Ray of Light Interview No. 46 :: Katy Strabley

Each Friday for the entire 2017 calendar year, I release a new interview + a newly created mixed media piece of art as part of my weekly Ray of Light Interview Series: Women in Recovery. This series features brave, kickass, beautiful women who have chosen to embrace an alcohol-free lifestyle. The light was dimmed for these women when they were struggling with alcohol (either a little or a lot).  I wish to honor them for their brave choice to ditch alcohol, rediscover themselves through sobriety + shine bright in the process.  You can access links to the entire series by clicking here.

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Katy Strabley
Interior Designer (for the Inner Divine soul stuff)
Instagram: @thekatykhronicles
Website: www.iamdivinebydesign.com

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
Instagram of course! We met briefly at the whirlwind of She Recovers NYC. I am constantly inspired by your gratitude art. It feels holy to me. I admit I’m drawn to your devotion to AA.  It’s something I long to understand for myself one day in more depth. The Ray of Light series is brilliant! I am so honored to be featured along with so many radiant women that I admire and feel blessed to be among friends.      

What is your sobriety date? August 29, 2016

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
In the beginning, that day count was unequivocally important. Each month was a mind-blowing success! Now that I have passed my one year milestone, I find that keeping track of the count is less imperative.

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting?
I do not use an app. For a while there, I had my Instagram posts correlated with my sobriety date so that was a handy way to keep track, but it was also limiting me in a way. Once I hit the one year mark, I didn’t want to hold back any longer so now I have no clue how many days and that is just fine with me. Someone can remind me if they want to.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
S p i r i t u a l i t y. God. Divinity. All. Of. It. I use whatever modality I need in that moment. I keep my mind open to all ways and take what my heart and soul needs. I am always evolving and searching for new ways to deepen my recovery.   

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Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
Yes… and no. If you want to slap a label on me, then I tick all the boxes for being an alcoholic. However, first and foremost, I AM Human. I think that every human has addiction. It’s the human condition to have some sort of darkness so that we may know how to find the light. If you know me, then you are well aware that “I AM” affirmations are my foundation of Truth. So, yes, sometimes I feel uncomfortable saying “I AM an alcoholic” in the AA rooms, because that brings the past into the present tense and I prefer to create my reality from where I AM Today as I AM. Always using positive words that are aligned with my Truth. So…. I AM a Teetotaler. Yes, I’ve said that in AA before. 

If you do not identify with the word alcoholic, what do you identify with?
I identify with all of it. Labels and me do not get along very well. Labels made me hide in addiction. I have come too far to box myself in again. We are limitless. More so than we may ever know. I live one day at a time and those days are always evolving. What AM I today? Maybe I’ll label it, but that does not define my tomorrow. I think in bigger all-encompassing terms. I AM Love. I AM Truth. I AM perfectly imperfect. I AM Divine. I identify with those.

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What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?
Spirituality, sisterhood, and simplicity. I can’t emphasize my spirituality enough. It’s my Savior! Anything of this world is worth handling when you have your Higher Power rooting you on. I see God in the darkness and the Light. It’s all just part of the human experience. So when I feel scared I think, “Oh look! AFGO!” (AFGO - Another Fucking Growth Opportunity) I take a deep breath and I head towards it. I don’t even recognize myself sometimes, because I used to run and hide at the first sign of difficulty. Not anymore. Yes, I still have moments of panic, but they don’t take me down like they used to. I reach for my sharpest tool that helps me cut right to the GOoD stuff. Somedays it looks like meditation or yoga and other days it’s just sitting still and breathing. I do whatever I need to get there. And the beautiful thing is that it just keeps getting better one day at a time. I don’t rush my healing. I savor it. So when darkness sets in, I shine my light on it to see what I can get from it. Also, I hand flashlights to my friends. I talk about it. All of it. I don’t hide in fear, shame or guilt any longer. Life saver!

Over time, I have been blessed with some very deep friendships and we have been through the trenches together. Sisterhood has ramped up my recovery in so many ways. Not only do I receive support, but more importantly I am able to give it. Learning to listen has been one of my greatest lessons. Connection in sobriety is the MacGyver of tools. It always works like magic. That being said, my friendships in recovery have become way less complicated. When I put down the poison, I began purifying my life. Simplicity was the machete that hacked all the nonsense away that was not serving me any longer. I worked on the inside first and the outside followed suit. It is a natural progression. When I rid my mind of all the chatter, the outside clutter goes away. I feed my soul (I eat plant-based, whole foods), I lost a ton of weight. I bought new clothes, I have a minimalist wardrobe. I say “No” to obligations, I say “Yes” to Life. My clothes, my thoughts, my routines, my relationships, my expectations… everything simplifies. I focus on fewer things with more tenacity.  It’s a silent, sonic boom.  

