Ray of Light Interview No. 13 :: Natalie Correa

Last October, I left a comment on Natalie Correa's Instagram feed commenting on her new haircut. I had been following along on her IG feed that day and read that she had fallen off her bike and hurt her wrist just prior to getting her haircut. Something about that made me want to reach out and tell her that I hoped she was okay and I left a comment to that effect. Her Instagram feed was giving me a very small window into her world. 

Something about her made me want to know more about her. She seemed mysterious and I couldn't remember how we had come to follow each other on social media. Through her postings on Instagram, I came to learn she was about to attend yoga teacher training in Costa Rica. Upon seeing her posts from there, I found myself reminiscing about my own family vacation spent there in 2014, the year before I quit drinking. Natalie is also of Cuban descent and I just so happened to have gotten engaged in Havana, Cuba on New Year's Day 2001. Natalie's sobriety date is January 1, 2016.

Yes, I definitely needed to interview her for this series so that I could learn more about the beautiful woman behind the intriguing Instagram feed! I'm so happy she said yes and now you get to learn more about her, too.

Natalie Correa, but my friends call me Nat
Truth Teller + Conscious Recovery Warrior + Yoga Teacher and Breathwork Healer
IG handle: @sixteenmagichealing
Facebook:  Natalie Correa
Blog address: http://soberbrickroad.tumblr.com/

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?  
In the few couple months of my sobriety, I began scouring the web for all the resources I could possibly find on a non-traditional recovery path. That’s when I came upon Hip Sobriety! Then, HOME podcast! I quickly began following Holly and Laura on Instagram, then anyone who commented or followed them – something inside knew I’d found my people. That’s when I came across your profile filled with beautiful offerings of recovery, art, and gratitude. It was such a breath of fresh air, when I needed it most. Since then, we have begun exchange with one another more through comments, but I look forward to meeting/hugging IRL at the SheRecovers conference in May!

What date do you identify with as your sobriety date? January 1, 2016

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?  Why or why not?
I counted days in the beginning; the first eight months or so. If I counted days now, I would feel like my sobriety was more fragile than it is. Now, it’s phased into month milestones which I still do acknowledge and honor on the first of every month.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol? (this can be one thing or many, traditional or non-traditional)
My father was self identified alcoholic and AA devotee. The Serenity Prayer was the first prayer I learned by heart as a child. As I recall, AA worked for my dad for awhile, until it didn’t. There’s a ton of messiness surrounding this that I won’t dig into here, but when I got older up and realized the unfortunate tragedy that I was also an alcoholic and addict, AA just wasn’t an option for me.

I consciously decided to take a non-traditional recovery path. While I use many modalities today, big and small I have picked up along the way, I would consider Yoga + Meditation, Psychotherapy, and Community the most effective for me, especially in the beginning. A solid combination of talking it out and sitting with myself in still or active meditation, keeps me grounded and present. I believe that healing and recovery requires a combination of mind, body, and spirit connection.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic? If so, please expound on why you do so + how it works for you. This question is to help start a conversation about stigma associated with the A-word. Only answer if you feel comfortable to do so.
Like I mentioned earlier, I grew up around a self-identified alcoholic who wielded the word “alcoholic” around like a sword of inherent flaw. So, when I discovered, I too, was an alcoholic and addict, I immediately lived in the mentality that I was born broken. Since I never witnessed a full recovery in my father, I didn’t believe it was possible. For a long time, I truly believed it was my cross to bear for the rest of my life.

Since evolving on my journey, my perspective has completely shifted. While, I constantly acknowledge and, even honor having addictive nature, I don’t identify as an alcoholic or addict anymore. My identification has evolved into a higher octave that resonates more clearly with where I live now in my recovery. I no longer regard this supposed “disease” as a flaw, but a gift. I don’t think I could have ever known this kind of beauty, joy, or peace if I hadn’t been through hell, first. So for that, I actually thank my version of God for believing I could handle being an alcoholic and addict for as long as I was.

