openly. I wasn’t, definitely not.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  06:48

The pain, Courtney’s feeling isn’t just from the aftermath of childbirth, though, obviously, that is a huge part of it. On top of that, she’s also in an abusive relationship.

Courtney  07:00

I was deeply deeply fractured and had been for you know, 10, full years. Personally, just my brain having babies and postpartum stuff, I think just inherently that’s difficult for my brain. But on top of that, I had been dealing with some extraordinarily difficult situations, and didn’t know how to extract myself from that fully and ended up developing what I know today to be see PTSD, which is complex, post traumatic stress disorder, and I I didn’t know how to take care of myself, I didn’t know how to show up for myself.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  07:40

Shortly before this dark periods set in Courtney was a Pilates instructor. She had also been a ballet dancer for years, athletic ability was always part of her identity. But now here, she is unable to use so many of the muscles she’d once relied on, on top of being emotionally fractured, if she’s feeling physically weak, every single day.

Courtney  08:06

Okay, my body has failed me, it’s not doing the things I thought it would do with my background and Pilates with my background and rehabilitation. And so I just started trying to fix the most surface level thing I had, which was my body feels broken. My body has been not, not my psyche, not my spirit. I couldn’t even go there. You know, normally we work from the inside out. And my brain was like, Nope, can’t can’t. So I just started focusing on simple things, which may not be simple to other people. But to me, they were fascinating in simple engineering of the body. Why are my deep abdominal muscles not connected? Why is my pelvic floor a mess? Why do I still look pregnant all the time? Why? Why? What is why do I hurt so much? And I’m like, not even 30. Like, why can I even do a somersault anymore? What is going on with my body, it failed me. And that opened up this world of the way our bodies are neglected after we give birth. And my brain at that time went so. So hard into that research, I think is a way kind of sideways side door into healing my psyche.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  09:21

Finding concrete answers for what she’s experiencing is a magical feeling. It’s not a solution for all the hardships she’s facing. But like she said, it’s a start. And Courtney actually gets so into learning about the way bodies are affected by childbirth that she gets an idea. She’ll start her own fitness program specifically for moms. It’ll be a way to heal her own body for one, and she’ll be able to teach other people important information they might not know. Plus, she’ll be able to make money because she’s definitely not ready to go right back to teaching Pilates. So she turns her idea into a reality. She starts a fitness program, and she calls it mama strong.

Courtney  10:09

It’s a resource for moms. It’s just a fitness resource for moms. That’s the surface level. And that has required me to film a daily workout every single day for the last 10 years. I don’t know how I knew this at the time, but I was like, I really want something available every day. That’s different. And everybody was like, Are you crazy? How are you going? You’re gonna have to stockpile do eight in one day and then release them like they couldn’t fathom this idea that I would do 15 minutes and filming every day, but as a dancer, I’m like, why would go to class every day and that was an hour and a half and that was total hell, just fucking hell. So you’re telling me 15 minutes of like, kind of okay, movement like.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  10:53

So Mama strong hits the scene with short daily workout videos specifically tailored to moms and with no frills and no equipment other than a yoga mat, though honestly, that isn’t even required. She makes everything so accessible. She says if you don’t have weights use cans from the pantry. If you don’t have a yoga block use pillows. Kids are running into the frame dogs are jumping all over her. Just the realest, most LoFi workout video on the planet.

Courtney  11:27

Dog peed right there. Gotta be careful. Guess what I just woke up. That’s why this is the situation what is your situation high five to you.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  11:34

This easy going accessible approach to fitness comes at a great time. And when I say a great time, I mean, a great time for both Courtney and all the tired burned out moms who go on to use her program like me, because in 2012, nothing this authentic and low pressure exists.

