Ray of Light Interview No. 11 :: Olivia 'Liv' Pennelle

In my own recovery from alcohol, I've amassed dozens of friends that I've never met in real life. This is one of the beautiful byproducts of sobriety for me. Liv Pinnelle is one of these friends from the internet! I connected with Liv last year when she found some of my artwork through Laura McKowen's social media feed (a mutual friend to both of us). She asked permission to use one of my drawings to visually accompany her Kitchen Table Conversations' interview with Laura and then later asked me to take part in the interview series, as well. You can read both of those interviews here and here, as well as dozens of other interviews with talented men and women in recovery. The drawing she used (below) is a page from the daily sketchbook I kept the year before I quit drinking for good. That sketchbook reads like a sad story to me now. I was trying so hard to moderate and figure out my drinking. And, yes, process IS messy but I've found it so very necessary and valuable.

Liv recently relocated from the UK to Portland, Oregon and it's probably safe to say that the similar weather patterns are helping to ease her into her new life so far away from home. I just finished listening to her interview with the guys over on the Since Right Now podcast and decided I could listen to her read the phone book. Her accent, coupled with her confidence and badass-ness, are the perfect combination. She is a fearless force to be reckoned with and so honest and forthcoming about her approach to living life without booze or drugs. She discovered so much about herself once she got sober and created a business and a life that aligns and supports her recovery. She is a true inspiration.

I had hoped to rendezvous with Liv in person when her plane touched down in San Francisco last December, but the stars were not in alignment. Her honesty, integrity and grit are undeniable and her website is a treasure trove of interviews, recipes and expertise (please check it out!). I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.

Mixed media :: Original image courtesy of  Stephan Small , acrylic paint on a 4" x 4" hardwood panel

Mixed media :: Original image courtesy of Stephan Small, acrylic paint on a 4" x 4" hardwood panel

Name: Olivia (Liv) Pennelle
Founder and Editor of Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, Freelance Writer, Health Coach.
Blog address: http://www.livsrecoverykitchen.com
FB: www.facebook.com/livsrecoverykitchen
Twitter: www.twitter.com/livsrecoverykitchen
IG: www.instagram.com/livsrecoverykitchen
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/LivsRecoveryKit/livs-recipes/YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWj2IzH000UTaqpI7SFQbQA
email: liv@livsrecoverykitchen.com

What is your sobriety date? 26 March 2012

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?  Why or why not?
Yes. I’m conscious of two dates. The one above is the date I entered recovery, and I haven’t had a drink since then. However, I did still take codeine when I didn’t need to, so stopped that on 5 August 2012. I’ve always struggled with which date to use, especially given my leanings toward NA, but the March date feels right—that is the day I stopped hurting myself, and loved myself enough to change.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol? (this can be one thing or many, traditional or non-traditional)
Initially I attended AA, then NA. I still attend meetings today, but my recovery is more holistic. It first and foremost involves mindfulness. Next, it’s fundamental components are exercise, meditation, connection, collective empathy, expression and meaningful interaction. The means to achieve meeting these needs include: yoga, meetings, coffee/tea with others in recovery, running, spinning, cycling, lifting weights, nature, the great outdoors.

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.
I identify as a person in recovery with people who are not in recovery, if they ask why I don’t drink. I no longer use it as an extension of my name, in introductions.  I identify as an addict or alcoholic in meetings (depending upon which type of meeting I attend). My view is that my addiction and recovery does not define me, but it is part of me. I am open to discussing it. But I am so much more than it. I am Liv. I am whole and I am formed of my experiences, good and bad. Aren’t we all? Do you hear people with mental illness (me included) say Hi, I’m Liv—a person with depression? So why put ourselves on the back foot by defining ourselves in that way?

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.
I say I’m in recovery, if prompted. If I am asked for a more definitive answer, I’ll say from addiction and eating disorder.

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  • Writing
  • Creative expression
  • Meaningful interactions

How did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
Friends and family had told me for years. Consequences were mounting higher and higher. Yet, until I reached a place where my awareness came into focus, I wasn’t ready. After a monumental binge, I had reached a place of utter desperation and was faced with two choices: kill myself or get help.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking? 
I’m exponentially more creative. I began with journaling, then jewelry making, then creating art. I even began coloring in--which I love. I then I created a blog a where I can express myself freely and provide a platform to share others journey and creativity. Another big creative outlet for me is with the creation of colorful, healthy, inspiring food. I love experimenting with new flavors, colors and textures. Buying and reading a cookbook is like gold to me.

Do you feel you are more or less productive since you have stopped drinking?  Please expound on this answer, if appropriate.
I am both creative and more productive. In fact, I am more conscious of my time and using it in alignment with my desires and values. For example, I worked my ass off to create a career that I want, so I could leave the one I didn’t like—which was draining my energy.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Finding myself, and celebrating that.

Can you recommend three books, bloggers or teachers that have helped you on this path to sobriety?
Three? Oh Tammi! That is too hard. OK, I recommend a series by Hazelden on your first three years. Second, Brené Brown's  Rising Strong and Daring Greatly (I know that’s two, but technically it’s the same author, so can I have a free one?!). Then, Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic; this was the most profound book that I read—it gave me the courage to pursue my creative dreams, and lit a fire under my ass to give me a little momentum to get going.

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 guess word of mouth and then the more I read, the more I came across the huge online recovery community.  I follow several other blogs, writers and recovery websites (not all recovery specific): Mark Goodson, Addiction Unscripted, Ekka, Laura McKowen, Transformation-is-real, Claire Rudy Foster, Two Bitches & Jules, The Recovery Revolution, The Sober Senorita, The Nourished Seedling, Holly Whitaker, The Sobriety Collective, I Love Recovery Café. I also follow those I find inspiring: Lou Lebentz, YOU, Carleen Mathews, Christmas Abbott, David Wiss, Scott Strode, Shane Watson, Aaron Perry to name but a few. I am a member of a few FB groups (although I limit them today), such as The SHAIR podcast--there are literally hundreds.

Now that you've removed alcohol from your life, what are you most proud of?
Having a voice and creative abilities. I have searched for meaning for all my life. It wasn’t until I experienced nearly killing myself, that I could harness my experience to not only influence others recovery, but find a voice and means of creative expression. I am eternally grateful for that. It is the fire in my belly that I longed for.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Making art for this year-long Ray of Light Series is forcing me to get into the studio. Last week, I purchased a tube of the most lovely, pigment-rich gold and I just had to use it on Liv's painting. It's hard to see, but I used two different variations of purple, as well as a cerulean blue and then, the dreamy gold number.

All paints used for this mixed media piece are Liquitex brand acrylics, with the exception of my new lover, Sunshine Gold by Lascaux, a Swedish Company. Click here if you want to fall in love with a tube, too. Those people in Sweden know how to make the best of everything, right?

Thanks to Liv for allowing me to share her story and thank you for reading this series. I'm 11 weeks into the year and have 41 more interviews to go! If you have any questions you want me to ask my future Ray of Light interviewees, please leave them for me in the comments below.