66: Embracing Sobriety in Nursing- Devon Donkin, BSN, RN, NC-BC, Alcohol Free Lifestyle Coach

About Devon Donkin


Devon Donkin BSN, RN, NC-BC Alcohol Free Lifestyle Coach

As a Board-Certified Nurse Coach, Devon helps people break free from alcohol, so they can reach their goals and live a healthier happier life. She has over a decade of bedside nursing experience in neonatal intensive care, attending births for high-risk infants, is a neonatal resuscitation instructor, infant care and infant safety educator.


Devon lives in San Francisco Bay Area with her 9-year old son, husband, and goldendoodle therapy dog, where she enjoys outdoor adventures and lifting weights at the gym.



66: Embracing Sobriety in Nursing- Devon Donkin, BSN, RN, NC-BC, Alcohol Free Lifestyle Coach

“I noticed, a lot of the times, I would check out after work. I would find myself after a hard day, pulling over to get some beer or wine, coming home, having dinner and then just wanting to shut everything out and be alone with my wine while my husband would read to my son and put him to bed…

Now that I’m more present, I’ve noticed a shift within our family. And I think my son has noticed how much better it feels for everybody without alcohol in the house.” ~Devon Donkin BSN, RN, NC-BC, Certified Gray Area Drinking Coach

Ah-Ha Moments

  • Working 12-hour shifts is taxing.  It’s OK to search for something outside of bedside Nursing to support you and your family life
  • It’s interesting when one gives up something, that you’ll discover something else that will fulfill you even more
  • Shifts in wellbeing don’t have to be or feel dramatic, instead they can be simple and easy
  • Brag to your physician that you have a Nurse Coach!
  • Alcohol has negative impacts on health, like hormone disruption, blood pressure, energy levels, gut microbiome, brain shrinkage, relationships, and sleep.  It’s linked to certain cancers, high blood pressures and mental health and other health issues
  • Alcohol is a highly addictive substance, so it is important to balance our body chemistry through lifestyle choices like mindfulness, better sleep, balancing blood sugars
  • Many Nurses and health
  • Gray Area Drinkers consume a handful of drinks per week and are doing this regularly.  They are moderating their drinking regularly and it may be consuming to monitor and manage this behavior
  • It’s important to support the nervous system and body’s biochemistry when one begins to abstain from alcohol
  • Sleep, exercise, sunlight, breathwork, eating nourishing foods, drinking enough water will help support your nervous system and body’s biochemistry
  • Creating new habits and rituals to support your journey into sobriety are, tell people about it, get into nature, try movement, be curious, be and feel into your body, hug someone, hug your pet, notice when you feel good, embracing feel good moments
  • Sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing and still, you act!

Links and Resources


66: Embracing Sobriety in Nursing- Devon Donkin, BSN, RN, NC-BC, Alcohol Free Lifestyle Coach Transcript

Nicole Vienneau  00:00

Welcome, everyone, to the Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! podcast. My name is Nicole Vienneau. I am your host, and I’m also a Board Certified Integrative Nurse Coach. And today I have the absolute pleasure of welcoming our next guest, who is an alcohol free lifestyle coach, all the way from Forest Knolls, California.

It’s really interesting to me to have her on our podcast today, because this alcohol free lifestyle has been really high in the social media space. And I’m hearing a lot more, more about it. And I knew that I had to have her on the podcast because she’s specializing in this area.

And we, of course, love to hear everyone’s story surrounding how she got herself involved in this. So I’m really looking forward to it. I have had some experiences in my life related to alcohol. And I hope that we can get into some of that. And before we even get to that, we just really need to invite Devon Donkin to say hello. So, welcome, Devon Donkin.

Devon Donkin  01:09

Thank you, Nicole. I’m happy to be here and excited to talk about whatever comes up today.

Nicole Vienneau  01:16

I know, I am too. And I’m really interested to know a few things. And well, before we even get there, I think we need to take a trip down history lane, right? We do need to understand how you even decided to become a Nurse.

Devon Donkin  01:29

Great. So, Nursing was a career change for me. I had done quite a few things leading up to that, including working in cafes and restaurants. And I was a veterinarian technician. And what else did I do? Oh, I became a real estate agent for about a year. And I also am a licensed esthetician, I still keep my license current, I’ve always loved skincare.

So I did that for a while. After doing real estate for about a year— I kind of got into that because my mom has been in the business for a long time, I thought oh, that’d be interesting. But after I did that for a while, it’s like yeah, this doesn’t really feel like my calling.

And I knew that I always loved health and science. And my roommate at the time was in med school, and we were talking about opportunities, and somehow Nursing came up. And I thought, hmm, that seems pretty… that seems right up my alley. So I just said, Hey, I’m going to take an anatomy class at college and ran and I just fell in love with it.

And so I just one class after another, did all my prereqs and got into Nursing school. I went to University of San Francisco. But honestly, I didn’t think that I would work in a hospital for some reason, when I decided to become a Nurse. I just thought, you know, I love health and wellness, and I want to help people with their health.

And so I’m going to be a Nurse. And you know, but then once you’re actually in Nursing school and doing the thing, everybody’s talking about, you know, what area in the hospital are you going to work in? And this and that. And I thought, oh my gosh, I have no idea.

Until I stepped into when I did my labor and delivery rotation at UCSF, and then I got to be in the NICU for a day. And then I was with all the little babies, and I loved the Nurse who was showing me around that day. And that was the first time that I felt like I could see myself doing that type of Nursing.

