I am a woman in long term recovery. I got sober from alcohol at the age of 29, and for the past 16 years, I have been on a personal journey towards greater health and wellness. When I got sober, I transferred my addiction from alcohol to sugar. But I was so ashamed of being an “alcoholic” that I lied to everyone about why I wasn’t drinking anymore. I told them I was “into health and fitness now!” and I pretended to start eating healthy and exercising and doing yoga and meditating and reading self-help books and enrolling in business school. The thing was, while I started out “lying” my way to sobriety and into a better life, I was actually doing it as I went.
Now, I get to share what I’ve learned with others in an effort to help people find more joy in their lives and a greater sense of freedom around food. I run the popular blog, Sarah Talks Food where I share tips, inspiration, stories and recipes and I am the author of The 28 Day Kick The Sugar Challenge where I walk people through 28 days of loving themselves, respecting themselves and eating real food. My 12-week online OBAAT (One Bite At A Time) Group Coaching Program is a way to connect more closely with my participants through the use of video and weekly video calls.
Who inspires you in your life and why?
Honestly, anyone with a redemption story inspires me. I used to only be inspired by famous people who had been down at the bottom and then risen up; people like Oprah Winfrey, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins and Frank O’Dea. These people faced tremendous odds and yet they found a way to overcome. They allowed their pain to fuel them into creating a life they’d only dreamed of previously.
Now, I see and hear these redemption stories every day! My sober community is a group of hundreds of incredible badass women (and men, too) who have battled and won. These people wake up every day ready to face life’s challenges head-on, without a crutch, and I am fiercely proud of them. I would like to mention that we can ALL be addicted to something, whether that’s social media, sex, shopping, food, alcohol, drugs, sugar or anything else that takes us away from the things that matter most. Working to overcome ANY addiction is a very worthy goal and I am inspired by those who are committed to self-improvement in any area of their lives.
People who recover from their addiction and ALSO turn to health and fitness inspire me tremendously, as well. It is one thing not engage with our drug of choice, but it’s another to pay respect to our bodies and treat them the way they deserve to be treated. I know first-hand just how much effort it takes to get up every day, make healthy meals, workout at the gym and also do all the necessary “adult” things like shop, work, pay bills and spend time with family. So, when I see people killing it in their lives after they’ve battled with addiction, I become their biggest fan.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your life?
Getting through those first few days and weeks of sobriety will forever be marked as the most challenging time in my life. I battled with very dark thoughts. I contemplated suicide. I hated myself for what I had become (or not become). I felt like a complete and utter failure and I had no idea how I was ever going to make it out alive. But, like all of us who have overcome something difficult, I did it one tiny little step at a time. Some days, I would go backwards, but I’d push even harder the next day so that I never had a chance to fall too far down. I knew I had to just. Keep. Going.
Over the years, starting my own business, launching my blog, writing my book and sharing my truth with “the world” have been challenging and yet so rewarding. There have been some verrrrry lean years when I didn’t know how I could keep going, but those times also made me more committed than ever to the cause. I am on a mission to help people find more freedom around food and develop more self-love, self-respect and self-trust along the way.
What did you do to move through them? What did you learn?
Some days, I’d have to do about a million things to not drink, not the least of which was just to STAY with myself. Stay on my mat. Stay with my feelings. Stay with the heaviness and the darkness until it felt a little less heavy and a little less dark; just enough for me to believe that maybe, just maybe, this was all going to be ok. I had to do a lot of surrendering during that time. I had to put a lot of faith in the universe and believe that all was happening as it should; in divine order and time. It was harrrrd. And I am stronger because of it. Because the cracks are where the light gets in.
And we’ve all got our cracks. It’s seeing them as our strength–rather than our weakness–that changes the way we view them…and ourselves.
What are you most proud of?
Sobriety has taught me to be a much more compassionate human. I used to be someone who jumped to conclusions. I would judge people on their behaviour and I would be critical of those who behaved in ways I deemed “wrong”. But what I have learned through sobriety (which, frankly, helped me grow up and become a more accepting adult) is that, fundamentally, we are all the same. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all felt pain. We’ve all behaved badly. We’ve all been hurt or scared or embarrassed or ashamed. And by imposing my values on others, I forget that we all have different filters by which we view the world. If I want others to accept me as I am, I have to extend the same courtesy. If I want to live fully, I am going to have to give up the ILLUSION of who I am for the person I am becoming (because I believe we are always, always changing, evolving and growing). I have to give others the freedom to believe in and express their views if I expect the same opportunity. And I have to remember that I have no right to criticize others if I have not walked in their shoes.
Falling down and getting up, the way sobriety has taught me, has reminded me of our collective humanity. It has connected me to people in intimate ways and my work has grown out of this place; and it has given my life meaning beyond what I could have ever imagined possible.
Sobriety has been my greatest blessing and teacher. I am proud of the way I have taken this seemingly large obstacle and planted it smack-dab in the middle of my life; a life I share with “the world”. I am proud to be a woman in long-term recovery who is able to lift others who are going through similar challenges.
What do you want younger women to know?
I want younger women to know that their body is a temple. For years, I treated mine like a trash can, not considering the long-term effect each of my decisions would have on my health.
When it comes to relationships, I want younger women to remember to be incredibly selective. I want them to remember their worth; never losing sight of how amazing they are. I spent my teens and twenties trying to please the men in my life, with very little regard for MY likes, wants, needs and desires. Don’t do that. Learn yourself. Love yourself. Trust yourself. Respect yourself. In ALL the ways you can.
Personally, I believe that the simplest, fastest, best way to visually demonstrate self-love is to nurture these vessels that carry our spirits around. Without them, we don’t have a life, and so I believe that living well is about listening–intently–to what our bodies need in each and every moment. Feed them, hydrate them, rest them, move them and love and honour your body and it will never leave you. Develop a powerful connection to yourself and you will never feel alone. You will feel at peace.
I want younger women to know that even when you feel like you are stuck, you are not stuck. There is always, always a way out; it just might be really, really hard to get there. But the rewards are so incredibly great that you’ll hardly remember the pain–you’ll just rest in the knowledge that your strength carried you through. If things don’t feel right in your life, you have everything you need to chart a new course. Don’t feel trapped. Life is here to lift you up, not push you down. Trust that whatever is coming into your life is there for a reason; not by accident. Use it for the lessons it is trying to teach you.
And, remember, you are allowed to change. You are always, always, allowed to change.
What does living fully mean to you?
Living fully, to me, means living authentically. Until I shared my story, I tended to isolate and I held onto a lot of residual shame around my addiction. Now, I shout it from the rooftops and hope to serve as an inspiration to others who feel mired in shame…for any reason.
Until we bring our dark out into the light, it continues to degrade our happiness. We hide behind guises of perfectionism, blame, martyrdom, anger and frustration. But if we can show up–as we are–flaws and all, we can connect more closely to our true selves and to others. Being who we really are allows others to be who they are as well, and in this way, we can all serve as inspiration to one another…and change the world.
Living fully–authentically–improves the most important relationship we will ever have; the one we have with ourselves.
“If you don’t take care of the most precious gift you will ever receive–your body–then where else are you going to live?”~ Jim Rohn