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Sober is the New Cool


Break Free to Brilliance Ep. 56: Sober is the New Cool with Kim Bellas


The Power of One with Kim Bellas

Sober is the New Cool founder Kim Bellas joins us today for a wonderful episode of Break Free to Brilliance podcast. In today’s episode, we learn how simple personal missions have the possibility of turning into a global movement. Kim opens up about starting Sober is the New Cool as an attempt to help her son after he was diagnosed with epilepsy. She also shares her thoughts on the importance of destigmatizing conversations around mental health and addiction, and the power of uplifting others to uplift oneself.

My journey began in 2013, I decided to make the commitment to stop drinking for 3 months in order to
support my son who had been diagnosed with epilepsy sober is the new cool was created and I quickly realized the
social pressures surrounding not only myself but for my son.


Grounding meditation

To start the show, as always, Seema leads everyone on a guided grounding meditation. Kim shares the mixture of emotions she felt as she remembered a happy memory with her father, which ultimately brought her joy at the present.


It All Started with Motherhood

Kim talks about the origins of her global movement, Sober is the New Cool and how it simply started with her wanting to support her son, Matthew, when he was diagnosed with epilepsy. “As mothers, we want to fix everything. We want to make our children’s lives as perfect as possible.” The diagnosis hindered her son from drinking and feeling like he belonged in social interactions. When he was done with his medications, Kim encouraged him to hang out with his friends once more, but because his condition did not allow him to drink, he would always be sad about it. 

To make him feel better, she told him that he didn’t need alcohol to fit in, but as she was speaking, she herself was holding a glass of wine. She felt like a hypocrite. So at that moment, she decided that she was going to quit drinking for three months. Those three months flew by, and so Kim decided to take on another three months of sobriety. Now she’s on her 9th year, happier and healthier than ever. 


On Sober is the New Cool

The way the organisation started, Kim simply wanted to give Matthew some tools on how to deal with the social pressures of drinking and how to fit in. “But then we quickly realized that mental health and sobriety go very much hand in hand. A lot of people drink to cover up trauma or sadness.” 

So now, Sober is the New Cool’s mission to help people all over the world realize that they can live a “cool” life, even when sober. And that there’s no more shame in having mental health issues. “If we have any mental health troubles, we talk about them.’

Now, Sober is the New Cool is a global movement, helping not just young people, but parents and even grandparents too who have all said that since they stopped drinking, their mental health has gotten 10 times better.

To spread the word about the movement and raise funds for mental health organizations, Sober is the New Cool sells apparel like t-shirts and hoodies. Part of the proceeds go to the Douglas Foundation, a mental health organization in Montreal, Canada as well as other organizations to promote mental health, sobriety, and helping people conquer addiction. 

Kim’s son, Matthew, who inspired the whole movement, had a few seizure-free years before getting them again because he was put on the wrong medication. Now, he’s on his fourth seizure-free year, so Kim is hopeful that the light at the end of the tunnel is near. Matthew is active in running the movement with Kim, talking to kids about seizures, giving them peer-to-peer advice on how to have fun in social settings even when sober.

“That’s so amazing because when you are in a situation like that, when you have an illness, it does feel lonely, like no one understands,” Seema shares. “Now you and your son have created this amazing support group and an outlet for people to feel that they can still be cool. It’s just an illness that can be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t live a totally happy and fulfilling life.”


The “I Am Exercise”

Kim shares one of the hallmarks of the Sober is the New Cool Movement: “The ‘I am’ exercise.”

“When people find us on social media, often I find their self-esteem is at a very low point. So I talk to them and find out a little bit about them. And every morning and every night, I ask them to place their hand on their heart and I send them a message via Instagram or Messenger. I write “I am” then one positive word,” she explains.

The exercise often starts with simple relatable words, just to ease the person into the exercise, because often they really don’t see or remember any of the qualities they have. She shares one particular example about a woman — a teacher who reached out to her and couldn’t come up with a single positive word when she started. Six months in, and she said. “When I first started with you I could not find one good thing to say about myself but now I can find 50.” Now she starts her grade 5 class with the same exercise.

‘I think it’s just rebuilding one person, one word at a time,” Kim says. “What we do with the ‘I am’ statements is to lift others up, for them to remember that everybody is unique, everybody is special, and everybody matters.”

“It sounds almost like a pledge, isn’t it, when you put your hand on your heart and say “I am dedicated, I am beautiful, I am strong.” What I find with most people is that we forget who we are, we forget the power that we have within,” Seema adds. She then talks about how we’re all born with resiliency, as we can see with children who are just learning to walk. They fall down countless times but they never give up, they simply take another step. “That’s what builds resilience — continuously taking the next step.’

Kim agrees and says, “And I think also knowing that someone cares, someone’s listening, somebody values them enough to take time to help them, is huge.”