And so I ended up doing my preceptorship and then graduating and getting a job at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, which is where I did my preceptorship. Worked there for a few years. And then I’ve been at the local hospital Marine County for the past seven years. And so Nursing has been, like I said, a career change for me. I’ve been specializing in NICU for the past 11 years.

Nicole Vienneau  03:45

Ah, I love your journey. And how you tried everything before you even discovered Nursing.  Real estate, a cafe, esthetician. Wow, that just… you know, and a second career too, right? Makes our Nurses much more well rounded, having so much experience.

Devon Donkin  04:05

I know. And I think it’s interesting that I never saw myself working in a hospital. And when I was in Nursing school, I said, you know, I had friends that were like, I want to do ER, and I thought I’m never doing emergency type work, you know. And now here I am, like responding to emergencies.

It’s just kind of… it’s interesting how, you know, I say I don’t want to do this, or I don’t think I’m gonna do that. And then I ended up doing it and it ends up being, you know, quite fulfilling. It’s exciting to be… you know, the hospital I worked before, when I first started doing NICU, it was just taking care of the babies that were transferred from other hospitals from where they were born.

And now at the hospital I’ve been at for the last seven years, it’s sort of what happens before they go to a higher level of care. So I go to the deliveries now and kind of see what happens on that end, so it’s really exciting to be present when babies are being born.

Nicole Vienneau  04:54

Oh, I bet. I bet. I remember I did this… I was doing a fun fundraiser and one of the things that we got to do was go into the NICU. And me being an adult Nurse my whole career, so intensive care in the adult space, and then going in the NICU, and they presented me with the little, tiny, little, tiny, tiny little blood pressure cuff.

And then the tiny little diaper. I was just in awe of the little babies, because I’d never experienced anything like that before. And it was just such an amazing experience. And the Nurses there were so wonderful and so, so skilled in their area, and so compassionate and wise.

Devon Donkin  05:39

Yeah, I love how everything is so… is little, like you said. I don’t know if that’s what attracted me to doing NICU. But yeah, it was just something about being with the tiny humans that felt like, you know, this is what I’m going to do.

Nicole Vienneau  05:56

Yes. And then so that space, so being in the NICU and learning the skills of the NICU Nurse and then being able to move around a little bit too within that, gaining more and more skill.

Devon Donkin  06:08

Yeah, and then at the hospital where I am, so I go to the births, and then we also cross trained to doing postpartum care. So then I help take care of the moms after they’ve had their babies and then take care of the well babies too. And we do couplet care. So the moms and the babies stay together in our hospital. And so you have, you know, one Nurse per mom and baby couplet.

Nicole Vienneau  06:28

Oh, wow. Yeah, I’m always so fascinated in this area, because it’s an area that I’m not, you know, fully confident or not even fully, I’m just not confident. And so it’s always just so great to hear all the things happening in the NICU, and with babies and moms and all of that.

So it sounds like you love NICU, and yet you still were looking… sounds like, I don’t even know the story about how you found Nurse Coaching. So how does this all work and combined with the work you’re doing today?

Devon Donkin  07:02

Right. So yeah, as much as I love the work I’m doing, you know, I’m doing it part time, which works out really well for our family. I have a nine year old son. And so… but it is, as I’m sure you know, working in a hospital is taxing, you know, it’s these long shifts, the 12 hours, it’s prepping the night before, the kind of the recovery, you know, in the days after, that has led me sort of wondering like, is there something else that I could do to help people with their health?

Which was what inspired me to become a Nurse in the first place. And so part of me has been kind of, you know, searching for like, what… there’s something else, I know there’s something else that I can do. And I’m not quite sure what it is. But I feel this calling.

And so it kind of leads into my journey with alcohol and giving up alcohol. It was last summer, it was on Father’s Day that I decided to quit drinking, because I had a bad hangover. And I was just tired of having that same message come through that this isn’t good for me. And so I was like, that’s it, you know, I’ve had enough.

And it was actually two weeks into my sobriety that I was receiving emails and this idea of becoming a health coach popped in because I received an email from someone who said, Oh, I’m a health coach and doing this and that. I thought, that’s exactly what I can see myself doing.

Like, this is the thing where I can help people with their health. And I honestly think that it was because I gave up drinking, because for most of my life, I’ve been really into taking good care of my body. It was something that I learned from my father at a young age, you know, when I was having a hard time with something, he would say, you know, if you eat right, and you exercise and you take care of yourself, then everything else just feels a little bit easier.

And so that was sort of a little seed that was planted in me from my dad, you know, from a young age. And so I have, for the most part, taken good care of myself, except for the fact that I was drinking amounts of alcohol that were not good for my health. So I really think it was removing that substance that this idea of becoming a health coach actually came into my field.

And so I started, you know, thinking about that, and I thought, I’m going to start a business and start coaching, and this is going to be great. And while I had a lot to offer at the time, I thought, you know, it’d be really good to actually get some training on like, how to actually coach, even though we kind of do that, you know, in the hospital working with patients.

We’re sort of doing it without maybe calling it coaching. I thought it’d be good to have some formal training. And so there were, you know, some ads coming up on social media around coaching and I look into this program. And then I started doing more research on other programs.

