Remember you are not only working for a living you are living for a life. Take a pause once in a while to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Smile. Enjoy it. See how far you’ve come. Take it all in. Keep your sense of humor especially on bad days.
In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders and I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Lowe.
Heather Lowe, Founder of Ditched the Drink, is a Certified Professional Life and Recovery Coach, Certified Addiction Awareness Facilitator, Director of the International Center of Addiction Recovery Education (ICARE), and Recipient of the 2023 Top Sober Coach Award from Coach Foundation. Driven by her education as a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), a Professional of Human Resources (PHR), Law of Attraction Certified Coach, and Certificated in the Science of Well Being from Yale University, Heather provides content, knowledge, coaching, and education to individuals and organizations seeking to be more alcohol-free.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Yes, please! This is my favorite story to tell. As a latchkey kid of the 80s, I spent my time after school, waiting for my mom to get home by running a “business” from my big closet. My closet is where I felt the safest being home alone. I had a big imagination. I also had a reputation with the neighbor kids for being bossy. I like to call these early signs of leadership qualities.
I called my pretend business “Dare to Dream”. I sat at my makeshift desk, a TV tray, and a folding chair. Supplies included a cup of pens made from an old Campbell’s soup can wrapped in construction paper, a spiral notebook, and a heavy, unplugged, yellow, rotary, dial phone, from which I fielded calls from make believe angry executives. I made the notebook into a beautiful journal with the goal of helping people live their best lives. I wrote “Dare to Dream ‘’ in my best cursive on the cover. I then illustrated it with rainbows, flowers, and clouds. I had only one client at the time, my fluffy cream and ginger cat named Big Paw. So I guess you could say I was in the business of helping cats, not people, live their best lives through journaling. I was paid in purrs and nothing more.
The desire to help others has been part of me for as long as I can remember. Every baby doll needed me to be the ever-loving, nurturing Mama. I learned compassion and care from my own mom, an occupational therapist. When I graduated high school, I left home and went to college. Almost immediately after arrival, I settled into a Social Work major. This major felt like the ultimate career for a helper like me. I was young and idealistic. I wanted to save the world. A degree in Social Work felt like the best way to do that. This field of study was affirmed by some natural abilities that were recognized. I was pulled aside by the Social Work Department Chair one day and told that my results from a recent test showed that I had scored Genius Level on the Emotional Quotient (EQ) test. She was in awe. It was a result she didn’t have herself and one she had never seen before. I knew I had a sixth sense and it was affirming to have this intuition confirmed. This remains my mom’s favorite fun fact about me.
I started my Social Work career working in halfway houses and homeless shelters. I was working hard and struggling to make ends meet financially. I had to keep a second job as a barista at a local coffee shop. This was something I hoped to move on from after graduation. I was frustrated by how little I seemed to be helping my clients who were in desperate need of change with little resources. I felt that if I really wanted to make a difference in the world, I would need to change the policies under which I worked. I did not feel qualified to do that. This disheartening reality led to me switching gears quickly to higher-paying job options in Human Resources (HR) along with a move from small-town Wisconsin to the suburbs of Chicago. I told myself this was a way to help people and make money at the same time. I got certified in HR. I eventually moved from doing the operations of HR to selling HR. This was more money, a new challenge, and a bigger title. My ego and I were totally on board. I was proud of the new big city, career-driven, boss-babe, version of myself.
I had a great job for 10 beautiful years while I started my family. The company was owned by a woman who had the highest of ethics and standards. I was supported and valued at work. I was promoted while working part-time and tending to my babies. It was wonderful. When my youngest went to kindergarten I got recruited for a full-time job with an even bigger title, a lot more money, and a team who reported to me. I went for it. It was immediately wrong in so many ways. I didn’t know at the time, but this was the start of a real downward spiral for me.
