Ray of Light Interview No. 37 :: Ann Dowsett Johnston

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.

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Ann Dowsett Johnston
Author + Writer
Twitter: @anndowsettj
TEDx Talk: click here

What is your sobriety date? November 3, 2008

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety? Years

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
Serenity sisters of many stripes.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic?
No, I identify as a person in long-term recovery, one day at a time.

What are your top three tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  1. AA;
  2. Reaching out to my serenity sisters; and
  3. My family.

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
I was a black-out drinker, near the end. Conversations with my then-partner, my siblings and most importantly, my son Nicholas made it clear I was going to lose my relationships with my loved ones if I kept drinking in the way I was. Having grown up with an addicted mother, I was determined to change my path and find sobriety. I went to rehab and then to AA, found a sponsor and began counting days.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking?
I am more creative by far. In 2012 and 2013, I wrote my first book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol — named one of the top 10 books of 2013 by the Washington Post. I thrive in sobriety.

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking?
I have regained a former productivity, which was prodigious throughout my 30-year journalism career. However, I respect boundaries in a different way: I manage my sleep in a better way, and my health.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
I am the most Ann I have ever been, able to connect in a less frenetic and calmer way with my loved ones. I am slow to anger, and much more peaceful, serene and in my own skin.

Do you have any advice for those still suffering or those in early recovery?
Begin now: this is a progressive disease, and delaying your recovery is dangerous. I remember being certain that if I continued, I would fall down stairs and die in a sordid fashion. If you are in new recovery, know this: it gets better—much, much better.

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

  1. The book that sustained me in early sobriety was Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.
  2. The book that sustained me was writing my own, believe it or not—it was a bracing experience to tell the truth and own it. It made me brave.
  3. And the third support has been friendships with Holly Glenn Whitaker, Founder of Hip Sobriety and Laura McKowen, the hosts of the Home podcast; and with Lisa Smith (author of Girl Walks Our of A Bar). These friendships have renewed my faith that we grow in our sobriety, enrich our lives, expand our minds.

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?
It began with my sponsor walking across the room at an AA meeting on November 3, 2008—my sobriety date. This woman is my best friend in sobriety, and someone with whom I share a gratitude list—for good things, and not-so-good things—every day. And I have expanded my tribe to include Holly and Laura and Lisa, as I said above—and so many women of so many ages.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I am proud that I have made a switch from editor to writer/author, and of the relationships with my son and my sister. These are vibrant, loving connections, with daily interchange and so much depth. All things are possible without alcohol in my life.