Plus, how Angie Chaplin became sober
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Good morning and happy Monday! We’ve got some exciting news to share this week: We’re going on a Fearless road trip this year!

We know there are many people across the state who are working to empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life, which is why we're taking Fearless on the road this year, stopping in a few Iowa communities to meet you, learn about what matters most to you and find ways that Fearless can better serve you. Our first stop is the Quad Cities. Come and meet Business Record Editor Emily Barske and me on Friday, Feb. 25, at Oh So Sweet by Tiphanie from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. More information is at the bottom of the newsletter.

Here’s what you’ll find in the newsletter this week:

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

She was told if she didn’t stop drinking, she would die. Now she’s almost two years sober.
Angie Chaplin is the founder and owner of Mindful Leadership. She is two years sober. Photo by Emily Kestel.
Angie Chaplin is the founder and owner of Mindful Leadership, a consulting practice that works to build leadership capacity in individuals, groups, teams and companies. Chaplin started her business following a decadelong battle with alcohol addiction.

The following story has been formatted to be entirely in her own words and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

This story discusses unhealthy alcohol consumption behaviors and addiction. If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol addiction, resources are listed at the bottom of the article.  

My relationship with alcohol was normal – a cocktail when out to dinner with friends, a glass of wine at home to unwind – up until about 2011.

My position was eliminated at a job I had worked at for 10 years, when new leadership chose to go in a different direction. I started doubting myself. Then a close friend of mine passed away from cancer. I was really struggling with loss. There was grief not only of losing my friend but of losing my job. Like many people, I had connected my identity to my job. We women often identify ourselves by our roles. So that was an epiphany, that I didn't know who I was.

Those things combined to make the perfect storm of things I couldn't cope with in a healthy way. Alcohol became a way to attempt to cope and escape my sense of a lack of identity. I was a heavy binge drinker. Once I lost my job I had nothing else to do other than look for jobs and stay isolated and drink.

My marriage deteriorated and eventually ended in a divorce, which increased my alcohol use. I would drink as a way to escape isolation, which would only add guilt and shame, so I would drink more and continue the cycle. That continued to escalate.

The more that increased, the more it had an impact on my parenting, on my ability to be productive at work, on my relationships with my parents and my friends – with everything. I hear this from other people who struggle in recovery; we don't see the bigger picture. We think we're only hurting ourselves. We think, "I'm only killing myself by drinking." That's not the case at all. We're killing our family relationships. We're killing our chances of being a productive member of society. It took me a long time to realize the gravity of alcohol’s impact on everything.

I found I could not remember things. I would have a conversation with my kids and they would say, "Mom, we talked to you about this yesterday." I would have to go through my texts to see what I said because I wouldn't remember. If I had a phone conversation with them, I wouldn't remember what we talked about.

At the peak of my addiction, I would drink up to three bottles of wine a day, primarily in the evenings. Then I got into the game of thinking, "Oh, I'm not the problem, wine is the problem. I'll stop drinking wine and I'll go to beer."

With beer, it would be 18 to 24 cans of beer a day. Because I didn’t want evidence of all the cans, I would buy tallboys and I would go to different convenience stores or go to different Hy-Vees so that people wouldn't necessarily think, "Oh, here she comes again, buying her stuff." At one point, the HyVee in Waverly knew what wine I drank and they would always make sure to have it on hand. I'd go in and they'd be like, "Hey, we got a shipment in for you." It just makes me cringe now when I think about that.

My first hospitalization was in December of 2018. I had been sick and didn't really know why, and when I had finally gone to the doctor, I was diagnosed with an inflamed pancreas. So that was the first inclination that this was more than just a bad habit, that this was having a serious impact on my health and my life.

I accepted a job and moved to Dubuque in January of 2019 as a way to start fresh. Like many people who struggle with addiction, I thought it'd be a new start, a clean slate – I'd move to a different community and magically everything would fall into place. That didn't happen. Job stress increased and I was more isolated. All that continued the vicious cycle of addiction, and that's when I hit multiple rock bottoms, including an arrest for DUI in April 2019.

