Every Friday for the entire 2017 calendar year, I 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 features 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.
Homeschooling Mama, Photographer, Lifelong Seeker
Life, Recovery + Growth Coach
She Recovers Signature Coach
Do you remember how we first met or know one another?
We met through the HOME podcast group and I instantly connected to the art you would share in connection with your gratitude practice. I was so happy to meet you in person at the New York She Recovers conference. There is a real familiarity of being tribe mates and I look forward to more time together, which I feel sure will happen.
What is your sobriety date?
My last drink was on St. Patrick’s Day, 2014. It was that night, that I had my moment of grace: I knew too much for drinking to be fun anymore. So, March 18th, 2014 is my sobriety date.
Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
No. I have always had a hard time with labels. While I know they can help in some ways, I also feel like they go a long way in separating us. I liked alcohol way too much and have a real propensity for MORE. I believe there is an addiction continuum and alcohol is an addictive drug. When people stop smoking they don’t have to label themselves “Cigarette-aholics” for the rest of their lives. So, I don’t feel the need to label myself an “Alcoholic.” I just don’t drink anymore.
What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?
- Early on, I began working on my gratitude practice as if it was an internal weight lifting practice. It can sound lightweight but it completely changed how I interpreted events in my life. It's easy to be grateful for the good things but I found I needed to build up that muscle on a daily basis so that when the difficult things inevitably came to pass, I could find the gratitude in them, too. This has changed the filter in which I experience every part of my life.
- Getting out in nature offers me an incredible sense of grounding, perspective and comfort. No matter where I am, I can find it and it sets me right.
- Connection and truly knowing I am not alone feels like the secret “wind beneath my wings." In the last three years I have seen the power of taking the risk of reaching out and I know that it is there for the taking for anyone who wants it.
Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
I grew up with the core belief that alcohol went hand-in-hand with pleasure. It wasn't until my dad began to suffer severe negative consequences of his alcohol addiction that the truth began to pierce through my consciousness: alcohol often equates pain. I tried to ignore that inner knowledge as it applied to my own life but I found myself repeatedly trying to convince him that he could live a fulfilling life without it—as I poured myself another glass of wine. It also began occurring to me that when my dad was my age, he wasn’t suffering the negative consequences YET. The cognitive dissonance became too overwhelming. I knew I had to look at my own relationship with alcohol.
Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
It’s funny, even though I’ve loved photography and have kept a blog up for years, I never considered myself creative. Part of peeling back the layers for me has been the realization that my entire life and how I choose to spend my time and energy is, in itself, a creative act.
Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking? If yes, how so?
Yes! To stop drinking, I had to accept that there was no way around, only through. I couldn’t wait for a good time or for a time when I felt like it. I just had to put one foot in front of the other and do it. And what I learned from doing that and living life without a buffer is that I can do hard things. This fundamentally shifted how I saw myself. It gave me the confidence and courage to let go when life demanded it and to walk towards what I wanted when given the opportunity. No more treading water.
What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
When I decided to stop drinking, I felt like I was doing a noble thing. Like the sacrifice would be worth it. I would be living in alignment and I would be modeling to my dad and children that it’s possible to live in this healthier way and be okay. I was afraid the price to pay would be a smaller and grayer life. My biggest delight has been to discover that I couldn’t have been more wrong. It didn’t take me long to realize that rather than it being a sacrifice, it is the biggest gift I could’ve given myself. My life has grown bigger, brighter, and MORE joyful rather than less.
Do you have any advice for those still suffering or those in early recovery?
I know how hard it is to set down something you know is no longer serving you. Or to go back and forth about if it’s even necessary. So for me, I encourage anybody who is even thinking about it to break it down into a type of experiment: I am going to give this 100 days. No matter what, I will see that through and then I can re-evaluate. That is doable and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process. The first step is not drinking (or whatever it is you’re letting go of)—and second step is replacing it with wonderful acts of self-care that you’ve been neglecting. Be kind to yourself, reach out, trust those who say it’s worth it even when it doesn’t feel like it, honor your commitment to yourself, and be SO proud of yourself for caring enough about YOU to make this change.
Can you recommend three books, bloggers, or teacher that have helped you on this path to sobriety?
- Teacher: Pema Chodren. Words can’t express how much her teachings have meant to me. I love her quote, You are the sky. Everything else - it’s just the weather. Her work on letting go of habitual responses and riding out life’s stormy times has been life-changing for me. I’ve gotten so much out of her books and talks but I first discovered her when I listened to her talk Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality and I recommend it to everybody.
- Blog: Tired of Thinking about Drinking. The concepts I got from this blog were incredibly helpful to me. I credit her with giving me the concept of Wolfie, which was a game-changer. When I began to think of the addictive voice in my head as a hungry wolf who wanted what he wanted NOW and did not have my best interest at heart, I was able to separate my addictive voice from ME. I knew I had the power to ignore Wolfie and by so doing, force him into hibernation. This simple visual was very empowering for me! Also, she started me off with the 100 day challenge which felt doable. Once I got to 100 days, I had felt enough of the positive rewards to commit for the long haul.
- Book: The Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr. I read a ton of books on the subject and got something out of each of them, but his was the first that helped me to feel like I was making an empowered choice to not buy into our societies alcohol pushing culture. His analogies have stuck with me to this day.
Are you part of a tribe or recovery community?
I feel so lucky that the internet has made it such small world. Early on I reached out for online support and found great relief in the knowledge I wasn’t alone on this path. I met so many amazing people from all around the country (and world!) and what started with online connection has turned into many in-person friendships. Discovering She Recovers Retreats was one of the things I’m most thankful for as it increased the size of my tribe (and heart) more than I could’ve imagined. The women I’ve met through the retreats and conference in New York have blown me away. I named my practice “Shining Bright” as a tribute to these women who touch me to the core with how brightly they are shining their inner lights.
What are you most proud of now that you are living a life without alcohol in it?
Pema has a book called, the Wisdom of No Escape. I think of that title often and feel proud to be greeting each day, whatever it may bring, fully present. Along with a lot of joy, I’ve also experienced a lot of loss in these last three years. I’m proud that I’ve been able to stay present for both sides of the coin of life: the joy and the pain. With each experience, I feel like a tree who has earned another growth ring: stronger and stronger.
It’s like Ghandi said, Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
I am proud to be living in harmony.