Courtney  11:57

Everything out there all the fitness stuff that I saw out there when I first started my own strong 10 years ago was I don’t know if you remember P90x Or like prenatal videos with women like super pregnant and unitards. Always and like a fountain. I’m like the two things. Pregnant women shouldn’t be having to deal with our fountains and unicorns. So it was that or p90x, which was just crazy. So I thought, You know what, what I need to actually show up for my body. And that would just be somebody who looked just like me who wasn’t necessarily in the mood, who was never going to say, no pain, no gain, but who’s going to help me at the same time? So I did what I needed for other people, I would say. So the goal is, how do we show up for ourselves in the most feasible way possible. And somehow get back into our bodies, and somehow, at the same time, try to heal from all the things that what I call a cute not cute, a cute caretake caretaking does to our bodies. So how do we do all that? Knowing that we don’t have the privilege of time and autonomy? How do we actually do that. And then what happens when we hit the refresh button every single day, and try to show up on a daily basis.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  13:20

Showing up on a daily basis is a very real practice for Courtney. Lots of stressors and traumas still exist in her day to day life. And it takes a lot just to do each day and take care of all the things she’s responsible for. But as her clients start reporting feeling stronger and more in tune with themselves, Courtney starts to reap the benefits to eventually she feels so solid that she’s actually able to leave her relationship. That is pretty fucking amazing and pretty unintentional. She’s witnessing the power of this work in her own life. In real time.

Courtney  14:03

I would much prefer and had learned from a young age, how to just leave my body as so many of us do. So that that practice of actually putting myself in a place where I had to step into my body and then hearing other people say I’ve Yes, I check out of my body. My body is broken, blah, blah, blah. Like that whole thing. Validated something in me that made me say yeah, you don’t have to you don’t have to put up with it’s like this. It’s time.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  14:39

And it’s so fucking powerful.

Courtney  14:41

Right? Just like to stand up like I remember standing in a functionally aligned posture, and just feeling the combination of total terror and also confidence like okay, this is how this is how I need to be in the world to be safe.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  15:02

I’m wondering if and when you started to register, that healing was happening.

Courtney  15:11

You know, in those early years, it’s hard because yes, there were components because I was able to extract myself from the marriage, I was able to, like, do some things that were moving back to who I was, you know, pre kids. So that was very, very healing. I think my body I started to notice I was feeling more agile, the things that I was teaching were happening to me.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  15:38

Well, you said that the, this accidental practice saved your life, right? I mean, you’ve said that and I’m wondering. How?

Courtney  15:54

I’m an introvert. I’m such an introvert. Like, if you come knock on my door, I will be running behind a couch, breathless. Like I am an introvert. So that screen allowed me to let this incredible community in. And that saved my life. And everybody held me accountable if I didn’t have a workout posted by like a certain time. And there weren’t that many members. Even if there’s just one being like, Courtney, are you okay? Do you need to come over I need to send you groceries. I was like, sad, okay. That saved my life for sure. 100%.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  16:46

We’re back in 2014. Courtney has left her marriage and is now full on with Mama’s strong. She’s found a practice that’s healing in several ways. And she’s built a really supportive community to boot. But she’s also now a single mom with two kids. And she’s running an entire business where she’s expected to produce something new every single day for paying members. She has basically no experience with something like this. And it’s really hard to make it all work. How do you start coping with this new identity with this new reality? of am I my own? I’m doing this thing. It’s my responsibility to keep this going. What starts happening with you?

Courtney  17:34

Yeah, I’m gonna use two words. And I think people see these as negative things. But at the time, they were my only tools and my best friends. So delusion and alcohol. And that was how I lived. Like, I didn’t know how to get through it was it was my that was my coping skill was to use alcohol, which then fueled the delusion and the delusion required more alcohol. And it just helped me keep going. I don’t think Mama’s strong would exist today. Without both of those things, which is horrible to say, and I’m not recommending it. I’m just being extraordinarily honest that at the time, that was all I had.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  18:16

I know how to define alcohol. Tell me how you’re defining delusion.

Courtney  18:22

Okay, so I think for me, what happened over the period of my first marriage and my childhood was that I learned how to create an alternate reality in order to survive. And that alternate reality was really important to me, in order to show up what I in kind of almost who I am like, it gave me a way to take my go getter self, my creative self, and put it in the place that I felt was untouched by all the hurt. And that alternate reality, in essence, was totally delusional. I was filled with grandiosity about what I could do as I mean, honestly, I should have never at that time been running a business that was making zero money. I mean, I used to charge $1 a month for mom and strong I still want to this day by like, but I should have gotten a job I should have gone to therapy, this would have been reality, not alternate reality. I should have been head first into trauma therapy, a regular job with a regular paycheck, you know, structure, all the things in instead, I lived in this alternate reality that I was going to make these incredible things happen and it was all going really well.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  19:40

And at this time, you are still doing the business. How are you sustaining the business as a not business lady? What kind of things are happening in that world for you?

