Welcome.

I'm Colleen. Performance coach and advocate for mental health who’s spent 15 years reinventing mental toughness for 2023.

My Story

One year old, full of pure joy and vitality with Mr. Banana.

From an early age, my hero was "Pop Pop", my grandfather and decorated Navy Veteran (center).


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From the time I was a five-year-old girl, there was never a question that I would join the Navy.

It was my grandfather’s doing. A decorated Navy veteran of World War II and Korea, the stories he told me of his years at sea were rich with life satisfaction, exploration, mission, and brotherhood. Somehow, he seemed to have found the answer to the big existential questions, and his life embodied a spirit without which I knew my own would be incomplete. My life has been guided by undying search to understand what he knew.

Days spent in Pop Pop's garden were magical.

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When Pop-Pop wasn’t reminiscing about his lifelong service in the Navy, he kept me occupied in his vegetable garden. He taught me how to nurture each seedling from sowing through planting to the plate.

You could find him in his garden every afternoon, inspecting each row as if they were tiny little sailors whose success in life depended completely upon him. He took great care of his crops, and his connection to them was obvious in the way they grew, vibrant and resilient.

Every night after dinner, he’d retire to his den to watch John Wayne movies and I’d interrupt him, eager to vanish with him into his sea stories.


Pop Pop passes unexpectedly and I start drinking at 15 to escape the feelings.

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I was 13 years old the first time I got drunk, basically for the same reasons I continued to get drunk for many years to come. It went like this: I craved approval because I wanted to prove to the world (but mostly my father) that I wasn’t a mistake after all. In order to do that, I had to be perfect in everything, which meant creating such unattainable expectations of myself that not only did I set myself up to fail, in some situations I made it impossible for me to act at all. Which led to depression and drinking in a futile effort to stop feeling so low.

The depression and drinking put me in a state of stagnation, unable to move forward in life, which led to my feeling even more depressed. I was so depressed that I thought about killing myself, which scared me so much I drank even more.

It would take me five more years to feel mentally tough enough to join the Navy.

Restless and ready, I finally join the Navy at 21 to follow in my hero's footsteps.

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By the time I joined the Navy at 21, I was ready to bury my emotions. From the moment I hit boot camp, I embraced the Navy’s stoic culture with everything I had. I became an unfeeling robot, which made for an excellent sailor with total focus on the mission.

Our captain cultivated a well-oiled machine where everyone knew what they were doing and why they were doing it, and we loved each other like a wolf pack in harmony, with a greater purpose to protect. It was Pop-Pop’s Navy.

I'm raped by two sailors I trusted. I put up a force field.

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I blamed myself. No one made me drink until I blacked out and lost control of my surroundings. That decision was all mine. I didn’t report it. Instead, I faced the boys from the party the next day and told them to forget what happened. I locked the memory of that night deep down inside of me.

After the assault, I was different, abrasive, heartless and completely self-centered. I couldn’t trust anyone and I hurt a lot of people in the process of trying to build relationships that I’d eventually destroy.

The seeds for #BingingSober are planted.

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At sea, my mind was open to the world, to weirdness that didn’t make mine seem so different. Out there, my world made sense. The only way I’d gotten to that headspace before then was through running. Combining the ship with running and the total sobriety that time on the ocean gave me, without access to alcohol, helped to silence the disruptive ego-noise that type of toxic escapism unleashed. The treadmill was my church. I felt like I understood life and everything about it. I felt so good. So complete. So at peace. We’d eventually go home, I’d order a drink to celebrate and forget about all of it.

Back on land in San Diego, I'm distracted by old habits.

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Everything about San Diego fed my spirit, and my intuition grew stronger; I was aware that I could hear my wise, confident little voice much clearer when I was careful about how I treated my body.

I developed an affinity for farmers markets’ fresh produce, clean fish from the sea, and 20-mile runs that kept my mind clear, but my social life was on fire and it was hard not to fall into the rock star-like, Southern California scene.

Before long, I did.

After 10 years, 5 months, and 24 days in the Navy, I go in search of my next mission.

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I felt it in my stomach. It was a fullness that resonated through my heart to my head. Wise. Confident. Certain. And before I asked myself whether or not I should leave the Navy, I knew the answer. I had to go to Ireland.

I was starting to learn how to use the feelings, the knowing, as guideposts. I knew that it was time to get out of the Navy, but with a year still left on my contract, I also knew that I wouldn’t be in Ireland anytime soon.


On February 9th of 2010, after 10 years, five months and 24 days of honorable service, I drove to the administrative building at the top of Point Loma, San Diego and signed my name eight times on eight crisp pages of type, not reading any of it.

I drive to St. Augustine Florida for a weekend and stay for 9 months.

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They say you can’t go anywhere in Old Town without walking on a grave because of all of the battles along the river, and most of the town being wiped out multiple times by multiple plagues. All of that death left a lot of energy.

You know, the first law of thermodynamics? Energy can’t be destroyed. In fact, every conversation with a local skeptic is the ghost story that made them a believer, and every conversation with any local at all is their story of what brought them to St. Augustine and the power that keeps them here.

Eager to connect with the magic of my youth in a garden, I know it's time to go to Ireland.