If you do not identify yourself as an alcoholic, do you use any other word to identify yourself as a person who no longer drinks?  Please share your word and why it works for you.
To be honest, the first year, I haven’t put myself into many situations where there was drinking. I totally skipped New Year’s Eve this year. The few times I have, I just said “I don’t drink.” I haven’t been furthered questioned by anyone, but I imagine this answer will evolve over time and with more experience. Plus, I love to talk about sobriety and my reasons for choosing to live the way I do. So, I hope I start getting asked!

What are the top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  • Daily morning practice for getting grounded. Mine looks like: prayer, morning pages, set of Kundalini meditations, a Yogi Bhajan lecture, a cold shower, and a good breakfast.
  • Community: keeping in touch with my #sobersisters via social media, email, text.
  • Education: I’m always reading a new book, listening to a podcast, going to a workshop or class that enriches my understanding of myself, my recovery, and my healing journey.

Through my own recovery, I know how important an early morning routine can be. Through Instagram, I learned that your morning routine is really important to you, as well. Can you let my readers know how you navigate your mornings and why this ritual and routine is important to your recovery?
I'm a proof in the pudding kind of lady, and when I began trying the early mornings on for size, it became very clear that it just worked for me and my particular circadian rhythm. In the first couple of weeks when my alarm went off at 4:30am, I sprang out of bed, mission-driven. I thought I had figured it out; I had my routine and I stuck to it, almost militantly. As the weeks wore on, it started to become more and more difficult to muster the will to get out of bed, though, having done some of the best creative work of my life. I needed to figure out how to make this routine sustainable for the the long haul.

The way I've come to navigate this routine is by giving myself just one task each morning: get out of bed. I allow space for everything else to fall as it may. I don't put so much pressure on myself to write something “blog-worthy” or complete every single Kundalini meditation. I give myself permission to follow the way I am feeling that particular morning and keep tasks fresh by switching up and trying new things. The necessary structure and discipline lies in just getting the hell out of bed, the rest should feel spiritually grounding and creatively wild.

Back when I was in active addiction, the morning was synonymous with misery. My natural rhythm was still very similar and no matter how late I went to bed, I would still wake up relatively early, hungover and full of whatever flavor of dangerous emotion I was brewing the night before. Since getting sober, nothing has delighted me more than waking up hangover-free and hopeful. I've taken that natural inclination of waking up early, that I had long before I ever got sober, repackaged it and began using it to my advantage. The morning has now become synonymous with my recovery, and is a reminder of how far I've come.

You recently stopped wearing make-up and you have this beautiful sober glow about you. Can you share more about your skin care routine?
When I was drinking I would get these awful stress-induced hives all over my face whenever I was faced with any kind of cortisol (the "stress hormone) spike, which was very often.  My skin was splotchy and uneven, I hid under layers of foundation and blush. Since I quit drinking, I no longer have the skin reactions and slowly my tone has evened out. I realized that I didn't really enjoy the ritual of makeup application or the time that it took, so I stopped and devoted that time to other rituals. I began to like the way my wild eyebrows and naturally beautiful skin looked bare and untamed. Yogi Bhajan, the late master of Kundalini Yoga, brought some amazing tools and tips to keeping the skin young and radiant, that I follow everyday. Probably the most easily accessible is taking cold showers. There's a plethora of benefits for women and you can read about those here. Along with cold showers, I dry brush body daily to further promote healthy circulation and drainage of lymph. I use African black soap on my face and body and have come to adore coconut oil and unrefined shea butter as moisturizers. Though, I'm lucky that my skin isn't excessively oily so it leaves my face perfectly aglow. Most importantly, though, is I drink close to gallon of water per day, eat a mostly plant based diet, and try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. My skin care routine is fairly simple, and I find that the glow really does develop first, from within.  

How did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
I feel like I knew long before I ever decided or could commit to it. I made many a New Year’s resolutions to quit, finally. The phrase that kept flashing across my inner landscape was “Sober Woman.” I didn’t necessarily like the way the words felt swishing around in my mouth, but I knew it felt like home. When I turned 29, the desire became undeniably strong. By this point, my drinking had slowed down considerably. And I had begun to implement some crucial healing practices into my life, and the idea began to crystallize itself by the ending of 2016.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking? Please expound on this answer, if appropriate.
Oh my goodness, so much more creative! Being an addict takes up so much real estate in your mind; every single facet of it. At least for me, it felt as though there was absolutely no space for creativity. I spent so much time drowning myself in childhood patterns of shame, doubt, and self-pity. Though, I had always felt like I might be a deeply artistic person, even at times, justifying that alcohol or drugs enhanced it. Since discovering this clear and authentic new side of myself, I have so much more space for fresh new ideas to flow and the impulse to actually follow through with some!

