Following a night out with a friend, Devon Combs - the leader and founder of Unbridled Retreats - said what we all say: "I'm never drinking again." The difference is, she actually did it. The original commitment was to give it up for 30 days... and 7 months later, she hasn't gone back.
Inspired by trailblazers like Devon, we've been exploring our relationship with alcohol during the #Unwined challenge. In this brave and open interview, Devon takes us through her journey of becoming alcohol-free and how it's impacted her life.
Jen: Hi Devon, thank you for being here!
Devon: Thank you for having me!
Jen: Ok, let's hop right into it. What made you want to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol?
Devon: That is a good question. I am 37 years old and I really am starting to take my health and wellness more seriously. I want to be proactive about aging gracefully. I want to be healthy so I can keep doing the work I love, which is connecting people with horses for increased joy, enhanced emotional wellness, and mental clarity.
Over recent years, it's become clear that alcoholism is an issue in my family. I've watched it take an extremely hard toll on my family and take certain members almost to the brink of death. That was a real wake up call for me, especially as an adult, that I don't want to end up down that path too.
I'm not an alcoholic, but alcoholism is very strong in my family. Earlier this year, February 2021, I was in Florida with a girlfriend, and we went out and had our usual bunch of drinks. I got up the next day and I was so sick and hungover I could barely function. I thought I might have Coronavirus and that scared me. That day, I made a personal vow to myself, "I will never put myself in this position again." This is stupid at this age. It's reckless. I'm destroying my health. My mental health takes a big hit when I'm drinking. I noticed as an adult, I would wake up feeling depressed and low after drinking the night before….I couldn't power through the hangovers like I did in college. And I made a vow to stay sober for 30 days.
Jen: Just like our online challenge.
Devon: That's exactly like the challenge. So, I started my alcohol journey on February 17. And I told my girlfriend, I said "I'm not drinking for 30 days." Yeah, I started in the middle of our trip. My friend was supportive of my decision, she was hung over too… but I was really serious. And it was a spiritual moment for me to declare and commit to being alcohol-free for 30 days.
Jen: Like, right now. This doesn't start when I get home, it starts right now.
Devon: Yes, it started in the middle of the trip. There was no going further down. Well, I could have gone way further down than I was and I only want to go up. So, I made that vow to myself and I shared it with my friend for accountability.
Jen: What was your relationship with alcohol like on a day-to-day basis before embarking on this challenge?
Devon: I might be in the heavy drinker category as a woman. I live alone and during COVID-19, I would have three to four spiked seltzers alone at night watching Netflix, and I'd start drinking at about 4pm. Drinking was just to pass time, especially during isolation, it was really hard. Drinking was a coping mechanism. Having drinks five nights a week was probably the norm for me all the way from my 20s through 30s.
Jen: So, when you created space from that, what was that like?
Devon: It was a little scary, but my motivation was stronger than my fear. I was motivated to improve my life. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to show up for work and have the right mindset. And I knew I could do 30 days. That's all I was thinking at the time - just 30 days. I knew I could do it. It would be hard, but I could do it.
"My motivation was stronger than my fear."
Jen: When it was hard, was it boredom? Was it anxiety? What did you mostly feel?
Devon: That's such a good question. The physical addiction was still strong. So, it would hit about 4:00 pm and I would reach for the fridge, but I had removed all the alcohol out of my house. And I started walking, I would take walks at that time. It's not what I wanted to do, but it's what I had to do to get out of the house, get my brain occupied. I started taking Epsom salt baths and would listen to Billie Holiday - that was my new happy hour. I'd light candles and I'd have a really cold LaCroix, something in my hand that was cold and refreshing. That became part of my new evening routine.
Jen: So, you're creating these new rituals, and it's totally immersive. It's about the beautiful music, the music that kind of takes you to another time and it's a warm bath to occupy your body and feel calm, it's still having something cold in your hands. How did this shift impact your relationships with friends and your social life?
Devon: Yeah, because this was still in high COVID-19 times, I wasn't seeing people a lot socially. So, it didn't impact my social life a whole lot at the beginning, but I am noticing it more now. Most of my friends are still drinking, and I have a lower tolerance to be around people drinking. It's amazing how my intuition has become undeniable, my sensitivity has increased, and I'm grateful for it. I'm not numbing out things I used to tolerate, like staying up late with friends even when I wanted to go home. I'm in a different stage of life, which really helps too. I'm motivated to get better sleep. I'm motivated to be clear-headed and not just push through. Socially, dating has been the most eye-opening change. Dating sober.
Jen: Tell me about it.
Devon: Dating sober. Honest to God, I wish I would have done this 20 years ago. I'm a much better person when I'm sober. I used to bypass my intuition when I was drinking. And I would move faster with men than what my intuition was telling me because of the alcohol. I've really enjoyed being on dates sober and listening to intuition vs. my drunk state of mind, for guidance on next steps. I feel so much connected to my true self which results in authentic confidence.
