Becoming sober: In my previous marriage, we used drugs and drank alcohol on a regular basis. This caused a lot of fights and mishandling of money. Now, since my husband and I do not drink, I have more patience and more understanding of his perspective when we get into tiffs and we resolve our problem right away, eliminating any stress.
With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. Relationships, in particular, can be stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. What are stress management strategies that people use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate stress? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, and mental health experts, who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gina Kunadian.
Gina Kunadian is a wife, mother, certified massage therapist, and alcohol recovery coach who has committed her life to helping women overcome their alcohol dependency, without traditional 12-step programs. She helps clients create unshakeable confidence, clarity, and energy so they can unleash their creative potential and live the lives of their dreams, alcohol free!
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, she was a weight loss consultant who helped hundreds of women achieve and maintain their weight goals. She also worked with many high-profile guests at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Silicon Valley as a Massage Technician for over 15 years. Needless to say, she understands how to support clients in highly-stressful situations.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
Thank you Savio for having me! One day I will be writing a book on my story. I often pinch myself when thinking about how I got here. I am the youngest out of four children. Unfortunately, my father passed away when I was just a baby. The only “so-called” father figure that I did have was my mother’s significant other. He came into her life when I was 6 years old. With my mother completely unaware, he sexually molested me from the ages of 6 to 12 years. I remember, at age 8, experiencing a “nervous stomach.” This affected my grades in school, relationships with friends and my overall self-esteem. Although my pediatrician diagnosed me with IBS, I knew even at the age of 8 there was something else underlying, and I didn’t know how to get rid of it.
Years had passed, and my boyfriend in high school introduced me to raves and I started experimenting with drugs. I eventually got kicked out of my home during my senior year of high school and moved with my boyfriend to southern California after I graduated. I remember I was extremely abusive to him physically and mentally when arguments occurred. One evening it got so bad that I wound up slitting my wrist in hopes of dying. Luckily, the cut wasn’t deep and I remember calling my mom, even though we hadn’t spoken in almost a year, and asked if I could move back home. I packed my bags and moved back home to the Bay Area literally that night. I started attending college and was working, but my destructive lifestyle of substance and alcohol use continued. I was also having severe anxiety attacks and was prescribed medication for depression. I wound up dropping out of college and when I turned 22, I started drinking heavily and went out to nightclubs 4 times a week. When I turned 23, I met my husband, and yes, at a nightclub and we got married when I turned 25 in 2007. We had a son in 2008 and although we were new parents, it did not keep us from partying and drinking. I was becoming more dependent on alcohol because, in my mind, it made me more confident and it made me perform better at work, so I thought anyway. My alcohol use was so severe that I’d become very ill if I didn’t drink, and by this time, my husband had enough of my abusive behavior that he took our son and left me. This was the time I became extremely depressed. I wouldn’t eat, I couldn’t get out of bed, I was ignoring phone calls, the only thing I was doing was drinking. I was in contact with a friend through text and I remember telling him that I had nothing to live for anymore. I did wind up taking 4 Ativans all at once and drowned them with alcohol, wanting to end my despair. Fortunately, my friend whom I texted called my parents, who then called 911. I vaguely remember the paramedics breaking into my home and taking me to the ER. From the hospital I went straight to an inpatient hospital. When I was discharged from there, I continued their outpatient program where I learned how to cope with my high stress and anxiety. Although I was attending these classes and group meetings, I was still heavily drinking. My body was used to 750ML of vodka a day. I never admitted I had a problem. I would tell everyone I had a high tolerance. It wasn’t until 2014 during Thanksgiving that I finally admitted I had a problem. I remember my mom looking at me with concern as I was sweating profusely, looking pale, shaking and about to pass out. I told her I needed to drink more otherwise I’d become very ill. I never felt like that before. I guess it’s because I was drinking so heavily and that particular day I had not. A month later, I admitted myself to a 30-day rehabilitation facility called Mountain Vista Farm in Northern California. I felt like a brand new woman after those 30 days but, unfortunately, as soon as I left, I went to a casino and drank. I reconnected with an old college fling and wound up pregnant. I did not drink during pregnancy or while nursing, but as soon as my baby stopped the bottle, I went back to mine. I thought I could quit on my own, but I couldn’t.
I decided I had enough in 2017, crying in my car in an industrial parking lot drinking vodka and vomiting right before driving to work. I remember crying out to God saying “I don’t want to live like this anymore!” And it wasn’t too long after that, I became extremely ill and was hospitalized where the doctor made me promise her not to ever drink again. She told me I would die within 10 years if I continued. I immediately thought of my kids no longer having a mother and how selfish I’d be to continue this path.
