Ray of Light Interview No. 30 :: Sasha Tozzi

Every Friday for the entire 2017 calendar year, I will 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 will feature 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.

Original photo credit: Brooke Mayo photographers with acrylics added on 4" x 4" hardwood panel by me

Original photo credit: Brooke Mayo photographers with acrylics added on 4" x 4" hardwood panel by me

Sasha Tozzi
Writer. Coach. Speaker.
I deeply adore words, 1:1 coaching, sharing ESH (experience, strength, and hope)
Instagram: @sasha_tozzi
Blog: www.sashaptozzi.com
Twitter: @sashaptozzi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sashaptozzi/

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
I believe through Laura & Holly and the HOME group. God Bless them for connecting so many sisters in sobriety.

What is your sobriety date?
September 2, 2011. Technically a few days earlier but I never took note of it cause I wasn’t planning to stick with it, but then I did, and I chose Sept. 2 to be safe and I liked that it was after the 1st.

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
Now I count years, but sometimes months still. I have 5 years and 10+ months (and creeping up on 11).

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting? 
I think I have the nomo app in my phone but I don’t refer to it all that much. It’s just very much in my consciousness because I feel like I eat, sleep, and breathe recovery.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I guess I would define it as holistic. I kind of pull from anything and everything that resonates with me. I love 12-step and I attend meetings. I use yoga too—so important for body healing. My care team is rather large—I have a sponsor, a therapist, a coach, a psychiatrist, and a naturopath/shamanic healer. I study and read a wide range of healing books. I really love Buddhism and the Yoga Sutras. As a recovery coach myself, I’m always seeking to deepen my knowledge of recovery modalities.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
Yes, I do. It doesn’t mean everything, but it means something. I grappled with this word in the beginning, but since have taken the emotional charge out of it. I guess I’ve neutralized it which feels really good. For me, it’s just simply that the definition fits and so I call it what it is to stay out of denial. That said, I don’t over-identify with it and it doesn’t overpower my personality like it used to. In other words, I know that I am many other things/titles/labels—alcoholic/addict is just one of them. I also know that this could be different in, say, a couple of years. I allow for my opinions and feelings to change & evolve.

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?
I utilize a wide range of tools but I’d say that these are the three that when I don’t use them, it starts to show quick because my life starts to unravel.  

  1. YOGA & MEDITATION. Moving the body and reconnecting with the body is an invaluable tool for staying sober. I happen to prefer yoga as my way of doing this but there are so many other avenues. Yoga has taught me how to be IN my body and befriend it, and not see it as separate, or an enemy.  And then sitting still in meditation is basically the opposite of what our brain does in addiction, so I find it SO very helpful.
     
  2. 12- STEP MEETINGS. I am very supported by my meetings and I mostly attend meditation meetings where there is a heavy spiritual component with focus on the 11th step (“sought through prayer and meditation…”). It has taken a while to feel comfortable and find the groups that work for me and I’m always recalibrating as I grow.

    I also attend Alanon and ACOA which has worked wonders for my emotional sobriety. All my programs work synergistically and I feel every day I stay in recovery I peel away another layer of illusion and connect the dots of truth. Meetings help me stay honest, grounded, connected to other humans, and they’ve also been a training ground of sorts in an “exposure therapy” kind of way for my sometimes very severe social anxiety. Also key to note is that working for myself, from home, and being prone to isolation and introversion, meetings are what keep me out of morbid self-reflection and rabbit holes. It is my meetings that have taught me how to speak in groups, that I deserve to take up space, and in the last year, I’ve given 2 keynote speeches of over 100 people at each. Clearly I can’t say enough good things about my support groups.
     
  3. CLEAN FOOD. Seriously. Nutrition is an understated part of a good recovery program. I have a history of disordered eating so I actually addressed it as a separate issue for which I did an intensive outpatient program, but even still, sugar (for instance) is addictive and it mimics the feelings of being in alcohol addiction. Healthy, balanced, protein-laden meals are a non-negotiable for me.

I actually created a little cheat sheet of the top 5 tools to quit addictions over on my website that I would love to share with your readers (click here).

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
I always knew I had to, I just chose not to. I had a diagnosed mood disorder since I was 14 and abusing alcohol and drugs didn’t help my case. When I was 20, the owner of the only bar in a small beach town where I frequently did my boozing kicked me out and told me I was an alcoholic and to go to AA. I was working in the restaurant industry at the time and my work and family staged an intervention because of my acute cocaine habit and almost killing myself by falling off a 2nd stage balcony. I mostly stopped the coke but I continued to binge-drink until I turned 26. It was September of 2011, I was back at school where I didn’t drink much (because I was a serious straight A student) and feeling the demoralizing effects of having had another summer of heavy partying and reckless decisions. My therapist gently, compassionately, and without speaking many words, handed me an AA pamphlet. I went.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
Definitely more. I didn’t follow through on much when I was drinking, including my creative pursuits. I had tons of ideas and grandiose visions and basically drunken manic writing, but my thinking wasn’t clear. I thought I was more creative than I actually was during these times.

Now I follow through and my creativity is what fuels my sobriety—and vice versa—my sobriety fuels my creativity. Because creativity is all about connection, and so is sobriety. So they go hand in hand. If we stay disconnected (drunk), then we are also cutting off connection to creation.

Since getting sober I have launched a website, built a business, written and been published, and created lots of content & programs. None of this would have been fathomable if I was still abusing alcohol.

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking? 
Yes, more productive. As stated in the previous question, I follow through on my goals and I have so much more time because I’m not wasting it drinking, thinking about drinking, or hungover. I wasted a lot of time hungover because I had no energy and I was stuck in shame spirals. I’m more effective at time management now. I like to study up on productivity tips and I’m all about maximizing efficiency.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
That I can be delighted by the simplest, most mundane daily tasks. Like washing the dishes can be a spiritual practice because my heart is happy inside and I feel free and at peace.

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
Just keep going. If you have to stop and take a break, do that. But stay curious and open. I always cite an AA mindset tool which is H.O.W. —Honest, Open, Willing. If you can keep returning to these 3 qualities, you will break through your suffering.

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

  1. Melody Beattie has been instrumental to my holistic recovery & emotional sobriety and a lot of the “drunk behavior patterns” which I feel lie just beneath the surface problem or symptom (drinking.) She’s written several books. I love Codependent No More, Journey to the Heart, and The Language of Letting Go.
     
  2. Marianne Williamson has definitely helped awakened me on my path. Her books and her meditations and her teachings all derived from A Course in Miracles.
     
  3. I honor the work of Louise Hay and her book You Can Heal Your Life.
     
  4. My wonderful, patient, kind sponsor who is full of soul and integrity has stuck with me all these years and she has led me by example. I’m not able to give her name, but I definitely cannot overstate the importance of a personal mentor, whether in 12-step or not.

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?
I’m a member of AA and Alanon/ACOA. My therapist pointed me in the 12-step direction and I went for it. I also am part of the online recovery community. I found other online recoverers by seeking (browsing online, searching hashtags, following my inner desires) and being open about my own recovery.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
Simply choosing, day after day and as counter-culture as it sometimes feels, to live an alcohol-free life. And in that choice, being blessed with the tools to fulfill my human potential.