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How Courage Helped Me Change My Life: Reflections on My Journey of Growth in 2023

At the beginning of this year, I was chatting to a friend and we were deciding what would be our “word” for the year. I chose “courage” mainly because the Serenity Prayer had played a significant role in my life throughout the previous year.


“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”


My father would often quote this to us as we grew up but I had no real understanding of what it meant until I was much older. Serenity and wisdom I needed so I could cope with the challenges that life brought me during 2021 and 2022.


But, I shied away from having “the courage to change the things I can” until I realized I was ready to step up and rejoin life. So, I declared to myself and to my friend that COURAGE would be my word of the year for 2023. Where did it take me? Keep reading to find out!


The Stories That Led Me to Be Courageous

In 2021, our family faced a catastrophic tragedy that we’re still trying to navigate today, each in our own way. Dealing with the grief of losing a beautiful little boy still consumes me and those close to me and it’s equally painful to watch those I love battle with such a loss.


At around the same time, my partner was struggling with a change in medication that saw him spending time in a rehabilitation centre. Little did we know that he was nowhere near rock bottom and that he would be taken down to some very dark and scary places that seemed unimaginable back then.


By 2022, while still grappling with grief, I was dealing with the frightening world of benzodiazepines. I’ve spoken about the consequences of taking this drug and I'll continue to create awareness whenever possible around this horrific drug that destroys so many people’s lives.

Its more commonly known by names such as Xanax, Xanor, Rivitrol, Klonopin, Valium, Librium, and Ativan.


After his stay in rehab, my partner was put on Xanor. However, he started to deteriorate rapidly, mentally and physically, and it was scary and heartbreaking to witness. We had no idea the benzos were responsible for his decline into a state of terror, heightened anxiety, and despair until we started to research the drug.


In the meantime, I was slowly descending into a state of situational depression (as my shaman teacher called it) and every day was a fight to get through . Fortunately, I’m well-equipped with self-empowerment tools that held me steady during those challenging times.

I also relied heavily on my shaman teacher and therapist to unpack what was happening and to find coping mechanisms.


To this day, I’m extremely grateful for the personal growth and development journey I chose to undertake nearly 10 years ago. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have coped with the events of the past three years.

Watch this video if you want to get an overview of the benzos withdrawal experience my partner and I went through and continue to go through. It's real and it's scary.


How Courage Changed My Life in 2023

My partner was re-admitted to another rehab that dealt with benzos withdrawal and part of the family support available to loved ones was workshops held every Tuesday evening. It was here that I heard the Serenity Prayer again and the word ‘courage” was a constant nudge, although I ignored it for a long time.


Until I decided it was time to make some (big) changes in my life…


Accepting the Pain of Loss

Loss is extremely painful and if one isn’t careful, it can completely consume you until you’re incapable of feeling anything else. While the sense of loss never goes away, accepting and integrating the feelings of sadness and pain that accompanies grief is essential for healing.


I realized that not only was I experiencing the loss of my nephew but I was struggling with the pain of losing:

-          The family as I once knew it.

-          My partner to benzos.

-          Our relationship as I once knew it.

-          All my past dreams, hopes, and goals.


No matter what your loss looks like, you will go through the different stages of grief. I knew it was time for me to accept my pain and losses so that I could heal and move forward. But, I needed courage to do that and choosing to make it my word of the year gave me the motivation to process the acceptance stage of grief. 


Having the courage to accept the pain and loss of those two years (and all the years before) gave me hope again. While the sorrow still sits there and I think it will never go away, I was beginning to experience feelings of excitement for my future again. 


Choosing to Rejoin Life

With my partner starting to be in a better place himself, I decided it was time to focus on myself again. Without realizing it, I had withdrawn into my own world to avoid trying to explain the bizarre situation we had found ourselves in.

Very few people could understand what all the fuss was about the benzos story so it was easier to keep it to ourselves. It became a very lonely place for me.


However, courage stepped in and I knew it was time to get back to life again. I slowly moved out of survival mode into a more peaceful, safe space using my meditation practices to help me.