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I flew to Ireland on my 33rd birthday on a one-way ticket for a three-month stay at Burtown House and Gardens. I found the gardens through the Worldwide Organization for Organic Farming (WWOOF), and they  made it possible for me to stay at no cost, so long as I tended to the vegetable garden. As I navigated the transition from military to military-veteran life, I knew the garden would help me connect back to little me and her relationship with the universe.

On my very first day in the garden, I  fall back into the rhythm of my youth in the garden with Pop-Pop. I felt the cadence as I sowed the seeds. My hands were alive in the ground. The smell of the damp, morning soil awakened a part of me I’d forgotten.

This is what else I learned during my time in Ireland: The Irish are mostly tall brunettes, not short redheads; they love to sing and will do so anytime of the day, any day of the week so long as there’s beer and stomping; and they understand and embrace joy and sadness as essential parts of a full life. I learned that I wanted to be like them, I wanted to love like them, and I wanted to feel like I felt there, in harmony with the world around me, every minute of every day. Every night before bed I prayed for a harmony that would stay with me when I left there, and for a life partner who would love me unconditionally. Before long, it was time to go home.

Back in the States, I meet a Navy man. We fall in love, but we both have a lot of work to do.

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“I’m a Navy guy,” he said. “Jeff,” he continued, holding out his hand for me to shake it as we stood in line for coffee on the first morning of fellowship orientation.

He was the human version of Buzz Lightyear. Strong jaw line, broad shoulders, and eyes the color of a steel ship. His voice wasn’t robotic though; it was wrapped in a Texas drawl that made him annunciate the “h” in “white,” and other one syllable words became two and three syllables as he just… kept… talking.

He was going on and on about his work as a mental health counselor and something about horses, but I was distracted by what was happening with my body. I felt like a ball of light hovering in space. 

He lived in Dallas as a full-time father of three children under 12, and I lived on the east coast. We did long-distance for almost a year, taking a few short vacations together, before I followed my wise, confident voice and moved to an apartment close to him in Texas. Soon, the idea of accepting the responsibility that three children would bring to my carefree world became painful. I had little responsibility outside of myself; I was free to go wherever I wanted, see whomever I wanted, do whatever I wanted. I had a hard time imagining that I should leave Never Neverland for a suburban life that someone else built with Jeff. 

I kept myself from getting close to him and the kids, and he didn’t notice because he had a fortress built around himself, around all of them. 

We were both untrusting from scars left by other people. We wanted to be together, but we wouldn’t allow it. We avoided our feelings with alcohol-filled dates and started to fight a lot. It was clear to me that I was supposed to be with him, yet things were so turbulent, I started to question why.

We both decided to work for it, and we worked (and still work) hard.

My Father-in-law is given two months to live. I become his caregiver. He becomes my life-coach.

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“It’s Dad,” Jeff says. “They found a tumor in his colon and they gave him two months to live.”  


I became his full-time caregiver.


For almost a year, I spent more time with my father-in-law, Clyde aka Sonny, aka Big Daddy, than I ever would have if he were well. The week he passed, he made it to the hospital before he started to cross over; when his cognition declined and he saw things that weren’t there, he became a child again. He was pure-spirited, curious about everything, and wanted nothing but ice cream and Dr. Pepper. So that’s what he got.

This is what I put together that year: We all have things that we need to make peace with in order to reach further, to free our spirit from the chains of the past, from the chains of this life, and maybe from lives before this; it is uncomfortable, but the reward is the full experience of life. Through the spectrum of joy to sadness, we gain access to an ocean of wisdom when we accept all of it as true and necessary, just like the Irish taught me; we have to face it at some point—in life, forcefully at the end of life, or in the next—because we can’t pass over completely unless we heal it, and we need to heal it in order to move on.


I knew what I had to do.

I work for awareness, control and balance of the habits I use to avoid my feelings. I resurrect my trauma and heal.

#BingingSober is born.

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I returned to my counselor. I asked her if she remembered what I’d told her last. She said, “Yes, you were raped in the Navy.”

It was the first time I’d heard the words out loud. There was a sharp tightness somewhere between my chest and my stomach. I couldn’t breathe.

“I. Was. Raped.” I said.

I could breathe again. Before I said the words, before I faced the truth, I was drowning, gasping for air, filling my lungs with a million pounds of pressure pushing into and out of every part of me, into and out of every part of my life. I’d gotten so used to that feeling, that tightness, that I forgot it was there until then, when with those words, it was gone. I was free.

My heart is opened to the love and abundance of the world around me. I'm finally home.

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My Story

One year old, full of pure joy and vitality with Mr. Banana.

From an early age, my hero was "Pop Pop", my grandfather and decorated Navy Veteran (center).

Days spent in Pop Pop's garden were magical.

Pop Pop passes unexpectedly and I start drinking at 15 to escape the feelings.

Restless and ready, I finally join the Navy at 21 to follow in my hero's footsteps.

I'm raped by two sailors I trusted. I put up a force field.

The seeds for #BingingSober are planted.

Back on land in San Diego, I'm distracted by old habits.

After 10 years, 5 months, and 24 days in the Navy, I go in search of my next mission.

I drive to St. Augustine Florida for a weekend and stay for 9 months.

Eager to connect with the magic of my youth in a garden, I know it's time to go to Ireland.