I switched jobs. And again. And again. I worked for companies with ethics that I didn’t share. I was often the only woman on all-male sales teams. I felt out of place and misunderstood. With each job change, I was moving up the career ladder and going down in mental health and happiness. I was doing work that I was capable of but didn’t love. Sometimes I was at the top of the pyramid winning sales awards, other times, I was floundering at the bottom. Sometimes I made mistakes, other times unfair decisions were made that had nothing to do with me. I was working for leaders with whom I didn’t agree. I was spending time away from my young children with little to no flexibility in my schedule.
On the outside, I was doing it all. On the inside, I was suffering.
On a personal level, I did 3 eulogies in 3 years for unexpected, out-of-order deaths for my loved ones. One of these was my dad, the other two were male friends leaving families and children behind in really sad situations that absolutely broke my heart. I didn’t allow myself to feel this pain because I wanted to perform the eulogies with grace. I was able to do that. When the funerals were over, I told myself to get over it too. I never allowed myself to feel. Alcohol became my medication for numbing.
Growing up in Wisconsin, titled the drunkest state in the nation, I was always a drinker. My drinking behavior seemed mostly normal for almost 30 years. However, my alcohol use started to really ramp up and increase in my grief. At the same time, my mental health was plummeting to a confusing all-time low. I knew I had to do something. I did not recognize myself in the mirror anymore. When I looked at myself, I saw a face of bloat and dead eyes staring back at me.
After a series of sober experiments, I quit drinking for good in February 2018. After my one-year sobriety date, I found myself once again between jobs. I was interviewing for new positions and going through the motions of a job search. I was close to getting offers for the same type of jobs that I already had. I had been the top sales leader and it never made me happy for long. I didn’t want to accept a position doing the same thing. I wasn’t really that passionate about HR even though I was qualified.
Sobriety had taught me to listen to myself. I knew I couldn’t go back to those jobs that never sang my soul. In some cases, drinking felt like part of the job. I knew it would never work now that I was sober. I had to reinvent my career, as I had with myself, in my sober journey. After a conversation with my very supportive husband, I decided to launch this idea I had called Ditched the Drink (DTD). I created a digital course called Jumpstart. I filled this course with all the non-traditional tools that I used to heal in my first year of sobriety. I had no idea how to run a business, but I wanted to help other high-achieving women like me who were questioning their alcohol use. This desire fueled my flame. I started finding answers to my questions about to how to get my offering into the world.
I launched my course from a closet/bonus room off my bedroom, which was a room above my garage. I sat in front of a little window surrounded by my clothes. I sat with my new Mac computer, which was my first investment. I was using a tiny abandoned child’s desk from my daughters who were now preteens. I hung a wooden sign next to me that said “Stay Wild” to remind myself to keep my sense of humor, push past barriers, and shine as my brightest self.
In August 2019 I hit the go button on my class. I was immediately thrilled that I had 3 students sign up. One of them was my biggest cheerleader, my mom. She was the first student to sign up. She was rooting for me and giving the Universe forward momentum with my leap of faith. Now that the “store was open” I had a pinch me moment, where I realized I really was the Founder, the bossiest of bosses from my youth, owner of my very own business, working from my closet, running DTD, a newer version of the original Dare to Dream. This made my wildest third-grade dreams come true.
From there, I became a Certified Professional Recovery and Life Coach with the International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches. I kept growing, learning, and creating. I now partner with the organization where I received my training. I offer my original Ditched the Drink Jumpstart Course, 1:1 Become Private Coaching, and an Insider Community Membership. I recently launched my second digital course that guides other Coaches to Launch Your Coaching Practice. It’s been a beautiful full circle journey for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Reading other people’s stories of recovery really helped me in my alcohol-free journey. I am a firm believer in the fact that stories heal. I also love to write. As soon as I started Ditched the Drink, I started sending a weekly newsletter. I had no one, and I mean no one subscribed to receive this newsletter. So I added my email address. And then my other email address. Then I asked my mom and my husband if I could send it to them. Yes, of course. So then I called three friends and asked if I could send it to them. Sure. So I had seven subscribers, two of whom were me. I had no audience. No followers. No idea what I was doing. Every day I checked that subscriber list and one day there was a new name. A stranger. She started reading my newsletter. She emailed me to tell me how much she loved it. She sent it to a friend. Now I had two strangers on my email list, opening my newsletters every week. I was ecstatic. The list has grown since then, but I am still connected with that first subscriber, She is about 4 years sober now. We grew in sobriety together.
