Ray of Light Interview No. 3 :: Hilary M.

Connecting with this next lovely lady initially happened through the beautiful world of social media.  We had a mutual friend - my interaction with this friend was via Instagram and Hilary’s interaction was from knowing her in real life. This friend (who will be featured in a later post) suggested Hilary read my blog because I had just started writing about my monthly sobriety milestones and she thought they might help in some small way. Hilary then started following my IG feed and vice-versa. Eventually, we took our relationship to the next level and started emailing one another, then texting, until we finally got serious and started having phone dates this past summer.

In the Fall of 2015, we started a morning ritual of texting with one another (and we continue to touch base almost every single day).  I’m in California and she’s in Maine, so when I would rise at 6 a.m., I would check in with her.  I’ve even referred to her as my surrogate sponsor because, really, that’s what she’s been like to me.  My daily contact with her truly solidified my early sobriety.  We discussed books, recovery modalities, sobriety tools that worked or didn’t work for us.  I felt both seen and heard by someone that I identified with and that was so very powerful in my recovery.

It just so happened that I was one month ahead of her in terms of our sobriety dates, so we shared our early successes and milestones together, were each other’s cheerleader and built a friendship from the ground up that was honest, transparent and real. Through the screens of our little handheld devices, we were really there for one another. And, we still are. We finally met in person this past August and (no surprise) talked our heads off until the wee hours of the morning.

Mixed media: b/w photocopy + Prisma coloredpencils on an 8" x 8" hardwood panel

Mixed media: b/w photocopy + Prisma coloredpencils on an 8" x 8" hardwood panel

Hilary M.
Seeker, Empath + Helper.

What is your sobriety date?  3/5/15

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?  
I initially counted months and did so until about the year mark. These days I don't. Some months I remember and some I don't, but you always remind me. (Wink!)

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I don't subscribe to a specific recovery modality. I have looked into or experimented with most of the options out there, but nothing felt completely comfortable so I have been on a twisty and slightly disorganized journey. If I had to pick one model that aligns the most with my path it would be Hip Sobriety School that is run by Holly Whitaker.  This program not only provided me with support and connections, but tools to make a life of not drinking sustainable and pretty darn enjoyable.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?  
I do not identify with the word alcoholic at this moment. Early on I tried out the word and felt as though I needed a label or a reason in my own mind to justify not drinking in a world full of drinkers. I think I had to use a big word, a word that felt so intimidating and scary I couldn't mess with it. If I was fearful enough, I wouldn't fall into a vat of wine walking down the street. As time has passed and my confidence has grown, I simply say “I don't drink.” I don't need to justify my decision or give reasons. I just don't.

What are the top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?
My tools morph all the time. At first, it was all about breaking the habit of that first glass of wine at the end of the day when the house was quiet and it was time for me. In the early days, my tools were seltzer, ice cream, books, texting sober friends and Netflix. Once the initial shock of modifying my habits wore off, I could start to integrate more helpful tools - like yoga, meditation, reading, sleep, alone time and quiet, routine, texting friends and nourishing foods are the most powerful these days.

How did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
I am a super sensitive person and I have been since I was a child. I notice every change in temperature, hear the tiniest noises, absorb emotions around me and feel the ups and downs of the world strongly. As a child, losing myself in books and jelly beans worked to soften the edges and make me feel a little bit less, but as I got older I discovered that alcohol could soften the edges of my intensity quickly and effectively and that was much more appealing. This approach worked until it didn't anymore. As time went on I was looking forward to softening the edges more and more.

Around 2012, I stumbled upon Brené Brown’s TED Talk: Listening to Shame and later read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.  In her book, she said something that really stuck with me.  She said, "We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions." The moment I heard these words, I knew I would eventually give up alcohol, but it took a couple more years to actually do it.

Do you feel you are more productive since you quit drinking?  
Yes, I feel more productive not drinking. Drinking sucks a lot of time and I was drinking a few glasses of wine almost every night of the week, which adds up.  For me, it was around 15-20+ hours. That is a lot of time where I can now read books, do yoga and all the things I thought I never had time for.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
I guess I would have to say my ability to live in the present moment is the best thing about not drinking. Enjoying moments for what they are and not needing to change or enhance them in any way is my greatest delight in sobriety.

Three people that have been the most important on my journey so far.
Holly Whitaker and Hip Sobriety School has been my biggest teacher in a million ways. From the moment I found her blog I knew I wanted what she had, as they say. She has pushed me and stretched me to go places and to learn things that I never even knew I wanted.

Laura Mckowen has been my fellow mama, cheerleader, hand-holder and the angel that appeared at just the right time. She is also a damn good writer.

And you. Your friendship has been one of the best things about this journey. Your words, your art and your heart make me incredibly happy.

Are you part of a tribe or a recovery community that supports your sobriety?   What was your path to discovering it?
I am a part of an online community that I found through Holly Whitaker and Laura Mckowen and their HOME podcast. I have found connection to be key for me in maintaining my non-drinker status and this community provides me so much in terms of general support. I appreciate the ability to help others and many people in the group have turned into friends in real life.

What are you most proud of now that you have removed alcohol from your life?
Picking one thing to be proud of is impossible! I am proud that I go to bed at the end of each day knowing that I have met the world head on, done the best I could and that if I missed something, there is always tomorrow. In sobriety, I know I will wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for the next day. And, yes, I talk like an 80-year old woman.

Thank you so much, Hilary.  For allowing us to peek into your life and gather inspiration from your tools, your honest words and your 80-year old inner self. You are bright spot in my life and I thank you for allowing me to use you as a muse during the early stages of this project.

Mixed Media: b/w photocopy+ acrylic paints on a 5" x 5" hardwood panel

Mixed Media: b/w photocopy+ acrylic paints on a 5" x 5" hardwood panel

Initially, I thought that the Ray of Light Series would be anonymous in nature and I would tell the stories of these women without showing their faces.  After continuing to recover out loud myself, I realized that there was so much power in being seen in recovery.  This is the first piece I did of Hilary without showing her entire beautiful face.