Courtney  19:58

Um, you know, I made lots of promises. I never sat down and said, Oh, I’m going to manipulate and deceive this person. But the truth was, I was so lost in that grandiosity that’s birthed from delusion that I really felt entitled, I felt like I could borrow money from here and there and blah, blah, like, make all these promises rob Peter to pay Paul, I mean, just classic hustle. Plus addiction, right? Like hustle culture on its own has its own toxic stuff. I just was in this dynamic with all of that, that helped me keep the business afloat, and helped me like keep finding resources to keep it going in the most harmful way you can imagine. But in my brain at the time, it was essential, necessary, possible, and all fixable. I could fix it before anybody knew.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  20:55

And was there a moment with your drinking where you felt like, Okay, this is getting out of control. How did that happen?

Courtney  21:04

Yeah, I knew intuitively from a very young age that my relationship with alcohol was different than other people’s. And so I knew that when it became this progressed, and when it was fueling all this delusion and grandiosity and harm to others and myself. Yeah, I knew, I mean, I would black out, I would end up in hotel rooms with random people and have to go find my car. The next day, I had a friend at the time we call it project unicorn, like, I’d wake up and have a code phrase and be like Project unicorn who would be like, all the while, you know, parenting these kids and running this business. And that’s what I knew. And when I started drinking, alone, I would be out with friends. And I would be drinking like, you know, normal, mom break drinking, which is also a little destructive, but like, everybody be like, loose and I would be letting loose but I needed more. So I would go home after that and find stumble my way into a Kroger or wherever I could and buy another bottle or two of wine and finish those by myself. And that was a nightly thing. My liver started hurting. I just everything started to fall apart.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  22:19

Were you drinking during the day doing the videos and stuff? Do you see that? Or were you did you have lines and boundaries around that?

Courtney  22:28

I mean, of course, in the beginning, there’s lines and boundaries. But I found ways to dilute those over time. I mean, I in fact, I’m remembering I actually partnered with a wine. Oh, this woman who ran a wine company wanted to partner with Mom is strong. And I have a video of me in between planking, drinking. You know, now that I think about it, it all started, it all started to blend together. So yeah, in the beginning, yes. boundaries, and then no, no boundaries.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  22:57

Actually a good time for you to have that dependency because I that was you know, mom, wine time, wine o’clock.

Courtney  23:05

Yeah, it was a good time for that. It was definitely the era of that. So it was very acceptable. And I think for anybody who has been through what I’ve been through and has similar issues with substances, it was so convenient. And it fed this idea that like, Oh, I’m doing this normally and allowed me to wake up every day and be like, Oh, no, this is normal. This is normal. This is normal. This is normal.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  23:26

And this is normal for Courtney for years, until her life begins to dramatically unravel. She continues to over promise and over commit in order to keep things running and get yourself into some pretty tight financial problems. The Hustle tests her every single day, and her coping mechanisms are wearing thin. But by 2016, she meets a new partner, and he happens to be sober. He teaches her about 12 step meetings and he shows her how full a sober life can be. Eventually, Courtney decides that she wants to try herself. Her first attempt is in October 2016. And she relapses on New Year’s Eve. But in the new year, Courtney tries again and again and again and come spring 2017. She commits.

Courtney  24:23

May 1st, 2017 is actually the day I got sober. And when I stopped drinking, get sober and found my way into tossup recovery. The way I typically do is like oh, I can do this differently than everybody else. I had a period of time where I was kind of in recovery, but not doing the things that are recommended and kind of wanting to do it my way. And one of the things in my program of recovery is very much about putting your head down and and showing up you know being like everybody else, you’re not special, put your head down and just do the right thing. And so It really became focused on on desperately trying to fix the things that I had messed up and do the right thing. So it went from like, grandiosity to like, I wouldn’t say duty and I don’t mean that in the negative way. I mean it in like, the very positive kind of step by step like, okay, that healing process shifted and then the business took on a new form for me at that point.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  25:29

Is it fair to say you shifted from alternate reality to reality?