We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
I’ve made so many mistakes, it’s hard to narrow it down to one. I hired my first contractor to help me with some marketing. The introduction to this company came from a person I trusted who gave a great reference and had been working with her for a long time. I was enthusiastic to start working together. When the invoice was sent, I immediately paid in full. I was proud of myself for taking the leap to get help. I had been saving up the funds to cover the expense. I wanted the payment to be off my plate and not lingering over my head. This was a big investment for me and my small business. The vendor didn’t uphold her end of the contract. I never received anything for my investment. Nothing. Looking back I should not have paid in full immediately. I learned my lesson the hard way and will stick to payment terms moving forward.
As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?
My first pillar is that relationships matter. People before the process. I check in on the person I am working with before we check in on the business we are accomplishing together.
Truth-telling is another cornerstone. If am honest with myself I can be honest with others, even when it’s hard. Sometimes this is really hard. As a recovering people pleaser I would prefer to say what someone wants to hear than tell the truth. I am always working on this.
I also do what I say I am going to do. This is integrity to me. I mentioned it earlier, but I lead with my intuition. I trust my gut. In my previous corporate positions, I had to push my intuition aside to do what somebody told me to do. I was good at doing what I was told, even though it felt wrong to me.
As my own boss and leader of my company, I don’t do what feels wrong to me. I am guided by my intuition and inner knowing. I take risks based on my gut feelings or heart intentions. It has never led me astray. The more in tune I am with myself and the signs around me, the more abundance I attract.
Finally, burnout is not an option for me. My daily mantra is: I must take tender loving care of myself first. This is the only way for me to have a full bucket to pour from for my clients and business associates. This is how I sustain and thrive as a solopreneur.
What inspired you to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise? Can you share a personal story or experience that led you to prioritize social impact in your business?
Once I found the magic in sobriety, I felt called to reach my hand back and pull other high-achieving professionals who are struggling through the challenge of getting free from alcohol. Not having appropriate options felt like a barrier to getting help for me. I wanted to create a holistic option that felt safe to explore with curiosity. I didn’t want myself or others to have to commit to using one word about our biggest struggle to identify ourselves with for the rest of our lives. I wanted to evaluate my relationship with alcohol privately from home without committing to a lifetime of anything that I wasn’t sure about yet. I didn’t see any program available at the time for someone like me, so I created it. The alcohol-free journey is so much more than just ditching the drink. It’s replacing the loud inner critic with a voice of compassion. It’s about setting boundaries. It’s tuning into yourself instead of tuning out. It’s feeling your feelings instead of numbing yourself with alcohol.
I didn’t want to admit to rock bottom. I was a perfectionist. I didn’t want to further shame myself. I was already my own worst critic. I wanted quitting alcohol to be my choice, not something I had to do. I didn’t want alcohol to be at the center of my recovery, I wanted love to be. I didn’t even want to call myself a person in recovery, I wanted to call it discovery because that’s very much how it felt for me to start to learn about myself through the process of removing alcohol. Alcohol was my number one coping tool for life. I wanted to help people higher up the stream, than traditional rock bottoms where significant damage has already been done. I wanted to give an option before it got worse. For me, being not that bad, prevented me from shining my brightest for decades.
Can you help articulate a few of the benefits of leading a purpose-driven business rather than a standard “plain vanilla” business?
