Ray of Light Interview No. 5 :: Sondra Primeaux

Last January, as I was driving home from town, I was listening to an interview with Sondra Primeaux on the Since Right Now podcast. It was right then and there that my girl crush began.

As the soft lilt of her southern accent floated through my headphones, I couldn't help but thinking she is telling my story. Her voice swirled around in my head like an old married couple swing dancing at the local dance hall on their weekly date night. Her southern twang and vivid storytelling pulled me in. She kept saying things that had me nodding my head and saying Me Too.

In April of last year, after mildly stalking her in a digital recovery community that we are both part of and reading every square inch of her blog, I got brave and reached out to ask her if she would be interested in joining a daily email gratitude circle I was putting together with a few other sober ladies. We have been collaborating every since.

Immediately, we discovered that we both had a lot in common and bonded over our mutual love affairs with the creative process, classic country music and Pat Benatar, not necessarily in that order. We have since collaborated on a quarterly all women's recovery-themed art exchange and I commissioned Sondra to design two dresses for me to wear all the way over here in California. We are also dreaming BIG together and working on a podcast that will dive into the creative process as it relates to sobriety. I could go on and on about this talented lady. I feel lucky to call her a friend and creative partner-in-crime. I hope her interview makes y'all fall in love with her, too.

Mixed media :: black + white photo, acrylic paints on a hard wood panel 5" x 5"

Mixed media :: black + white photo, acrylic paints on a hard wood panel 5" x 5"

Sondra Primeaux
Photographer, Writer, Artist, Seamstress, Momma,

Teetotaler, Dreamer of Big Dreams
Instagram handle: @sondra_unruffled
Twitter handle: @NaughtApropos

Facebook: facebook.com/theunruffled

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
Well, I love our different versions of this, but mine is that I saw your little profile pic in our secret FB sobriety club and you had on your aviator shades and I thought, "Hmmm, I wish this girl was my friend, but she looks way too cool for me." Not necessarily Contempt prior to investigation, but certainly Judgement prior to investigation, which has turned out to be a theme we have in common. And then you invited me to join a gratitude circle you had started and I was downright giddy.

When was your last drink or your sobriety date?
The day that stuck was July 13, 2014.

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
I tend to notice months now, for the most part, but some months, the 13th will slip by without much notice. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and I'm in it for the long run, one day at a time.

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting?
I'm more of an analog girl. Paper calendars work for me. The first year of my sobriety, I put a heart in the upper right corner at the end of each day. I still have that calendar and I love going back to look at all of the hearts.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I use multiple things, like with most things in my life, I like variety.

  • I take long-ass walks or runs with a podcast in my ears.
  • I take a scalding Silkwood shower to reset.
  • I go to 12-step meetings and have a sponsor.
  • I talk to another person in recovery every single day.
  • I write and write and write.
  • I create something every day to quiet the monkeys in my head.
  • I read books now and remember what I've read the next morning.
  • I sleep, oh god, I love sleep.

Do you identify as an Alcoholic?
I'm not super precious about words and labels, I never have been. I feel like if a label helps me to identify with a particular group and we can mutually benefit each other, if I look and quack like the other ducks, then I'll call myself a duck. It doesn't ping my spirit. I also label myself in other ways: mom, wife, sister, daughter, procrastinator...I am all of those things, but not defined by any one exclusively. That being said, I also like the other words associated with recovery: sober, teetotaler, person in recovery, alcohol free, SOBER AF!

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  • Community (either a 12-step meeting or an online community)
  • Exercise of any kind
  • Any creative pursuit du jour

How did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
I had a true surrender-on the bathroom floor-I can't do this anymore-white flag raised moment. That came after many years and many bottoms, many attempts at moderation and many people saying to me, enough is enough.

Do you feel you are more creative since you have stopped drinking?
Oh gosh, the before and after is hardly comparable. I mean, I've always had a creative outlet or had some sort of creative pursuit running along the side but it never had priority because drinking was always in the driver’s seat. I had many A-HA moments, breakthroughs or barstool brilliance but I could never, ever follow through with anything, could never see anything through  to completion. Now, I have so many ideas that sometimes it feels like I'm making up for lost time. I often have to stop myself, take time for gratitude, and pinch myself that this is what I get to do every day. I create for the joy of creating. It's a good life and I'm lucky. I hope I get to do this for the rest of my days.

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking?
I am definitely more productive, but I have days that I procrastinate, or I'm not very productive. But like they say, my worst day sober is out of the ballpark better than my best day drinking, so I'll even take the less productive days. Some days, there is so much I would like to do, it's just a game of, What Will I Neglect Today? And that is a good problem to have, I'll take that problem any day.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
The creative sober community that I have met online and in real life has delighted me to no end. For reals.

Can you recommend three books, bloggers or teachers that have helped you on this path to sobriety?
Holly and Laura, mentioned here many times, their blogs and podcast, I love dearly. I also loved The Bubble Hour, which is a podcast and was also my way into the online sober community. So many books, but I think my favorite by far have been Drinking: A Love Story, Lit and Blackout. The thread that ties all of the blogs, books and podcasts that I've mentioned together for me are the times I'd nodded my head and for the first time said, Me Too. There is so much power in Me Too. Special shout-out to the podcast On Being, I often say that Krista Tippett helped to get me sober, as many walks as she went on with me in those first few months.

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 am part of a few. The two associated with the podcasts I've mentioned before have introduced me to women who are now lifelong friends. The Twitter recovery community is rocking too. I'm carving out my own tribe as well, with my website and meet-ups here in Austin, always welcome to meeting other creative souls in recovery.

What are you most proud of now that you live without the veneer of alcohol in you life?
Honestly, just being a better human being, showing up for the people in my life, for my own creative potential, and for the people I've yet to meet.

A snapshot of my creative process in the studio

A snapshot of my creative process in the studio

As I was finishing up editing and formatting this interview, as well as the artwork that accompanies it, all of a sudden I found myself on the eve of my own 2 year sobriety milestone. One of the many things I work on in recovery is the level to which I procrastinate and it seemed I was up to my old tricks, again. I sent Sondra a text about the fact that I was at it again with this creative project and she texted back "What is this procrastination of which you speak? No sabe." We often joke we were separated at birth and it's strangely comforting to know that all the way in Austin, Texas is a girl sitting in her studio, making things, sipping tea, listening to Conway Twitty and putting off a few things on her to-do list, too.