The Power of One

When Kim first started the movement, people around her asked how many people she has in her team. And it was just her. Still, she felt it was important, so she pushed forward anyway. 

“The power of one is quite remarkable. Because what I have accomplished has surpassed my expectations so much; it’s incredible.The fact that we reach people all over the world,  and then they in turn help others. It creates a ripple effect,” she says.

The intimacy of the movement helped it grow, in a way, because it encouraged people to seek help, knowing that they wouldn’t be judged and that they have control over the situation. “Because I am not related to these people, they feel free to let me in on their secrets. I’m honored that they would trust me with their intimate secrets, their fears, their wants.”


On Destigmatizing Conversations About Mental Health 

Since starting the movement, Kim noticed that people are much more open to talking about mental health and that the openness improves everyday. She says, however, that what we need to work on is our word choice and how we frame the conversation

‘For example, the words “psychiatric ward” is so 1940s. People couldn’t talk about things in those days. For other diseases like cancer or epilepsy, you could ask anybody for help, but when it comes to mental health, people are much more careful about who they discuss it with. But everyone I encounter, it seems, knows someone who might benefit from the conversation,” she says.

One of her goals is to help destigmatize the conversation, by encouraging people to talk about it in a more positive light. Because only by talking about it can people feel open about receiving the help that they need. Especially now with COVID, depression, seclusion and loneliness have become rampant.  “It’s even more important that we make sure we take care of one another,” Kim says.

And Seema agrees, adding, “When you uplift someone else, you feel uplifted, too.”


A Vision for the Future

Sober is the New Cool is in the process of getting certified as a mental health charity. In the meantime, Kim funnels help toward the Douglas Foundation. People can simply reach out to Sober is the New Cool so they can get the information on how to directly donate to the foundation and other mental health organizations.

In addition to this, Kim hopes to start a movement for “I am” murals in as many hospitals and mental health recovery centers around the world. “Just to uplift people who are undergoing treatment, to remind them that they’re special, they’re loved, they’re worthy and that they should never miss another memory.”


Last Words of Wisdom

To end the episode, Kim shares her ultimate realization, that she hopes will inspire people: “I don’t want anyone to wait, like I did at 60, to say I am enough. Believe it, and believe it now. You are enough, you are worthy, and you are important.”

Connect with Kim



LinkedIn Kim Bellas

Facebook Sober Is The New Cool


Becoming Our Best Selves to Offer Our Gifts to the World with Sonia Jackson


Break Free to Brilliance Ep. 55: Becoming Our Best Selves to Offer Our Gifts to the World with Sonia Jackson

Veteran and award-winning actress and founder of the nonprofit Visions of Possibilities, Sonia Jackson, joins us today for a special episode of Break Free to Brilliance Podcast. In today’s episode, we learn how a shift in perspective can help us push forward with our goals despite setbacks. We also gain valuable insights on how continuously growing as a person is essential in helping us live our purpose. Sonia shares the lessons she’s learned mounting the annual Breastival! as a virtual event, which she hopes will inspire real and open conversations among women about their bodies. Because by sharing stories, we can provide a safe space for deep conversations that provide relief, healing, and hope for one another. Tune into this week’s episode of Break Free to Brilliance for wisdom on the impact of storytelling and how we can grow into our best selves to offer our gifts to the world. Join Seema Giri Host and award-winning actress and non-profit leader Sonia Jackson.

Grounding Meditation

To start the show, as always, Seema leads everyone on a guided grounding meditation. Sonia Jackson expresses her appreciation for Seema’s guidance, sharing that she, too, loves to meditate and that the experience of a guided meditation that calls awareness to our happy moments feels even more special. “Our bodies don’t know the difference between what happened before and what’s happening now, so it’s even sweeter to return and tap into a happy moment. If we feel good, then more good will arrive.”


The Inspiration behind Breastival!

Throughout the episode, Sonia talks about the upcoming virtual event that she’s mounting with Visions of Possibilities. It is called Breastival! An Event about Breasts, Bodies, and Beyond, presents Conversations ‘Bout the Girls, a play about women’s relationships with their breasts, as a star-studded virtual reading benefiting Susan G. Komen.

The idea behind Breastival! Stemmed from Sonia’s experience doing the famous play, The Vagina Monologues. “The performance pieces in that play are really very powerful. But I thought there’s another whole part of the women’s body that is extremely powerful and it’s not necessarily getting the best view, so to speak. So I wanted to change things up a little bit.” 

Writing the play, she not only tapped into her own experience but interviewed other women, to turn Conversations ‘Bout the Girls into a play that covers every possible experience about women’s breasts: “It covers getting them, covers little girls thinking about getting them, getting bras, nursing, cleavages, every item you can think of about a woman’s breasts, including loss.” 

