Ray of Light Interview No. 33 :: Carly Benson

Every Friday for the entire 2017 calendar year, I will release a new interview + a newly created mixed media piece of art as part of my weekly Ray of Light Interview Series: Women in Recovery. This series will feature brave, kickass, beautiful women who have chosen to embrace an alcohol-free lifestyle. The light was dimmed for these women when they were struggling with alcohol (either a little or a lot).  I wish to honor them for their brave choice to ditch alcohol, rediscover themselves through sobriety + shine bright in the process.  You can access links to the entire series by clicking here.

Mixed media w/ acrylic paint on b/w photo on 4" x 4" wood panel Original photo by  Amit Dadlaney Photography

Mixed media w/ acrylic paint on b/w photo on 4" x 4" wood panel
Original photo by Amit Dadlaney Photography

Carly Benson
Recovery Coach, Yoga Instructor & Writer.
I also geek out on all things Internet Marketing
with a background of over 10 years in the digital space. 
Instagram handle: @carlybbenson
Twitter: @carlybbenson
Catch me creating here: 

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another? Gosh I’m trying to remember how we first connected. I think it was most likely me admiring your art on IG. I do remember meeting you for the first time in New York at She Recovers this past May 2017. I remember you coming up to me at yoga with Taryn Strong and Elena Brower in the early morning hours, which I later came to find out how my yogi vibes were something you noticed from across the room. That made my heart melt. I wish we got to talk in person longer there, but was happy to have you in Vegas for a delightful afternoon of proper tea time together shortly thereafter. (Carly was also a guest on Episode 12 of The Unruffled Podcast, a show I co-host with Sondra Primeaux, and you can listen to it by clicking here.)

What is your sobriety date? August 17th, 2008 

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety? I mostly just count years at this point. Sometimes I’ll realize it’s my “day” as the months pass, but I typically celebrate years. Counting days seems too tedious for me and I have so much going on that it’s easier for me to just look at months and let those add up to years. 

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting? If so, please share. The only app I use is Kayak and that’s to book a trip each year on my sober date. ☺ That’s how I celebrate – with adventures. The epic kind. Next up for the 9 year is Kauai, Hawaii!

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol? I took more of a non-traditional route in my recovery. I didn’t go to AA or NA. Meetings, sponsors and step work just didn’t resonate for me. I didn’t want to trade one crutch for another in all honesty and felt that AA was very outdated and rigid. Not to knock it, as I think it is a successful avenue for many, it just wasn’t for me. Instead, I turned to church. I started going to service on Sundays and reading my Bible as I started a prayer practice. 

I also read a book at the beginning of my sobriety called Rational Recovery, and it helped me to recognize the “beast voice” in my head. The one that told me drink, that it was 5 o’clock somewhere, to blow off steam by partying and that a little cocaine wasn’t all that bad. The book teaches Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT), which helps us identify the voice in our head that gets us to drink or use drugs in the first place. I learned how to start having a conversation with myself and how to tell that voice “no.” Sometimes even out loud. It also helped me to get comfortable with the concept of total abstinence, which can seem heavy for some, but I was addicted to cocaine more than I was to alcohol and I knew this change had to be an all or nothing thing for me. 

Another modality I use in my recovery is personal development. I’m constantly working on myself with workshops, trainings, books and trying to grow as a person. This, in a sense, has been my version of “step work,” however it has gone quite a bit further beyond 12 categories. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, yoga, yoga, yoga.  There is just something about getting on my mat, where I’m able to leave everything there. I tune in and get fully present to my body, breath and soul. Things move through us in the poses and for me that is a way to process the obsessive nature of my mind. 

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic? Not at all. Never have and never will. 