And then I discovered INCA. And I was sort of like going back and forth with the idea for a good part of last year. And the more that I looked into it, the more that it sounded like it was going to be the perfect program. So I ended up signing up for it at the end of last year and then I started in January of this year and then graduated in July.

Nicole Vienneau  09:56

Woo! Congratulations!

Devon Donkin  09:59

Thank you!

Nicole Vienneau  10:00

Yes. And you also passed your board certification too.

Devon Donkin  10:03

I did!

Nicole Vienneau  10:04

Yeah! Yes! So, Devon Donkin, Nurse Coach, Board-Certified?

Devon Donkin  10:11


Nicole Vienneau  10:13

I love it. Beautiful ring to it. And I love how you connected the dots with choosing sobriety. And then this opened up for you— coaching opened up for you this new avenue which you could, you know, continue to take care of yourself and care for others, but in this different realm. Yeah, yes. So since January of this year, which was, you know, 11 months ago…

Devon Donkin  10:45

Seems like forever ago.

Nicole Vienneau  10:49

Please tell us what’s been going on. Like, how have you seen yourself transition into this Nurse Coach, Board-Certified roll?

Devon Donkin  10:59

Yeah, I mean, as I think back to January, in the beginning of the INCA program, like so much of it was about self awareness, right? And looking inside, and how do we take care of ourselves, so that we can help other people? And it just seems like every page that I read in the book and throughout the training was like, yes, this is it.

This is everything that I have thought about, like, as, you know, like I said, becoming a Nurse and how to help people with their health. And it was more… just the program was so much more spiritual and kind of like, multi dimensional than I thought it would be.

It wasn’t just the surface of like, the physical body, but like, how does that impact our spiritual dimension and our well being on a holistic level? So yeah, I mean, you know, it’s like, we learn the fundamentals and then we get into the coaching. And that was really rewarding, to work with people and to get the experience and have the privilege to coach people throughout the program.

And then, you know, and then it’s like, okay, well, how do I get clients? And  I ended up getting a client from someone I coached in the program. And this person wasn’t so much about alcohol, although he did quit drinking on his own, because part of it was he hadn’t been to a doctor in about 10 years.

It’s hard to say how old he is, because I didn’t ask him, but he might have been, like, I don’t know, maybe 60s, 70s. I feel like it’s hard to tell with people and their age these days, but he kind of knew… I know him locally, he has a business in town. And we’ve just always had a good relationship.

And so when I mentioned that I was doing this coaching thing, he was like, oh, yeah, you know, I’ll do this with you. And then he became a client, because he had things that he wanted to continue to work on. But he said, “It was such a blessing that I said yes to you, Devon, because I knew when I told you that I hadn’t been to the doctor in 10 years, that you would tell me that that was something that I should do.”

And he did. But before he actually had his appointment, we had been just talking about lifestyle choices, you know, to kind of help him feel better. He was in, you know, pretty good health, but felt like some things were off. So one of the things that he wasn’t doing, really, was drinking water.

So he started out drinking water. And he would make comments about like, you know, I always see these yoga people with these water bottles, and like, you know, and now he’s the guy who’s got the water bottles all the time. And he says, you know, I started drinking water, and now, he goes, I look at water like it’s medicine.

He was so surprised by how much mental clarity he got, and how you know, his energy level and all the things. And then we were working on… he wanted to start exercising more. So we came up with some smart goals around hiking and how often. Started doing that. We looked at his diet, looking at a way to make that more nutritious, getting more protein in.

Well, then he finally got to his doctor’s appointment, and was diagnosed with stage two hypertension. And so good thing that he went, because, you know, we know that that can be a silent killer, like people may not have very many symptoms, and then, you know, it can cause major problems.

So he was so happy that he had gone to the doctor, but that he was already making some lifestyle choices. And then he was, you know, bragging to his doctor about how he has a Nurse Coach, and she was really happy to hear that.

So yeah, and then, you know what, he decided to quit drinking because he just, he knew about my journey, but he kind of did his own research as we started working together, and learned that alcohol isn’t good for high blood pressure. So he just decided to give that up on his own.

And, you know, he was drinking probably a glass or two of wine most nights out of the week and, you know, was able to do that. So, yeah, I mean, that was someone I worked with just on kind of general lifestyle. And then, you know, some people say it’s good to have a niche when you’re in this industry. And I thought because alcohol has such an impact on people’s health.

I mean It not only can it affect high blood pressure, but it disrupts hormones. I mean, you must know, you work in women’s health and menopause, perimenopause. It disrupts hormones. It’s not good for gut health. It wipes out good bacteria. It causes our brains to shrink.

I mean, it really just causes a large number of health issues. And it’s linked with several different kinds of cancers. And because it’s had such a big impact on my well being, I thought this would be a really good area to help people learn how to give that up in a way where they feel like, you know, they’re not deprived, really, like they can get through the cravings.

So I work with the physiology, because we can say in our minds, like, hey, I want to do this. I mean, how many of you have done this, where you drink too much the night before, you wake up the next morning, and you think, I’m not going to drink for a while.

And then by five o’clock, you know, you’re pouring yourself another glass of wine. Pretty common, I’ve been there. It is a highly addictive substance. It can be difficult to will yourself out of it. So working with the physiology and the biochemistry is how can we balance our nervous systems through good sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, balancing blood sugar, so that we can get past the craving, right?

