Being of service and connecting with women in recovery has been one of the greatest byproducts of living a life without booze. Knowing that we share a common experience through our addiction creates an immediate bond and helps level the playing field and eliminates small talk. That's what I love about my recovery community the most - zero small talk.
Sarelle reached out to me last year and we have since become friends. She's part of the gratitude circle i started with a group of women (many who have already been featured here in this series) and she is part of another group I started with Sondra Primeaux wherein we use art to support and channel our recovery based on quarterly themes and exchange our projects/creations with the women in that group.
I hope you enjoy Sarelle's candor and honesty. She has a big heart and definitely is shining a bright light in her own life and recovery, as well as continuing to be a beautiful example to her daughter, husband and network of friends that she shares her life with.
Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
Somehow I learned about your blog, probably from a Facebook group. I read your blog, started following you on Instagram and kinda stalked you for a bit. It was a blog post about your gratitude list practice that really inspired me. I left a comment, you commented back and I was so excited. A few months later I had made another comment on a post and you encouraged me to email you. After I heard your interview on the Since Right Now podcast, I wrote a carefully worded email (I was so nervous) and we started communicating via email.
What is your sobriety date? June 22, 2015
Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
Yes. I have always counted months but lately I don’t always remember to (that is what my sponsor is for, right? Totally kidding.). I do acknowledge some significant days like 365 or 600.
Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting?
The 12 step companion app.
What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I’m an AA girl.
Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
When I am in meetings I say, “Sarelle, alcoholic” but outside the rooms of AA I talk about being a person committed to my long-term recovery.
What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?
Community (meetings, online groups and talking to sober women)
Education. Both formal education and reading or learning on my own.
Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?
I read Drinking a Love Story by Caroline Knapp in secret, years before I quit. I identified so much with her story and that freaked me out, but I wasn’t ready to stop drinking. For a long time, I would tell myself that pretty soon I need to cut back or stop drinking. Pretty soon. Not yet. But I didn’t. I didn’t even try to moderate or even stop for a period of time. I just kept drinking full-on. A bottle or two plus of wine every night. Then, more often than not, I was very hungover, puking my guts out, had a raging headache and horrible puffy bloodshot eyes. I hated what I had become. I was isolated, angry and lonely. I felt like I wasn’t active in my own life.
Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
Yes, Yes and Yes. I have always considered myself creative but a lot of it was in my mind and never in action. I had many partially finished projects and ideas that I never completed because I was too focused on drinking. At two months sober I made two small quilted wall hangings for two counselors at my treatment center. Those ladies helped me and set me on the road to recovery and I wanted to give them something in return. Then it was like I took off. I dusted off my sewing machine and started finishing all the half-done projects, as well as starting new ones. I organized all my supplies and found projects I had intended to do years and years ago.
Then you invited me to be part of the #recoverygalsartexchange (check out the hashtag on Instagram to see some of the exchanges) last summer and that was a huge gift to my creativity in sobriety. I have recently gotten brave enough to move beyond sewing and have started playing with pigment markers, paints and combining these with my daily gratitude lists. I have written gratitude lists since very early in my sobriety. I was inspired by your gratitude art on Instagram and while it’s a hard stretch for me, I am doing artistic gratitude lists as much as I can now.
Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking?
Definitely more productive. I can finish what I start, make plans and have goals. I write more, create more, learn more, love more. I am more present in my teenager daughter’s life and activities. My husband and I also started a business together after I got sober.
What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
Realizing I don’t have to have alcohol in my life. I used to think this was a requirement for happiness and a fulfilling adult life. I’m also delighted by my ability to laugh and joke and have fun again. I had become so serious and miserable that I found little joy in life except when I was drinking. Now I find it essential to laugh and have fun every day just through the little things life offers. Also, working through the 12 steps was an amazing experience where I felt the changes in perspective and action. I was delighted to finally have power and choice back in my life.
Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
- Don't give up before the miracles happens because miracles will happen.
- Keep going even when you don’t feel like it.
- It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and absolutely worth it.
Can you recommend a few books that have helped you on this path to sobriety?
- Drinking a Love Story by Caroline Knapp
- This is How and Dry both of which are by Augusten Burroughs
- Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston
- In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate
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?
After much “contempt prior to investigation” I found my way into the rooms of AA and while it isn’t perfect and I get frustrated with certain language and assumptions, so far it has worked for me and I have made many friends and connections there. This is the most important thing for me because I was so isolated at the end of my drinking that finding community and connection is always at the top of my gratitude lists.
I also consider the Recovery Gals Art Exchange a support to my sobriety because art is an important tool in my sobriety toolbox. Being part of a group keeps me focused and accountable once a quarter throughout the year.
I am also part of a gratitude circle and I consider these women part of my sober tribe.
What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I have completed a second master’s degree since becoming sober. I also made the decision to change my career trajectory, so I am in school once again to be an addiction counselor. I am so proud that I actually stopped drinking. I never imagined that was possible. I am proud that I am am woman of honesty and integrity that shows up for my life, my daughter and my husband. I get to wake up in the morning with a clear head and with goals and ideas. I can finish projects, follow through, be accountable to myself and others.