I hit two parked cars and totaled my vehicle. Thank God I didn't hurt anybody. I was taken to jail. The accident happened at 7 p.m. and I got out of jail the next morning once I blew a 00. I participated in a jail diversion program where I learned about the impacts of alcohol. I had a Breathalyzer in my car that I had to blow into. I went to substance abuse counseling and I dabbled in AA.

I was able to stay sober through August. At that point, I got cocky.

I distinctly remember that it was a warm day. I thought, "I've got this continuous sobriety down, I can have a drink." So I stopped at Kwik Star and I bought a tallboy. Then the next day, it was two tallboys. Soon it was up to a case.

I knew that I had a problem. I thought that I could just stop drinking and it'd be fine. When I would attempt to do that, my body would go into physical withdrawal. I would shake, I would be unable to focus, I'd have brain fog. The only thing to fix it would be to drink. That just repeated itself over and over.

My health continued to decline pretty much until my hospitalization in February 2020.

It was Super Bowl Sunday. That Saturday I had been on a bender, and I stopped drinking Sunday morning because my parents were coming. After binging for I don't even know how many days, the shakes started. I was not coherent. I couldn't sleep. When I’d lie down, the room would start spinning. Monday morning, I woke up and I told my dad that I needed to go to the hospital. He said to lie down and relax a little bit, and I tried and I couldn't. When I went to get dressed, I slumped to my bedroom floor.

When I was released from the hospital, I had a doctor who sat down and looked me right in the eye and said, "You have two choices here. You can keep drinking and you will die. Or you can stop drinking and have a chance at a better life."  

Maybe it was because he was direct with me and didn’t sugarcoat anything, but at that point, I made a commitment to choose a better life. I was scared to stop drinking and I was scared to keep drinking. But the fear of dying and leaving my family, especially my kids, was greater than the fear of taking control of my life.

Alcohol addition resources

I’m someone who currently drinks but wants to stop. There are a variety of free support groups and organizations that are available, including Alcoholics Anonymous, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Women for Sobriety and Self-Managing and Recovery Training (SMART).

I’m someone who is a friend or family member of someone who needs help.  The Addiction Center recommends approaching the loved one with respect and avoiding accusations by focusing the intervention on how their alcohol use has caused emotional or physical distress for you or others. Al-Anon Family Groups is a support group for those with a loved one who is affected by alcohol, regardless of whether they’ve admitted to a problem. Additionally, it’s important to know that many people who experience alcohol use disorder prefer person-first language, because it helps reduce stigmas. For example, they may prefer to be referred to as "someone with a substance abuse disorder" rather than an "alcoholic."

I’m someone who has decision-making power in my workplace or community space and I want to help. Chaplin encourages taking sobriety conversations "out of church basements and into boardrooms." "Even for businesses to start holding conversations … bring in an EAP provider or counselor or speaker and talk about it in the workplace. Rather than pushing people out to take care of their recovery, let's bring people in and understand that it does take a community to recover from whatever we're recovering from," she said.

Leading Fearlessly: Just say yes!
What have you said yes to?

Once I said yes to a job that paid much less than I had been making, required relocation from a city I loved, and involved personal danger. Why? I believed so deeply in the mission of the organization that I overcame my fears and moved past the feedback from friends who thought I was making a mistake. I took the leap and it was one of the best leadership learning experiences of my life.

Part of leading fearlessly through your own career is knowing when to say yes to new challenges or even when to seek them out. As women, we are often conditioned to wait for someone to recognize us versus advocating for ourselves. In Business Record Editor Emily Barske’s recent Fearless article, "What do you say yes to?," she emphasizes the importance of intentionally choosing challenges. It’s not always easy, but it can be the key to growth.

