By Daniel D. Ziegler

"I let go of myself, I let me out. That was it, I just opened the door
and let me out."

Chapter 7 STEP 13: Baring It All for Sandy

I HAVE LONG BEEN AWARE of the therapeutic value of nudism. For those
that are ready and willing to try nudism, the effects are profound and long

While working at Turtle Lake Resort in 1993, I decided to interview certain
members of the park to see what effect nudism has had an their lives. I
selected mostly women because they seem to have a more difficult time
feeling comfortable with their bodies. Asking a likely candidate if she would
be willing to be interviewed, she quickly agreed, saying that she wanted to
relate how the nudist lifestyle has been an extension of her alcoholic
recovery. I was delighted that she wanted to share her story.

It became quite clear to me shortly into the interview, that to paraphrase her
words would greatly diminish the strength of her message. Her story could
best be told in her own words. So, other than minor editing, the following
words are her words. It is her story, her message.

Sandy, a certified nursing assistant from Clearwater, Michigan is an
attractive, somewhat shy, unassuming forty-eight year old divorcee. I first met
Sandy shortly after coming to Turtle Lake Resort. The park was in the
process of converting from a traditional campground into a clothing-optional
nudist resort. I had just joined the staff to help with public relations. Sandy,
having recently become friends with Cathy, an acupressure therapist an our
staff, joined the staff one evening for dinner. After dinner, Sandy was invited
to join us in our usual nude evening swim. It was an evening that we knew
would change her life, but none of us were to know to what extent or, in fact,
how her life was already in the process of changing. Since that time, I have
been privileged to witness a remarkable transformation taking place. Here is
the beginning of her story. The rest is yet to unfold.

Dan: You mentioned that you see nudism as an extension of your recovery
but give me a little bit of your background.

Sandy: Well, I guess like so many people, I've had a lot of walls built up, a lot
of guilt feelings, a lot of repressed feelings and I started drinking, like a lot of
kids do in high school--to experiment at parties and things like that. I got
married the first time and had my son. Then my husband was killed the
following year and I just didn't handle it. I was never good at letting my
feelings out. I've not been good at opening up to people or even being
around people. So I handled it with alcohol. I started drinking heavily in my
early twenties and I drank for a long time. I got married again out of
convenience--a way of drinking in safety.

So my kids grew up around an alcoholic and in trying to help my daughter
with some of her problems, I put her in touch with a psychologist who in turn
wanted to see me because her problems obviously were connected to me. I
went in for a couple of sessions and that was the first time I admitted to
anyone that I was an alcoholic. It just came out.

So, after that, I started seeing the psychologist as a patient. We worked on a
lot of things. A lot of my problems have all been built up over the years-- non-
communication and being in my own world--it just kind of evolved that
recovery was the next step. I came to the fork in the road where you either
stay where you are and kill yourself, or you go to the better path. But before I
went into recovery, I did a lot of praying and I started coming to the
realization that God was the only one that could help me because, at that
point, just before I went into the recovery program, I was ready to die. That
was it--there was nothing else in life.

So I spent three weeks in a recovery center which was difficult for me
because group things tend to really shut me down. It's real hard to open up. It
was a difficult process for me but I dealt with the alcohol. I got rid of the
alcohol but I didn't get rid of a lot of other things. When I got out, AA was hard
for me because of the group thing--and strangers. So I went to a psychiatrist
once a week for a while which helped me because I could get a lot out with
one person. I still have trouble with AA. It rattles me. I just climb the walls. It's
still the group thing. And that is where I think a lot of this [my problem] is.

I had been having my little talks with God and I'd been saying, "I need
something else in my life. There is something... I need something. Send me
something... a sign that I'm going to be okay" because I was starting to
stagnate again. I was afraid that I was going to fall.

D That’s got to be awful scary.

S Yeah, it is. But l think deep down inside l know I'm not going to, because I
don't want that life again. I met Cathy and she mentioned that she was a
nudist and I thought, 'This is different and I'm trying to start a new life and I've
wanted something...'

D Did you think that this might be the answer?