Because it’s that initial craving that people usually give into, you know, the rational mind gets overwritten by the craving. So if you can balance the body chemistry through other practices, like Cymatics, breathwork, like I said, balancing blood sugar, it makes it easier to move past the cravings and so that people can support their goals of not drinking.

Nicole Vienneau  16:23

Yeah, yeah, not only the physical side, but then also the habitual and then the ritual side of things too. So, you know, I’m sure you’re helping with all that as well.

Devon Donkin  16:35

Yeah, it’s definitely, for a lot of people, it’s that, you know, evening time, usually between four and seven o’clock, where people want to have that transition from, you know, the busy work life or, you know, parenting and all that. The energy kind of stacks up at the end of the day.

And people want to have a transition into the evening, where they feel like they can sign off from the day’s tasks and feel a little bit more relaxed. So I mean, for most people, alcohol is like, a given, it’s just a thing to do, you want to turn that switch off.

But you know, when you’re looking at one or two drinks every night, a handful of times a week, that’s getting into that sort of risky kind of behavior where it can impact your health. And I think people, they kind of know that it’s not good for them. But it’s hard to not do it because it’s such a big part of our society, and it’s become so normalized to drink regularly, that most people think it’s okay.

Nicole Vienneau  17:31

Yeah, you do see a lot of that. All the commercials on TV and glamorizing having a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey, or whatever it is. All the shows on Netflix and so forth, that, yeah, it has become much more normalized. And yet, you shared some of the detrimental side of how it affects our health. Yeah.

Yeah. And you’re right, people do know that, and yet, they still are choosing… some are choosing to have those drinks at night. So in your work, what are you seeing as some people’s, I guess, push backs from, you know… likely most of them are past pre-contemplation when they’re connecting with you.

But yeah, I’m sure there’s still some things within that, that they’re like, whoo, I didn’t realize it was going to be this difficult or whatever. What are you seeing when you’re working with people?

Devon Donkin  18:28

I think people are motivated by different things. I mean, some clients are like, they want to know all the health risks, right? Like, oh, I didn’t realize it was that bad for me. Or I’ve had people say, Oh, well, it seems healthier than soda, or, you know, for Nurses, it’s like, oh, that’s what you do to kind of get through life because it’s stressful and it’s hard and you know, it’s traumatizing.

And you kind of need the alcohol to cope. But the people that I work with, they fall into the category of gray area drinkers. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term. So it’s not just like a social media kind of buzz word. It’s actually… it comes from medical research.

So back in 2010, the American Dietary Guidelines were up for review. And so they look at nutrition and calories and beverages that people can consume in terms of how that can support optimal health and disease prevention. So then when they were up for review in 2010, they said, well, we can’t ignore alcohol, right?

Because if people are… a lot of people are consuming this substance, we need to look at how this impacts people’s health. And so they came up with this term gray area drinkers. So gray area drinkers are not the casual drinker who has maybe one or two drinks a year, and they’re not the person that has to go into like a detox meeting, like medical intervention, like is in an acute phase where they have to go to rehab.

That’s sort of the extreme side. The gray area drinkers are sort of everybody in between. When you think about it, it’s most people that drink alcohol. So they’re consuming, you know, a handful of drinks a week with their meals or having it at celebrations.

You know, they could be someone who just drinks on the weekends, but they’re having like, four glasses of wine on the weekend. And they’re doing it regularly. And most gray area drinkers have been able to quit for a period of time. They’ve done like a 30 day cleanse or a dry January or they stopped for periods of time.

But they kind of come back to the same patterns, or they’re someone who’s tried to moderate. And then they come back to like overdrinking again, you know. And it’s this area of like trying to moderate for me, and I know for a lot of other people, that is, in my opinion, more mentally exhausting than just quitting altogether.

Because when you’re moderating, and you’re trying to like come up with a number of drinks every week that you think is okay, it becomes more of like, how am I going to plan this? Am I going to have two drinks tonight or four on the weekend? Or am I going to five on the weekend or you know, it just becomes this whole process of like, it takes up so much cognitive space that I know that’s a challenge for people.

I have people that they try to moderate, you know, they’re like, oh, I want to go from 10 drinks a week to four, you know? And then it’s like, well, how are you going to do that? Are you going to have… are you going to just drink them all in one night? Are you going to do two on one night, two on the other night?

So, I mean, it’s helpful to cut back, right? But my goal is to help people be able to quit altogether, because we know that there is no safe or healthy recommended amount of alcohol for anyone. And when you’re getting into two or more drinks a week, that’s causing your brain to atrophy.

So it’s really something that, you know, I think and I hope that someday we’ll look at alcohol like we did cigarettes, because of the the amount of health impacts it has. I mean, it kills around 3 million people a year. There’s 3 million deaths that are alcohol related every year. So I mean, that’s something that I think… it’s like there almost needs to be like a black box warning on, you know, the label of alcohol.

Nicole Vienneau  22:05

Sure. That’s a significant amount of people. Yeah. Yeah, significant amount of people. And it’s interesting. I’ve never heard of the gray area drinker. So I’m glad that you brought that to the table here. So that we’re, you know, lots of our listeners likely have already heard about that, but likely some of us haven’t, like me.

And it’s surprising that it took until 2010 for them to realize, hey, this needs to be part of this. Yeah. Wow. So okay, you’re really bringing up a lot of interesting facts and interesting education for us here, too. So I would love to know like a day in the life of, like what’s it look like for you when you’re in a coaching session? And, you know, what does that look like for your clients?

