April 29, 2021

Holly Whitaker's Comeback Story - Learning to Love Yourself

Holly Whitaker's Comeback Story - Learning to Love Yourself

Holly Whitaker shares her struggle with substance abuse and addiction, and how her experience led her to creating the digital recovery program Tempest. Holly is on a mission to change the conversation about alcohol in society after realizing that her...

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Holly Whitaker shares her struggle with substance abuse and addiction, and how her experience led her to creating the digital recovery program Tempest. Holly is on a mission to change the conversation about alcohol in society after realizing that her seemingly successful life was just a show, and that there is a different path to recovery available to everyone.

  • Growing up, Holly’s life was fairly idyllic. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom and her father ran his own business. They lived a nice middle-class life but Holly has memories that something that wasn’t right. A big part of Holly’s recovery was identifying the incidents that put her on the path to struggling with substances.
  • The biggest impact on Holly’s life happened when her parents got divorced after her father came out of the closet. This forced Holly to confront her own sexuality at a very young age and resulted in her and her mother struggling financially. Up to that point, Holly had always been industrious but that all changed after the divorce.
  • It often doesn’t matter what your childhood was like. We can all end up in the same place.
  • Holly’s first memory of pain was her early story of feeling like the “other” in her family. At a very young age, Holly experienced a significant feeling of not belonging anywhere.
  • Holly’s experience with teachers was frustrating. As a high-energy child, Holly didn’t have a teacher who was invested in her development until high school. Her first teacher put Holly onto a trajectory of being disliked for many years.
  • When we get close to the bottom, we can either stop and tell ourselves the truth of what’s happening or we can claw ourselves out and keep it going. Holly had many moments of being near rock bottom where she knew that she needed help to escape, but it took six months after her worst moment before she finally got sober.
  • Trying to live up to the image of who she was told to be held Holly back from accepting that she wasn’t happy. It wasn’t until she realized that she had a choice. She could either keep the toxic relationships in her life and die, or sever those relationships that weren’t serving her.
  • You don’t have to live up to other people’s standards. Be okay with being a mess. You have to work every single day on your own life, you will improve and you will encounter the same sorts of problems each day, just in a different form.
  • Our values are the bedrock of who we are, and if we make decisions that are not in alignment with our core values, things get messy. If you know what you are and what you stand for, the criticism you receive won’t cut as deep. Knowing who you are creates a solid ground for you to stand on.
  • Holly didn’t go to Alcoholics Anonymous until she was already six months sober. She started her recovery by researching alcohol and addiction and those books led her to other sources. Eventually she realized that there was something wrong with our society and alcohol’s place in it. The evidence pointed Holly to a choice to either keep drinking or invest in her recovery and learn how to stop. She went to AA because she was tired of being afraid of failing and it gave her a sense of community with people who were struggling with the same experiences as her.
  • Holly created her company to put people instead of institutions at the center of the recovery process. She gathered all the different elements of recovery into one program.
  • Historically, we used to believe that people suffering from addiction had lost the right to make decisions for themselves. The existing system often coerces people and takes away their choice instead of reminding people what they have forgotten.
  • We help people by reminding them of things that they have forgotten, showing them the possibilities, and reminding them of the power that they have.
  • Your hardest challenges are the ones that make you. They are the most fertile ground for growth that you can have.
  • For Holly, being in recovery is part of her everyday life. She has to uphold the tenets of her recovery each day by doing the work and living as authentically as possible.
  • Holly wrote her book not just for women, it’s meant for everyone because she wanted to change the conversation around alcohol. If we are talking about true liberation, we have to look at everything we are doing that is keeping us from our power.
  • Everyone has something to be grateful for. Holly tries to practice gratitude for everything that comes her way because she knows it’s so easy to think we don’t need it.
  • Learn to suffer. Suffering is not a mistake, the mistake is trying to cover it over with whatever you can.
  • Holly’s friend Colleen gets her comeback story shoutout. Comeback stories are not just the before and after comparisons, they are also the stories of people who continue to stay with it and show up everyday.
  • Holly’s life has been filled with ups and downs over the past 6 months and the one thing that has kept her centered has been meditation. She still resists meditation even a decade later but she still puts in the work because it’s worth the effort.
  • You’re not trying to escape the cycle of substance abuse, you’re trying to have compassion for yourself. If you can love yourself, you change the way you treat yourself and won’t have to drink to escape your self-criticism.


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Holly WhitakerProfile Photo

Holly Whitaker

Founder of Tempest

Holly Whitaker is the founder of Tempest, which aims to provide a modern, holistic, accessible and desirable path to sobriety, and to remove the stigma associated with addiction. It's her belief that recovery is a privilege, not a consequence, and that sobriety is a proud and empowering life choice.