Now being over 5 years sober, I am so grateful! What a journey! The hospital where I stayed helped me detox and I remember coming home after I was discharged, throwing away bottles of alcohol and alcohol paraphernalia. Because of my sobriety, I no longer experience anxiety or depression. I weaned myself off all medications and now take nutritional supplements. I have so much more clarity and energy and have created healthier habits. I had invested in a mindset and fitness mentor who helped me detox from the anger, hate, fear and resentment that I was holding onto for so long. I was also serving a lot at my church where I met my “now” husband, who, by the way, does not drink. We got married in February 2020, and because he was previously married, he’s blessed me with another son who is just 1.5 years older than my youngest.
I am so happy to say that I no longer have the desire to drink anymore. During times of trials I don’t even crave one drop! I cope in ways that not only help me mentally but spiritually.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
That is a fantastic question and there are two ways I want to answer that. One being, if given the opportunity to speak to my younger self, I’d say to her to always have a relationship with God, no matter what the universe throws at you. Do not fear but have the courage to stand up for yourself; who cares about the opinions of others. I would advise her to start trusting her own intuition and seeking wisdom and discernment. I’d also encourage her to use her intelligence and start thinking for herself, to not always be the follower. And the other part of me wouldn’t say anything to her; because everything she is experiencing is molding her to become the woman she longs to be.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?
You know this is going to sound cliche, but I have to say I am grateful for my mom. I know, I know…some may think ‘well isn’t she the one who was with the guy who sexually abused you?’ She actually didn’t find out until I was 22 years of age and they had split when I turned 15. Believe me, she wanted to hunt him down after I told her the truth. But she is the type of mother who always supported me in anything and everything, as long as it was safe, of course. She helped me with my studies, she was there at all my basketball games cheering me on, she’s a great listener whenever I had trouble, and she has a very open mind. I am shocked she hasn’t disowned me from all the chaos and grief I caused during my alcoholism. No matter what the circumstances, she will always have open arms. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t always pleasant, she was a tough cookie, haha.
One other person I do want to mention and who I am also grateful for is my old mentor Electra. I didn’t collaborate with her until my mid 30’s and was only sober for several months. She is a mindset coach as well as a fitness trainer who helped me during my recovery more than any AA meeting or 12 steps did. I was learning things that I never knew existed in the mind; and I was also discovering my purpose. I guess you could say she “enlightened” me because I was healing old traumas, becoming stronger emotionally and physically. Physically, because she worked the heck out of me, haha. As a matter of fact, she texted me today to see if I’d want to train with her again. I think I’m gonna take her up on that offer. It’s definitely been a long time.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
I most definitely am! Having taken my experiences during recovery, I know what works well and what doesn’t work. I have crafted my very own signature program called the “Transformation Shining Process” in order to help other women recover from their alcoholism so they can stop sacrificing their lives, achieve their goals, and start living life on their terms. It is centered around one or more of these core principles.
MIND — Design Your Mind + Goal Setting
BODY — Improve Your Body + Practice Healthy Habits
SPIRIT — Align With Spirit + Healing Within.
I just wrapped up my incredible 3-day workshop on creating the perfect schedule, getting rid of old habits and creating better ones, as well as becoming more confident in everything you do. We even had a bonus HypnoBreathwork session on the last day from Life Coach, Lisa Mcgregor and that was amazing! So definitely be on the lookout for my next event, which will take place sometime at the beginning of 2023. It’s gonna be fantastic, and it’s FREE!
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?
You are most welcome! Ah! Yes, stress. I believe stress is an energy we hold within, and it causes some sort of emotional, physical and/or psychological tension. We often either feel it in our chest or in our gut. Some of us may hold it in, and some of us may react. Everyone to some degree has experienced stress in their lives, but the most important thing to note is how we respond when we are stressed out.
In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?
I believe stress is influenced and created in the mind. Think about it this way, how many times have you been stressed out or overwhelmed in your life? I am sure more than once, right? No matter how many times you have been stressed, you get through it. So ask yourself why you continuously invite stress inside when you darn well know you’re going to be fine. Remember that we are spiritual beings and nothing can damage us. Yes, we may lose a limb or get severely injured, but somehow we managed. I feel we take things so seriously in life. It truly doesn’t have to be that way. I also believe stress can be avoided. Look at who you surround yourself with. Do they align with your values? Are they toxic and prevent you from growing? And also turn off the TV and avoid watching the news as much as possible…talk about inviting stress, haha.
What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?
There are soooo many physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress. These include digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea, insomnia, hair loss, teeth grinding, lowered immune system, skin issues, headaches and fatigue. I am sure there is more but these are the ones that come to my head. Everyone reacts to their stress differently. I know for myself, when I used to be stressed, I would elevate my shoulders and tighten my whole body. This caused me a lot of muscle pain, which caused headaches which then caused stomach aches. It was like a domino effect. The mind also gets very noisy with racing thoughts. This can cause panic attacks and hyperventilation. I don’t know if you have ever experienced this, but when I had panic attacks I felt like I was going to die.
Most stress is bad for our bodies. However, there is such a thing as good stress.
Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?
