Sarajane Parker came into my life through a daily gratitude circle for women in recovery from alcohol that I put together last Spring. I've been getting to know her through her lists and we sporadically text each other for support, when needed, as it relates to love, life and school.
We also share in the fact that each of us decided to go back to college after a 25 year hiatus from higher education as part of our early sobriety plan. We dabbled in the school of life and after that quarter century education, I think we could easily see what was not serving us. Getting our degrees became a mission of sorts and we knew it would help support our sobriety, as well as bolster our self-confidence tenfold and help us to improve our lives and show our kids how it can be done.
I once heard artist Lisa Congdon self-proclaim here that she was a late bloomer and I think that monikerfits for both Sarajane and myself, as well. Late bloomer sounds so beautiful, so hopeful, so optimistic and so open. A definite unfolding happens when you choose recovery and I love witnessing the unfolding, the becoming, the blooming alongside this woman. I hope you enjoy her story, too.
When was your last drink?
My last drink was the night of January 8th, 2016.
Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
I do. I counted days in the beginning because it really helped to see those numbers add up. I don’t go to AA often, but I do go sometimes and I like to get chips. Seeing them stack up in the little box on my altar makes me proud. My first meeting was at 30 days. I was wondering if I should continue my sobriety after my 30 day “break”, and I was pretty emotional and confused about it. A friend invited me to a meeting and gave me a 30 day chip. It really meant a lot. After 6 months I didn’t keep track as much, but I hit one year January ninth and it felt BIG. I still feel tears and chills about it. It feels so solid and real now.
What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I would say that my #1 modality is RADICAL self-care and mindfulness surrounding how my mind, spirit and body feels. This means community, sleep, movement, meditation, prayer, gratitude, good food, hot baths, essential oils, saying no, journaling, reading, rest, netflix binges and ice cream sometimes, and going easy on myself when I fail in any of these areas. This has really allowed me to get to know myself in a way I hadn’t before, and taking care of myself in this way has led me to fall in love with myself for the first time. Just as in any relationship, you have to show your partner you care for them to keep the love alive. That goes for self-care and self-love as well.
I also go to AA sometimes to be around other people, but my regular meetings are through Refuge Recovery. I have a mentor, which is kind of like a sponsor in AA. I’ve been working on the writing, and meditate daily.
Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
I don’t identify as an alcoholic. I pondered this question for months. There are a few reasons I decided not to embrace it for myself.
One is that I wasn’t physically addicted and had no withdrawal symptoms. It wasn’t hard for me to stop, physically, and I only ever answered yes to 3 or 4 of the questions in every online alcohol quiz I took.
Which leads me to my second reason I am uncomfortable with the term. I believe it can draw an imaginary line between ‘normal’ drinking and ‘diseased’ drinking, and this black and white thinking kept me in dangerous drinking territory for longer than necessary because I thought as long as I wasn’t an alcoholic I was safe to keep drinking the way I was. My hope is that through sharing my story others will realize they can quit any time, before it gets ‘bad’, before the DUI, before the shakes and morning drinking.
My third reason is I don’t like life-long labels; I believe people change. I prefer to focus on all the good things in my life that have come to fill the void left by not drinking, and not think on a daily basis about what a problem alcohol was. People who quit smoking aren’t “recovering smokers” for the rest of their lives. I understand that for many this way of thought would be dangerous and I am glad there are so many modalities of recovery because everyone is so different. And I’m really appreciative of the recovery-out-loud movement for showing me and others that there are many choices in recovery.
If you do not identify yourself as an alcoholic, do you use any other word to identify yourself as a person who no longer drinks? Please share your word and why it works for you.
This keeps changing. I didn’t like the word ‘sober’ at first because it sounded boring, but I use it sometimes. I like recovery because I AM recovering, I’m recovering my SELF. But mostly I just say I don’t drink.
What are the top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?
- Community/reaching out/service
How did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
Several reasons. Sober me didn’t agree with some of the decisions I made when I drank, and I couldn’t always predict how much I would drink or where I would end up once I started. I was very aware that I was on a slippery slope and I only had to take a look at my family history to see where I was headed. I decided to take a 30 day break after seeing posts online about ‘Dry January.” After 30 days I knew I didn’t want to drink again because I’d had enough space to see clearly how dangerous my drinking had become. I decided to shoot for 90 days of sobriety, then six months, and then I knew it was forever. If the thought of “forever” ever feels scary, I just focus on not drinking that day.
Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
I feel I’m more creative and productive. I have a lot more time because I have a regular routine and more energy, and I have more confidence and self-love which leads to more courage in creative endeavors as well as general ‘adulting.’ Also, deciding to quit drinking and following through has given me this sense that I can do anything I want to. It’s opened my eyes to the limitless potential that awaits in our lives and in our worlds once we open our eyes to it.
What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Really noticing things...like a new bloom on a succulent...I remember specifically one day I noticed this flower and it stopped me in my tracks. I knelt down and started talking to it, and got tears in my eyes. When I shared that in my sober tribe, I got a lot of head nods. It’s like discovering life for the first time.
Can you recommend a few books, bloggers or teachers that have helped you on this path to sobriety?
Refuge Recovery by Noah Levine
This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Rediscover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston
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?
Yes, my Homies! I found Laura McKowen when a friend posted her blog on Facebook, which led me to Holly Whitaker’s Hip Sobriety blog and their Home podcast, and then to their Facebook group. This group connected me to women across the globe embracing all modes of recovery. It’s a very safe and accepting space, and I’ve met some of these women in person and am in contact with a few daily. I feel such a deep sisterhood with these women.
What are you most proud of now that you live a life without the veneer of alcohol?
I went back to school full-time after 25 years, pulled straight A’s, and completed my Associate’s Degree. Removing alcohol from my life made me realize I’d been driving through life with my emergency brake on. Suddenly life is flowing forward with a momentum I hadn’t realized was lacking.
Thank you, Sarajane. Watching you evolve and gain strength in recovery over this past year has been an honor to witness. I'm so proud of you and how you are shining your light and inspiring others to do the same. And, I can't wait to lock eyeballs with you soon.