I reconnected with friends, joined a support group, and took a long weekend away to a spa retreat with a special friend.


My partner and I discovered a little country restaurant out of town and spent many weekends having lunch there. I made time for my self-care routines and spent many hours reading – one of my favorite downtime activities.

I took note of the changing seasons and expressed gratitude for everything that I saw, felt, and experienced through mindfulness.


Choosing courage this year allowed me to get back to life and to embrace the fullness of it in all ways, always.


Downscaling to a Simpler Lifestyle

I’m not a materialistic person but I did love our large home with its beautiful indigenous garden and little koppie. There was ample space to create our own yoga room, have all our treasured knick-knacks and furniture, and the luxury of having my own healing sanctuary.

However, for my partner to start healing, he had to leave a toxic working environment that paid him well and allowed us to keep our beautiful home. Now it was crunch time and we had to make some big decisions – I knew it was time to downscale.


Courage gave me the strength to sell our home and move into a cottage on a farm where my partner is working. It meant decluttering and giving away or selling a lot of my treasures and yet, the process was liberating and healing.

That’s the magic of decluttering and choosing a simpler lifestyle!


Having the courage to sell our home and move out to our “wee cottage” on a farm has fulfilled a dream I’ve always wanted – to live in nature. Our cottage is tiny but we love it – we are blessed with beautiful views of cow paddocks, the valley, sunrises, and a gorgeous indigenous garden.


Life is slower and I’m more present while feeling deeply connected with my Higher Power. I’m surrounded by the healing power of nature – I’m slowly restoring my mind, body, and soul to a state of rejuvenation and joy.

Choosing courage this year allowed me to embrace this HUGE change in my life with an open and grateful heart. I am truly blessed.


Embracing Opportunities

Acceptance, finding my mojo again, and downscaling meant closing doors on what was and allowing new gifts to emerge. That’s the power of embracing change but it’s scary to take that first step.

Courage empowered me to let go of all that had been holding me back so that doors to new opportunities could be opened.


For many years, I wanted to start an online store for The Journey Tree to support my life coaching business. I struggled to visualize what it would look like and could never find the motivation to set it up until this year.

I literally had a light bulb moment while soaking in a hot bath a few days before moving to our cottage!


The Free Spirit Store was born and I started with beautiful clothing to uplift women who want to boost their confidence and self-esteem. In a very short space of time, I’ve expanded my online store to include the Lifestyle Collection with gorgeous bags and jewelry.

As I write, I’ll be launching the Free Spirit Store Holistic Collection with products intended to support one’s journey of self-love and self-care.


Courage showed me the truth behind the cliché, “When one door closes, another opens.” Being courageous allowed me to have faith that there are opportunities waiting for me to tap into but I had to close the door on the past first.


Final Thoughts

I end by quoting one of my favorite self-help authors, Brene Brown – Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Stepping back into life and embracing my SELF fully again has brought me to where I am today.

It wasn’t easy but I am grateful I chose the word ‘courage” this year. It gave me the strength to show up and be seen again.


Contact me if you want to find the courage to change your life for the better. Gifting yourself a life coaching program will transform you in more ways than you can believe – what better way could there be to start 2024?

My Gratitude List

The following people gave me the courage to move forward and I'm so grateful they're in my life:

  • My partner, Paul - for never giving up.

  • My daughter, Ashton - for inspiring me with her adventures and her love.

  • Our dog, Wilson - my silent soulmate who never leaves my side, day or night.

  • My brother and his wife - for supporting me even while facing desperate challenges themselves.

  • My shaman teacher, Lionel - for holding us in a safe space in all ways, always.

  • My shaman tribe - for being there in all ways, always.

  • Linda - for giving Paul a lifeline when he needed it most.

  • Brian - a phenomenal healer.

  • Heidi - another phenomenal healer.

  • My friends, Anna, Bonnie and Josie, Hulda, Jane, Sam, Sue - for giving me a shoulder to lean on when the going got rough.

  • My coaching clients - you continue to inspire me with your stories and willingness to become better versions of yourself.

  • My Higher Power, Great Spirit - for keeping me and those I love safe and protected.



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