From Alcohol-Fueled to Alcohol Free: Finding Middle Ground

Living Alcohol Free. At Sober Life Rocks, we want to bring you voices from every industry to heighten awareness of some universal challenges as well as trailblazers leading the conversation around change.This week’s podcast was with a remarkable woman, Tony Will.  

Alcohol Free: Toni Will’s Professional Journey in Sports Leadership

Toni Will’s story is nothing short of inspirational. Since 2015, Toni Will has served as the Kalamazoo Wings (men’s minor league) Hockey team as Governor & General Manager. During Will’s current glass ceiling-shattering tenure, Toni has established herself as a highly respected leader in men’s professional hockey. Will is Kalamazoo’s first female general manager, the first woman ever to be named to the ECHL Board of Governors and currently sits on multiple ECHL executive committees.

She has not only broken barriers but also paved the way for more women to assume leadership roles in the traditionally male-dominated sports industry. Her efforts culminated in organizing the first women’s leadership panel for men’s sports team leaders in 28 years, highlighting her commitment to fostering diversity and empowerment.

Her journey has been marked by bold moves and steadfast dedication to her values, both of which have shaped her approach to leadership. In the podcast episode, Toni shares her experiences navigating through environments where social drinking is often the norm, and how she has successfully managed to remain true to her principles of sobriety.

“I remember the day… I can close my eyes and tell you the day that I googled, am I an alcoholic? Sitting on my couch, hungover. Boy, if anyone’s listening to this thinking, do I have a problem with alcohol? If you google that, chances are your relationship with alcohol is one you’re not aligned with. It doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. It just means you don’t like your relationship with alcohol.”

— Toni Will 

Her role in sports leadership extends beyond her professional achievements; it’s also about setting a precedent for future generations of women in sports and beyond.

Alcohol Free: Advocacy for Understanding and Acceptance

Toni’s transformation from using alcohol as an emotional crutch to embracing a sober lifestyle through her coaching business, Mindfulness Elevated, mirrors her professional journey of challenging norms and advocating for change. This dual approach to living authentically is a testament to her philosophy that true leadership involves fostering understanding and acceptance, both within oneself and in one’s community.

In her discussion with Margy, Toni emphasizes the need for a supportive environment that encourages individuals to make choices that are best for their mental and physical health without fear of judgment. This advocacy is crucial in professional settings, where the pressure to conform can be overwhelming and the repercussions of standing out can be daunting. Toni’s and Margy’s shared experiences and strategies for thriving in these environments without alcohol provide invaluable insights and encouragement for others who may be struggling with similar challenges.

For Toni, the choice to get sober not only changed her personal life but also enhanced her professional interactions, allowing her to use her vibrant personality to engage and connect with others more authentically.

Alcohol Free: The Importance of Non-Alcoholic Options in Social Settings

Sober Life Rocks is advocating for meeting planners to  create an inclusive environment that respects individual choices and promotes healthier lifestyles. For those of use who are willing to speak up, it’s also about challenging the deeply ingrained societal perceptions that often equate socializing with drinking.

“You don’t need to belly up to the bar in order to get to where you want to be in this industry or any industry.”

— Toni Will

Choosing not to drink or drink less should not equate to missing out. But what those of us who don’t drink know is we actually experience an enhanced ability to connect genuinely, make empowered decisions, and ultimately break free from societal expectations. Toni and Margy’s advocacy for visibility and inclusivity of non-alcoholic options is a powerful step toward normalizing sobriety in social settings, making everyone feel welcome, and ensuring that no one has to feel out of place or forced to justify their personal choices.

Support and Community: The Backbone of Change

The core message of Sober Life Rocks and Toni’s advocacy work is that community support plays a crucial role in empowering individuals to embrace their authenticity and pursue a lifestyle that aligns with their values. Having a support network is vital in providing the tools and confidence needed to navigate social and professional settings without alcohol.

By sharing practical advice and real-life experiences, Toni and Margy are disrupting societal expectations and paving a better path forward for the next generations. Their work is just part of a broader cultural shift towards greater acceptance and understanding that one’s professional and social success does not have to be tethered to alcohol consumption.

 

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