Courtney  25:34

100%. Yeah, I started getting private clients to take on to like, you know, actually make more money I was, you know, just like all Yeah, totally in to reality. So the best way I can describe it is that first year was kind of like learning to crawl your brand new being in the world with zero tools. The only tools I had was delusion, grandiosity. And drinking. That was enough. That was all I had left with all that trauma.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  26:01

Effective tools for?

Courtney  26:04

So then, when you take all like you said, before you take all those away, what tools do you have, so you’re learning to crawl learning to do basic things, put the cart back, call your friend back, you know, like, balance your checking account, say, know, when your kids want that, like just basic stuff that to some people might be normal, but to me, and my alcoholic brain, this is all brand new.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  26:27

Maybe you are someone who thinks of those tasks as just normal, everyday things. But let’s be real, if it’s not one of those things that tests you, it’s something else, we all have things that feel like fitting a square peg in a round hole stuff we just cannot seem to get a handle on. Then as soon as we do, it’s replaced by some other annoying thing that is determined to destroy us. But as Courtney finds, this isn’t always a bad thing. Essentially, having to restart your life without your old tools and buffers means getting a chance to re experience that life, including all the quiet, precious parts that you didn’t realize you’d even been missing.

Courtney  27:10

Just last night, I’ve been dealing a lot with my kids, and it’s stressful. Three kids now. Yeah, 1611. And three, it’s just madness, and horrible and wonderful. But I had these moments back to back with my older two who were most affected by my, like, my three year old has only seen me sober. My older two, you know, well, then I’m sitting there, and I have these experiences with them, where I’m just present. And we’re laughing. And I feel serenity and I’m able to like, be with them. That space between, it just like doesn’t it’s so precious. When it happens. It happens. And I have this. I feel affection, I felt affection for them and for life. And that is so weird for me. But that feeling oh my god. I never had that before. Never had it.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  28:20

We’re back. And at this point in the story, we are beginning again, again. I mean, what good is a motto unless you are putting it into practice. So a few months after we recorded this original interview, Courtney reached out to let me know she hadn’t relapsed, but she was feeling close. So before she got to that point, she decided she was going to protect herself the way she had when she was new to sobriety. She was going to go back to 12 step meetings which she’d stopped regularly attending. She was going to own up to recent behaviors of hers that were reminiscent of her past like lying and being secretive. In short, she could feel herself slipping, and she was honest with herself about that. She needed to begin again. And when I asked her to hop back on the mic with me to talk about it, she graciously agreed.

Courtney  29:20

So I just had six years sober Miss over birthday was May 1. And that’s a big deal. I just, you know, I think I’m having to start over at a brand new layer, which is like I’m kind of hitting the refresh button on all the stuff that I started out with. Because this brain is still the brain. And if I don’t keep up with it, I fall right back to the things I was doing before that led me to drinking. My bottom was so low that I still have this fear and this association in my brain with alcohol and that low bar I don’t think goodness, I have that. So the temptation to drink is not there. But my life. Right now, if I didn’t have that fear, I would 100% be using whatever I could possibly use. So I’ve had to go back and kind of refresh and check back in and be like, this brain is the same brain. And if I’m not keeping up with all of the things and being thorough, like that word thorough, has become so important. Because if I’m not thorough about this stuff, and I’m not a perfectionist, I’m not speaking about being a superhero being a saint or being perfect. I’m talking about being thorough with honesty around myself and where I am. And when I get really thorough, the truth is, is that I’m like, super drunk in my brain. Like, my world is that way.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  30:54

So wait, okay. Hold on a minute. What does super drunk in my brain look like feel like smell like, sound like, what does that even mean?