Devon Donkin  22:51

Well, let’s see. Where do I begin? So, you know, in the initial session that we have, there’s a lot of I’m asking questions to really get like a timeline of, you know, how alcohol is played out in this person’s life. Like, did they start… how old were they? Was it in their… you know, did their parents drink?

And what did that look like in college? And what does it look like now? Like, what’s their relationship to alcohol? And how do they think it’s impacting their life? And then what is their goal with it? Do they want to moderate? Are they looking to quit? Do they want to stop for 30 days?

And then we kind of figure out together like, well, has there been a period of time when they’ve been able to quit? And if they have, what is it that they did that was helpful to them? You know, did they exercise more? Did they eat differently? Did they do breath work? Did they take certain supplements?

Were they partaking in more creative projects that they like, like gardening, or you know, playing music, or painting? And, you know, whatever the things that were helpful to them during those times, and they’ve been able to quit, then let’s do more of that. So start by doing more of that.

And then I can offer some other resources that will help them get through the cravings, support their nervous systems, through like certain breathwork exercises, there’s somatic practices, like shaking, there’s things like Tai Chi, you know, it kind of depends, it’s pretty customized for the individual.

But in general, we’re supporting the person’s nervous system, so that they can feel calm, and like they don’t have to reach for alcohol every time. A lot of it is balancing the neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and GABA are the ones at play that get depleted every time somebody drinks.

Which also, you know, drinking interferes with sleep and the sleep is the time when we’re rebuilding the neurotransmitters. So how can we support sleep? Gut health— the neurotransmitters are also made in the gut. So working with the diet, nutrition, and then we go okay, well, did you try this and if it worked, great, do more of that. And if it didn’t, that’s totally fine. You know, we can try something else.

Nicole Vienneau  22:53

Yeah, sounds great. So really, of course, we know as Nurse Coaches, we’re putting the person in the driver’s seat of how they want to, you know, proceed. Yeah, I love that. But that’s just a whole other reiteration of the the idea of having a coach for the support that you’re offering.

And the continuous feedback, I suppose, you know, just their ability to reach out, to ask questions, and then you’re asking those really deep questions to have them dive in a little bit deeper.

Devon Donkin  25:24

Right. Yeah. And it’s, you know, our nervous systems just get so overwhelmed, you know, especially if you’re a parent, and you’ve got kids that are running around and, you know, needing things all the time. So it’s like helping, you know, parents kind of get through those moments too.

And then I figure I should mention that I did do another training that I just finished, it was a seven week program. And this woman, Jolene Park, is someone that I’ve learned from where I’ve learned a lot of this information on how to help people with their nervous systems.

She is one of the leading experts in gray area drinking. She’s got a TED talk about the nourish method in gray area drinkers. She’s a functional nutritionist and expert in somatic nervous system regulation. So she’s been working with clients and helping them quit drinking for several years.

So she created a program to help coaches that want to help people in the gray area to support them in quitting drinking. So that was a very impactful course that I took. I learned tools for myself, and then also more tools that I can use to help my clients with.

Nicole Vienneau  26:28

Love that. I love, you know, just continuously learning. So, how we can support ourselves— I heard you say first. And then how you can support other people. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Cuz I really, truly believe, after taking the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy’s Nurse Coach Integrative Nurse Coach certificate program, it’s like, we finally realized, oh, we’re supposed to put ourselves first. After years of not doing that.

Devon Donkin  26:57

And I realized as I took the course, too, there are a lot of things that I was already kind of doing just based on my own, like, passion for knowledge around health and wellness and fitness and nutrition. I had a client who had been following me on Instagram, and I openly started sharing my journey about giving up alcohol during the last year.

And she was like, has this been easy for you with the cravings? Because it kind of looks like it’s been easy for you. And I thought, oh my gosh, you know, like, it hasn’t been easy.

You know, but on one hand, I think because I had a lot of these foundational pieces in place already— I was exercising at the gym, going on hikes, spending time in nature, trying to get sunlight as often as I can, eating regularly, having breakfast, eating a lot of protein— I think those things, by balancing my biochemistry and nervous system, did make it easier for me to get past the cravings.

And so as I’ve learned through this program, and now it’s like, oh, yes, these pieces are very important. You know, Jolene Park says that you can cover a lot of bases by focusing on the basics, right? What does that mean? Prioritize sleep, eat good food, get lots of protein, get exercise, breathwork, sunlight.

Sort of basic things will cover a lot of the bases in your life of helping you feel strong, empowered, you know, have a little bit more positive outlook on life, make a little bit easier to get through the challenging moments.

Nicole Vienneau  28:20

Yes, the basis, the basis of the basics. And yet, they’re not always that basic for many people.

Devon Donkin  28:29

Exactly. Right. Like the client who wasn’t drinking water. I mean, that was life changing for him. And there are a lot… you know, some people aren’t having breakfast. And, you know, just putting that in. Some people are surprised how much more even keeled they feel throughout the day.

Nicole Vienneau  28:48

So I’m thinking of the person who is like, okay, this is what I want to do, I would like to take a journey towards sobriety. So what are some things that they could focus on? Of course, the best thing is to work with you, I mean, of course.

And if they wanted to try some things on their own, what have you learned in your experience that are some of the kind of the biggest bangs for the bucks? You mentioned some of them, but maybe more detail on some.