Healing and growth are at the center of what I do. Success is measured on this. Of course, I need revenue, profits, strategy, and all those other things that a typical business does, but I rate my success differently. I am creating a life that I love and one from which I don’t use alcohol to escape. I wake up excited to do my job and create every day. I love meeting with my remarkable clients. My business partners become my friends. I have an opportunity for lifelong learning. I own my flexible schedule. I block my calendar from calls on Mondays. I enjoy unlimited earning potential. I prioritize parenting. These all feel like wins to me. Not to mention, I have the best boss! She’s a little intense at times, but we share the same ethics and integrity.
How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?
My company has grown along with me. At first, I was so private about my sobriety, but eventually, I learned that a sober community was an asset in my recovery. I didn’t have to do sobriety isolated and alone. This made a huge difference in my personal alcohol-free journey. My offerings for Ditched the Drink were private offerings too. Once I added community to my own personal sober tool kit, I knew I needed to offer this option to everyone. This made my services accessible to more people at a lower cost. I could help more people in the same amount of time. Adding this option diversified my portfolio as well so it was a smart business decision to scale. Along with my membership community, I offer monthly masterclasses to showcase other coaches and experts in the space as well as strengthen my network. It’s like building a sober empire with other entrepreneurs, many fellow females and moms. This is in line with my core values.
Can you share a pivotal moment when you realized that leading your purpose-driven company was actually making a significant impact?
When a parent heals in sobriety, it changes the trajectory of the generations. There is nothing more powerful than that. I get a lump in my throat every time I think about it. I believe my own healing heals the generations forward and backward in my own family. It’s been the gift of a lifetime to be chosen as another person’s sober guide on their healing journey to freedom from alcohol.
Can you share a specific example or story that deeply resonated with you personally?
Many of my clients are mothers and daughters. The healing of generations forward and backward is so powerful. This brings the most meaning to me as a mother and daughter myself.
Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability of your business?
Diversity is really important to me. I have some understanding of my privilege. I refuse to take part in panels, communities, and events when there is no representation from people with different backgrounds and ethnicities than me. I have turned down a handful of opportunities because of how important this is to me, which has resulted in a decrease in profits. This is not a measurement of my success. Creating a world of equality for all humankind is my barometer for success. Put some of my marginalized friends on that panel or count me out. I have never looked back or questioned this decision. In my mind, there is no value or learning while sitting in an echo chamber. I am not missing out on a thing by turning these offers down if organizers aren’t willing to add new voices to the conversation.
Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or had to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on your finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?
I make tough decisions every day, but lucky for me I report to myself. Solopreneurship has felt like a lot of reinvention to me. I am always recreating, reimagining, and repackaging my offerings to reach more people and do more good with my limited resources. Whenever I start something new, the revenue is zero. It’s a big leap of faith to move away from my tried and true sources and create new offerings that don’t bring in any money at first. I think there’s some audacious hope and a relentless belief in myself that makes this happen. I have had to grow these qualities through the years. I still get insecure at times, but I try to be a calm and steady leader to myself. I want to both stay the course and be flexible enough to adjust my sails as needed. Anyone who can fail can succeed. I have opportunities for both. Failure is just another word for learning.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who wish to start a purpose-driven business? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know I Order To Create A Highly Successful Purpose-Driven Business.”
1 . Sales and marketing are part of your job. Embrace this concept. Many coaches are helpers, but we can’t help anyone if no one can find us. We are afraid to put ourselves out there and we are uncomfortable asking for business, but it is part of the job. You are simply creating an invitation and attracting others to you. You must believe in your value and be willing to talk about it. I think I’m doing all this promotion and then someone who knows me really well says “Oh I didn’t know you offered that!” It makes me crazy and proves the point, that you must consistently talk about your value-based offerings.
2 . Get comfortable being uncomfortable. I have had to start at the bottom and learn every single thing that terrifies me. I put myself out there and get rejected every day. It hurts. I keep going with a relentless pursuit and eventually, I get some yeses too. My business grows. My confidence grows. The only way to grow is by getting uncomfortable.
3 . Lead with your intuition. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. When you go with your gut you will not be led astray. When I have felt shady about potential lucrative partnerships I have walked away. I will never know the outcomes I avoided, but I trust myself. The whole sober journey has been a road to self-discovery and learning to trust myself. I do abandon myself or my inner knowing. I don’t pour alcohol on it and I listen when my insides have something to say.