Furthermore, with the play, Sonia asks the questions: “How do we really see each other? How do we see ourselves?” But she’s quick to note that it’s not a play that tells women how things should be done. “It’s just a variety of women’s stories. And I have found that the women’s stories are so empowering. They give us an opportunity to think about what it is that we all walk through. And when women see a collection of their own stories — because these are all our stories — they have a tendency to feel empowered by that and recognize that, “Hey, if she can do this, then I can do this other thing over here as well.” She’s been doing the play for 17 years now, seeing the impact it continues to have on not just women but everyone who watches it, including men


Stumbling Blocks as Feedback, not Setback


Now on its 17th year, Breastival! is going virtual, which comes with its own sets of challenges.

Sonia shares that the most important lesson she’s learned is becoming who she needs to be in order to do the show on the level she wants. She says, through the show, she’s continuing to grow in who she truly is, with a complete understanding of what she has to offer, standing in the power and belief that what she has is significant to give to the world.

Sonia also shares all the practical challenges that go with mounting the play in a different way, and how she has used these challenges as opportunities to pivot.

On these challenges, Seema remarks: “Sometimes, when we stumble, it can be really hard to get back up because you’re putting yourself out there, which is not an easy thing to do. And you expect a certain outcome. And when you don’t get that, it can be quite devastating. 

 One of the things that I have learned from one of my mentors taught me is, “What if you didn’t look at things as good or bad, right or wrong, and just take it as feedback that, okay, you did this?” Perhaps the other person didn’t give good feedback. They felt whatever they felt because everyone has their own feelings. You can’t control that. It’s just feedback.“


Growing Into Your Own Person to Live Your Purpose

Sonia likewise shares how she’s had to evolve with the show, and it’s learning that no matter how long you’ve been doing something, you can’t always assume that you know exactly what to do in every given situation, because not everything can always go according to plan. So instead of getting frustrated, Sonia simply has had to learn to look at herself and ask what she needs to become to create what she wants to create.

She talks further about the need to let go of our old belief systems that govern our fears. If we don’t let go of that fear from the day before, we just keep carrying it with us. And often that fear looks like a variety of things. And we carry that as a belief, but in actuality, it’s just a picture of something that happened years ago, yesterday. We could just as easily take that picture out, tear it up, throw it away, and let it go.


Creating a Safe Space through Storytelling

On the things that viewers will take away from Breastival!:

“Everytime I do (the play), I get great compliments on it and I get people who talk about things that they’ve changed in their lives. Not just women, but men as well. I’ve had women talk about being reminded of being a young girl and just starting to develop and how those things affected us, and that made them decide to talk to their daughters differently about how they can stand strong in who they are, against the world which sometimes is gonna make fun of us just based on our body or our body shape. 

“I’ve had men who’ve seen the show who’ve talked to me and said they now have a better understanding of their wives now that they’ve seen the show. Just a variety of things —people talking to their sons about how they treat women, when it’s something even minor as teasing. Because we hear about ‘oh, it’s just teasing, boys will be boys.” But you know, boys turn into young men that turn into men. And if it doesn’t get checked, somewhere along the way, it becomes a difficulty later on in life.”

Apart from being a fundraiser, Sonia hopes the show will be a conversation starter for friends, families, and loved ones about such sensitive topics about women’s bodies. She also hopes it continues to be a safe space for women who have had breast cancer and are not yet ready to talk about their experience but need a venue that allows them to feel their emotions.

On doing the show to support the fundraiser, Sonia is responding to a calling that was inspired by her own mother. “As a child, I didn’t know what to do for my mother. (Mounting the show) is one of things I can do: to be able to raise funds and raise awareness for somebody else’s mother, or somebody else’s daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife.”


An Invitation to Breastival!

Sonia invites everyone to watch Breastival! virtually on May 14th, 6:00 pm PST. Her suggestion on how to watch it? Buy one ticket for your girlfriends or your family and have a nice night in and then afterwards, she hopes the show will encourage each member of the party to donate to Susan G. Komen. For ticket holders who don’t get to watch the premier, the show will be available to watch online for 30 days so they have plenty of time to plan their girls’ night in to watch the show.


A Prayer to the Divine Power

Sonia ends the interview with a closing prayer: 

“So in this moment, how good it is to know that there is a Divine Power that is greater than all of us. And that this power lives, moves, and has its beingness within each one of us. We are surrounded by it, guided by it, and we call forth that power in this moment, to guide us in whatever it is that we’re doing. How good it is to know that the power within us can carry us, guide us, and reveal to us all everything that we need, anytime that we need it. So I bless each one of us right here, right now, with all that we are calling forth in our lives, anything that we need for support, for our families, friends, for the work that we’re here to do, I bless us all. I give thanks for each one of us. I know that it is all good. I name it good. And in gratitude, I will let it be. And so it is. Amen.”

Connect with Sonia Jackson:

Business: Visions of Possibilities



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