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SOBER LIFE is a gallery project by AlaskaLeeAnna to bring hope, awareness, and
a means of celebration for those who choose sobriety.

If you'd like to support this gallery project by helping cover the associated costs that went into the First Friday event, please consider using Venmo @alaskaleeanna

Thank you.

Leslie

Sober 8+ Years

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By the age of 13 I was hateful, confused, angry, depressed, etc. and my soul was broken into what felt like a million pieces... addiction took me to places I thought I'd never go and Hope was the Salvation that brought me back to a life I learned to live. Today I share Hope... if you or someone you know is in the chaotic spiral of self destruction please know there's a way to turn from it and walk in the Light of a new way of life!

Hope is something lost when drowning in addiction, sharing hope with others means that there is Hope.

Michael 

Sober 9+ Years

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I am a Case Manager at MyHouse Matsu where I provide direct services to homeless and at risk of being homeless youth ages 14-24. I am a person in long term recovery. I got sober on April 20th, 2012. I had nothing. No hope, no hope for a future and my real friends. My life has completely changed. Since I’ve gotten sober I got married to Elisabeth Sisson, had 2 boys Benaiah and Liam Sisson and have a 3rd boy due in November. I became the co-owner of Newsense Music Entertainment along with my best friend Justin Pendergrass. You can expect 100% transparency and a professional relationship when working with me. I enjoy art. Creating it, listening to it and consuming it in any way. Music is the particular vehicle that I express myself artistically.
 

Anna

26+ years

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My life before recovery can best be described as humiliating and degrading. All the proverbial lines in the sand that I had ever set for myself were obliterated by my need to escape the reality of my daily existence through drugs. I didn’t have a life, I had a daily need to figure out how to get more money to buy more drugs, no matter what. I couldn’t parent my children, I couldn’t manage my life, and I couldn’t stop. My head and heart were full of guilt and shame. I didn’t know how to live and couldn’t do enough to die. I knew I didn’t want to completely and permanently sink into the abyss and I knew I needed help. I wanted to be someone my children and parents could be proud of. I wanted to have a life with grace
and dignity. Recovery has provided the opportunity for my heart and soul to reawaken. It’s given me the chance to repair relationships, be the mother I wanted to be, and to have healthy and sustaining relationships with people who love me just the way I am. Through the process I’ve gotten to resolve the issues from my childhood, and make amends with my friends and family. Recovery has taught me to dream big and work hard for those goals. Developing a relationship with my sense of spirit and with a higher power has allowed me to give grace to others as grace has been granted to me. I know today that I am perfectly imperfect and I am grateful that I’m not greater than or less than anyone. I’ve learned the hard way that complacency is the enemy of my recovery. When left unchecked, my addiction manifests in a variety of unhealthy ways. I still need to maintain holistic balance and remain teachable in order for my recovery to continue. I rely on my hard core four to help me see my blind spots and to walk me through my life on its own terms. Staying curious about myself and the world helps me keep a sense of awe and wonder.
If you’ve ever wondered about the need to try recovery, give it a shot. Use the support that is so readily available if you’re willing to try a new way of life. Recovery isn’t about just stopping using alcohol or other drugs, it’s really about creating a life you don’t need to escape from. The life I have today in recovery exceeds all my hopes and dreams.

Ralph

Sober 1.5+ Years

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Ralph started The Anonymous Eskimo Recovery Podcast, which is devoted to bring hope to those struggling with the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. Through guests sharing their inspiration, strength, and hope. he wants to break the stigma that is associated with recovery.


To be featured on the podcast or ask questions, Email: anonymouseskimopodcast@gmail.com. 

Listen on Spotify

Brian

Sober 1.5+ Years

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Brian just started his job as a Peer Support Specialist at Alaska Behavioral Health and is an advocate for sobriety as Mr. Gay World Alaska 2021.
I think the best description of my life before sobriety would be a mannequin. I was a shell of a person with no boundaries or an  idea of what they are. My mental health was in desperate need of care. Now that I am sober I am much more active in my life. Establishing boundaries and learning how hold them.  I have begun to play an active role in my life and I am loving every moment.  ​

The biggest choice for me to get sober was due to the poor choices I was continually making.  My mental health was in dismal shape and the only choice I could think of was ending it all. Through the help of the my support system, treatment team and the Alaska therapeutic courts I was able to successfully address not only substance use issues but also my mental health.  ​