Devon Donkin  29:21

I think the first step is not having it in the house, right? Because I know for me, anytime I try to moderate or not quit, if there’s a bottle somewhere, I’m going to pour myself something from there. So if you don’t have it in the house, it’s going to make it a lot easier. Talking about it with somebody if you have a partner or a friend or someone you trust or a family member.

Just like hey, you know I’m thinking about taking a break from this, you know, just wanted to share that with you, just if you could support me, that would be great. Because it is kind of hard to do it alone. It can feel lonely when you’re quitting drinking initially, especially if you have certain friends that you spend time drinking with or there’s social engagements.

A lot of people have a hard time with giving it up because of the social anxiety. But I think the more that you kind of show up to friends and to social events without the alcohol, the easier it gets. And the more that you start to realize, yeah, I actually… I can get through these moments.

And then I know that I’m not going to wake up with a hangover. Creating a new, you know, ritual. If it’s like five o’clock, so your time for the drink, maybe you could have a cup of tea, maybe you can transition by going on a walk. And if it’s hard, sometimes just talking about it, like, hey, I really want to have a drink right now.

Like, I remember having those moments, I still sometimes think about it. And I remember, you know, still having moments as a parent even, where things get really hard, and I just sometimes… I’ve said, if there’s ever been a moment where I want to drink, it’s now. You know, and just vocalizing it.

And then there’s also, you know, you can use a resource, like doing some breath work or getting in the sun. But also what I found was really useful— and this is something that… I was actually working with an integral coach early in my sobriety, and she was supporting me through.

She said, you’re learning how to live in your body in a new way, now that you’re not drinking. And a little light bulb went off, I thought, wow, I’m living in my body in a new way because I’m not drinking alcohol. This is so interesting. And I noticed that in the evenings, were particularly hard, I would feel lonely.

I didn’t know why. I knew that that was part of the reason I wanted to drink. And my coach said, I wonder what would happen if when that feeling comes up, if you just get curious about it. It’s like, oh, hmm, where’s this feeling in my body? I feel lonely. And just kind of really going into it, and then seeing what happens.

And then after a few moments, it usually… it changes. And then you’re on to something else. So it’s like just sitting with it and naming it, or sometimes I’ll just tell my husband, like, hey, I just feel lonely right now. Or I’ll hug my husband or my son or, you know, if you have a pet, sometimes that helps, just making that connection, you know, petting your dog or your cat.

And then noticing when you do feel good. That’s been a big thing. I think some people are afraid to feel really good. And so it’s like, oh, I actually feel really good right now. What is it about this? Like, is it because I’m looking at a bird outside?

And you know, it’s like these little moments where you notice something beautiful, or you look at the, you know, the look in your child’s eyes or in your pet’s eyes, and you know, you make that connection. So embracing more of those feel good moments, it just lets our bodies know that we’re safe.

Nicole Vienneau  32:34

Yeah. And you mentioned about the serotonin and the different neurotransmitters and, like, ah, yeah, that would help us with our serotonin. Oxytocin flow and feeling better. Feeling good. Love this. I love that. Those are wonderful things to consider. And to really, you know, touch back into ourself. See how we’re feeling. Recognize. You know, stop for a minute and tap into your inner knowing.

Devon Donkin  33:02

Yeah, I think it’s common to hear, when people give up drinking, is they go, wow, I can— like I know, for me, it was a big one of like, I can feel all of my feelings and still survive. You know, because sometimes those feelings, they feel like they’re an emergency.

Like, you just want them to stop. But the more that you allow yourself to experience them and get through those moments, the more confident you feel that you can get through them more and more. You start to train yourself that yes, I’m resilient. I can move through these moments and still be okay without poisoning myself.

Nicole Vienneau  33:37

Yeah. Yeah. Without poisoning myself. When you put it like that, Devon.

Devon Donkin  33:49

Sometimes it’s that tough love, though, right?

Nicole Vienneau  33:52

Sometimes you do need tough love. Yeah. Yeah. So I would love to pull this around into our Nursing world. And, you know, you mentioned earlier, Nurses, we can tend to use substance to numb some of the feelings that we’re experiencing on a daily basis, some of the suffering, the trauma, the death, the dying, the anger, all the above, right?

I know a lot of Nurses, I often hear them, oh, we’re going to go after shift today for happy hour and so forth. So if a fellow Nurse is thinking, gosh, I’m contemplating, you know, exploring sobriety, and yet I don’t want to lose my friends. And so what are some things and tips that they can maybe consider exploring?

Devon Donkin  34:43

Let’s see, well, if you’re thinking about like, okay, do I want to go to this happy hour? Are you the type of person that could just go to the happy hour and order tonic water and lime? And just hang out and see what happens? What would happen if you went and had the tonic water, and your friends got drunk, and you hung out and you just kind of observed?

Wow, okay. And then what would happen? You’d go home. So a lot of it is like, sort of thinking ahead, like, what do I really want if I still want to go out with my friends, but I don’t want to get drunk and I really want to explore the sobriety thing, then it’s kind of like an experiment, which is kind of fun.

You know, it’s like… and if you’re worried about somebody… what somebody else is gonna think, are they really your friend, right? It’s like, most of us know that our true friends are going to be there to support us, especially if we’re going to make a decision that’s good for our health. Right?

If you were to tell somebody, I’m just not going to do dairy for a while, I just don’t want to eat meat, or I’m giving up this other thing like sugar, because it doesn’t make me feel very good. And I kind of want to see how I’ll feel without it. Most people would be like, cool, you know?

