QUITTERS: How Quitting Saved My Life.

Danielle & her dog Sharpie, working their stuff CIC-style.
Danielle & her dog Sharpie, working their stuff CIC-style.

Try harder.

Do better. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Failing at school? A relationship? A job? A sport? You can do it, just try harder. Well guess what, guys: Sometimes you shouldn’t try harder. Sometimes you should quit. And for the record, quitting is often much harder than trying harder.

Last month, I quit an awesome job to focus on what I really, truly wanted. Quitting was so, so hard, especially since I had to tell other people I was quitting. However, I am three weeks into self-employment and I could not be happier. Sometimes, quitting is the right thing to do.

This week I am launching an interview series creatively named Quitters. 

It’s all about people who’ve quit & are better for it. I’m kicking it off with my amazing friend Danielle, who got sober nearly four years ago. We talk addiction, community and the organization she founded, Canine Inspired Change. She’s so brave for putting it all out there. Here’s how quitting saved her life.

* * *

What did you quit & why?

Let’s see…..um well, here we go: alcohol, prescriptions drugs, cigarettes, diet soda and self-delusion.

What did your life feel like before you quit?

Unmanageable, sad, crazy, isolated. It was all around crap-tastic.

Can you explain a little about what your daily routine was prior to getting sober? What were you “needing” to get through the day? 

I needed a copious assortment of prescription pills (mostly opiates) to get through the day, every day, from the moment I opened my eyes– in increasing amounts. Alcohol was always present, but it took a backseat to the opiates.

What ultimately made you quit?

I felt so sick all the time. I didn’t want to live, yet I wasn’t ready to die. One morning I woke up and thought, That’s it, I’m done. I really don’t know why this morning was any different than all the others. Well, I kind of do, so I’m just going to say it: a divine force greater than myself. Great Spirit, God, Buddha, Divine Love, whatever you want to call it, it’s all the same to me, intervened. I had a spiritual awakening.

Was there a specific moment, a constant internal nagging or something else?

I had been seeking, seeking, seeking….Ekhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Oprah (ha!), The Secret. I read all the books, watched all the videos. I intellectually got it, but deep down I just couldn’t feel anything. I thought something was fundamentally wrong with me. I thought I was broken. One day I woke up so physically and emotionally sick I was finally willing to do the unimaginable: ask for help and start telling the truth (gulp).

I reached out to a doctor and told the brutal truth to my friends and family: I am in trouble and I need help.

The hardest part about quitting?

Honesty and humility. I didn’t want anyone to know what a mess I was. I wanted to get well all by myself and then just be fabulous. Well momma, it don’t work like that, okay? At least not for me. I needed to let people in and connect. When I did, WOW my world got bigger. The right people showed up at the right time, the money came in, the doors opened. My first year sober, I walked around in a pink cloud of wonder and magic.

Quitting can be emotionally taxing. Who or what helped you cope? 

My dogs, my higher power, my husband (maybe I should have put him before the dogs, but it’s okay, he gets it) my life’s work or purpose (Canine Inspired Change), yoga (prayer and meditation) and other women who had been through what I was going through.

Danielle and her four-legged Buddhas.
Danielle and her four-legged Buddhas.

Was quitting scary for you?

Ummmmm, YES! I didn’t want to look within myself or be vulnerable and I really, really didn’t want to feel physically uncomfortable (read: sick as hell at first). I wanted to change, but I didn’t want to make any changes. It sounds crazy now, but the thing is, in order to change……drumroll…….. you have to change. You have to embrace the unknown and be willing to be scared and uncomfortable. In the words of a wise mentor, when I told her I was afraid to do something, she said with a smile, “That’s ok girl, do it scared.”

How did you feel immediately after you quit?

RELIEF, fear, relief, hope, fear, relief, hope, love of self, connection, fear. I mean, I’m a little afraid of being so open here but….screw it. I’m just me, this is my story and the transparency brings transcendence from the pain. It clears away the wreckage of my past and allows me to get outside of myself and focus on helping others, which is when I’m truly happiest. Make me a channel of thy peace, that’s kind of what it’s all about. St. Francis knew it way back then, nothing fancy: if you’re feeling like shit, do something nice for somebody and guaranteed you’ll feel better. Period.

How has quitting changed your life? 

Quitting saved my life.

You attribute your dogs and the non-profit you founded, Canine Inspired Change (CIC), to helping you get well. Tell me about that. 

My dogs and my non-profit, Canine Inspired Change, were a huge motivation to get well. I couldn’t love myself yet, but I did love them more than I hated myself. My dogs were an integral part of my healing – they energetically injected courage, strength and love into my actual being. I don’t know how else to say this….that’s how it felt.

A little more about CIC: We’re a non-profit that partners with therapy dogs and their people to bring healing, connection and love into our community. We bring therapy teams into schools to work with kids that have emotional behavior disorders or have been through a trauma and are living in foster care.

Notes from students enrolled in CIC therapy programs. 
Notes from students enrolled in CIC therapy programs.
“Thanks for giving us the chance that no one else in the school has.”

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of CIC? 

It gives me a higher purpose and self worth. It gets me outside of my head and gives me a vehicle for service and community connection. Isolation destroys the spirit; connection brings about miracles, it really does.

Why do animals help us heal? 

That’s so hard to put into words. They don’t judge or hold a grudge or talk all sassy, their default is loving kindness and acceptance. They are little walking furry four-legged Buddhas or Jesus’. Many of us are wary of humans due to past trauma or just repeated exposure to assholes. Animals allow us to practice loving kindness without fear of blowback. They tap into the higher heart, the place of pure all encompassing love.

Advice to someone who’s thinking of quitting?

Tell someone, ask for help, reach out to me and I will do anything in my power to help. Really. When you open yourself to receive help, help will come. Turns out transformation happens through vulnerability. Ain’t that a bitch!

* * *

If you’re a pet person, you know how amazing a dog’s adoration can be. They greet you with a wagging tail, even if you didn’t give them your extra bacon at breakfast; they love nothing more than snuggling with you on the couch; they comfort you after a bad day.

Danielle and her CIC team just received their official non-profit status. Please help support their cause by making a donation to Canine Inspired Change. Anything helps!

PS If you want to share your quitting story, email me at heyeleanorproject@gmail.com.

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Comments (4)

  • WRSK 3 years ago Reply

    Way to go, Danielle! As the sister of an addict (3 years clean), your story had me a little emotional. I’m so happy for you, your family, and your furry Buddhas.

  • Jordan Dockendorf 3 years ago Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! My pups have been my everything and have kept my sane these past few years. It’s amazing how much they can turn my bad day around just my giving me slobber kisses and gentle cuddles. Every year on Give to the Max day I seek out a new cause to donate my (not so abundant) fortunes to and although it’s not much, I can’t think of a better organization to support. Thanks for all you do!

    molly mogren katt 3 years ago Reply

    YAY! I am so glad CIC is your new cause. They are really special. 🙂

  • Danielle Graczyk 3 years ago Reply

    Jordan! thank you so much for your generosity and support.

    WRSK – your kind words lift my spirit. blessings to you and your sister.

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