The biggest change in my life since getting sober would be my outlook on life. As I mentioned earlier I have begun to play an active role in my life not just floating through doing what I thought others would enjoy. But I have begun to take my happiness and my future into my own hands.  ​

In the beginning of my sobriety I struggled with FOMO.  I quickly learned that I wasn’t actually missing out on anything. As I learned more about myself and the triggers that made me want drink I began to learn it was ok to lean out on friends for support and talk about those things.  This was a very empowering lesson for me.  ​

For the curious I would say this is a journey and process. It’s ok if your scared or nervous but you will be successful if you commit. It’s ok to fall down and it’s ok to ask for help up. For each of us our recovery journey is unique yours is too.  Support and help are there if you need it. 

Jesse

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Jesse is a a resilient Alaskan native woman who is passionate about her life of sobriety and domestic violence awareness. Her Instagram is where she strives to bring attention to the DV issue in Alaska, you can check it out @soundingtheredalarm2020

Jesse never signed up for this session, but instead approached LeeAnna, the photographer, on the street during the project after seeing the "Sober Life Sessions" sign and asked about what she was doing. Immediately, she was excited. She told LeeAnna her story about her journey with sobriety and all the incredible changes it is has her to in her life. She asked to be photographed then and there for the project and, of course, LeeAnna obliged. 

Sasha

14+ years

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Hellurr! My name is Sasha and I have not found it necessary to pick up a mood- or mind-altering substance since 10-11-07! In just two pictures LeeAnna has captured what active addiction and recovery feel like daily. My story is no different than any you have already read just the players and playgrounds in active addiction have changed; the players and playgrounds in recovery maintain consistent and filled with hope and encouragement. What I want to share with you is the feelings those situations produced. It’s the feelings that kept me in active addiction for longer and the feelings that created enough desperation to choose recovery. I had several defects before I ever picked up drugs, drugs were my solution, the one thing that numbed me enough to forget. I chose drugs and gave up family, love, self-respect, purpose, and dignity. Recovery has afforded me all of that and more, I have learned that I wasn’t just numbing pain I was numbing the love my family was trying their hardest to show me, but I had already given up on myself. Today I believe in me because I watch countless others live a life of recovery and believe in themselves. Today there are moments that are filled with sorrow, pain, and sadness but the other side, the side is moments filled with joy, happiness, gratitude, and love. Life did not change, I changed as a result of recovery. We need the black and white, we need the color, we need each other! There is no shame in addiction and no shame in recovery, there is only lessons and experience that make your story and foundation that much stronger. We choose to be here for you and yours whenever needed, recovery encompasses so many things and you have it in you to begin or continue that journey through whichever pathway works for you; just remember you don’t have to do it alone! Look around you right now at all the people, pictures, diversity, and connection recovery brings. Wanna talk more find our Facebook page full of encouragement and pathways to recovery! Peer Support Network Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/581474548713208/ You can also add me and connect!

Heidi

Sober 6+ Years

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Heidi Christensen is a Cultural Peer Support Specialist III for the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.

 

I have been sober since June 22, 2015. 

 

I live in Eagle River, AK with my husband and 2 children. I am Alutiiq and Athabascan. I am from Old Harbor, Alaska a village on Kodiak Island. I also spent 4 years in Nenana, AK attending boarding school. Growing up drinking was seldom but when there was drinking drama and chaos followed. I took my first drink at 13. Throughout my teen years I was rebelling after my father died. I took every chance I got to party. I drank from the age of 13-29. I called my addiction my love story, it truly was. It brought chaos, heartache, regret and comfort when I needed it. I chased that feeling for sixteen years.

 

What inspired me to find recovery? I was inspired by so many things. I wanted a happy home for my children and to be a good mother. I wanted to be a better wife. I wanted to not be a statistic. I was determined to help other addicts like me. When I was using it always felt like something was missing. While I was in intensive outpatient treatment I found myself being fascinated with wanting to attend school and working in the Substance use field. There was so much information that needed to be shared about drugs and alcohol, I was hooked.

 

What inspires me to stay sober? I continue to stay sober for my Family. I am also inspired by my participants that I work with in Residential and Outpatient Treatment. I get to share my lived experience with other addicts and show them that recovery is possible. Leading by example is important to me today. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing my participant do a 180* in their life.

