Mental Health Awareness Month: Sobriety and Healthy Rituals During the Pandemic with Natasha Garrett

Below is an interview between Kelly, our founder and CEO and Natasha Garrett, founder of Roam Vintage.

Covid has been a major stressor for every single person, and because of this, we have all been searching for ways to cope. For me this manifested in both positive and negative ways. In the early months of Covid lockdowns, I found myself enjoying the plethora of online yoga and meditation options. But as the shutdown went from three months, to six months to no end in sight, I have to admit my healthier coping mechanisms turned into barely making it to 5 PM when I could pour myself a glass of wine and by the fall of 2020, I began seriously questioning my relationship with alcohol. In September, I was in LA for a Ma photoshoot and after the shoot, we opened up a celebratory bottle of rosé. I couldn’t help but notice our model, Natasha Garrett, was not imbibing, and drinking a Kombucha instead. 

Natasha is sober, and has been for some time now. I ended up reaching out to learn a little more about her journey, and was so inspired; especially at how she has managed to maintain her alcohol-free lifestyle during the anxiety-ridden times of Covid-19.

Below is an interview I had the pleasure of having with Natasha. We'll learn about some of her daily rituals, and methods she employs to address anxieties and abstain completely from using alcohol as a coping mechanism. 

What is the importance of ritual for you?

I recently heard another sober fellow put it really well in saying that drinking and using was a ritual for us before we got sober and that its just as important for us to find healthy and healing rituals in sobriety. Rituals have been a part of humanity since the dawn of time. They are an important way for us to connect with ourselves, with others and with spirit. For people with substance abuse issues, unfortunately those rituals become ones that takes us away from those connections instead of bringing them closer. Now, in sobriety, I focus on rituals that reignite the connection. What that looks like for me is yoga and physical exercise to connect to my body, spending time with friends to connect with others and prayer and meditation to connect to spirit.

Before I became more educated about the realities of alcohol and how, for instance, drinking is proven to dramatically increase anxiety, I never could have imagined life without alcohol. For you, how did you know it was time to let go of the substance, and what helped you realize there was life beyond alcohol?

Letting go of alcohol has been a process that is still unfolding even though I am currently sober for over two years. I started realizing that my drinking was problematic in my mid twenties. I was living in New York and hanging out with a lot of people who liked to party pretty hard. Eventually, I began to see that when these people could stop and call it a night, I almost always took it too far and ended up blacking out or making a fool of myself. And regardless of how much I drank in comparison to others, it was really how horrible I felt the next day that made me realize that my drinking was interfering with my happiness and my life.

It took me years of trying to manage my drinking before I surrendered and realized I needed help that I wasn’t capable of figuring out on my own. Luckily, I had a coworker at the time who was sober and offered to take me to a meeting. I didn’t end up getting sober for another year or so but it was my entry into a reality of life free of alcohol. Once I did get sober for about two and a half years I ended up relapsing because I had convinced myself that my problem wasn’t that bad. After a few deeply painful and emotionally low months of drinking again, I reached out to my old sponsor and told her I was ready to get sober again and needed help. 

The reason I say that my relationship to letting go of alcohol is still unfolding is because its a daily practice. Taking it one day at a time instead of making unrealistic promises to yourself of staying sober forever without fail makes it so much easier. My goal is always to stay sober just for today.

What have you found to be the most difficult aspect of being sober during the pandemic?

For me, drinking was very much something I liked to do to isolate. I turned from a social drinker to drinking alone so that I wouldn’t feel judgement or shame around it. So the isolation of the pandemic was triggering for me. I often had thoughts of “wouldn’t this be the best time to drink again with nowhere to go and no expectations?” but by regularly attending Zoom AA meetings and talking to my sober friends I was able to snap out of that spiral and remember how much better my life is today because I am sober.

I am truly grateful to have stayed sober through arguably the most challenging year in most of our lifetimes. 

How do you structure your days to keep anxiety low, as well as to keep cravings, to a minimum?

I’ve learned over time just how important it is for me to regulate my nervous system. I feel so fortunate to work for myself and be able to create a schedule that flows with my emotional, physical and spiritual needs. I try to make sure I can take breaks in the day to rest or take a walk and get some fresh air. If I’m feeling like I’m in a particular funk I’ll do some yoga or basic stretching to get into my body and out of my head. Nighttimes are when I really practice winding down and quieting my mind, because that’s when anxiety and cravings are highest (though the cravings are rarely there anymore...one of the great gifts of continuous sobriety!) 

I take a bath almost every night with epsom salts and candle light. The hot water, mood lighting and whatever music or podcast I’m listening to really help calm my nervous system down and get my body into rest and relaxation mode. Whenever I am feeling particularly anxious or really having a strong craving for a drink or some way to numb out, I’ll tell myself I need to take a bath first and come back to those thoughts later. Without fail, every time I take a bath the cravings and anxiety are gone.

To those who are just beginning to question their relationship with alcohol, what would you recommend as their first step to take?

I think if you’re questioning your relationship to alcohol there is some understanding that something about your drinking isn’t serving you. Identifying what it is about your drinking (the amount you drink, how you act when you drink, how you feel the next day, etc.) is a great first step. I think  writing out examples of when you feel like alcohol has taken over your life or decision making (examples: being too drunk to drive your car home, missing work because of a hangover, getting into a big fight with your partner when drunk, etc.) can help you see more clearly the ways in which alcohol is affecting your life and well being.

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The difficulties we have experienced on a collective scale during the Pandemic have been unprecedented. Nobody should be made to feel shame around how they found ways to cope. If this last year has led you to a place where you are questioning your relationship with substances, please know you are not alone and I truly hope this interview lends you a place of solace. 

With love and gratitude, 

Kelly

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