Jen: What were the effects for you? How long has it been now?
Devon: It'll be seven months next week. After 30 days, I noticed so many benefits that I kept going. I think this is probably one of my favorite topics - the benefits I noticed in the first 30 days. More energy, better sleep, genuinely more peaceful and less anxiety, more grounded. And my skin looked so much better. My eyes look clear. My hair looked shinier.
Jen: You have just been looking amazing. You look like you're reverse aging, you really do.
Devon: Thank you. I did not do this for the physical appearance, honestly, I didn't even want to think of that. I thought about how I want to be more clear headed. My aura feels more clear. And people do say I look brighter and my energy's lighter and more vibrant. And having the Jihi products mixed in with this has been so helpful. It's made my skin even that much better. Reverie has made my sleep even that much more enhanced. And the Merriment is part of my new self-care evening routine. Instead of a drink, I'd rather give myself a loving shoulder massage. Merriment helps me occupy my hands and I love to rub it on my shoulders when I'm sitting in bed. I go to bed at 9:30, 10. When I was drinking I used to go to bed at 11:30 or midnight.
Jen: Has it changed how you eat at night?
Devon: Yes, I don't eat crap mindlessly.
Jen: Yeah. You can feel your hunger and when you're satisfied.
Devon: Yeah, that's a great way to put it. I don't want to trash my body anymore. I respect myself a lot more without drinking. I respect my body a lot more. I treat it more as a vessel I want to keep healthy as opposed to something I just stuff with food when I'm hungry.
Jen: That's beautiful. Is there anything else you'd want to share to somebody who's reevaluating their relationship with alcohol?
Devon: Yes, especially for women, if you feel like you're overdoing it, you probably are. Trust that's your intuition communicating to you. But don't judge and berate yourself for drinking too much. Judgment never gets us anywhere positive. But you have to have a strong why, why do you want to shift your relationship with alcohol? My "why" was that I wanted to be a better person. I wanted my intuition to be stronger. I wanted to have healthier relationships. And at 37, I was ready to graduate from old patterns. And most of the things I was embarrassed and ashamed of from my past were 100% from drinking, and I didn't want to live that way moving forward.
"If you feel like you're overdoing it, you probably are."
I would suggest doing a challenge, finding other people who are exploring being sober-curious, there's that great book by Annie Grace - This Naked Mind. She really breaks down the marketing of alcohol, which has been a great resource.
Using products like Reverie that takes the edge off in a healthy way. It is part of my ritual, I cannot imagine not using it. I love it so much. I take it everywhere. I take it when I travel...I just took it to Hawaii! It maintains this healthy new rhythm that I've achieved.
And alcoholism is a serious issue. If you feel like you are struggling with an addiction with alcohol, there are a lot of programs. I know members of my family have benefited from A.A. But if you just want to cut back because it's getting in the way of living your best life, start small, start with 30 days and connect with other people online that are doing the same. There are a lot of great 30-day sober challenges, like the Jihi challenge. You're not alone. When you find other people are doing it, you don't feel so weird about it. I now think of it as weird to drink.
I'll never forget when I went out for dinner with my sister who drinks moderately. She knew the bartender at the restaurant and he came over to our table and said "Hey, I'm getting you guys shots." This was two months after I stopped drinking. And what flew out of my mouth was, "I don't drink." Not "I'm not drinking." It was the first time I publicly announced it! Saying I don't drink felt like a new identity and it felt damn good to own and say aloud, "I don't drink." You can do it too, it's so worth it. Your life will only change for the better - I guarantee it.
"Using products like Reverie that takes the edge off in a healthy way. It is part of my ritual, I cannot imagine not using it. I love it so much. I take it everywhere."
Devon Combs is the founder and leader of award-winning Unbridled Retreats® for Women.
Named "Equestrian of the Wellness World" by esteemed Canyon Ranch Resort in Arizona, Devon helps women find purpose through the healing power of horses. Her synergy with horses and intuitive coaching provide profound breakthroughs for women seeking to unbridle their potential.
A lifelong horsewoman with a charismatic and down-to-earth attitude, Devon experienced the healing powers of horses firsthand. Her empathic work with others grew directly out of her own journey through bulimia and depression. When at the crossroads, equine therapy saved her life. Her experience opened the door to her life's work transforming women's lives through horses.
Devon is a globally recognized Equine Gestalt Coach, inspirational speaker, and contributing author to the Amazon bestseller, Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories from Inspiring Women.
Devon and her work have been featured in Sunset Magazine, Travel + Leisure, on Good Morning America, in COWGIRL Magazine, Horse Illustrated Magazine, Travel to Wellness Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Horsemanship Radio, and Ali Brown's Glambition Radio and more.
To learn more about Devon and her transformative retreats, visit UnbridledRetreats.com.
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