Sharon Mitchell A Charmed Life Interview
Canberra-based author Sharon Mitchell was a successful suburban mum with two lovely children, a happy marriage, and the life that she had always wanted. Sounds perfect right? Until she landed in the hospital, almost dead from alcoholic seizures.
Once Sharon went through detox, she put everything she had into becoming an emotionally healthy and happy person. She faced her fears, sometimes in the extreme such as overcoming her fear of flying by learning how to pilot a plane. She focused on her passions and opened up Canberra's landmark cupcake bakery, Jazz Apple Cafe. She wrote a book, The Story of How Red Boots and Cupcakes Can Help You Find Happiness, part journey memoir and part self-help. And she became a motivational speaker, visiting women's prisons, AA groups, corporate meetings and various other groups all across Australia.
Sharon's story didn't just resonate with prison inmates and unhappy mums - TV execs began to take notice and Sharon recently starred in a pilot reality show called 'Fix My Life'.
A Charmed Life
Author: Sharon Mitchell
Interview with Sharon Mitchell
Question: Can you share with us, a little bit about your story and how it lead you to write A Charmed Life?
Sharon Mitchell: Essentially my story sits in alcoholism and addiction. Basically, five years ago, I was one of those people who was sitting there with what a lot of women would think was everything they ever worked for; I had a great big house on the hill of an expensive suburb, three BMWs in the drive way, a husband and happy, healthy children. I then literally had an emotional crisis where I realised that I still wasn't happy and was questioning 'is this it?' Whilst also being in the middle of my alcoholism.
About three months after the emotional crisis my alcoholism took over and I let go to that and after three alcoholic seizures I ended up in hospital. My doctor turned to me and said 'you are literally going to die in the next few days'. For me I was very, very lucky, first of all to survive but from my enormous rock bottom state that brought me so close to death made me realise that I have to turn around and recognise what is wrong with my life and understand what was leading me to drink to the extent that I was drinking.
Question: Why was it important to ensure your book contained a good mixture of your story but also advice for women?
Sharon Mitchell: I have written the book as a journey so it is part-memoir and I have used my story as the back bone to the book. Once I went into recovery I started working on myself and started making some enormous changes in my life because otherwise I'd be back in the hospital again, nearly dead. I went forward and started working on the things that I thought could make a difference in my life and the amazing thing for me was that I was able to start learning things. I learned that a lot of things that I used to think would make me happy (a big house and nice cars) didn't. I started learning for myself and then I started mentoring other women.
I was in an interesting situation a few years ago where within a very short space of time I was mentoring some women in the Canberra Prison and the things they were talking to me about in regards to their emotional roadblocks that they were going through were exactly the same things that had come out of my mouth, years before. Within the same week I had mentored some women who were the wives of millionaire businessmen and exactly the same words were coming out of their mouths. It really made me realise to a large extent it doesn't matter what outward situations women are going through, that we all have such similar emotional roadblocks to our happiness.
My mentoring made me realise I had to write a book and I have written the book as my story but also included the most important lessons that I have learnt along the way. Whilst my story is based in alcoholism, A Charmed Life isn't a book written for alcoholics, it's a book written for women; women who are looking for a journey and emotional growth and ways to get through the emotional roadblocks that we all have.
Question: Was it difficult reliving the detox and your former life when writing A Charmed Life?
Sharon Mitchell: It was very difficult but it was a great process to go through as it did help with the growth process although it was difficult. When I initially wrote the book, the first editor that read the book said "I don't know what you haven't told me, but you haven't gone deep enough into your pain" and I felt like I was being caught out because I knew there were sections that I hadn't gone deep enough, due to the pain.
In the book I have tried to be very honest with my own failings and the situation that took me to rock bottom.
We live in a society where women, particularly, go to BBQs and family events and so many women will get there and say 'my job is fantastic, my marriage is fantastic, my kids are fantastic, the school they go to is fantastic'. Women really want to put out that feeling, to everyone, that we can cope and we are superwomen; whereas what I have tried to include in the book is my failings as a mother and the way that I felt so women can read it and see some of their own lives in the book and realise we don't have to be superwomen and we are not expected to be.
Question: What inspired you to make a change and become committed to helping others?
Sharon Mitchell: Essentially I know this may sound cliché but my life is so fantastic now and I live such a different life to five years ago and immediately when I felt change in my life and in myself I had the need to hand that onto other people. I am really in a position in my life that I want to give back because I literally feel blessed every day to live the life that I have and feel blessed to have learnt the lessons, I've learnt.
When I see other women in pain and I know the answers to what is causing their pain, I want to share the information with people. There is nothing better in my life than when I am speaking one-on-one or with groups and I see the light bulb go off into a women's mind and they have an 'ahaa moment' from something I said. Very often it's those little light bulbs and 'ahaa moments' that plant the seed for change; I love that because it can literally be life changing moment for people, like they were for me.
Question: What advice do you have for mothers out there, that are struggling with motherhood and maybe turning to alcohol?
Sharon Mitchell: Women are such hard workers as we are often working hard in our jobs, as well as for our kids, our house, in our relationships and often are the primary carers for our parents and all of those things. Women are not very good at self-care; men are great at self-care - they understand self-care and they are good at making sure their own needs are met. Women are not good at self-care and the biggest problem I found is that all of the women that I talk to associate self-care with being selfish and we don't draw the line.
I think for any women who are struggling with their life, parenting or just in general and ask 'is there more than this'? need to realise that the biggest thing that women needs to do is much like when you're in an aeroplane going down you put your oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others; we need to make sure we are looking after ourselves first, before we can help all of the people around us.
The fact that women don't manage their own self-care leads to an addiction whether that is to alcohol or prescription drugs. Any kind of addiction or destructive behaviour that women use are because they are not managing their self-care well enough and it's an important thing.
Women need permission to work on their self-care so they can understand that it is not selfish to do that.
Question: Can you share with us a little bit about Fix My Life?
Sharon Mitchell: We filmed a pilot for Fix My Life and the concept came from the book and the people that I mentor. I saw how much change people can have in their lives when they start understanding different lifestyles and different things that they can learn. I found that if one area of a women's life is in crisis then often they have many areas of their life in crisis.
I had the idea of creating a television series where we could literally go into a women's house who was in crisis in more ways than one and fix those key areas where she needs assistance.
For the pilot we helped a lady who had weight and health issues as well as financial issues and addiction within the family. We took in intervention experts to deal with the family addiction and we had financial experts sort out her money and we had a personal trainer and a nutritional expert in to help with the health side. In the midst of all of that I mentored her through the journey, much like I do with other women and we literally fixed her life. It was an amazing process as it was ten days of filming and we literally went into this woman's life and she now feels like she's won the lotto because we literally changed her life in regards to her finances, emotional state and her health.
I wanted to film the pilot so I could translate how I mentor women into a television series.
Interview by Brooke Hunter