Conversation with Tawny Lara, The SobrieTea Party
Interview with Tawny Lara, SobrieTea Party
Liv: What have you had for breakfast today?
Tawny: Avocado toast with two fried eggs. Oh – and a smoothie!
Liv: You stopped drinking on November 30th 2015, your 30th birthday and made a one year commitment to swap alcohol for tea. You said that since stopping, you have been dealing with the issues that had you reaching for drugs and alcohol for nearly half of your life. What were those issues?
Tawny: Depression and anxiety, mostly anxiety now. I was well aware that I struggled with depression as a teenager, but I had no idea how badly I suffered from social anxiety and stress-related anxiety until I quit drinking. Anytime I felt anxious, I had a drink to “take the edge off”. Since that option is off the table now, I have to actually deal with my anxiety on a daily basis.
Liv: You described that your site shares your personal stories about, amongst other issues, self-destruction; tell me about the place that drove your self-destructive behaviours? And what did self-destruction look like?
Tawny: Self destruction haunts me to this day. Anxiety + depression + childhood issues + not feeling like I’m good enough = HOT MESS. While I no longer drink or use drugs, I find myself self-destructing in other ways: Obsessing over my body, picking at my face. Causing fights in relationships when everything’s going fine. Reading self help book after self help book, convincing myself that I need to change and be “better”. Taking on too many projects at work and not asking for help.
Liv: Your site is a little different to others in the recovery sphere: you have a team! How does that team set you apart from other recovery blogs?
Tawny: I’m so grateful for my team! My editor is my roomie/best friend. My photographer is a dear friend/co-worker. The contributors are people that I’ve met organically since starting the blog. Having a team of people with various of talents and backgrounds keeps SobrieTea Party fresh. It’s no longer just my story, it’s a place where people with all sorts of addictions and mental health issues can feel safe to share their story.
The Recovery Revolution
Tawny: Nearly half of my life was lived in a blurry state. I finally realize that life is worth living. Not just being here physically, but mentally, too. Mental health is so damn important. Logically, I know that my anxiety only exists when I create it and it only lives when I feed it, but it’s hard to keep that in check all the time. If I could just relax and be in this moment, I wouldn’t worry about tomorrow’s deadline, next week’s date, or next month’s job interview. Adopting a daily meditation practice has been crucial for me to manage my anxiety.
Liv: You move on to say that community is essential to your growth, how so?
Tawny: I look at community as two powerful words that came together to form one bad ass word: Communication and Unity. Being social media friends with fellow sober warriors is nice because I can see them as fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, runners, hikers, quilters, etc…We are more than sober! Fitness is extremely important to me, so staying active in the fitness scene in New York has been a big help, too. A lot of people I meet in that community don’t drink because it hinders their athletic performance and well-being.
Liv: You said that sobriety has shown you the toxicity that was present in your life, and how you have removed yourself from people, relationships and activities that no longer serve you. How were they poisonous? And what have been the benefits of removing them?
Tawny: I used to let dysfunctional / delusional romantic relationships linger because it was “better than being alone”. This led to me being codependent and it only fed my insecurities. As soon as I would start dating someone else, I’d ditch the ex and obsess over the new guy. Then when that would end, I’d keep sleeping with them or go back to another ex. Of course I struggled with dating, I hated myself! Also, I didn’t understand the difference between drinking buddies and true friends. I trusted my drinking buddies like I trusted my lifelong friends. My romantic relationships and friendships changed once I changed. I’m finally learning to love myself.
Liv: You coach others in recovery, sobriety and goal setting, how did that come about? And what are some of the rewards of coaching for both you and the coachee?
Tawny: Whether it’s goal setting or talking about sobriety/recovery, the most important thing is just to listen. I don’t have all the answers. Hell, I don’t have half of the answers. The person asking for advice often knows the answer the whole time – they’re just looking for support. I’m not a licensed professional, I’m just someone who’s greatly benefited from the power of two things: giving up booze and writing down my goals. I just want to share my story and help others share theirs.
Liv: I loved your post Scare Your Soul – I Survived Wendy’s and I completely relate. Talk to me about the challenges of eating healthy?
Tawny: Oh man, I could talk your ear off on this topic. I currently follow the 80/20 diet. Where 80% of the time I consume whole foods and 20% of the time, I indulge. Some weeks may end up being 70/30 and that’s OK, too. The most important thing for me right now is language associated with food. Instead of saying “It’s bad for me”, I try to say “It’s not the most nutritious choice”. “Healthy food” becomes “nutritious food”. Maybe it’s all semantics, but it works for me. Side note – LEARN TO LOVE YOUR BODY RIGHT NOW OR YOU WON’T LOVE IT WHEN IT’S TEN, TWENTY, FIFTY POUNDS LIGHTER. I can’t stress that enough. Also, if anyone knows how to do that, please call me and let me know the secret! 🙂
Liv: What has been your relationship with food in recovery?
Tawny: I definitely eat a lot more sugar. Like, A LOT. I never had much of a sweet tooth until I stopped drinking. I also find myself eating out of boredom. Being in recovery from drugs and alcohol has shown me how addictive behaviors show up in other areas in my life. Someone very close to me is struggling with bulimia and we are amazed at the similarities between both forms of our addictions.
Liv: And how has your relationship with your body changed in recovery?
Tawny: It varies day by day. One day, I’ll love my body. The next day, I’ll stare at my stomach in the mirror, pull the skin back and think “Damn, I’d be so perfect if…”. It’s unhealthy, but that’s just where I am right now. I’m so grateful for the body positivity movement that’s going on right now, though. Women of all shapes and sizes are finally being seen as beautiful in magazines and in Hollywood. I’m also cognizant of who I follow on social media. I don’t follow anyone promoting an unrealistic body or lifestyle. When I’m feeling fat, I’ll look up #bodypositivity or #stopbodyshaming on Instagram or read this and I’m reminded that I’m beautiful.
Liv: What is your favourite meal?
Tawny: I typically eat the same simple meals all the time, so they rarely excite me. What gets me excited is chips and salsa (the spicier the better!) or chocolate chip cookies.
Tawny: I’m a rebel…I have 6!
- WRITE. Journal, blog, sticky notes, text messages, whatever works for you. Write everything you’re feeling and everything you’re afraid to say out loud. WRITE. IT. DOWN.
- REFLECT. In this fast paced world, it’s so easy to go go go go go. We check off to do lists and still feel like we need to do more. Step back and realize, “Damn! I did a lot today!”. Sometimes just getting out of bed and showering is enough.
- BE ACTIVE. Work out, go to a museum, go for a walk, just move…a lot. Also, don’t compare your level of activity to anyone else’s. Celebrate who you are and honor what your body needs in that moment.
- MEDITATE. I can’t advocate this enough. It’s one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself.
- COMMUNICATE. Assuming, you take tool #1 to heart, start talking about the things you’ve been writing. Talking about what you’re going through helps you and it can help the person listening. There’s nothing wrong with being in recovery. Until we talk about it publicly, there will still be a stigma attached to it.
- TRY NEW THINGS. You know that thing you’ve always wanted to do, but you “don’t have the time”…do that. Or some version of that. Amazing things happen when you try something new.
SobrieTea Party link here