Ray of Light Interview No. 4 :: Natalie Austin

Last January, I was lucky enough to participate in the winter session of Holly Whitaker's Hip Sobriety School, along with dozens and dozens of other souls trying to figure out how to do life sans booze in a holistic manner.  This lovely lady was one of those students. I quickly figured out that she lives a few towns over from me and so we scheduled a date to meet for coffee.

It's kind of weird when you first meet someone from the internet in real life. We both felt a little awkward, but immediately acknowledged it and quickly moved into easy conversation. We have kids who are all the same age (13 years old) and were experiencing the same kind of friendship loss that one experiences in early sobriety.  We bonded over these things, nodded our heads in agreement about how hard stringing together sober days can be and by the time we emptied our coffee cups, we had already landed on a plan for our second "date."

Since that meeting, Natalie has helped me out in a plethora of ways in relation to my issues with anxiety.  She introduced me to her favorite essential oil blends; gifted me beautiful healing stones to hold and rub when I'm feeling untethered; and, has taken me shopping at the mall and Costco (both of which had previously been my idea of hell on earth). We traveled to Austin together and she showed me how to quickly navigate parking structures, security lines and how to take a proper selfie (seriously, she's the best selfie-taker). We're attending a yoga workshop this weekend with Steph Snyder at Love Story Yoga, along with a group of gals we've met through our online digital recovery communities. She pushes me out of my comfort zone and holds my hand while doing it. She has shown me how to be a good friend at a time when I thought all my new female friend-making was done and behind me.

I'm so happy to share her with all of you and hope you enjoy her interview and absorb all of her goodness, as well as the positive, powerful vibes she's offering up here. 

Mixed media: black/white copy, Prisma colored pencils on 8" x 8" wood panel (2016)

Mixed media: black/white copy, Prisma colored pencils on 8" x 8" wood panel (2016)

Natalie Austin
Occupation: Office Manager + Program Analyst
Passion: Yoga + potentially teaching recovery yoga one day

Soberista. Yoga lover. Foodie. Nirvana-seeker. 
Instagram: @fabulous13

What is your sobriety date? August 31, 2015

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
I mostly count milestones, but I do count each month as they pass as well - coming up on 17 months on the 31st. I used to count the days, but feel like this is my new normal, so just having an idea of where I am at helps to keep me honest.

Do you use an app to do this counting?  
Yes, I am an Android user and I use the Nomo app.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I use more of a holistic approach - yoga, meditation, essential oils and LOTS of self-care, self-love and reading as much as I can about all of it. I participated in Hip Sobriety School four months into my sobriety and it was a true game-changer for me.

What word to you use to identify yourself as a person who no longer drinks?
When asked, I usually just say I am sober or that I gave up drinking. I really love the term soberista, 
as well.

What are the top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  • Yoga
  • Tribe + community
  • Self-care (reading, oils, tea, meditation)

How did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
I knew I needed to stop drinking when my off switch stopped working. I would drink and drink and never have an off-switch until I passed out. Also, I tried not drinking around my kids (they are with me 50/50) but after my dad died, I went into a drunken spiral where I was drinking every day and I was showing up drunk in front of my girls (and my fiancé) one too many times. I finally knew that enough was enough. I had terrible guilt and angst every morning after drinking and I was tired of the “groundhog day” nature of my drinking. I knew it had to stop because it was robbing my soul of joy, goodness and patience. I knew I needed to stop not just for myself, but for my kids and my guy.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
I think I am definitely more creative in sobriety. Now I make time for creativity. I’m also surrounded by amazing and creative women in recovery that inspire me daily to find my own inner creative soul.

Do you feel you are more or less productive since you have stopped drinking
My productivity level is through the roof! I cannot believe how much time I wasted drinking, thinking about drinking, planning for drinking and being hungover. I have all the time now for yoga, cooking, walks, everything, whereas when I was drinking I always felt like I was treading water and trying to keep up with my life. Now I enjoy my life fully - and especially reading, which has always been a passion of mine, and I am so very glad it is back in the forefront of my life again.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Being present for my life. Being clear-headed and really digging deep into my soul to find out what I am about and who I really am. I am finally realizing that it is okay to love myself and that to be honest and true is the best part of sobriety. Also, how much better my relationships are with my kids, my guy, my family and friends. Being able to be the best parent, partner and friend has made me a better human.

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

1. Holly Whitaker (co-host of the HOME podcast) + the Hip Sobriety Blog + the Hip Sobriety School -  Holly has been such an incredible and inspiring teacher for me. Her voice, her words and her presence are like none other and I am so grateful I found her when I did to help me navigate the sometimes scary and very bumpy road of sobriety.

2. Lisa Ellisen, owner + teacher, Soul Vibe Yoga, Santa Rosa, California - Lisa and her studio were an incredibly big part of my early (and continuing) sobriety. The teachers and studio have the most incredible and inviting vibe, and it has been my happy place regularly for the last year and a half.

3. Tammi Salas, blogger + artist - Meeting you and creating our beautiful friendship has been so amazing. Having someone that gets EXACTLY where you are on this path has been a godsend. You inspire me with your art, your style, your words and your friendship.   

4. Laura McKowen, blogger + co-host of the HOME podcast - Laura and her writing and her voice continually inspire me every day - she is so relatable and warm and her posts and writing can pick me up on some of the darkest days.  

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?
YES! I found Holly Whitaker's blog initially and literally devoured every blog post she had ever written. From there I enrolled in her 8-week Hip Sobriety School and that was the beginning of new friendships and building an amazing tribe of friends. I then started listening to the HOME podcast and joined Facebook communities that in turn put me into another incredible group of women who were on the same path as me - seeking sobriety, a desire to be fully present in life and to be 100% truthful and authentic while doing it. This tribe has meant everything to me and I can honestly say this group of women has had a very big impact on me continuing to stay sober. Tribe has been everything to get me through many of the ups and downs of sobriety.

What are you most proud of now that you live your life without the veneer of alcohol?
I am most proud of how good I feel in my skin (and in my head) and how far my relationships have come. Many of my relationships ended when I stopped drinking and that was really sad. But so many big, beautiful relationships have been born in their place and that feels amazing. Everything used to be so high drama all of the time and now I just live this calm presence (most of the time) and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sobriety is good.

Second date selfie! 

Second date selfie! 

Natalie, I'm so glad we hooked up on that rainy day last January and decided to take a chance on a new friendship. I love watching how you care for the people in your life and I've learned so much from you. Another testament to the wonderful world of social media for bringing connection and beauty into my life through that small screen on my phone. 

You are shining so bright in your own recovery and I know for a fact you attract what you put out there. Thank you for sharing part of your story and inspiring others to want what you have.