Ray of Light No. 49 :: Sarah Andrews

Each 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.

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Sarah Andrews
Marketer + Writer + Philanthropic Advisor + Yoga Teacher
Instagram: @atxsarah
Website: www.sapanastudios.com

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another? 
Yes! I first met you at the Gratitude Workshop you co-hosted in Austin back in February with our mutual friend Sondra Primeaux. I remember it so clearly. I had been following you on Instagram and receiving the Hip Sobriety Mantra Project emails, and I just loved your art and your message. You were a source of inspiration for me on this path, and I was excited to meet you. 

What is your sobriety date? November 28, 2016

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety? I typically notice months. 

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting? If so, please share.
No – I either remember when it’s the 28th of a month or check in periodically.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
Yoga, meditation, education, faith, and connection with others on this path have been my biggest forms of support.  

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic? No, I don’t.

If you do not identify with the word alcoholic, what do you identify with?
I identify with being a woman who grew to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and who one day, by grace, could just see and accept that it was blocking me from fully living my life. It wasn’t an easy process by any means, but eventually I made a decision to stop drinking it in an effort to grow beyond the limitations that I was experiencing. 

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  1. Yoga: I started practicing yoga over a decade ago as a way to quiet my mind, but in sobriety my practice has taken on a new dimension. It helps me to move stuck energy and feelings of anxiousness through my body, so I don’t feel the need for anything else to take the edge off. It helps me have more discernment about what is really important in life and be more curious about my feelings and where I feel reactive. I’d always thought about becoming a teacher someday, ever since I started practicing, and this year I was fortunate to be able to complete a teacher training here in Austin. Now, I’m teaching at a local studio a couple of times a week. I absolutely love it, and I hope to expand on my teaching to help more women in the future.
  2. Meditation: Unlike yoga, which I have pretty much always been able to incorporate into my life over the years, the me of a few years ago would have sooner run barefoot across Antarctica than sit on a pillow and breathe for 5 minutes. I was just too caught up in all of the busyness to “get it.” Now, it’s like cell phones - I don’t know how I got through life without one. Taking that time to meditate, when I can, allows me to set the tone for my day instead of allowing the day to set the tone for me.
  3. Connection with Other Women: I’ve met many women in real life and through social media who have become friends and sources of inspiration for me and who remind me of all the gifts there are on this path.

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
When I decided to stop drinking, I was in a period of my life where I had been largely sober for a year prior due to pregnancy and having a baby. I had experienced issues with anxiety over the years that improved during my second pregnancy. After my second was born, I started re-introducing a glass or two of wine in the evenings, and my anxiety returned. There were other factors influencing this, too, of course, but I knew alcohol wasn’t helping. I really started to reflect on my relationship with it more.

During this time, I also discovered Holly Whitaker’s and Laura McKowen’s HOME Podcast (via Glennon Doyle’s IG). I felt an instant connection to them and what they were saying. I realized how I knew deep down that I wasn’t someone who should be messing with alcohol anymore, but I had always rationalized those instincts away. The more I sat with it, the more I knew I needed a different approach, but had been holding myself back from facing it over fear of judgment and fear of navigating anxiety and social situations. Things began to congeal for me in a way they hadn’t before. I think the exhaustion of early motherhood also helped wake me up to the change I wanted in my life. For myself and my daughters, I wanted to be someone who approached life with energy, clarity, and who faced the things that were limiting me.

Every year, I pick a word for the year (which I know you do, too), and I typically do this in November, after my birthday and before Thanksgiving, so I don’t forget during the craziness of the holidays. Last November, my word was “commitment”. I decided to start by committing to a 30 day period of no drinking through the end of the year. That was a challenging month, but at the end of the 30 days, I felt better, and I felt stronger. I committed to keep going for the year, and I haven’t looked back. 

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking? If yes, please expound on this and cite examples for my readers.
I do feel more creative! I’m more receptive to and generative of new ideas, I’m able to think more creatively about my life in general, and I’m better at articulating my ideas. The past year has been a new kind of juggle for me with work, two kids, and everything, so I haven’t been as engaged in creative side projects as I have been in past times in my life. But I do feel genuinely inspired every day in some way or another. I’m making my way back to artistic pursuits, particularly with writing, photography, and teaching yoga. 

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking? If yes, how so?
I had to think about this one for a bit, but, yes, I do feel like I’m more productive now. That said, I also enforce more boundaries and respect my energy in a way I didn’t before. You will no longer find me burning the candle at both ends. When I did do that, I would feel like I was accomplishing a lot, but would end up also becoming burnt out. Today, I rest when I need to, and I make more space for doing the things that matter to me. When I can do that, I am motivated to do more in general. 

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Life is more spacious now. I feel healthier, I feel more comfortable in my own skin, and I notice and appreciate more. I’ve learned to stop looking outside of myself for validation or happiness. Taking ownership of my life – the good, the bad, accepting it all, and making changes where I can. I feel hopeful for the future and the life I’m creating. I really do believe that things work out for the greater good now, and I’m grateful for that shift in perception because it allows for acceptance in places where there used to be resistance. And that has made a huge difference. 

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
If drinking is creating a problem in your life - whether big or small – know that it really is so much better on this side of things. That’s hard to accept when you’re in it, so it requires a leap of faith. You may have to take 5, 10, 100 leaps of faith, but keep taking them. If you have a gut feeling that life might be better without it, follow it. Test it out. Get support. Take very good care of yourself. And remember that everything will pass. A quote I go to often, which I found through Laura McKowen, is from Ranier Maria Rilke, “Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No Feeling is final.

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

  1. Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety. She was a voice I needed to hear, and she helped me see this path as, in her words, “an empowering choice, not a sad consequence.” Her work in this space has helped me tremendously, and I am so grateful to her for it.
  2. This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. Total game-changer for rewiring thought patterns around alcohol. The whole thing was like one giant “a-ha” moment.
  3. There are so many others. Brene Brown, Pema Chodron, Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, the Stoics, Rob Bell. I first read Pema Chodron’s book, “When Things Fall Apart” years ago, and it was the first thing I reached for when I started on this path. Her work was also a big part of my yoga training, so she has really been a consistent influence for me this year.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I love my life today, and I see clearly that it’s all an inside job. Having that awareness now is what I am most proud of, because it gives me focus, purpose, and a path forward, no matter what I am going through.