S Yeah, I did. It was in my mind. I had thought that this might be what I'm
looking for and 'if you back away from it now, if you pull yourself back into
your shell, then you're going to lose it. You're going to lose again, your going
to fail again. You've got to try.’ So I went over there...(Laughing)

D ...With nothing to lose...

S (Laughing) ...With nothing to lose. I guess not.

D When Cathy mentioned ‘nudism’ and the resort to you, do you remember
what came to your mind? What was your reaction?

S When she first started, I kind of said, “Yeah, I can come out.” And then
thinking to myself, ‘I could never do that.’ (Laughing)

D What kind of image did you have of the nudist people? Any ideas at all?

S No, I hadn’t really thought much about it. I really didn’t have any idea. When
I thought ‘nude’ the only thing I thought of was laying on the beach. I mean
that to me was the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of people
nude. But I thought I could never socialize in any way.

D So, to her you were saying, “Yeah, okay, I’ll try it.” And then on the inside
you were saying just the opposite.

S Inside I was scared. I thought, ‘I’m not that type of a person. It would be too
vulnerable. I’d be too vulnerable to criticism or whatever.’

D How did you feel about your body at that time?

S I was born in California and my mom had me outside naked all the time,
so, somewhere inside there must have been something that I was
comfortable with, but as an adult, I wasn't comfortable with my body at all.
There again it was that if things weren't perfect, then you don't want
somebody else to see less than perfect. If you took your clothes off, people
are going to see that you aren't perfect. So I'm thinking that I couldn't do that
kind of thing, that I wasn't comfortable enough with my body.

And then another part of me was thinking, 'Sandy,you've got to get out of this,
you've got to go on. You can't go forward without experiencing the things that
bring change into your life.'

D So, what happened then? Cathy talked you into coming out there?

S We talked an the phone a couple times and she invited me out for dinner.
She showed me around and of course, there weren't many people around--it
was just getting started. Then, after we spent some time talking, she said,
"Well, you want to go for a swim?" And it was... 'okay!' (laughing) I thought,
'okay, this is it, Sandy, you are going to either do it, or you're going to turn
around and walk away,' because there was nowhere else to go--I mean I had
to do something.

When she started taking her clothes off and I started taking my clothes off--
and others were around--all of a sudden it was fine. It didn't bother me. I was
probably just a little uptight, a little nervous... 'Is anybody gonna look or
whatever?' But after a few minutes, I was quite comfortable with it and I was
realizing that I could sit there having a conversation with people and I was
enjoying myself and everything's really okay. It felt good, it felt free, it felt
warm, just kind of comfortable, a warm feeling and a kind of a freedom. It's
just hard to describe. It just felt good. It felt comfortable, like being at home.

D How did you feel afterward?

S ‘That's over.' (Laughing) I felt glad that the first time was over, because I
knew that it would be okay after that, that it would be easier. I realized that it
wasn't as hard as I was making it in my mind and that I liked the people that I
met and the feelings that I had.

D Did you feel, grateful that you bad done it? Like you had made a

S I felt like I had done the right thing for me--that it was what I should have
done and I did it. I felt like I had followed my own feelings, my own instincts
about something and it turned out very well. I felt that it was a breakthrough. I
let go of myself, I let me out. That was it, I just opened the door and let me out.

D Were you happy with yourself?

S Oh, yes! (Laughing) Yeah, I was very happy that I did it and I'm very happy
that I kept going back.D What surprised you most?C It surprised me most
that I didn't connect anything sexually. I thought maybe I would connect it
sexually. So I was real surprised that I didn't connect it sexually in anyway.
And I was surprised because I had thought, 'Are you going to stand there
and gawk, Sandy?' You think that you might do something stupid like that.
But I was really surprised that I was that comfortable.

D Okay, so the first experience is over. You felt good about it. Did you tell
anybody about it?

S Well, first, I wanted to go back. The next day, after the first time, I wanted to
go right back. It was like a magnet. It kept pulling me. That place does. It
keeps pulling me back. Yeah, I was dying to tell somebody about it.
(Laughing) Yeah, I was really wanting to because I felt so good. I did feel that
it was kind of a breakthrough for me. I felt that it opened up another whole
world, so I was just dying to tell somebody about it.

