In the year 1519, Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, arrived in the New World with six hundred men and, upon arrival, ordered his men to, ‘burn the ships’. 🔥⛵️ His logic behind this wasn’t to go down in the history books as the conquistador loco that ordered his men to destroy his ships. Nope. It was to send a message to his men, a loud and clear message…
…there is no turning back…his men would have to conquer, or die.
Two years later, in 1521, Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec empire. HIs ‘burn the ships’ strategy worked! Although, guys! His men didn’t even really burn the ships, they sunk them! 😱🤯 And that fun fact, my friends, wraps up our history lesson.
But there is a life lesson in this story that I do want to talk about. The story about Hernán Cortés, in its simplest form, is really just about commitment.
Retreat is easy when you let yourself have the option.
On February 15th, 2019, while attending my very first Recovery Elevator event, Nashville LIVE…I hit 100 days sober. I can remember how excited I was when I did the math and realized I would be there on that day. But I was also terrified! Flying across the country, alone, to go meet members from my online recovery community, that I only knew from Facebook…was stepping way outside of my comfort zone. It was scary, I was so nervous I almost canceled the trip. Strangers scared me. People scared me.
At that point in my sobriety, counting days was very important to me. There were days, even weeks, in the beginning, when counting those days was all I could focus on. But that got me to day 100. The first day 100 in many, many years.
Knowing myself, and finally being honest with myself, I knew that I would have to do something more than count days and read quit lit if I was going to make it another 100 days. I needed more accountability and I was going to have to get uncomfortable. So I bought that plane ticket to Nashville. And I secretly made plans to publicly share my milestone of 100 days sober on social media.
It’s not just a coincidence that my 100th day fell 100 days after my (last🙏) rock bottom moment. I’m not going to go into anymore of my story right now, if you’re curious you can listen to my interview – Recovery Elevator Episode 255.
When it came time to press “Post” I was a mess of sweaty, shakey, nerves. Even admitting to the people that knew, from personal experience, of my drinking problem was hard. I was embarrassed, filled with shame and guilt. My anxiety was still at an all time high, almost paralyzing at times.
There is this stigma associated with addiction, and too often it keeps people from admitting they have a problem or from seeking help. The word ‘alcoholic’ brings up images of a person living under a bridge, drinking from a brown paper bag.
I often felt damaged, defective, less than. I knew that in order for me to move forward in life, to break the cycle I had been on, that I would have to do something drastic.
This public post on Facebook was my ‘drastic’. 👉🏽
I have never regretted posting it. As I started getting the notifications from comments and likes I was afraid to go read them. When I finally did I wanted to cry. Happy tears. 😭 Grateful tears. I was overwhelmed and speechless by all the positive, encouraging, supportive and ‘I can relate’ messages that I got. I was shown nothing but love.
This single scary ‘burn the ships’ post 100 days in busted down the door and has made it easy for me to continue to share my journey. Using my story and my voice helps keep me in check, and it helps others know that they are not alone.
Fast forward to today…In the few days before sitting down to get these words out I was doing a lot of thinking about my 100 day post, trying to remember the way I was feeling, what emotions I was experiencing. What quickly came to mind was how scared I was. Putting yourself out there like this, being vulnerable like this, is scary. And once it’s out there…once that ship has been burned…it can’t be unburned! But that’s the point, right? I knew I had no other choice, I had to take action. If I didn’t, nothing would change. Even though I really wanted to get sober and live a life without alcohol, I was too scared to leave the comfortable and familiar. Burning the ships gave me the courage, strength, and the push, to step into a new life.
Have you burned your ships? Or do you always give yourself a way out?
It doesn’t have to be a public blast on social media like I did. That was a level 5 on the Burnometer! 🔥
There are different levels of burning the ships. Start with level 1, work your way up! They all will help establish another layer of accountability for you.
Level 1: Someone you don’t know well. This could be a store clerk, a barista, a friend from book club, but not a stranger.
Level 2: Someone you consider a friend, or who you have regular monthly interaction with. This is an acquaintance from the gym, a neighbor, restaurant employee.
Level 3: This is someone you interact with on a weekly basis. Co-worker, good friend, running partner, or hiking friend.
Level 4: Meeting with a close group of friends, family, spouse, in person conversation. Immediate family.
Level 5: FB Live, Podcast, Social media post, family meeting, airplane with banner in the sky.
I challenge you to pick a level above, find someone that fits the description…and burn baby burn. 🔥
Please come back and share your experience with me!
Until next time, be well.