Since getting sober I completed a 200hr yoga teacher training in Costa Rica (and traveled there twice more!). And this year I’ve decided to go back to college to complete my undergrad degree, I’m visiting New Mexico to complete a week-long Breathwork Healer Training, I’m starting my Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Level 1 , and I’m traveling to Europe for the first time!  I used to think I was a lazy and unmotivated person by nature, but, it turns out, I’m actually a bit Type A, super driven, resourceful, and focused. This was the best news ever!

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
One breath at a time. Seriously, take it one deep, long breath at a time. And ask for help when you need it.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
I think what has delighted me most in my sobriety is the average frequency my brain runs on these days. My nervous system was completely fried from all of the unprocessed childhood trauma, alcohol and drug use. I was constantly anxious, stressed and became overwhelmed very easily. Through this process, I have learned how to strengthen and replenish my system and have become a lot more relaxed and mentally agile. I’ve reclaimed my body and ability to respond to challenge in a neutral and objective way. Everything used to freak me out, and now, I basically feel like superwoman with how easily I can identify and smooth out my emotions.

Bonus! Things can still be so much fun without alcohol! Maybe even, more fun :)

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

There are so many! If I had to choose three to begin with I’d say:

  • Tara Brach: dharma talks on her podcast are next level and her book “Radical Acceptance” is the gospel of self acceptance.

  • Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love”: If it’s hard to stomach upon first few pages (at least it was for me), leave it on the bookshelf, she will call to you when it’s time.  

  • HOME podcast with recovery angels/warriors Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen: They talk about the dark messy parts of this path in a no-nonsense and modern kind of way, and I would never have made it this far without them.

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?
I’d say that through the HOME podcast, I have found my tribe. Through Instagram mainly, the women I’ve met, including you, have made a priceless impact in my recovery. I am constantly reminded, that I am not alone, in fact, I am surrounded and held by intelligent and strong intelligent warriors. I knew that my time as an addict was extremely isolating, so, in recovery, I knew I had to counter that by surrounding myself with other people who’ve been through similar struggles. Since, I wasn’t going the AA route, there wasn’t too much out there, actually. Luckily, I found a few integral resources that me in the right direction, and the rest is history.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I’m most proud of living a life where every word that rolls from my mouth is my truth. I’ve freed all of the demons from the closet and have faced them with valiant tenderness. With this kind of transparency, has come total and utter freedom. I’ve finally re-inhabited my body and made it into a beautiful place I call home. I’ve never tasted anything sweeter than this. We really are the luckiest.

Artwork + Thanks

You guys! How awesome is this series? I mean, I love, love, love learning how all of these different women are personalizing their own recovery and thriving. It is not a one-size fits all answer when it comes to recovering your life. These women are proof of that.

My process is evolving when it comes to making these little mixed media pieces for this series. I stopped putting a matte medium over the top of the images because they were bubbling up the artwork and making me curse (a lot). After all the time and energy I spend on the artwork to only have it bubble up and look wonky was kind of driving me nutty. So, I haven't added a glossy top coat to the last few pieces. I need to find another medium that will work. Liquitex's acrylic matte medium is out. Modge Podge and me broke up a few months back. Any and all suggestions welcome.

And a big thank you to Natalie. You are quite the vision of health, vitality, beauty and an inspiration to those of us trying to find our higher selves. I've enjoyed getting to know you through the little screen on my phone, but look forward to meeting you in the flesh next month in New York at She Recovers NYC. 

Until then, keep doing what you're doing because It's totally working for you, lady. You've piqued my interest in the 4:30 a.m. wake up call, but I've got to be honest, you lost me at the cold shower ritual! But...never say never, right? I'll let you know if I ever cross over to the cold shower routine.

Keep shining bright in your recovery Natalie and radiating that beautiful light through your body, your spiritual practices and the work you do in this world. And, yes, I agree, we are the luckiest.