Not all stress is bad. If you are working towards your goals and are experiencing a quantum leap, that stress turns into excitement! Your frowns will turn into smiles and your fatigue turns into energy! Some other examples of good stressors are getting a promotion, going on your first date, bringing home your newborn baby, or even riding a roller coaster. As far as stress being good for us?…Perhaps if you are a procrastinator and have a deadline, then that stress will immediately turn into action.
Is there a difference between being in a short-term stressful situation versus an ongoing stress? Are there long-term ramifications to living in a constant state of stress?
Absolutely! I feel that short-term stress means “short lived,” so that stress doesn’t last long. Meanwhile, ongoing stress means “continual,” and when we have continual stress our mental and physical health suffer. According to the American Psychological Association, prolonged stress has been linked to unhealthy eating, skin problems, smaller brain size and an increased likelihood of chronic disease. When our stress is moderate, it can increase our motivation, which kicks us into gear sometimes. It also forces us to solve problems, and when we find solutions, we build confidence.
Let’s now focus more on the stress of relationships. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out in order to address it. Can you help articulate why relationships can be so stressful?
Relationships can be very stressful. When two people come together, they each carry their own baggage, their own stress triggers. They won’t necessarily bring it to the table at the beginning of the relationship, but when they do, they’ve opened up a can of worms. Oftentimes, our external stress is brought into our relationships. Whether you had a bad day at work, you were in a lot of traffic, or someone said something to upset you. That energy can easily be transferred over to your partner, causing them to feel stress as well. If you feel that you are in a constant state of stress in your relationship, you may want to examine yourself because relationships are supposed to be joyful and fun and not feel like you are in therapy sessions all the time.
Can you help spell out some of the problems that come with the stress caused by relationships?
Some of the problems that come with stress in relationships include ignoring money issues, sex, not feeling appreciated, not equally contributing to household chores, criticizing each other, and not trusting each other. I believe money problems are the number 1 cause of stress in relationships. Both partners may be in disagreement about how they manage and spend each other’s money. Also, when one partner is doing a lot around the house like cleaning or cooking and it doesn’t get acknowledged, they may build resentment towards their partner and stop cooking and stop cleaning. Even when emotions are all over the place, it is important not to say anything derogatory. This can bring on a lot of tension between you two and cause a big fight. Sex, or should I say “the lack of”, can cause a lot of stress in relationships as well. Some couples fight over premature ejaculation, not climaxing, erectile dysfunction etc. And when there is no trust, you bet there will be great tension. When you don’t trust your partner, you may have ideas of infidelity lingering in your head and start to avoid your partner.
One more important thing I need to mention is that both alcohol and drug abuse most definitely create chaos even beyond the typical stress in a relationship.
Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 stress management strategies that you can use to eliminate stress from your relationships?” Please share a story or example for each.
I have experienced a marriage that was extremely stressful which wound up in divorce and, by learning from my mistakes, I now live an almost stress-free marriage. The 5 major changes that I have made and consider to be stress management strategies are…
1.) Becoming sober: In my previous marriage, we used drugs and drank alcohol on a regular basis. This caused a lot of fights and mishandling of money. Now, since my husband and I do not drink, I have more patience and more understanding of his perspective when we get into tiffs and we resolve our problem right away, eliminating any stress.
2.) Going to church: My husband and I put God first and make church a priority. This is something I never had with my previous husband; instead we just partied over the weekends. When my husband and I attend church together, we feel at peace there. I notice we get closer and develop more of an appreciation for each other.
3.) Travel: In my previous marriage we were so broke from spending our money on drugs and alcohol that we never had any money to travel. Now, I can say I travel quite often with my husband, which helps us reconnect and decompress from any external stress factors.
4.) Exercising together: There is no better accountability partner than your own spouse. Exercising helps both our mind and body. We have lots of fun when we work out together. We cheer each other on, we give each other high fives, we are even a little competitive. There is always fun in that, right? The best thing is that we feel incredible afterward and less stressed for sure!
5.) Making time for intimacy: This is a very important part of our marriage. Not only does it bring both souls together, but it is also a good stress reliever.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?
I do! Right now I am listening to Rebecca Cafiero’s podcast called “Becoming You.” She is truly inspiring and gives the best lifestyle tips and tools to empower you so you can be your best while designing a life that you love. One of my favorite episodes is #138 on 3 Steps to Overcoming Overwhelm.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to create a Women’s Wellness Alcohol Recovery Retreat. Since I am also in the spa business, it wouldn’t be difficult at all. I already envision the retreat to be in the mountains, surrounded by redwoods. There will be healthy and delicious food, massage, yoga, game time, creativity time, nature walks, prayer, meditation and a mocktail party with a DJ, disco lights and lots of dancing! I just want an awesome community of women who understand each other and who can also help one another.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
I am all over social media, but the best and easiest way is through my website.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
Thank you again, Savio, I truly appreciate you and for conducting this interview.