Ray of Light Interview No. 16 :: Kenzie Knabe

Scrolling through Instagram recently, I happened upon this woman and she was sharing about her upcoming one year sobriety milestone. I connected the dots that she is also the gal that makes really beautiful handmade malas in bright and beautiful colors (hot pink!). We exchanged a few messages through Instagram and I ordered a mala and asked if she would be interested in being featured as one of my rays of light here on the blog. Her one year is coming up in a few days and I'm honored to help her celebrate with a fun piece of art to celebrate how radiant she is in her recovery.

All of the women featured in this series so far this year have been so brave and honest with their personal stories. I am humbled by their words and grateful that they trust me to help spread their messages of hope, strength and self-love. Recovering out loud helps show others how healthy and beautiful life can be once you remove alcohol and help change the conversation around addiction.

Kenzie Knabe
Surgical First Assistant-by-day
Maker of artsy things-by-night
Instagram handle: @mtknabe
Email for direct ordering of malas: 35noodles@gmail.com
www.riseshinebreathe.com - Coming soon! 

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
Oh, the wonders of Instagram. I have come across so many beautiful people there. You are one of them!

What is your sobriety date? April 25, 2016.

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
I'm at 361, but who's counting, right? I only know the day I'm at right now because it is so close to 365. Otherwise, there will be days that will go by that I don't check. Being sober is just a part of me now. There is no finish line.

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting? If so, please share. 
I use the the Twelve Step counter.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I use a patchwork of modalities. I attend AA meetings. These got me started. Then I found so much support online, between Facebook and Instagram. I have gained a priceless amount of strength by reading other people's stories. I've even started telling my own on Instagram. I figure if I can help even just one person feel like they are not alone, then it is all worth it. And being a person in the medical field, I have that dying need to know everything about Alcoholism. Understanding how and why it affects certain people has helped me gain a better understanding of myself. So I read, read and then read some more. And podcasts! For the sweet love of podcasts! I must have been living under of rock, drenched in booze, because I had never listened to a podcast before this year. I listen to at least one everyday. I listened to The Unruffled podcast hosted by you and Sondra Primeaux just yesterday, by the way. It was great.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
I do. It took me a long time, and a lot of harsh realities to even begin to acknowledge that there MIGHT be a problem, but I completely accept it as a part of me now. It does not, however, define me. Yes, I am an alcoholic, but I am so many other things too. Good things. It has taken accepting this fact to come to this conclusion. Therefore, I am okay with being an alcoholic. Make sense?

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  1. Being okay with putting myself and sobriety first. I used to find putting my needs first to be so selfish. But, as cliché as it sounds, if I don't do my part by staying sober, physically and mentally, the rest falls to shit. I'm ready for the good life.
  2. Being honest. Not just with the people around me, but with myself. I used to tell myself a lot of lies to justify my actions. That did nothing but make the holes I was digging even deeper.
  3. I work on what it takes for me to stay sober everyday. Whether it be going to a meeting, touching base with my sober tribe, reading, whatever. I work on it #everydamnday. It doesn't feel like work though. It just feels like I'm doing something right.

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
This is a BIG question. There were so many signs along the way. I was just too oblivious to see them. There are different types of alcoholics, right. I was a textbook binge drinker. I never drank during the week. I never drank at home, unless we had people over. I saved my binges for Friday nights. That was MY night. And when I do things, I go all out. In terms of drinking, this was nothing to brag about. The fact that I could outdrink most people in my social circle should have raised some red flags. Or, the fact that I enjoyed the burn of straight bourbon - red flag there. My first DUI. That definitely should have been enough to stop me. But, unfortunately no, that wasn't it. Being a professional Blackout Artist. Things were starting to come into a hazy focus here. Deathly hangovers. Yep, I was starting to get the picture. All of the shame and guilt I was living with was getting really heavy and I was getting really tired of it. But the FINAL nail in the coffin was a second DUI. It sealed the deal. I had a very serious problem and I knew it. Finally, I knew it. I had to stop. Right then and there. So I did. I had no other choice.

Do you feel you are more creative since you have stopped drinking?
Creativity has always been the one thing I've done and still do that makes me feel good. I get lost in it. It has always been a positive escape for me.

I started making mala necklaces shortly after I quit drinking. Making them is meditative for me. I use semi-precious stones and believe in the power of them. A sober friend of mine and I are starting a small little gig, called Rise.Shine.Breathe. We are making mala necklaces with lots of love, good intentions and gratitude. We also are working on subscription boxes filled with joy, happiness and inspiration...so stayed tuned.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Since becoming a ‘quitter’ I have lost some relationships. Some people are skeptical, sitting back waiting to see how this all pans out. Is she going to fail? Could she possibly be onto something good? But then there are relationships that have gotten so much better and stronger. It is quality, not quantity. I love this part.

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
We all had a Day One. We all began somewhere. Just start. Just keep going. Don't give up before things start to get good. And reach out to people. One of the biggest things I've learned is that you don't have to do everything on your own. There are so many people willing to help.

Can you recommend any books, bloggers or teachers that have helped you on this path to sobriety?
Like many of us, Laura McKowen and Holly Whitaker have been my sober heroes. In the beginning, I held onto every word they said like it was gospel. They are raw and honest, and they have paved the sober way for me, in my opinion. Can you tell I'm a fan? Anyway, they both have fantastic reading lists on their blogs (click here and here for those lists). I've read them all, and then have a few of my own to add. I've become a self-help junkie.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I am PRESENT!  Things in my life that had lost their spark are coming back to life again.

Kenzie was so kind to let me experiment with a new technique for her artwork. I'm trying my hand at collage and it is way harder than one would ever think. Adhesives and glues have been my nemesis on this project and I'm still trying to find the best glues or medium for adhering paper-to-paper and paper-to-wood. It's hard to try something new and then do it on someone's pretty picture of themselves. Kenzie's beauty and bright light still shines through, despite my introduction to paper-cutting skills demonstrated here. I'll keep trying until I land on a new style for this series that I can master. That's one of the reasons I started doing this in the first place - to stretch myself and get out of my comfort zone. Done and done.

This is the stunning mala necklace that arrived for me in the mail this week from Kenzie. She's starting a new venture and taking orders. For now, you can find her on Instagram (listed at the top of this post) and she has a website coming out in the near future. Or, you can email her directly at 35noodles@gmail.com.

Thank you, Kenzie. I'm so proud of your 361 days and look forward to watching you grow and flourish in sobriety through the little square on my phone that connects me to the coolest women in recovery.