Sarah Hepola joins us today on The SHAIR Podcast.

One of my dream guests of all time Sarah Hepola shares much more than her amazing story with us today!  We spend 2 hours pivoting from one topic to another to bring you an unforgettable interview. Sarah is the author of the best-selling memoir, BLACKOUT – Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget!  Her exploits in the book take you right into her world of complete debauchery and then her inspirational journey of recovery.

Listen now us now as Sarah takes us through her epic life journey.

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Listen to Sarah’s story now!

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Here are a few highlights from our interview to get the full story please join us on the Podcast now!

Omar: What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?

Sarah: Yeah. I mean I just did not know how to live in the world sober and that’s why I think the more that you see that possibility out there, the better chance you will have. I think I was really hung up on this idea like, “Am I an alcoholic? Is alcoholism a disease?” I would just get deep into the weeds with the intellectual stuff and it was just all a procrastination tool. One of the things that I’ve learned through this is that you don’t know how to do anything until you do it and you learn it by doing it and that is why one day at a time is one of the genius introductions of the program. It’s something that it has the task of being a cliché, so we sometimes forget how beautiful that sentiment is but the idea is that you only have to do it for today and that as you accumulate days, you learn it. You will learn it. That is how you learn anything.

I think I also have this idea that everybody in the world drank which is such nonsense. Everybody in my life drank but I think like there’s some statistic that like 10% of drinkers drink like half the world’s alcohol and those were my friends. Those were the people that I lived or had lived around for so long and what I found is how many people don’t drink at all, they drink moderately. Drinking is not a big part of their life and they’ve learned to … They have very full, rich lives without making alcohol the centerpiece. I think that I was just really afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to be that superhero and I think that was a failure of imagination because I’ve been able to become a different kind.

Omar: Beautiful. I love it. All right, so number two, at what period did you have a spiritual awakening, that aha moment in recovery when you accepted you were powerless over alcohol but for the first time, had developed the hope that you could recover?

Sarah: I remember one time, this was actually years into sobriety, I’ve always thought of this as a little bit of a spiritual awakening for me because I realized one day that alcohol didn’t make me better and I know it’s going to sound crazy but it took me until like two years to figure that out but I swear, that was the psychic shift for me because, for the longest time, I was like, “If I could just have alcohol back, then I could be better.” It’s like suddenly, I realized like, “That doesn’t make you better. It keeps you from being better. The thing that you want is the thing that is keeping you from what you’re meant to be.”

When I could see that, I’m so … I don’t know. It was like a switch flipped in me. I feel like that was the moment for me that craving went away because until that time, until about two years into it, I really still craved alcohol and when I could finally see that alcohol didn’t do … didn’t work, then I could stop craving it but in terms of knowing that I was powerless over alcohol, I mean, I think that came from me before I even got into the program because I tried these experiments with moderating my drinking and they were like totally disastrous and it was so painfully clear to me that I had, what we refer to as the phenomenon of craving which is that once you induce alcohol into the system, you crave more. It was so clear to me that I could not control my drinking and that the only way for me to control my drinking was to never start.

I kind of came into the program being like, “Yep, powerless. Yep, unmanageable,” but where I got caught was the willing to believe in a higher power. I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What is this higher power business I’m having to sign off on?” Again, I think it’s when I felt that comfort and community and the room’s always … They’ll tell you this. If you can’t deal with God, just use God as like group of drunks and that worked for me in the beginning. It’s like, all you need is a little perch to get your foot in and then you can start to pull yourself up a little bit more. That’s how it started for me.

Omar: Now, this next question’s going to have a lot of answers. Do you have a favorite book, because you mentioned a few, all right? Do you have some favorite books you could recommend?

Sarah: Okay. My favorite book about drinking is Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, which is a really beautiful book that she wrote in 1997. It talks about her tortured relationship with alcohol. She calls it a love story and I always loved that. It’s about a love affair that she has with alcohol but she’s also having … She’s dating two men at once and it’s the kind of tortured way that people can get. They compartmentalize their lives and our lives get very messy towards the end but she’s just … Unfortunately, she passed several years ago around the age I’m at now, 42, but she … The gift of that book is incredible. She is a writer of eloquence and preternatural psychological insight. Her father was like a big deal psychologist and somehow, he gave her the gift of really understanding human behavior. It’s a beautiful book. That’s my favorite drinking book.

Let’s see. Do you mean like what other books I like, like what … Well, I don’t know. I love the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It is 1,200 pages and it is … but it is a masterwork about addiction and it takes place at a halfway house and it really is about how addiction is one of the signposts of American life and how we are, because of consumer capitalism, designed to be addicts, to search outside ourselves for something that will fix us.

Omar: What is the best suggestion you have ever received?

Sarah: When I was fighting the program in sobriety and all that so much, one of the things people would say to me was just like, “Why don’t you just try it?” Why don’t you try it and see what happens?” The fighting it and trying to figure it all out in your bed before you do everything and it’s just like … I think another good suggestion for me is just to stop thinking about it. I am really a classic over-thinker and I will get myself into such a state of frantic, mental emergency that I’m reminded all the time why I drank. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, because this thing’s out of freaking control.” Just stop thinking about it, like just do something. Play guitar. Go take a walk. Just do anything but sitting in your own thoughts for a while.

Omar: You can’t think your way into better acting, you have to act your way into better thinking.

Sarah: It’s totally true. It’s so true. I, for some reason, I’ve been very resistant to this lesson.

Omar: If you could give our newcomers only one suggestion, what would it be?

Sarah: Don’t give up on yourself. It is never too late to be a person that you were meant to be. I think a lot of people get into sobriety and they feel like … they start to feel their feelings again and they start to feel the mess they’ve made and they just go back out because it’s easier that way. They just want to kind of kill consciousness, kill time. I heard heavy drinking, alcoholic drinking called suicide for a night and I think there’s something about that. I had watched people come back from places I never thought they could come back from. They have put their lives together and they have learned to stand up on their own and take responsibility for their life and where it’s going and they have seen joy come back into their faces. I’ve seen them, their soul’s blossom. I’ve seen really, really beautiful things and I’ve gotten to experience that too. We deserve life.

There’s a lot of my … I don’t deserve fame. I don’t’ deserve riches. I don’t deserve love from really random, handsome men, whatever, whatever. I don’t deserve all those things. I know I wish I deserved it. Well, listen. I don’t deserve these things but I deserve life and I think there was some part of me that was trying to extinguish it on myself. It’s like I couldn’t handle it or something. I’m just so grateful that I stopped that fight and so I would tell anybody that feels that flame flickering inside of them that says, “You need to quit,” that small, still voice inside of you that says, “This is not the real you. This is not you,” listen to that and don’t give up on yourself.

Social Media

Website – Sarah Hepola

Facebook  Sarah Hepola Blackout

Twitter – @sarahhepola


Recommended Books:

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget Paperback by Sarah Hepola

Drinking: A Love Story Paperback by Caroline Knapp

Infinite Jest Paperback by David Foster Wallace

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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.