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.
Day job: Outreach and admissions coordinator at behavioral health program for teens
Round-the-clock passion: Founder of The Sobriety Collective || Addiction Recovery and Mental Health WARRIOR
What is your sobriety date? 7/14/2007
Do you count days, months or years? At this point, I count years.
Do you use an app? No app; my calendar date is just ingrained in me.
What recovery modality do you identify with?
I’ve been in and out of AA; I’ve tried SMART Recovery; I’ve had multiple periods of being in psychotherapy; and different protocols of anti-depressants over the years.
I’d call my recovery a hybrid approach now. I’m not opposed to going to a 12-step meeting on a rare occasion. I practice yoga much more frequently. I’m in the process of shopping for a new therapist. I take Zoloft daily to keep panic attacks minimal to non-existent. I love spending time in nature, listening to music, being with my friends and family, and really tuning into how I feel through mindfulness. I try to eat better and exercise. I read (rather slowly) lots of recovery memoirs and books. I’m a self-help junkie, for better or worse. And I write and curate this little thing of mine over at The Sobriety Collective.
Do you identify as an alcoholic?
I don’t identify myself as an alcoholic in active terms; as in, I say I’m a sober woman or a woman in long-term recovery or a teetotaler, but I don’t call myself an alcoholic. By definition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am an alcoholic because once I start, I can’t stop. I wasn’t a daily drinker and I wasn’t dependent on alcohol from a physiological/functioning point of view. But I had a very deep psychological dependence and no sense of safety when I drank.
Can you share the top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?
- Feeding my mind: therapy, reading books, writing.
- Feeding my body: whole foods, occasional indulgences (dark chocolate!), lots of water, mocktails, and exercise.
- Feeding my soul: family, sober tribe and other friends, music, and yoga.
Why or how did you know it was time to quit?
I knew I had to quit drinking when I found myself in a hospital bed in New York City on my first visit to the Big Apple, not 1.5 years after my first hospitalization for alcohol poisoning. I was hurting myself, my family, my friends, and couldn’t continue this lifestyle anymore.
Do you feel you’re more or less creative since you’ve stopped drinking?
Way more. I couldn’t do much while drinking other than drunk dial and make a fool of myself. Seriously. Most people I meet don’t believe that I was ever a train wreck but man, I was awful. Now that I’m sober, I’m craftier (in the arts and crafts sense) and I pour hours of love into tinkering with web design and content curation/creation. None of this would have been possible if I was still out (or in) boozing.
Do you feel you are more productive as a sober woman?
Absolutely. Getting sober uncovered a slew of mental health issues that revealed themselves as brain chemical imbalances rather than moral failings. I have Generalized Anxiety/Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder – and instead of drinking to cover them up, I can engage in therapy, self-care, education, and medication to come out on the other side better equipped to handle things. That being said, I still struggle with productivity and procrastination (it’s taken me close to a month to finish our interview). But I’m trying. And that’s the ticket – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And seriously – one day at a time as it applies to, well, life, is a saving grace of a saying.
What has delighted you most since you quit drinking?
No hangovers! Being accountable for my own actions and responsible for myself, for better or worse. Discovering my interests and passions. Becoming a more reliable daughter/sister/auntie/cousin/niece/friend. Can we go back to no hangovers? Because beyond the physical discomfort and ickiness that hangovers brought, they were also wrought with feelings of utter shame, guilt, regret. I don’t have that anymore. HALLELUJAH.
Do you have any advice for those still suffering or in early recovery?
Find your tribe. These people will change over time – they may be in your life (as the trite but TRUE statement goes) for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Speak up. Take care of yourself. Find a combination of selfishness and selflessness – the former more a put yourself first selfishness, not a me me me thing and the latter a way to give back to others. Not necessarily those still suffering although I absolutely recommend finding a way to help people who were/are in the same boat you were/are in – but just to fellow humankind.
Can you recommend three books, bloggers, or teachers that helped you on this path to sobriety?
2007 – the year of my (sober) birth:
Koren Zailckas – author of Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood
2015 – the year of my (Sobriety Collective) birth:
Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety – finding another woman whose path was different from the 12-step status quo and embracing a more holistic recovery, not to mention a rocking website, was a game-changer for me. I reached out to Holly in March of 2015, a month before I launched.
2017 – present day:
Dawn Nickel of She Recovers is a game-changer. She’s created a platform for women around the world who are in recovery (and we’re all in recovery from something) to join together, face-to-face, in retreats and conferences. She’s my friend and a teacher and I have continued my path of growth with her (and her lovely daughter Taryn) recently when I traveled to Bali with both of them for a She Recovers Retreat.
Are you part of a tribe or recovery community that supports your sobriety? If so, how did you figure out how to find that tribe…what was your path to discovering it?
- The HOME Podcast and She Recovers online tribes – these women are everything to me!
- My OG Twitter @recoveryposse
- Instagram recovery family
- The three women I became SISTERS with at She Recovers NYC (Amy, Robin, Nona) –and reuniting with my old 12-step sponsor after years apart!
- Facebook recovery people – pretty sure there was an en masse adding of folks during the UNITE to Face Addiction weekend in DC.
All of this is significant because for years - the time in between being in AA and starting my website – I had no sober network/friends/family. I now have an extremely vibrant and daily tribe of people who support me and whom I can support. It’s like an everyday Christmas because it really is a daily gift to have others there for me who just get it.
Props to my parents for being the original support system. They’ve helped me in ways I can’t even begin to articulate and they will always have my eternal gratitude. Seriously. My mama and papa are the best ever.
What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol free life?
That I can be a role model instead of a roll model (aka drunk and rolling around the floor). That I can be a trailblazer and pioneer – or just a regular citizen – but I can do everything without the crutch of alcohol. And not just that, but I can be proud of myself.