Conversation with Shannon Whalley

Today, I have a conversation with Shannon Whaley. Shannon has been sober since 2013 and has completely overhauled her life. Today she is a Women’s Business and Marketing Coach for passionate and driven entrepreneurs who are ready to turn their hobbies into thriving, sustainable businesses. Her passion, drive and creativity inspires the hell out of me.

Kitchen Table Conversation

Liv: Let’s kick off with a food question, what have you had for breakfast today?

Haha.  Coffee with half and half and sugar.  I ate breakfast at 2pm today, and it was sweet potatoes, chicken and eggs. 

Shannon’s Story

Liv: Moving to your story, you originally lived in Seattle. But felt miserable. One tipsy night, you decided to relocate to The Cayman Islands. Describing this moment in your blog, you said:

“I knew that what was ahead of me had to be better than what I was living. So as they say, I jumped and my net appeared.”

Tell me about knowing there was something better out there, what had you hoped for? And what form did your net take?

I was at the point that anything was better than what I was living.  Don’t get me wrong, my life wasn’t awful.  In fact, from the outside, I had a great life.  I was living in a nice 3 bedroom home, I was doing freelance hair and makeup and I was a server at a restaurant.  I had a great life in Seattle, from the outside.  But on the inside, I was absolutely miserable.  I was lonely, the weather was awful, I was depressed, and I was drinking and using drugs.  I was 33 and feeling like I’d been wasting my life.  Failed jobs, failed relationships, no direction.  It was like Groundhog’s Day, just the same shit every day. 

I just had this intuitive knowing that things were supposed to be better than what I was living.  I was supposed to be doing more, and I knew that I wasn’t here to be wasted half the time and slaving away at a restaurant.  I had met people who were younger than I was, traveling, moving around the country and the world, and here I had been in Seattle for 12 years just wandering aimlessly.  I was jealous of the people who were actually living, and I wanted that in my life. 

I had hoped there was more adventure, excitement, love and a career that was actually meaningful and fulfilling.  I wanted to move around, meet people who were interesting and doing cool shit with their lives.  The net appeared as a place to stay with a friend on the island until I got sorted, and a steady job at a sushi restaurant until I could figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  J  I set the intention that I was going to figure out my purpose and create a job that was everything I was looking for.  And so here we are. 

Liv: You got sober in October 2013. In your blog you describe your moment of clarity resulting in making a choice. You decided that were you to carry on drinking alcoholically, you would not meet your goals and be the woman you wanted to be. What helped you see what you hadn’t otherwise before?

It just kind of clicked one day.  I was drunk at a beach bar, looking around and realizing that I was getting drunk to fit in with a group of people I didn’t even like.  Nobody was talking to me, I felt like a total loser, and I was surrounded by a bunch of people and I was still so lonely.  I had been on the island for six months and I was doing exactly what I had been doing in Seattle; getting wasted on my days off, when I was working, whenever I had a chance, and feeling like shit all of the time.  My hangovers were getting worse and worse, and I felt like my head was detached from my body. 

Thirty day yoga challenges are really big here on the island, and I’d joined the local yoga studio when I first moved here.  The first challenge I did, I showed up to several classes not only hungover, but still drunk.  I was like, ok, this is kind of not the point.  You have a problem if you’re coming to yoga classes still wasted from the night before.  There was also a night where I had gotten black out drunk at the bar and passed out at a bus stop on the side of the road.  I can’t even begin to explain how dangerous this is in general, but especially here on this island.  It was a wakeup call to get my shit together once and for all.

I was finally willing to admit to myself that I needed to stop, completely, if I was ever going to hit any health and fitness goals, as well as any personal goals.  And in instances like that, it was a matter of life and death.   

How Shannon Recovered

Liv: Meetings didn’t work for you. How did you recover?  Was it as simple as making a choice? 

Oh I wish it were that simple.  I was a Drug and Alcohol Counselor for four years, when I was in my 20’s.  I drank responsibly during that time, and no drug use, and during that time I attended hundreds of meetings with the clients, so I am very familiar with AA/NA.  I did not connect to the program then, so I knew if I was going to get sober I was going to have to figure things out on my own. 

Yoga played a MAJOR role in my life when I quit drinking.  I went to classes in place of meetings.  There were some days I was going two to three times a day.  I used them as an excuse as to why I couldn’t drink, or why I couldn’t stay at events very long.  “I can’t, I have a yoga class.”  Everyone just kind of accepted it because yoga is pretty big here on the island so nobody really thought anything of it at first.  I originally said that I was going to take a 30 day break, which amongst my alcoholic friends was commonplace.  “Oh yeah, give the liver a break, haha.” 

I also decided to go through a Yoga Teacher Training to go deeper in my practice.  It was a way for me to get centered and re-connect to my body.  I’d been so detached for so long, I was looking for something to bring me back down to earth and feel again.  I used the yoga teacher training as a substitute for treatment.  It was something that gave me community, personal development work, and a new way to live my life.  I read the Yamas and the Niyamas, which is basically yoga’s Ten Commandments, and it gave me direction and focus which was really lacking in my life at that time.    

I also searched out Women for Sobriety and read through their material, reciting their affirmations daily.  I found Refuge Recovery, which has also been really interesting and helpful.  I went to two AA meetings here on island, just to see if things were different, and they weren’t, so I just kept doing things that helped me feel better about myself. 

I also isolated.  This can be a double edged sword.  I have to keep myself in check as I’m such an introvert (surprise!!!  Former party girl realizes she’s actually an introvert.)  But simply not going out helped me stay focused those first 6 months when I was having weekly breakdowns and white-knuckling it some days. 