If you do not identify with the word alcoholic, what do you identify with? I don’t really identify with any labels. I don’t feel they are truly necessary to find recovery. A lot of my coaching clients and people I speak to struggle with wearing a label and this sadly keeps people stuck as they would rather just keep drinking than call themselves or be known as an alcoholic.  Our society has created a horrible stigma around the labels alcoholic and addict that really rubs me the wrong way. I simply say, I Don’t Drink Because It Doesn’t Make Me Feel Good and go into detail about it in this article, which seemed to resonate for many. 

Ultimately, I identify as a person living an alcohol-free and drug-free lifestyle. I identify as a person who chooses clarity over substances. I identify as someone who is sober, has conquered her past addictions and is living an epic life of choice and true freedom. I also know that I’m Sober, Not Boring and have been working hard to show others that they can be too. 

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

Yoga. This is like my version of getting to a meeting. It just takes place on my mat. I empty myself during a power flow yoga class and then I fill back up in savasana at the end. To me, everyone could benefit from implementing yoga practices into their lives

Prayer. When I speak to God in this way, I come into an understanding that there are no boundaries. I ask for help. I surrender. I ask to be guided and nourished. This relationship has been the catalyst for my sobriety, my growth as a person and my connection to peace, nature and myself. 

Essential Oils. This has been a newer addition to the tool box. Over the last year or so I’ve completely fallen in love with essential oils, doTerra in particular. I was skeptical at first because of the sales model behind it, however these oils are powerful and I have been completely captivated by how transformative they can be for mood as well as how many practical uses there are. This has sent me on a trajectory of learning more about holistic healing and health, in general. (Interested in essential oils - click here to order doTerra directly from Carly)

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
I knew when I couldn’t quit that a problem was there. It was like no matter how hard I tried not to do cocaine or “only go to happy hour,” or “only have one glass of wine” – I couldn’t do it. Happy hours always turned into sunrise sessions and I had grown weary of the comedown. 

I also knew it when this thing I did for fun wasn’t actually even “fun,” anymore. It was just a necessity at that point. It had become exhausting. 

But what really got my attention was when I was diagnoised with Anxiety and Panic Disorder. When I had my first panic attack, it sent me into, well – a panic. I suffered with this crippling anxiety for months and months before I had this still, small, very faint voice inside me nudging me to believe that there HAD TO be another way to live life. I couldn't handle the shame and guilt any more and on August 17, 2008 after I tried to go to happy hour and that landed me on a balcony at 10am blowing my last line, I had finally reached my breaking point. 

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking? 
Cutting alcohol out of my life has opened me up to SO much more clarity, which has in turn led me to become quite the creative person. I never really thought of myself as a creative person prior to putting the booze down. A few years into my sobriety, I found myself writing as a creative and therapeutic outlet. I found myself loving the designing process of websites. I found that I connected so deeply to words, quotes, reading. I put all of this together and started my blog: www.MiraclesAreBrewing.com, which has been such a labor of love. 

For a while I stuck to writing and dancing in my living room, which were the extent of my creativity. However, recently, as I’ve gone deeper down the rabbit hole of work on myself, my intuition and sense of spirit has been lively. This has led me to create on another level. We, meaning Kelly Fitzgerald and I, launched an ebook, an online “no drink” challenge that lasted a week, a subscription based recovery community call the Bloom Club with classes and our podcast all within the last 6 months. 

Om Vibes Only is also another creative endeavor I’ve launched that integrates yoga, deep house music and conscious connection in the form of alcohol free events. I curate the yoga to a theme, such as having a vision for your life, and work with a DJ to develop a live DJ set to the class. Then afterwards we do a conscious happy hour with juices or high vibe foods. I’m so excited about the potential with this creation!

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking?
Absolutely! I think that is evidenced by everything I’ve been able to push myself to create. I have a calendar now, with scheduling and I follow through with work because the burning desire I have inside my heart has lit a fire inside me to take action from a place of intention. I look at my calendar these days and there is not one thing on it that I’m not excited about. That in itself has fueled my productivity.