Courtney  31:05

It means that there’s like a distance between myself and reality like that. I can figure things out myself, all by myself, I start to think that I don’t need feedback from other people, I start to think like, Oh, I could participate in this or that I could stop getting enough sleep, I can survive on four hours of sleep, I don’t need to eat three meals a day, I don’t need to call a friend, when I’m having an emotional day, I just start to get into this slippery slope with behaviors, all the things that before would say like, oh, I can have that one shot of tequila, or I can have that one glass of champagne. And I can’t I know my brain. I know my brain, my brain is the way it is. And once I start down that path, there’s no stopping it. So like I said, thankfully, I’ve had the bottom I’ve had, and I’m so deeply afraid of that bottom that I haven’t been tempted to drink. But if I didn’t have that, I promise you, I’d be using.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  32:11

So you’re saying like, You didn’t drink. You weren’t necessarily tempted to drink. But you had a pattern of thinking that was coming back again, that felt like old wiring that felt like, you’re getting tripped up on something that felt like, if I don’t address this, I’m gonna go off the rails or something like, like, and when we say you’re, you’re going back and you’re starting over. You’re starting the steps again, right? That’s what you’re you’re starting that again.

Courtney  32:42

All the way back over. Yeah.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  32:46

It’s just seemed like profound growth, like the fact that you’re able to feel that and then be like, I need to go back. I need to start over. I need to do this work again. That’s amazing. That’s not I mean, how are you sort of moving through the world when you felt like holy shit, I gotta go address this.

Courtney  33:07

That’s a great question. Because I think in the beginning, especially if you’re not actively using like a substance, it probably looks like just normal, busy person, normal, stressed out person. But underneath that is, like, there’s so much more happening. That’s like me driving my toddler to work and being so unhappy with everything. Feeling like everything is attacking me. Feeling so overstimulated, that something goes through my head that says I should just drive into the wall. Or a degree of unhappiness that doesn’t match who I really am. It doesn’t match, you know, but yeah, it’ll show up in small things. Like, I stopped sleeping as much I stopped doing just basic self care, I stopped laughing like, the, the part of me that can find a break and things or find humor, it just erases that piece. Of me, it’s hard for me to connect with my kids. Like I have to work really hard. It’s just small things, but I, I do it. But it’s so hard to do. It’s so hard to do. There’s no presence, you know, it’s like a feeling of, of having to work at every single thing that you’re doing work really hard. It’s a departure of some kind. It’s so it’s so rough. And the other piece that I think we all have our own like sticky place that is so hard to talk about. For me it’s money. Here I am, like providing for three children by myself and doing all these things. So it makes sense that I would be strapped but I make an amazing salary. I don’t spend you know, stuff on myself. I’m not buying I need to buy a bra someday in my life, but like I I am not overspend. The mean or anything like that I take on too much. I take on too much for my kids. I take on too. I keep saying yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Horseback riding? Sure. Private School. Yes. You want a car? Not all of you my oldest insurance like, yes, yes, I can fucking do this, I have the capacity, somehow, I’m going to make it happen. Some sort of magical unicorn is going to land and fill my bank account up. So I can just make all this right. That was my behavior before. So here I was, again, dealing with this, like $20 in my account, feeling the same feeling of like, what am I going to do, but not using the old tools to solve it and just be miserable. Miserable.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  35:49

Courtney tells me that after all, this mounting stress, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a lie. She told her friend, her ex husband had done something that was deeply triggering. And instead of telling anyone that she was scared, and having a trauma response, she fled. She planned an impromptu trip to stay with someone she’d recently started dating. And she knew her friend wouldn’t approve, and might even be worried that she was being so rash. So she told that friend, she was traveling for a workshop. Courtney says this had the potential to be a gateway to old dangerous behaviors. Fortunately, her friend called her out on it, they talked it out. And Courtney could see all the echoes of her past and how her past coping mechanisms were just around the corner. So Courtney, called her sponsor, and soon after, she called me, and now here she is beginning again. I’m so curious about how going through this process now, when you don’t have the added layer of actually drinking is different. Then what you went through when you went through the steps in 2017. How is the process different today?