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
My end of drinking, my beginning of thriving, did not happen because of some near death experience or dramatic breakdown (although I have plenty of those moments in my past). It came because I was so dependent on alcohol that I was empty. I had mastered alcoholism and it had gotten me nowhere so it was time to move on. I was truly tired of drinking and done with living a lie. It began as a very still knowing that I couldn’t deny myself any longer. I knew I was meant for more.  I wholeheartedly realized that failure and fear were false, so why was I drinking to escape them? They weren’t even real. I wanted substance and not from any substance. So I quit drinking. Very quietly. I didn’t want any outside pressure or opinions. I did it for me. I had tried to quit many, many times before, but being vocal about it put too much pressure on me. There was magic in keeping it to myself in the beginning. When I was more comfortable, I started my IG account and used that to connect to other sober people. I found my footing in those little squares and then wound my way around to it in “real life.”  Now I AM just as I AM. No apologies. No allowances.    

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
I am just as creative as I have always been, it’s just that now I believe in myself enough to share it with the world. If you scroll through my Instagram feed you will see me. There’s so much meaning and deep awareness in my photos, art and music that I probably couldn’t even explain it to you if I tried. I am co-creating every day a life by design. My life is art. I live with intention and infuse my whole existence with art. Anything can be turned into a masterpiece with the right perspective. I gave myself permission to create and that’s where the power resides. You have to dig really deep to find the strength to to do that and not worry about others’ opinions of you. It’s definitely a process that I am still learning to surrender to. Progress, over perfection though, right?! And I stride and strive every day. Creating every chance I get in every way.  

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking? 
Yes and no (I’m a Libra. Can you tell?) One of the reasons I think sobriety stuck for me is that I let go of productivity. In the first few months, I slept and let dishes pile up and just learned how to breathe again - literally! I peeled everything back to the bare bones. I was very productive at nothing in the beginning. In addiction, I was a Type A, perfectionist, people-pleaser. I did it all. That will kill you. It almost killed me. In recovery, I keep my life as simple as possible. So now, I am very productive at very few things. Having less to do let’s more of me show up, if that makes sense. It all goes back to living with intention and authenticity. When my expectations are low, then the rewards are high. It’s living in gratitude, which is extremely productive.     

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Here I AM. I AM here!!! Oh my God, how I just wanted to be as I AM my whole life. There was a disconnect there though and I didn’t know how easy it truly would be. Sobriety was the portal to my spirituality. I was always spiritual, but before the door had visiting hours and restrictions and too many rules on it. Now I took it off its hinges and God can come and go as He pleases. I AM fucking (God does not mind cursing) elated to be present in my life. Sobriety is a gift that keeps on giving. I’m just now starting my phase of service and there is so much potential there that it’s astounding. Here I AM. I Am here, God. Use me! He is and will continue to.     

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
Yes! Guess what? It’s the world that is miserable and messed up - NOT YOU!!! You’ve been led astray by a wayward society that is doing everything backwards and upside down. It is no wonder you are confused and lost. This is a painful realization, but you are completely capable of shutting out that noise. It’s time to unlearn all of those things that your soul is telling you is wrong and start over. In the beginning, learn to sit with yourself. Truly allow yourself space to just be. Look within. Look within. Look within. That’s where your Truth resides. Start listening to your intuition. It’s that first whisper that you hear. You know that one you always ignored… yep, that’s it. Trust in that voice. Makes friends with yourself. Love yourself. Self-compassion and self-care are key to coping with all of the feelings that will arise. Feel them for goodness sakes!!

Speaking of feelings… Two of them are extremely detrimental to your well-being and you should ditch them ASAP. Guilt and shame. These are traps. They trick your mind into a destructive cycle of thinking. You’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you learn to silence them. Drown them with forgiveness and love. Some days you’ll feel lazy and other days productive. It’s all natural. Just BE. Without the guilt or shame attached you are free to feel authentically. Happiness, joy, acceptance (that’s a big one!), sadness, and anger. They are all your teachers. Lean into and learn from them. They are just like Nature’s cycles (ahem...Moon) and will come and go. Harness them and create your life. Some days you might be a Warrior and others a Sage. Be whatever it is that speaks to you. Be all of it!  There’s enough room inside so be limitless. Be YOU!!! Glorious, messy, healing YOU!!! You are worthy and already perfect just as you are. That empty hole inside will never be full if you continue to deny yourself. You are already whole. Fuck the facade and look within. I SEE YOU. The world needs Your Light so it’s time to wake up and get to work. It’s a lot of work and very hard, but that is Life. Search out the hard stuff. Fear is a lie. If something scares you then it’s an indicator that it’s time to face it and conquer it. Anything is possible one day at a time. It may sound daunting, but have faith that it will become easier over time. A positive perspective and patience will get you where you want to go. Get up and take one little step towards yourself each day. That’s all it takes. Tiny, tiny increments amount to a truly, glorious life.