My sister was the first person I told. She was a little surprised because she
figured, like I did, I was the last person that would do that. I don't think she
understands because it's something she hasn't done. I don't think you do
understand unless you do it. That's just it, you've got to do it. But she's fine
with me doing it. I've told my daughter and she's comfortable with what I'm
doing. I haven't really told my son. I've come out and said, "I have a friend
Cathy that lives at Turtle Lake Resort." I think he knows though, but he's kind
of cool. He doesn't say anything. He figures Mom does what she wants to
do. And I've told a few people. I told my boss the other day and we were
talking about it and she said, "That's fine, I couldn't do it, but whatever makes
you happy." So you get a lot of that "I couldn't do it" reaction from people.

D When you hear them say that, what are you thinking?

S I'm thinking, 'I said that too. (Laughing) I couldn't do it but I did it, and it
came easy.'

D Let's go back a little bit now to your recovery. You've participated in this
lifestyle for a couple months now. You've attended a number of nudist
functions. How does this tie in with your recovery?

S Well, I feel that it's given me a different life, a new life away from the
alcohol and the old life, away from the old feelings because it's opened up
new feelings for me. I'm more secure with myself which helped me open
doors to be able to communicate with other people that I just didn't do
before. I'm finding out that I can communicate with other people.

D Why do you think that has changed?

S I think a lot of it is that I did something on my own, for myself, just for me,
that didn't involve anybody else. And now I feet better about myself. I'm more
comfortable with my body, with myself. I've shed a lot of those old fears. I feel
that I can say and do what I please. I'm beginning to gain more self-

D Has this experience changed your values?

S I’m doing something that I used to think was probably a wrong thing to do,
but I found out that it was okay to do it. But I think with regard to my 'rights
and wrongs' or 'do's and don't's, I was already starting to evolve--learning
more about myself, what I think is right and wrong for me.

D So, this almost seems like it was a natural step in your evolution for you to
experience this. It seems to fit in with what was already taking place.

S Yeah, it was another step because it brought me out of myself. It was like,
'Okay, I'm naked in front of everybody' and, 'Here I am, this is just me and I'm
not putting on airs.' You can't put on anything. (Laughing) You can't pretend,
you can't cover anything up. You can't cover places you don't want people to
see. You can't hide behind other things and I think that it is good therapy.

D Do you see this as a spiritual experience or an experience that relates on
a spiritual level?

S I think I see it as a continuation of my spiritual growth because out there [at
Turtle Lake Resort] I'm communicating with other people, so I'm learning, I'm
growing and I also feel spiritually closer to the earth, to God. So naturally, this
just fits in.

D What's next for Sandy?

S I get these feelings inside that now is the time to do something else. 'Okay,
I've conquered this and I've got to go on and do something else,' I mean
along with nudism. I feel that I would like to share some of my alcohol
background where it might help. I would like to do that. So it might be one of
the things that I'll do in the future.

D Do you think somehow nudism could be part of a 12 Step recovery
program... Step 13, maybe?

S Oh, I definitely think that. I really think that it could be part of recovery. I
really do. * * *

A note about the interviews: This interview is from series of interviews I
conducted with people, who like myself, participate in social nudism. While
working at Turtle Lake Family Nudist Resort, Union City, Michigan in 1993
and '94, I began doing the interviews and writing subsequent articles to
better inform the public about this often misunderstood lifestyle that has
such a profound effect on people’s lives. A total surprise to me was that the
interviewing process itself had a profound effect on the persons
interviewed, as well as on myself.

As for me, I have been deeply touched by each of their stories as they
shared their pain and their healing, and I have come to realize that the
nudism experience has an even greater effect on the lives of the people
than I had previously imagined.

As for the people I interviewed, looking back, through the help of the
interview process itself, each now feels that nudism miraculously came
into their lives as exactly what they needed when they needed it, as if the
Universe knowingly handed them each a gift. And perhaps, more
importantly, each feels the uncloaking of their souls, through the interview
and article, has had a similar healing effect as did initially baring their
bodies--a new and more confident person has miraculously emerged.

That I have been privileged to be part of this process, has been a gift from
the Universe to me. ddz
Back to Articles Index
Reclaiming Acceptance of our Original State