So why can’t it be the same for alcohol? I just don’t really feel like drinking. And it doesn’t even have to be a whole story. It’s just like, you know what, kind of just taking a break right now. And I’m gonna order a soda water instead. So, I can still have fun. You know, let’s try it out. Or if you feel like you can’t do that, maybe you just go home, and you have a cup of tea and take a bath and go to bed.

Nicole Vienneau  36:11

Choices. We have many of them to make in a day.

Devon Donkin  36:17


Nicole Vienneau  36:19

Yeah, I’ve noticed a lot of places also have non alcoholic fancy drinks.

Devon Donkin  36:26

Yeah! There’s all kinds of fun drinks that, you know, most bars can make. You know, if you tell them you want to have like a mocktail or something, they’re usually happy to make something up for you.

Nicole Vienneau  36:36

Yeah, they are always happy to make them.

Devon Donkin  36:38

Sometimes it’s just the hand to mouth ritual, you know, it’s like having a drink in your hand, you’re socializing, like most of us are drawn to the ceremony and the ritual. That’s part of it. We want to be accepted, right? We want to be part of the fun.

We want to be in community, right? We like that socialization. And it can be done without intoxication. And when you start to feel good in those environments, without the alcohol, it just becomes more fun. Because you remember everything, you don’t regret what you said, that kind of thing. You’re not waking up with like the guilt and the shame. And that becomes more motivating over time.

Nicole Vienneau  37:12

Yes, and you’re really, truly caring for yourself. Very, very, in a very loving way.

Devon Donkin  37:19

And as a parent, too. I mean, that was one of the biggest gifts I think I could have given my son, was just being present. Because I noticed, a lot of the times, I would check out after work. I would find myself, you know, after a hard day, pulling over to get some beer or wine, coming home, you know, having dinner and then just wanting to shut everything out and be alone with my wine while my husband would read to my son and put him to bed.

And I think how many of those nights did I sort of miss out on as I watched my son grow up every day? You know, now it’s like, I’m here, I’m present. I notice everything. It’s not easy. And I think, you know, our kids are watching us all the time. So they notice when we are sort of checked out.

And so now that I’m more present, I’ve noticed a shift within our family. And I think my son has noticed how much better it feels for everybody without alcohol in the house. My husband just happened to quit when I did. He didn’t really think that he had a problem.

And I didn’t expect him to. I said, you know, I don’t care if you drink. Honestly, I don’t have judgment really around anybody that drinks. Like, I just want everybody to feel good and be happy. You know? So I was like, no problem, but he just decided he didn’t really feel like it anymore.

And that kind of the longer that he went without it, the less he’s wanted to go back to it. So I think that’s made it a little bit easier too, like I said, just not having it in house. We’ll have non alcoholic beers here and there. And, you know, tea. And sometimes we’ll make little mocktails. Yeah, it feels good.

Nicole Vienneau  38:52

I’m loving this. My favorite mocktail is a Nojito

Devon Donkin  38:56

Oh! Nojito.

Nicole Vienneau  38:59

Yeah, Nojitos. So, it’s Mojito without any alcohol. So I just get some mint leaves and lime, I squeeze a full lime, juice a full lime, and then put that into the bottom of the glass and then get some mint and take a fork and just squish it up with the mint into the lemon, and then just add some soda water.

And I always put it in a very fancy glass, you know? It feels very special. You know, it’s a special drink. It’s you know, some time for myself. Good nutrients and no alcohol.

Devon Donkin  39:42

Right! Very hydrating and delicious.

Nicole Vienneau  39:45

Yeah! Refreshing! All of those things.

Devon Donkin  39:50

I’d love to get your recipe.

Nicole Vienneau  39:52

Oh yeah. I’ll put them in… the recipe in the show notes, too, okay? I love it. So we have learned so much so far, Devon. And so we have a few moments left. And I always love to ask a certain question. And the question is, what is on your heart that you would like to share with our listeners?

Devon Donkin  40:19

I think if there’s a voice inside that’s telling you something kind of over and over again, to kind of go with it. And it’s okay to, you know, to be different, or to make a change in your life. And sounds cliche, but it’s never too late to do something radically different, or make a shift for your health at any time. And that there’s support out there and that you don’t have to be alone. And yeah, to just listen to your intuition and go with it.

Nicole Vienneau  40:48

Love that. Listen to your intuition and go for it. Just go with it. Go with it. Thank you for sharing what’s on your heart. So I have been following you on your social media. And it’s awesome. So we need to… I just would love to know a little bit about social media and just kind of how you learned to do all of that.

Devon Donkin  41:12

Well, I’ve been on Facebook for a long time, as well as Instagram. It’s funny, I know they’re the same company, but I don’t go on Facebook that much. For some reason it feels really overwhelming, that platform, but I really like Instagram, I think it’s like very aesthetically pleasing.

And I have it very kind of curated, where things are showing up that feel really inspiring to me. So I kind of started using it a year ago to share about my alcohol free journey and just kind of got bold and just started showing up and said, hey, I’m not drinking anymore. And have shared little tidbits of how that’s been for me along the way. And, you know, you get likes and comments and things.

But what has felt really touching and good is when I’ve had people that haven’t liked or commented but have sent me private messages and have thanked me and said, thank you so much for sharing your journey. Like, I quit drinking because of what you’ve shared.