Liv: You said that you find the program dogmatic. Can you explain why?

The 12 steps feel really rigid and disempowering to me.  When I was a Drug and Alcohol counselor, I always struggled with how the members were torn down and then rebuilt in a way.  As a feminist and a woman who has struggled with finding her voice and speaking from an empowered place, the steps and verbiage felt very counterintuitive to what I wanted to feel.   I was really empowered by the Women for Sobriety’s 13 affirmations and the reframe they provided.  I already felt like a piece of shit, so I wanted a program that was going to lift me up from the start and help me to start feeling better about my choices and moving forward. 

Liv: You identify as ‘Shannon, healthy, happy, whole and sober.’, which you find more empowering – how so?

Absolutely.  I don’t know how others identify, but just reading that makes me smile.  I think it’s really limiting to always come from a place of addict, alcoholic, where I was.  I’m not there anymore, so I don’t want to keep identifying as someone who is still in that space, or who can slip back into that life at any time.  I’ve done a lot of work to get back to my Core, to my Being, and it feels so much more empowering to identify this way than as another label.  Part of what got me into my addiction and abuse was being shoved into boxes and labels and not feeling like any of them fit, so I acted out.  This new identify feels more liberating and true to me.

Travelling Wild Woman

Liv: Moving on to your business, Travelling Wild Woman, what inspired you to become a coach? How is it fulfilling?

I moved to the island with the intention of getting my life together, but also to figure out what my purpose was.  I’d been a counsellor in my 20’s and loved being of service to women, but I didn’t know what was possible for me beyond that.  I didn’t really know that coaching existed or that it was something I could even do. 

I read the book, The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction, and it really helped me hone in on what I wanted to create, even if I didn’t know what the actual title would be.  I wanted a career that felt like play, fits my most important values and allows me to fulfil my goals in terms of growth, income and stability, inspires people to change their lives, has an impact on the world.  It took me about 2 years to make it all come together, but I did it!!  I had to go back to school, invest in several coaches to help me build my business and gain the confidence to step out on my own, but it’s just felt right and I’ve had so much confirmation along the way that I’m on the right path. 

As a Business + Marketing Coach, I predominantly coach coaches, and it’s just so amazing to watch them go from having great big ideas to leaving their full time jobs and starting their own businesses!!  I get to help them tap into their intuition, find their authentic voice and build a business with integrity, based on their values and beliefs.  When they get their first clients, it’s like watching my babies leave the nest and fly for the first time!!  I’m helping women build solid businesses that are sustainable so they can go out and change lives!!  The ripple effect is truly remarkable, and it’s so powerful to help women empower themselves to feel like Boss business owners, especially since so many come to me doubting that they’re capable of owning their own business. 

Liv: If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you offer them?

Go through a coach training program that supports you before, during and after training.  Get high level support, either by investing in a coach and/or investing in a Mastermind of other powerhouse coaches and entrepreneurs.  That has been key.  Having the support of women who are doing what I want to be doing has helped me catapult my business at a remarkable speed.  If you’re serious about doing this for a living and making good money, you cannot do it alone, plain and simple.  It’s just like any other business.  If you had a store, you’d take out a loan, borrow money, invest in product and a brick and mortar space.  Just because you’re an online business doesn’t mean that you won’t be making the same investment.  The awesome thing is when you get the support, you make that money back quickly because hopefully you’ve hired the right team to help you. 

Physical Recovery

Liv: How has your relationship with your body changed in recovery?

Ohhhhh.  Haha.  That’s definitely something I’m still working on.  When I was younger I was doing meth and other stimulants, so my weight plummeted drastically.  Then as a raver, I was dancing and taking E every weekend, so of course when I stopped, the weight piled on and I was left with a really warped idea of what my body should look like.  It’s been a struggle since I was 15.  Now that I’m 37, I’m learning to just love myself.  Tell myself how strong I am, how thankful I am that everything works still.  Things may hurt, but I’m still here and my body does what it needs to do.  And I’m healthy.  I’m learning who I am again, and learning to love ALL of me again.  What I do know about myself is that when I work out, and eat fairly decent, I feel strong and fit, even if the scale says a number I’m not happy with.  Again, my mind thinks the scale needs to be in the 140 range but my body prefers the 160 range.  I try to reframe the extra weight.  I have it because I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I can afford to eat out and try the amazing cuisine we have on the island.  When I travel, I try all of the local food, and I’m so privileged to be able to travel and try the food, so I just try to live in gratitude for ALL of it. 

Liv: What has been your relationship with food in recovery?

Mmmmm.  It’s on and off.  I resent that I can’t eat whatever I want anymore.  I resent that I have to watch what goes in vs. what I burn off if I want to be able to fit in my jeans and not wear yoga pants every day.  Lol.  I have a tendency to get pretty obsessive, so there are phases where I’ll use the scale to count my macros to get in great shape, but living like that isn’t sustainable, or fun, for me.  I hate meal prepping, I hate cooking.  When make enough money that’s one thing I’m outsourcing.  I just want the food in the fridge ready for me to warm up.  Good thing my boyfriend loves to cook for me, otherwise I’d just eat bananas and peanut butter all day. 

Liv: Penultimate question: what is your favourite meal/dish?

I’m loving this Caribbean food, so right now oxtail shepherd’s pie with rice and beans and fritters.  It depends what country I’m in.  I was in Peru and I could NOT get enough ceviche.   Back home in Seattle, I’ll take sushi and bahn mi Vietnamese sandwiches.   

Liv: Last, what are your top five recovery tools?

Napping/baths (self-care).  Working out.  Yoga.  Journaling.  Beach walks/time in nature.

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