ITL EP. 06 - pain and burning down the house with laura mckowen

I've known Laura McKowen since elementary school. We were dear friends growing up in a small town - from the softball fields to the train tracks; from summertime at the pool to wintertime snowball fights. And then at some point, as life will have it, we lost touch.

Emerging social media had kept Laura in my purview over the years, but I have to be honest about something, even as it may be painful for Laura. Many years back, when I was running a restaurant during a confusing time in my cancer journey, Laura came in and sat at the bar on a wall-to-wall packed Friday night. This was a delicate and focused time in my life; I was working hard to face my demons, to heal some of my nastiest nastiness and achieve wellness somehow. I was also trying to pay the bills. So when Laura showed up that night, drunk and boisterous and smacking my ass, I was mortified. And to be perfectly truthful, I vowed to steer very clear.

And I did. Until Laura made a gentle re-entrance into my life a few years ago. And only then did I learn that Laura was at the launch point of her sobriety on that night in the sushi joint so many years back. Since then, I have watched Laura transform herself - right out on the public screen for everyone to see.

And I do not say this lightly, she is a true inspiration and a good fucking writer.

Her journey into the recovery movement and beyond - to support, encourage and inform others about the sometimes awful truths, but often stunning achievements, of recovery - is making a real impact in the world. Her blog I Fly at Night and podcast HOME (co-hosted by Holly Whitaker) are true testaments to the ways in which our struggles can become the driving force in making this world a better place for others. You can learn all about her inspirations and offerings at

And so, when I reached out to Laura to invite her on An Illness Threatening Life Podcast, I was thrilled that she agreed. Considering our history and our unique but similar intentions to come through the shit storm and make the world a better place, it's no surprise that our conversation was so fulfilling. Our virtual talk draped over a warm spring morning in my mountain cabin in Colorado and Laura's damp seaside home north of Boston. I've broken it up into three smaller segments in hopes that you will have the time to take a morsel into your day.

As always, there are references in our conversation that you can use to dig in and dig down. Those resources will be listed below as the episodes air.

I'll feel you on the waves y'all.

"Don't Let the House Burn Down" by Laura McKowen 

"To Die and So To Grow." by Laura McKowen

"The Prophet" by Kahil Gibran