Ray of Light Interview No. 12 :: Kelly Fitzgerald

Last year, after listening to Kelly Fitzgerald's interview on the Since Right Now podcast (click here to listen), I popped on over to her blog, The Sober Señorita, and got lost in her writing and inspired by her story. 

Flash forward a little bit and we found ourselves in a couple of digital recovery Facebook groups together. Kelly emanates such a positive vibe and is the epitome of health and wellness. Her before and after pictures on her blog tell the tale of why removing alcohol from her life was one of the best decisions she ever made. Her whole body radiates and shines now. She is a newlywed. She is alive and present and living her best life.

I'm so pleased Kelly agreed to share a little bit of her story with all of you. Grab a glass of sparkling water, sit back and enjoy reading about how she navigated her recent wedding when it came to alcohol, how CrossFit is part of her recovery and the recently released new (free) eBook she and Carly Benson co-authored.

Original image courtesy of Kelly's wedding photographers  Photopro   Mixed media with b/w photo + acrylic paints on 4" x 4" wood panel

Original image courtesy of Kelly's wedding photographers Photopro 
Mixed media with b/w photo + acrylic paints on 4" x 4" wood panel

Kelly Fitzgerald
Writer + Founder of The Sober Señorita
Instagram handle: @kelfitz11

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesobersenorita/
Blog address: www.sobersenorita.com
Twitter handle: @kellyfitz11

How long have you been sober? Since May 7, 2013

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
I started out with days, then months and now years, but I still celebrate half years, too.

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting?  
Yes, I use the 12 Steps AA Companion app.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
Initially, I got sober on my own, reading blogs and websites and books about recovery and addiction. Then I started attending 12 step meetings, and now I do a little bit of both. Writing plays a big part in my recovery. Yoga and meditation have become really important to me, as well.

Do you identify yourself as an Alcoholic?
I think I am one, yes. I say it inside the rooms of AA, but I feel like there are better terms to identify with.

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
I knew deep down in my soul of souls that something was wrong. I finally realized it was linked to my alcohol and drug use. I realized this after a long weekend on a bachelorette party trip with my high school friends. After excessively drinking all weekend, embarrassing myself, and creating drama in another relationship, I had a revelation in the airport on the way home. I had to stop drinking.

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  • Meditation
  • Writing
  • Exercise

You mention exercise as one of your tools above and I've seen your Instagram posts from the gym. I'm curious about your CrossFit training and wonder, has played a role in your recovery?
Oh man, I feel so so grateful and lucky to have found CrossFit in sobriety. It’s something I started briefly in Cancun before we moved to the U.S. and then continued here in Florida when we relocated. In 2015 I re-injured my left knee and I had to stop playing soccer and doing CrossFit. At that time I felt kind of defeated and I wasn’t sure I would return to CrossFit, I didn’t think I could continue to do it with my history of injuries (6 knee surgeries in total). Fortunately, a girl I play soccer with here locally convinced me to come to her CrossFit gym and told me I could scale everything to my ability and I would be fine. I’m glad I did because I got back into it and loved it even more than the first time around.

Since then, I have lost 10 pounds, become stronger and more fit than I have been since college and I have a supportive CrossFit community. My knees are experiencing less amounts of pain than they have in years. I even wrote a post about how CrossFit and Recovery are basically the same thing (click here to read that post), because the energy and the goals are so similar in both communities. CrossFit plays an integral role to my recovery, it keeps the ‘body' aspect of my mind-body-spiritual condition sound. It’s an emotional outlet where I can release emotions in a healthy way, as well as challenge myself to hit new goals every day. CrossFit makes me feel strong and it keeps my fitness routine constantly changing with all the different combinations of workouts. I know I could not do any of it if I wasn’t sober.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking? 
MORE. Definitely. I think my creativity was nonexistent during my drinking years. I started my blog in sobriety, I began writing, writing became my job, and the progress continues.

You recently launched an e-book How to Quit Drinking with Carly Benson that you are offering for free to your readers. How did you two meet? And, where did the idea for the eBook begin? 
We met through our work online! She messaged me on my sober señorita Facebook page and said she enjoyed my blog and she had a sober blog, too, and lived in my area of Southwest Florida. She suggested we meet sometime for lunch and so we did! We hit it off right away. Our stories and pathways are similar and she has helped me immensely along the way. She’s a great friend and mentor. We knew we wanted to create something together and we started with this eBook. Since neither of us has put out any downloadable concrete content before for our own brands, we decided we would give this one away for free. We wanted people to be able to easily access the information, not have to spend any money on it, and become familiar with us and our stories. We hope our eBook helps people find hope, find their own unique pathway to sobriety, and encourages them to take steps towards change. This will be the first of many projects. We are planning a stop drinking challenge, a podcast, and more eBooks and workshops that eventually we will charge for. I’m happy we are finally taking the leap!

