Ray of Light Interview No. 34 :: Diana Unlu

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 by Diana's 7 year old daughter, Romina

Original photo by Diana's 7 year old daughter, Romina

Diana Unlu
Spanish teacher + yogi, living holistically in Austin, TX.
Passionate recipe developer + fitness enthusiast, too.
Instagram: @frommysoulandbowl

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
I started following you on Instagram a few months ago when I was at the beginning of my sobriety path for the second time. I was on a mission to find amazing, inspiring, sober women like you. I singed up for The Mantra Project that you worked on with Holly Whitaker and I absolutely fell in love with your art and creativity. We also met briefly in New York at the She Recovers event. I wish I’d had more time to chat with you, but I know I will see you again soon and we’ll have our chance to get know each other more and become friends.

What is your sobriety date? July 16, 2016  

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
I do count, but not everyday. From time to time I like to check my days and just remind myself of how far I’ve come. However, I try to leave my life one day at a time. I live in the NOW which is a word I have tattooed on my wrist.

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting?
I do, it’s called SoberTool. I don’t check it often but I like it. It has good inspirational messages.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
My sobriety looks just like me. Colorful, diverse, unapologetic and it changes just like I do. I have found an amazing sober community online, on Instagram specifically. I read blogs and books that inspire me and listen to a lot of podcasts. Cooking while listening to music is my therapy and one of my passions. I also love to exercise. I need to move my body everyday. It’s a non-negotiable. Cycling classes and yoga are my favorites. I also attend AA meetings. I believe that love and connection are the most important things for a human being to develop and receive, therefore, I am about to start some volunteer work in the recovery world, specifically with young women and mothers, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
I do because I am part of the AA program. I used to have a problem with it at the beginning of my sobriety because of the I don’t do labels-thing, however it is not something that I think about anymore nor something that bothers me. It is what it is, I can’t drink and that is a fact, the rest in secondary.  

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  1. AA meetings, connecting with other sober people. This tool is important for my soul, it keeps me humble and it keeps my ego in check.

  2. Exercise and good nutrition. These tools are important for my physical health and mind. Feeling good from the inside out is always important, but especially in early sobriety.

  3. Spending time with my family. Here is where I connect with God.

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
This is my second time getting sober. The first time, back in 2013, felt more like a punishment, a consequence for the bad decisions I’d made while drinking. I felt like I needed to “fix” my life and “get it together.” 

This time around is different. There were no big events that happened or anybody that led me to get sober. It was a decision I made because I got tired of living a half-ass life. I knew deep inside my soul the life that I was destined to live and deserved and alcohol had no place in it.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
Yes, so much more creative! I am learning so many new things. Getting sober has opened up so much space in my life and in my head. I am obsessed with the friendships that I have developed in sobriety, writing, the moon, books, yoga, blogs (like this one), podcasts, nutrition, self-care, politics, humanity, human rights, service and so much more. I do, however, make sure and try my best that I prioritize and edit my lists so I can give the best of me to my family.

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking?
Yes, I do. I have always been very active. I am a perfectionist and a type of person that thinks I can do it all. Even at the worst of my drinking I was still managing to do all the things: work, house, kids, husband, exercise, social life...everything!  However, I understand now that I was not being productive, I was glorifying being busy so I could keep pretending that everything was fine. Now that I am sober I have found that being productive is another way of self-care. Being productive doesn’t mean to try to be superwoman and do it all or to fill up your day to a breaking point. I have to practice being elective and smart with my time and the things I choose to do. By doing that I am now able to accomplish much more, even if that means just making quesadillas and cuddling with my babies on the couch. Resting and loving on your people? I think it’s just another way of being productive now.

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
For the ones that are still suffering I would say to look for help.  There are so many resources out there and an amazing community to support and hold your hand through it all.  You know what it is to live a life of addiction, isolation, guilt, shame, depression, etc. So why not try a different way of living? You can always come back to what you know, after you give trying another way everything you’ve got! I guarantee you though that you will thrive and you will find what I’ve discovered: that being sober has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

For the ones in early recovery, like myself, I would say finding what truly inspires you is key. Not everybody finds it right away. I didn’t. But don’t get discouraged, be curious and keep exploring until you find what really makes your soul smiles. Once you find it, dive all-in, don’t lose it and hold it tight because that is the thing that will make this journey so worth it.

Also, find what works for you and don’t isolate. And lastly, If you are questioning anything you are doing in your life, if anything is stopping you from being the best that you can be…then change it. You are brave enough, you are strong enough and you are so loved.

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

As I grow in my sobriety, I realized that I keep challenging myself and keep exploring different subjects. It’s hard to choose only three!

  1. I have to say that Holly Whitaker, founder of Hip Sobriety, and Laura McKowen have been key to my sobriety. Their respective blogs and HOME podcast are my go-to.

  2. The book A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson is a beautiful book to keep you close to God and your soul.

  3. Glennon Doyle Melton is one of my teachers. By following her work I have found so many other teachers that I admire and love. Also, I have to say that through my amazing sober community on Instagram I have an army of strong, smart, honest and beautiful women and men that have my back always and teach me a lesson every single day.

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 am part of a couple of private groups on Facebook. One is called SoberMommies. After participating in the Recovery 2.0 Conferences with Tommy Rosen, I joined their FB group, too.

I have an amazing sober tribe on Instagram. I’ve made great friendships that just keep growing and growing. I got the privilege to meet a lot of them in NY at the She Recovers Conference event. Some of the ladies live here in Austin and we meet at least once a month. Also, my AA tribe is really important to me and is dear to my heart.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
The relationship I have with myself and how I choose to live life now with honesty and integrity. It is a work in progress. I have amazing days when I think and feel that I have it all figured out. I also have days when I still try to negotiate with myself that maybe things weren’t so bad. That is the beauty of sobriety tough, it’s all at once! This is the life I knew I was destined to live. I am learning how to feel, how to process my emotions, how to enjoy the smallest yet so significant things in life again. I get to connect and help other people that are where I used to be by sharing my story or just by holding their hand tight. I have developed a more honest and healthier relationship with my husband, family and friends and I get to be the mom that my kids deserve. Sobriety took so many things from me, and yet…it gave me my life back.

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Postscript from Diana

I wanted to mention cross-addiction. I’ve learned that cross-addiction is real. And it’s something that needs to be addressed more. I realized that for a long time alcohol was my coping mechanism, but ditching alcohol didn't erase the fact that I still need to learn how to cope with life. When we stop drinking we think that we have eliminated the problem, when we have actually eliminated the solution. In sobriety we are left with all the things - issues, traumas, problems - that led us to escape in the first place and most likely we would find a another shiny thing that would distract us from doing the work, from getting down to the uncomfortable, icky place. It is crucial to grow in our sobriety. Remember that every next level of your life will demand a different version of you.  Now I am getting to know myself for the first time. With work and help from amazing people in sobriety, I am learning the skills to live a healthy and honest life. I am learning to be good to myself, to have patience and to trust that the process will take as much time as it needs to take. It’s not on me to control or manipulate. In this process, I have also learned that I am a very strong and determined woman.