Courtney  37:19

It’s so much more painful. It’s so much more painful. And also, I feel I don’t know how to describe this, I feel substantial is a strange word to use. Like I feel it’s excruciating to be wide awake. For this process, it’s that piece of it is really difficult. And I do feel very wide awake. But I also feel substantial, I feel like I have my feet on the ground. And I feel like there’s a half sate, there’s a trust in my self awareness that wasn’t there before and couldn’t be there if I’m drinking or coming off of drinking or detoxing or any of that. But the other piece of it is like, Okay, this is the work. This is the graduate level work of getting through life and being happy fish. This is much harder, it’s much harder. But it’s it’s I can see very much. I can see how people in recovery with lots and lots and lots of years, either go out or don’t want to do this work again, because it is it’s it’s much harder the second or third time. Yeah. You want it to be done. Like I want recover. I want to get to a place where you know, I have so many years and I’ve figured this out and recovery is done. Like I’ve completed recovery. But it’s not. I am recovering. It’s a constant daily practice. And it’s different, but it isn’t. Yeah, you don’t get there.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  39:10

Well, it’s that’s I think, what is so relevant and human about your story, right? Like, the frame of the show, is like Who were you before and who are you after? And it it kind of suggests that that you have the before and then you have the messy part and then you have the after and then you’re just in the after. But really what the after is is like a new status quo. And then there’s going to be a nother thing. Right. And I think the thing with the last day and we we talked about this so much in season one is that recovery is long term. It is not like Okay, great. I finished the steps. I I got my chips. And I’m done. Thank you so much. You’re able to sort of actually say, like, Yeah, I had to start over again, right? Like, if I had to go back in again, it wasn’t like, my last day of drinking was my last day to ever feel all have these really uncomfortable painful feelings?

Courtney  40:21

Yes, they will forever. It’s a cycle, it’s always moving through it. And if it were my last day, if I did finally arrive to a place, I think so many more people would probably stay recovered. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s, they would find their way to that. But yeah, I don’t think I will ever get to a point where I’m like, I am recovered.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  40:46

I also can’t help but draw a comparison to your entire company, which I the thing that is so inspiring about the whole ethos of mama strong is begin again, like, it is literally the thing that you are preaching. It’s your, like, brand.

Courtney  41:12

We all teach what we need to know, like anybody who’s doing anything at a high level, I promise, they don’t know that thing. They need that thing. And then it just all goes back to all this stuff where you’re like, of course, this is my life’s work.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  41:26

And showing up every day, hello, showing up every day. Like even when you don’t fucking feel like it. Even when you don’t have the time. Like, you have like this ritual, you’re talking about the meetings or whatever it’s like, it’s all the same shit. It’s all the same shit.

Courtney  41:43

And it has that, that, that one practice of putting my feet on the ground every day through thick and thin. That practice has been an absolute lifesaver, which I know I talk about a lot. But recently, I had somebody come to me and say, Hey, we should probably put some other people in place. You’re not having to do that every day. And I had this panic inside of me. That was like, do not take that from me because I don’t do it on my own. And that practice itself of putting my feet on the ground every single day saying, it doesn’t matter how this looks, believing in embodiment, that much. Every single day is like, don’t take that from me. Don’t ever. Don’t ever take that from me, because I know what it’s done. And I know, without the accountability of my job, I wouldn’t do it just like in recovery. Without that accountability. I won’t do it on my own. I need all that.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs  42:39

I feel like you’re still in the thick of it, Courtney, you’re like figuring stuff out. You’re putting stuff together. You’re like, it’s messy, and imperfect, like you said, and I will say thank you to your grandiosity and your delusion. Because you have changed my life, like a measure. Well, I tell you that all the time, and you know, like together, but it’s so fucking true. Your real one, your real one, a real one.

Courtney  43:09

You’re the humanity. It’s just, you can’t have this sort of conversation safely with many people. I would say you can probably only have it with one and I will tell you that too.

CREDITS  43:30

There’s even more LAST DAY with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like an AMA with yours truly. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything in case you didn’t know. So just FYI and FYI means for your information. So subscribe now in Apple Podcasts. LAST DAY is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Tiffany Bui. Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannis Brown. Steve Nelson is our Vice President of weekly content and production and Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content and production. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and me Stephanie Wittels Wachs. If you’d like what you heard today, we have three other seasons that you can check out. Have a story you’d like to share, head to, or click the link in the show notes to fill out our confidential Google Form. follow and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me at @WittelStephanie. Thank you for listening, we will see you next week.

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