And that, you know, that’s what makes me feel like, okay, this is making a difference, it’s helping people, you know, make decisions that help them feel good about who they are, and how they’re stepping forward in the world. And in terms of like business kind of thing, I mean, I don’t know, I sort of don’t know what I’m doing.

I just feel like just showing up and, you know, someone I know said, you know, when the fear of people judging you becomes less than the fear of just showing up and sharing your medicine or your story… something like that. I probably just totally botching this thing.

But the point is, just to kind of like, be okay with being a little bit vulnerable, and you never know who’s going to respond to that. And if somebody doesn’t like it, that’s fine. You know, they can just scroll past it. But I tend to share a lot in my stories these days, but I actually am making it a goal more to show up more often and do posts more often.

And just share things that can help each other, you know, inspire each other with our health, and still some stuff around drinking. So I did make a post this morning about how important it is to have breakfast. So I think I’ll be showing up more on the feed. Yeah, and I don’t have a website yet.

So I’m kind of just mainly using Instagram as my website until I build something. Just been kind of networking in a more organic way through word of mouth and people that I know. And I had put together a survey about alcohol a little while ago, and I had it up there on the link on my Instagram. I thought about putting it back up again.

I might, but yeah, I guess I don’t have a website just yet. But I probably will. All these things take time, you know, as you become an entrepreneur, the social media, the website, all the things, right? How do you get clients.

Nicole Vienneau  43:58

It does, and you know what, we don’t have to have everything together in the first day.

Devon Donkin  44:02


Nicole Vienneau  44:02

Yeah. Let’s be patient with ourselves. And we have our family lives, and many of us are still Nursing at the bedside and figuring things out as you go. And that’s okay.

Devon Donkin  44:14

Yeah, it’s kind of fun to not know what you’re doing, but to take action, right? Like just kind of like… someone said, yeah, when you take action is when you learn. When you do something, you’re like, well, that didn’t go very well. Oh, that went really well. Okay.

Nicole Vienneau  44:28

That’s me, definitely, every day. Learning as we go and just taking action, whether it’s small steps or big steps, but just taking that action.

Devon Donkin  44:41

I think, too, just to put out there, like, having a community of support, like I’ve been setting an intention or putting a prayer out around. I do have a friend who’s an entrepreneur like me, but connecting with, you know, people who are on a similar path to help inspire each other and kind of cheer each other on.

I think that’s huge, whether you’re getting sober or you’re starting a new business, is to have people that you can talk to about it. Because it can feel a little bit lonely when you’re starting something new on your own. And so like, who can you kind of reach out to or have a weekly phone call with? Or, you know, starting a local group or a mastermind where you can toss ideas off one another. And, you know, that kind of thing.

Nicole Vienneau  45:24

Yeah, I love that. Yeah, we’re so much better when we’re together. It’s very difficult to do everything by yourself. So… and we’ve learned that in Nursing. Nursing is very autonomous— we’re doing things on our own all the time. We forget that we can ask for help. And we’re much more powerful when we do.

Devon Donkin  45:45

Right, remembering that we’re part of a team, right? We’re not supposed to be doing this alone.

Nicole Vienneau  45:50

That’s right. That’s right. Oh, so Devon, how can we find you?

Devon Donkin  45:56

Well, I think Instagram is a good place. @Nursedonkin. I’m on Facebook as well, under Devon Donkin, but I do play around on Instagram more and have a little bit more fun over there.

Nicole Vienneau  46:12

Okay,  we will share the links where people can find you. And definitely if you are considering exploring sobriety, Devon Donkin, Nurse Donkin, is a great choice to help with that transition, and be supportive in all the ways that she can.  Alright, now we’re gonna switch gears a little bit and ask you two really quick questions, and you have to answer whatever comes to the top of your mind. You ready for it?

Devon Donkin  46:42

Okay. Ready.

Nicole Vienneau  46:44

Alright. Devon Donkin pre alcohol or post alcohol?

Devon Donkin  46:50

Post alcohol, meaning done with it.

Nicole Vienneau  46:56

Done with it! Tell us why.

Devon Donkin  47:01

Let’s see. It just feels like it’s just the real me, not that I wasn’t who I was. I don’t regret who I was, you know, when I was drinking, but I just think that I just feel more alive and more present now without it.

Nicole Vienneau  47:16

Post alcohol Devon. Yes. Okay, and the Integrative Nurse Coaches in ACTION! podcast, the action is an acronym, stands for authentic, curious, truthful, inspiring, open and nurturing. Which word stands out for you? Authentic, curious, truthful, inspiring, open, nurturing.

Devon Donkin  47:43

I love nurturing. But I also love curious. I think having the curiosity, just that ongoing curiosity about life, and what would happen if I did this? And like, oh, this is a new day. I think just, yeah, being curious about new possibilities and experimentation, and being open to new things.

Nicole Vienneau  48:05

Perfect. I love it. Nothing better than being curious. Although being authentic, truthful, inspiring, open and nurturing are all good things. Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Devon, for being a guest on our podcast. We really appreciate all your wisdom and all your nuggets of goodness that you’ve shared with us.

Devon Donkin  48:26

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure and a lot of fun. And I forgot to mention too, you can find me on Instagram and also feel free to send me a direct message or a private message if you have questions about anything alcohol related or if you’re looking for support, or you just have questions. I’m open to answering them for you.

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