Ray of Light Interview No. 20 :: Sarah Doran

Tomorrow I have the good fortune of meeting today's Ray of Light, Sarah Doran, at a yoga workshop in San Francisco. The workshop will be hosted by none other than Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety (my Ray of Light No. 18) and Laura McKowen (writer, yoga teacher + the co-host of the HOME podcast with Holly). The workshop is called Never Not Broken and several of the bay area HOME podcast listeners will be gathering for three beautiful hours at Steph Snyder's Love Story Yoga studio. I mean, can my Saturday get any better? Actually it can, a friend is flying in from Portland for the workshop and spending a few days with me. But that's another story.

Sarah has a big anniversary coming up tomorrow and I wanted to share her Ray of Light interview today as a fierce message of experience, strength and hope and incredible proof of all that is possible when you remove alcohol from your life. 

Original photo credit: Olivia Moschetti

Original photo credit: Olivia Moschetti

Sarah Doran
Day Job: Online Marketing and Video Production Manager
(or what my parents and friends call, “something with computers.”)
Instagram handle: @sarahdoran and @begratefulplease
Blog address:

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
I remember seeing your name on a picture Holly posted when I was maybe around a year sober.  It stuck out to me because it captured exactly how I felt about sobriety. It was your illustration of her words and I started following you as soon as I saw it.

The goal - Holly.jpg

What is your sobriety date? June 3, 2014

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
At this point I count years. If I check my counter and it’s at a “cool” number, like 1,000, I’ll make note of that, too.  

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting?
I use the nomo app.

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I don’t know if these are technically recovery modalities but to get and stay sober I’ve used psychodynamic/psychoanalytic psychotherapy, connecting with other sober people, and meditation.  I’ve been to a few SMART and Refuge Recovery meetings and really enjoyed them.  

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
No. I once had a problem that I tried for 18-years to solve with alcohol and I’m not doing that anymore.

If you do not identify with the word alcoholic, what do you identify with?
I am proud to be sober!  

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  1. Art
  2. Self-care (therapy and meditation)
  3. And, connections with other sober women (and some non-sober friends who understand the struggles of addiction)

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
I had always been able to convince myself that I drank because it was fun, and that I drank too much because I have addiction in my family. Then between March and June of 2014, through a series of incidents and realizations, I could no longer deny that drinking was more than that for me. I realized that alcohol was also functioning as a crutch for a component of life that I’d been avoiding. Yes, drinking had fun aspects to it, and yes addiction is in my family, but being drunk was also a way for me feel okay in my skin, to avoid coming into contact with who I was at the core.

I realized that at age 14 I developed a drinking problem in the place where a sense-of-self could have grown. I didn’t want to feel how it felt to be me so I escaped it as often as I could, the only way I knew how.

By this point in 2014 I had been in therapy for three years, spending a lot of money and time trying to discover who I was. When I was able to see that alcohol had been strategically placed to prevent that exact thing from happening, the decision to remove it from my life was relatively easy.  Of course being sober hasn’t always been easy but I have never wanted a drink since.

Also one night in the midst of deciding which way to go with “the drinking thing” I remember being at a concert (sober) and seeing two versions of my future laid out before me.  The version without alcohol was lit up by a flashlight that I was holding and went on into the distance forever, wherever I wanted it to go in any direction. I was in control at all times and could do whatever I wanted. The version with alcohol was dark. I had no flashlight, no control over anything. Alcohol had all the control in that version and only it knew where the potholes and brick walls were. I wanted that flashlight, that control.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
In early sobriety I stayed home a lot by myself. Creativity started out as a productive way to stay locked safely inside my newly sober comfort zone, to be doing something while I wasn’t really doing anything. From that it grew into a rewarding and joyful outlet that I prioritize to this day.

If I never got sober and had so much downtime truly being with myself, I don’t think I would have even known that I liked to paint.  If I never slowed down and paid this much attention to my experience, my creativity would have stayed stifled and buried just like my true self had always been. (For more of Sarah's creative work, please click on her blog Be Grateful Please and her  @begratefulplease instagram feed)

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking?
So much more productive – and the best part is I get a high from that now.  I was in the grocery store last Sunday morning and actually felt elated and giddy.  That was a first. So now maybe I’m addicted to crossing everything off my to-do list and getting. shit. done.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
The true and deep love I have found for myself is my most favorite thing about sobriety. When I finally stopped drowning my inner self with alcohol, I developed this strong and clear connection with who I am at the core and I now know self-love in a way that I never thought possible before I stopped drinking.

Do you have any advice for those still suffering or those in early recovery?

“Today is a good day to stay inside your comfort zone”

Do whatever you need to do to stay sober and feel safe.  If that means staying in your pajamas and Netflix-ing for 6 months, do that and don’t feel bad about it.  

“Sobriety delivers what alcohol promised”

Get curious about why you drank like you did. Investigate the reasons you developed a habit for wanting to escape. Trust that once you go through a few life experiences sober (big and small), you’ll know in your bones that you can accomplish any and everything you want to.

I don’t have a quote for this one but the world of social media is an amazing place to find folks going through similar things.  Look up communities on FB and join them. Share your story with the people there. Realizing you’re not alone is huge and the online support group world is great for those of us who don’t vibe with AA, or simply aren’t ready to show up to something in real life yet.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
That I can stand still through the chaos of life and walk out of a storm as calm and assured of myself as I was before it.  And that I never feel so overwhelmed with life that I want to escape anymore.

I also wanted to add that on May 20, 2017 it will be 10-years since I got so drunk that I decided to jump off a 3rd story balcony to try and land on my balcony directly below it. It will be 10-years since I landed on my feet on the ground and shattered both ankles and broke my back.  10-years since I very nearly killed myself because I was drunk and made a drunk decision.

On the 10-year anniversary of that injury, I’ll be attending Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen’s Never Not Broken workshop in San Francisco with some of the most strong and brave sober sisters I’ve met on this journey.  

I’m beyond grateful.

Sarah, I'm beyond grateful, too, that you chose to use this forum to share part of your story and honor the path you've traveled, as well as all of the hard work you've done to become who you are today. I'm so glad you reached out and trusted me with your words and images. I love how all of us who choose a life without alcohol slowly,  over time, start to have this glow about us. We are radiating all of the things that bring us joy and showing the world who we finally are. You exemplify this, my dear, and It is a privilege and an honor to recover out loud with you and be part of your sober tribe. 

And, I can't wait to meet you tomorrow.