I asked some fearless female leaders about a time they said yes to a professional challenge:

Rocio Hermosillo, real estate agent and squad leader, Ibarra Realty Group at Keller Williams Realty. I quit my corporate career with a great organization and made the decision to obtain my real estate license to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship. I said yes to the unknown and decided to take a leap of faith and risked it all to provide the best life I could for those in my world and community. I wouldn't be where I am had I not done so.
Nalo Johnson, president and CEO, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation. Leaving the public sector for philanthropy was a difficult choice. Philanthropy is a whole new world for me, but I am grateful that I didn’t let fear of the unknown stop me from embracing this opportunity.  I am learning there are additional avenues to address community health issues outside of and in partnership with the traditional public health structure.
Tiffany O’Donnell, CEO of Women Lead Change and mayor of Cedar Rapids. "CEO? Me? Thank you, but I’ve never done that before. Thanks, anyway." Seven years later, as the CEO of Women Lead Change, I’m grateful I listened to wise mentors who reminded me of the value of my body of experience and encouraged me to say, "Yes! CEO! That’s me!" Never underestimate your drive and your ability to navigate new waters.
Barbara Sloniker, executive vice president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce and the Siouxland Initiative. I said yes to leaving my family trucking company where I had been working for 10 years and applying for a job at the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce to be the marketing director for the Sioux Gateway Airport. I left the familiar business I had grown up in to try something new. Scary at the time but well worth it!
Laura Sweet, vice president and chief operating officer, Des Moines Performing Arts. Early in my career I was thriving in my hometown of Lincoln, Neb. I was involved with nonprofits and loved having family nearby. I then accepted a VP position at the Ordway Center in Saint Paul. It meant leaving the security I had built. While terrifying, this opened new doors and was the right decision for my career and family.
In the headlines
Worth checking out
Jen Loeb becomes the first Iowa woman to complete the seven summits (Talk of Iowa). Finally, a desk for working parents (Curbed). Mom shares emotional video of return to work days after birth of preemie (Today). See winning images of AAP Magazine’s ‘23 Women’ contest (Washington Post). Companies are scrambling to get ahead of the Great Resignation by beefing up fertility benefits. Here’s what they’re offering (Fortune). The burden of the Black mother (The Cut). What scares the world’s most daring Olympians (New York Times).

We're taking Fearless on the road!

Connection is one of Fearless' core values. We know there are many great people across the state who are working to empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life, which is why we're taking Fearless on the road this year, stopping in a few Iowa communities to meet you. While we already prioritize telling stories from all over Iowa, we want to do even more. We want to meet with you, learn about what matters most to you and find ways that Fearless can better serve you.

First stop: the Quad Cities
When: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25
Where: Oh So Sweet by Tiphanie, at 314 Main St. in Davenport
What: Fearless Editor Emily Kestel and Business Record Editor Emily Barske will be hanging out at Oh So Sweet by Tiphanie. If you’re in the Quad Cities, stop by and say hello while supporting a women-owned business! We’d love to meet you and learn about what you care about.  

3 life tips from professional soccer player Mia Hamm
Soccer player Mia Hamm speaks at the Greater Des Moines Partnership Annual Dinner on Jan. 27.  Photo by Emily Kestel.
I have to believe that one of the most common questions professional athletes get asked is what advice they’d give to others.  

Retired professional soccer player Mia Hamm doled out several words of wisdom at the annual Greater Des Moines Partnership Dinner, all of which are applicable to everyone, not just those wanting to be elite athletes. Hamm is a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist and is said to be the world’s most outstanding woman soccer player in the early 2000s.

Below are three pieces of advice that are worth implementing in your own life.

Work hard to be the best you can be every day.

At several points throughout her remarks, Hamm spoke of her competitive personality and desire to be the best.

Hamm told a story about the time she told her coach, Anson Dorrance, that she wanted to be the best. Dorrance had asked her what she wanted to be as a player.

"I want to be the best," she responded.

"Do you know what that means? Do you know what that takes?" Dorrance said.

Hamm admitted she didn’t know what it would mean or what it would take.

"He walked around behind me, he went to the light switch and flipped it on. He said, ‘All it is is a decision. The problem is most people make it once. The great players and great success stories make it every single day. … You have to believe that you’re worth it.’"

Like every athlete – and frankly, every human on earth – Hamm said she had bad days and moments where she felt off. In those moments, she said, having friends who believe in you is crucial.

"Today may not have been your best day, but I know that you’re going to be better tomorrow," she recalled her closest supporters telling her.

Black History Month is an opportunity to honor the contributions, sacrifices and injustices of Black Americans who helped write the history of the nation. Of course, learning about Black history shouldn’t be limited to February, but here is a list of resources to get you started.

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