However, I do have to mention a caveat to this. For a long time in early sobriety, I spent a whole hell of a lot of time procrastinating. After many therapy sessions and thousands of dollars later, I finally realized that my procrastination what just a transfer of energy from my previous addictions. While I was living in active addictions, I wanted to escape reality, my feelings and being alone with myself. Once I got sober, I subconsciously felt this need to still escape, so procrastination was my way of doing just that. Except now I was just escaping responsibility. Let that sink in…. 

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
The thing that has been the most rewarding is learning who I really am as a person and being unapologetic in accepting her, loving her and showing people who she is. I know without a doubt my choice to quit drinking and using drugs has afforded me every opportunity I have in my life. I have learned more about myself since 2008 than I did for my entire life prior to that. Not to mention, this journey as made me realize that Sober Is The New Cool, which has been a delight in itself. 

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
My best advice is to resolutely become willing to do things differently. So much so that you actually allow yourself the space to get some real time under your belt without putting alcohol in your body – 60-90 days. Like just try sobriety on and see how it actually feels, fully committed. Give yourself grace and time to truly experience the difference and remember that you don’t necessarily have to do it “forever,” Just For Today. I always tell everyone that once you experience life without alcohol and you realize you CAN do it, the clarity is what you get addicted to.

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

Gabby Bernstein. Spirit Junkie was one of the first books of hers that I read a few years into getting sober. Her words helped me to know that someone else felt exactly how I did. She quickly became a mentor to me and has been a role model for all my work. She inspired me to start my blog and start speaking out about what life with out alcohol is like. If you haven’t heard of her, she is a must follow, in my opinion.

Jesus.  While this might seem scary to some, the stories about Jesus are stories of radical love. About what it means to love unconditionally and to live a sinless life. I’ve found so much refuge in the Bible and it has become the foundation of how I try to live my life. I’ve found that most people who have an aversion to religion, Christianity, Jesus, etc. have never actually read the Bible and I could not encourage this read more highly. That is my advice for those who cringe or run from anything “God” related, and then make decisions and opinions from a place of fully knowing what it actually says. 

The Sober Senorita. Kelly is my homegirl! Having her as a best friend has been such a blessing on this journey. Her work, writing and support has touched me deeply and she has always been such a sounding board for me in times where I needed a voice of reason, understanding, compassion and reality check. We are super close and have partnered together on various projects, the most recent being our new Regroup Podcast, where we aim to have discussion around what it’s like to restart your life after any kind of setback or change. 

Daring Greatly. Aside from the Bible, this book was such a game-changer for me. Brené Brown is brilliant and this book should be required reading for everyone on this planet. She teaches us about facing our shame and guilt, how to practice vulnerability and how ultimately that shining a light into our dark corners is how we heal and genuinely connect. Get in the ring, do the work, get messy and dare greatly. 

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?
When I got sober back in the day, as I mentioned, I didn’t do meetings and the online tribe thing didn’t really exist, yet. At least not that I knew of. So, to answer, yes I have tribes and community now, but I didn’t necessarily discover it so to speak. I created what I was looking for. That’s how Miracles Are Brewing was born - out of my desire to create something I wish existed. The Miracles Are Brewing Facebook Page, Bloom Club and my Instagram family are the communities I turn to the most. Today we are over 40,000 strong and growing. It’s been such a beautiful place to pour my heart and soul into and watching the evolution of online tribes in general has been super exciting. Not to mention, the accountability I’ve found inside of having these tribes has been exactly what I’ve needed in times of doubt. 

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I honestly believe, and have even been told on several occasions now, that I have stepped into my dharma and I’m living it now all because I finally said yes to doing things differently. This has led me down such an incredible path of self discovery, which has been absolutely priceless. When I’m teaching yoga or coaching someone and a person comes to me after and tells me that I helped them find their way or said something that created a shift – that to me is exactly why I know God granted me a miracle that day in 2008. To pay it forward and to know that I’m living my truth, giving it all the glory and impacting this world in a positive way.