 

The biggest surprise that I wasn’t expecting in my recovery is that I am able to challenge myself and learn to overcome life’s obstacles sober. I don’t doubt myself anymore, I am smart and I am worthy! With the help of my higher power, my life has never been better! All the glory belongs to Jesus! I have completed the Regional Alcohol Drug Abuse Counselor Training twice.  I have obtained multiple certificates. Today I am also a student at UAA and I will be graduating the Fall 2022 with my Associates in Human Services.

 

Today, I work at Cook Inlet Tribal Council-Recovery Services as a Cultural Peer Support Specialist. I get to share my knowledge and lived experience with others. I am ready and willing to help the next person that wants their recovery as bad as I wanted it.

 

My advice to those who are contemplating recovery is, if you want to get sober, reach out to others, and ask for help!

 

In recovery, “I can genuinely be myself.”

Chelsea

Sober 2+ Years

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I've struggled with substance abuse all of my adult life. That's a little less than 2 decades.

My childhood was great. There weren't any learned behaviors that led to my use. I do think there is a genetic component that I inherited, however. I truly believe that alcoholism/addiction is a disease of the mind, body, and soul. I don't know how else to explain why I can't just have 1 drink or what happens if I try.  

 

Although I've had bouts of sobriety throughout the last 20 years, it took getting pregnant and the combination of all my previous efforts to get where I'm at. By the grace of God, I'll have 28 months clean and sober on the 13th.

 

This isn't to say, "I've overcome" or "made it".  The truth is I haven't. There is no final destination.  Every day I wake up and make a choice to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Some days are easier than others. On the hard days I just hang on and use my tools because the only thing I know for sure, it's that staying clean and sober is far easier than getting clean and sober.

Jon 

Sober 7+ Years

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Hello, thanks for reading this.

Today I am a grateful recovering addict with 7+ years clean and sober. As a product from an addict family I started using early on in life. Mistake after mistake, I never seemed to learn my lesson. Then one night I should have made it home (like many others) in years past. I didn’t make it. Like I told the cop this must be for all those nights I made it when I shouldn’t have. Thanks to Alaska Therapeutic Court (Drug court). I was given the last chance I needed to find my way. Today I’m a father to two wonderful boys.

A family man.

A leader in my trade as shop foreman.

Last, but not least, a brother in what is for me the glue that holds in all together

Second To None MC. Feel free to ask me questions if you see me.

Kara

Sober 10+ Years

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"We must recover OUT LOUD."

Lance

Sober 8+ Years

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My name is Lance Hanes.

My recovery journey began in 2013 after decades of substance use.

Life in recovery is more than I could have possibly imagined.

Faith, family, friendship and a drive to help others find there way to a better life is what fills my spirit today.

Mindy

Sober 1+ Years

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All my life I felt like I just didn't quite fit in anywhere. I was uncomfortable, insecure and full of fear. When I found alcohol, I could finally relax, socialize and feel like other normal human beings. Alcohol was a lot of fun! At first. But eventually it turned from fun to troublesome. Eventually I wanted to stop drinking because the consequences were adding up and I was causing harm and wreckage in my life and the lives of those I loved. When I tried to stop, I quickly found out I couldn't. I tried everything and nothing seemed to work. After a particularly horrific experience I decided to find help. I knew a judge was going to recommend AA, and my attorney highly recommended it, so I decided to give it a shot. Honestly, I just wanted to show the courts that I was trying so that they would be lenient. 

I started attending AA regularly, got a sponsor, and started to work the 12 steps. I stayed sober for 9 blissful months. It was incredible and my life was on a major upwards trajectory! I started getting comfortable and over-confident in myself and started slacking on my meetings. It didn't take long until I woke up after a bender not knowing what had happened or why I had been drunk for the past 6 months. I continued to go in and out of the program for the next two years and it was a painful experience. I finally had enough of the pain and knew that if I was going to get and stay sober, I had to go all in. I asked God for help and recommitted myself to AA and the 12 steps. 

I have now been sober for almost 18 consecutive months. It's the longest I have ever been sober in my entire adult life. My life today is a completely different life than it was before sobriety and recovery. I now have tools to deal with situations that arise that cause me fear or discomfort. I no longer feel the need to control and manage the people or circumstances in my life. I now have a deep-rooted faith that God is in control and will be with me as long as I let him take the reins. My life today is free, peaceful, and happy. Even during hard things, I do not have to drink to get through. I can feel my feelings and be OK. 