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Can you recommend three books, bloggers or teachers that have helped you on this path to sobriety?

  1. I listened to Glennon read Carry On Warrior on a long road trip to Texas in 2013. I had read the book, but hearing her voice and laughing along with her as she re-tells her stories of this brutiful life.... It reached into my chest and made my heart start pumping again. I knew deep down that I was headed in that direction. Everything she writes is solid gold.  It was a dream come true to meet her and hear her speak at She Recovers in NYC.  Speaking of…
     
  2. Marianne Williamson. I think I cried the entire time she spoke at She Recovers NYC.  It was like witnessing a miracle. So profound. She is definitely a vessel for God’s word and work. Her quote from A Return to Love is the map of my life.  Those words (pictured above) held me every time I tried to stop drinking and failed, but I never gave up.  
     
  3. Then in August of 2016, The 30-Day Sobriety Solution jumped off the library bookshelf and I knew on that day that God was ready for me to get sober. So I did. It’s a must-read.  

Are you part of a tribe or a recovery community that supports your sobriety?  If so, how did you figure out how to find that tribe/community.  What was your path to discovering it?  
It was Divine intervention that got me on Instagram to start my sobriety account. I have always kept journals and for some reason I always wrote The Katy Khronicles on the inside cover of them. Now I understand why I did. It was all leading me towards sobriety and connection (and everything to come). Instagram saved me. Early on, my sober sisters and I found each other and that unconditional support was paramount to my success. Having those real and raw conversations about everything in life has kept me sane through all of the AFGO’s. Learning to rely on others, listening, sharing my feelings (however fleeting they may be), recognizing them in others, and just knowing that we are not alone has been a tremendous tool in my recovery. Every person has a story that is full of insight and wisdom. Being privy to that is phenomenal. Community is the antidote to addiction.  

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
Self-awareness. I was using alcohol and drugs at a young age so I skipped over those years when I should have been honing those skills. I was extremely self-conscious which is unhealthy and that led me to more addictive behaviors to cope with waylaid emotions. In sobriety, I basically stripped myself of all of the false beliefs (I refer to it as the unbecoming), started over and taught myself how to have a mature sense of self. Being able to interpret my thoughts rationally has been the secret to creating the life of my dreams. Through daily practice, I have become better adept at mastering my mind. Now I am able to see the bigger picture which makes it possible to appreciate the smaller stuff for what it is…opportunities to learn. Once I opened my perception, I was able to understand how the natural ebbs and flows of life energy affect my emotions and reality. I began studying the cyclical patterns of the Moon and use these rituals to help me heal as well as connect to the Universe. This takes self-awareness to a whole ‘nother level and allows for a deeper understanding of our potential.  I hope to help other women practice these principles and tap into this power with my project Womanifest Your Life.  I’ll get there one step at a time just like I always do… One day at a time. Mind over matter.


POSTSCRIPT FROM KATY

I have planted a seed for a revamping of AA. I believe that the methods are based on ancient wisdom and have true power, but the technique and tone don’t align with the Divine Feminine. Since I feel this way, it’s mentally blocked me from totally submerging myself in the AA philosophy. There is a great need for women to unite for the Greater Good. I have this vision of AA women and Divine devotees coming together to form a Sober Spirit Circle (I bought that domain, but just thought of Synonymous Sisters!!!) and building a new modality for recovery or uncovery, like I like to think of it. The patriarchy has been established in our physical, mental, and emotional beings and it’s time to turn that around. That is why all of these women* are waking up right now. It’s an idea much bigger than me, but I believe in it. It’s the divine time to find our way back to Matriarchy... Mother Earth... Moon cycles… ancient, ancient wisdom. So if anyone else is nodding their head yes right now, then let’s grow it! We are stronger together!!  

*Men, too. I focus on women, but this is an all-inclusive shift in consciousness.    


Katy was gracious enough to be interviewed by me and my co-host, Sondra Primeaux, on The Unruffled Podcast. You can listen to her interview by clicking on the play button below.