4 . You have to make decisions and you are not going to please everyone. You have to please yourself. Everybody will always want more from you. It’s up to you to create boundaries of protection for yourself. Find time and activities that help you to unwind, unplug, and recharge your own battery. This is the top priority. It is your job to take care of yourself. Burnout is not an option.
5 . Remember you are not only working for a living you are living for a life. Take a pause once in a while to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Smile. Enjoy it. See how far you’ve come. Take it all in. Keep your sense of humor, especially on bad days.
I’m interested in how you instill a strong sense of connection with your team. How do you nurture a culture where everyone feels connected to your mission?
My passion seems to be contagious. Vendors and partners are quick to jump on board with my mission. People who want to work with me often have a recovery story in their family as well. That is likely what attracted them to me in the first place. I led my Insider membership community with vulnerability. As a leader, I share truths from the heart and I can admit not having it all together all the time, this opens the door for others to follow. We are here to have an authentic connection, not just pretend we are all doing so well for ourselves all the darn time. I had this wrong for a really long time. I used to be very performative. At times I still am. I am working on it. Always a work in progress. There is no end point for this as long as I’m alive.
Could you share an example or story that showcases how your purpose has positively influenced or motivated people on your team to contribute?
Many of my clients have sustained sobriety and then from there, like me, they want to help others. They have been trained and certified through the International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches and launched their own coaching practice. This is the ultimate full circle moment for me. This positive ripple effect of continued healing is really moving. I planted a seed of sobriety for myself and I am now watching the whole sober garden grow. This brings tears of joy to my eyes!
Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?
I am looking to support more people through my Insider Membership and support more coaches through my Launch Your Coaching Practice Course. I am working on writing more and definitely see a book in my future as well. As all writers know, the hardest part about writing is writing, so don’t hold me to a deadline.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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 really want the world to know that letting go of alcohol is a happy, positive, and healthy choice to be celebrated. Alcohol is the only drug that gets questioned when you stop using it. Our society is obsessed with alcohol. It is marketed to women as the cure for relaxation, good times, intimate relationships, career success, and even parenting. We label and shun people when they don’t partake in the drinking that everyone else seems to be doing. The truth is that alcohol is a drug that creates dependence. More women are dying from alcohol than ever before. Sobriety is not a sad life of deprivation. Quite the opposite. It’s a beautiful awakening to living a life fully present with clear eyes and a full heart. I don’t know how this could possibly have a bad rap, but somehow it does. We treat people like something is wrong with them when they quit drinking, but nothing is wrong as long as they keep consuming an addictive substance. This creates such a barrier to getting support. Who wants to be judged by their biggest weakness? I didn’t. Who wants to sign up for a life of sadness? Not me. I had no idea how euphoric living raw straight up without numbing and dumbing down with alcohol could be. Sobriety has been the best surprise of my life!
How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?
I encourage you to download my Free Sober Secrets Guide at www.ditchedthedrink.com You can find me on most social media platforms as Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ditchedthedrink, LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/ditched-the-drink, Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/ditchedthedrink/
This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!
Click here to watch the full interview.
About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is a successful entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience as a successful founder and CEO. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc. a third-party collection agency, out of his apartment while going to The Ohio State University. He grew the business nationwide and represented more than 10,000 clients before he sold the company on his 25th anniversary. Chad’s second venture [re]start, a career development platform that helps people find new jobs, launched in 2013 as a division inside his agency. [re]start was a catalyst to Chad’s team becoming an industry outlier after connecting thousands of people sent to collections with new career opportunities so they could afford to pay their bills and get out of debt. His team was nationally recognized for their social impact, while twice being ranked the #1 business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023 and is now a writer and thought leader for Authority Magazine’s Entrepreneur and Sports Editorials. He also offers an exclusive executive leadership program inside his online community at Authentic Authority.