You married love of your life last month in Cancun, Mexico. Can you share a little bit about planning the wedding now that you no longer drink alcohol? How did you approach the celebration when it came to serving alcohol? Did it play a role at all in your decision making or planning process? Did you feel supported on your big day? 
Yes I did! I can’t believe it’s over already! Planning my wedding was wonderful, fun, and stressful all at the same time. I definitely considered the role alcohol would play on our wedding day as soon as I got engaged. For me, I knew I would definitely have alcohol at the wedding because my partner still drinks and many of my friends and family drink. Also, open bar was included in the package option for our (destination) wedding, although I hate referring to it as a destination wedding because it’s not really a destination when my husband grew up in that city and we lived there together for several years and half the guests are from there! But weddings at hotels in Cancun offer package deals that include open bar which made the decision pretty simple. We didn’t get anything extra - no wine glasses on the table, no special tequila shot station (something I had envisioned at my wedding years back), and we made sure to have a lot of options for the sober people. For our signature cocktails Fer, the groom-to-be, chose his favorite which included beer and I chose one that did not have alcohol (a non-alcoholic passionfruit mojito!). We also had a flavored water bar at the reception with big glass containers of different kinds of Mexican waters, as well as non-alcoholic beer options at the bar. I definitely felt supported on my big day! My bridesmaids brought sparkling juice for us to drink while we got ready and got me coffee. My groom, guests, and family were also amazing. The waiters paid attention and did not give me alcohol and I made it known beforehand to all of my planners that I did not drink so everyone knew ahead of time.

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking?
Yes! I set goals, I achieve them, I WANT to work on myself and I do. These are things I never thought about when I drank.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Waking up every day with a clear mind, a full heart, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
Recovery is available for anyone who wants it. You just have to take the first step.

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

The home page on your blog succinctly says Sobriety is Self Love. Can you tell me what self love looks like for you at this stage of your recovery?
For me, sobriety is the ultimate form of self-love. My drinking and using was deeply embedded in the ideas I held about myself. I did not feel like I deserved love, a healthy relationship, a life free from drama, a high-paying job, etc. Before getting sober I thought I was a bad person. It took me a long time to change my beliefs about myself and heal from self-loathing to self-love. For me, self-love isn’t possible without sobriety. My self-love has evolved into daily self-care, saying no to things that no longer serve me, and creating a daily meditation practice.

Are you part of a tribe or a recovery community that supports your sobriety?  
Yes!! Well I feel like I kind of started one, without knowing I was doing so. When I started my blog I gained a lot of amazing followers and friends, as well as began to meet other sober bloggers on the same path as me. On top of that I’ve discovered other women through a podcast group who have added so much to my life.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I am proud that I get to be present and mindful of my actions every day. I am proud I get to pass on the message of sobriety to others and I am proud to walk this path with so many other wonderful recovery advocates.

Kelly's Ray of Light piece as a work in progress in my studio

Kelly's Ray of Light piece as a work in progress in my studio

Ever since my best friend passed away last month, I have been in an (understandable) funk. This week marked the one month anniversary of her death. It's been hard. Through my own recovery from alcohol that when I get to where I want to isolate or crawl back under the covers, I know I need to take action to help bring myself out of it. So, that's what I did.

I put out a bulk email this week to a few women in recovery to see if I could interview them. I've committed to posting a weekly interview and creating new artwork to accompany it every Friday for the entire 2017 calendar year. I'm one-fourth of the way in and really needed a reason to make something with my hands, so that I could get out of my head this week. Kelly was the first to respond and I was beyond grateful.

Creating for me has really been key to my recovery. Sitting in my studio, writing or making art helps me to get over myself and into the thing that I'm making. It's the quickest way I know how to fix was ails me.

I want to thank Kelly and all the women who have let me share their stories here and mark up their beautiful images with lines of color.

Since Kelly recently got married, I had fun with the rays of lights radiating from her engagement ring. The image featured is a mirrored reflection of Kelly, so it looks like the ring is on her right hand, but it's really her left. Isn't she just glowing in this photo? That's what sobriety can do for us, folks. Every single woman I've featured so far this year has this kind of glow, the sober glow, and it's kind of fantastic, right?

Do you have that sober glow? Do you have a good stretch of continuous sobriety that you want to tell us about? Do you recover out loud? Do you want to help me break the stigma around women, anonymity and alcoholism? Send me an email telling me a bit about your story, along with a few images you think would be a great fit for this series.

Send your inquiry and images to tammisalas@mac.com