If anyone is considering getting sober, my advice would be to give it a try. Commit to 6 months and see what happens. What have you got to lose? You have everything to gain. Go to AA, get a sponsor, and do what is suggested. If at the end of 6 months your life isn't dramatically improved, go ahead and go back to alcohol. But I guarantee if you give it 100%, the 12 steps will work for you. I have seen it in myself and countless others. 

Ashley

Sober 6 Years

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If you’d have asked me in my late teens if I’d ever stop doing drugs id have laughed in your face. I saw myself being an old grandma with a forty and a blunt as  I’ve been an addict for more than half my life. For me I lacked coping skills and drinking/drugs numbed things, until they didn’t. 

 

I had stopped drinking for short bouts, but as soon as I wasn’t pregnant or the 2, 3, 4 weeks was up I’d start right back up. I was lying, hungover, disconnected, angry, endangering my children, and my health was trashed. God spoke to me and showed me how I was tearing apart my life right before my own eyes. I’d lose everything in the end. 

 

I had a choice, keep denying my addiction or come clean. I approached my church, husband, fronds  and family about how deep my addiction ran. It was scary as hell, but I knew I had to uncover every hidden trauma/shame/fears or I’d kill myself and others. I am almost 6 years in recovery and it’s a learning and growing process everyday. One that hurts, but is so feeing in the end. 

Geoff 

Sober 10+ Years

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What my life was like before sobriety vs what life is like now? My life was complete chaos. Every day was a pathetic repeat of the day before, except it was getting worse with each passing day. I was basically feeding my addiction until if killed me, and I could physically feel the damage being done inside. My daily routine would be to wake up either extremely hungover, or still drunk which then became a hangover. I would shake until I got my next drink, which was usually after work. I was destroying family and abandoning friendships just so i could get my next drink. It was no longer fun, and it was a daily struggle just to exist.

What made me decide to get sober? My mom died of alcoholism, so I knew what my future held in store for me. I was afraid of change, but the fear of dying was finally greater than the fear of change, because I didn't know what a sober life had in store for me. Everything I did and all I knew revolved around alcohol. I had encouragement from those close to me, but I was the one who finally decided I needed to change before I died.

The biggest change in my life since getting sober? I'm surprised at what I've been able to accomplish while sober. I became a pilot in Alaska and own my own airplane now, I'm able to set and achieve goals, where before, I'd set a goal and consistently fail. The world is a more beautiful place having experienced where my pain and suffering took me was when I was drinking.

How has my faith/beliefs  affected by my sobriety? I was a hard-core atheist before I got sober, and I saw the word "God" throughout the 12 steps, and I was apprehensive that the program could work for me. I was able to look past the words and appreciate the spiritual awakenings that were happening along my journey. I can't and won't try to explain them, but they were happening regardless of my beliefs. I've relaxed my beliefs and just accepted that there is something spiritual happening and I don't question it. I just roll with it and love the life I now have, and I am grateful.

What were my breaking points, and have I overcome them now? Before I entered a treatment facility, I was living in a friend's basement and drinking every waking moment when I wasn't at work, and that time at work was unbearable. I had a nice house, dogs, and someone who cared about me, but I chose to drink instead, and I'm certain I was on the road to die. I realized what's important and embrace life and don't worry so much about what I don't have. I focus on what I already have. I didn't get back my old life, or get what I wanted out of sobriety, I got what I "needed", and it's been a beautiful journey.

My advice for the sober-curious: I understand that I personally needed to want to get help and get sober. I couldn't get sober for someone else. I had to do it for me. I just stayed sober for one day at a time. Those days added up and I learned to live without alcohol, and eventually thrive. I never in a million years would've guessed I would be experiencing what I am today. It's totally worth it.  

Kym

Sober 9.5+ Years

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My name is Kym and I'm an addict. My clean date is 11/15/11. 
I got clean when I became a grandma and my son told me I couldn't see my grandson because I was a drunk. Today, I am in their lives. I never saw myself getting clean, but I'm sure glad I am.
Today I have an amazing life. Thanks to all my hard work, I'm getting ready to start a job at CITC (Cook Inlet Tribal Council). 
I get to give back what was given to me.

Emma

Sober 6.5 months

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Hi, my name is Emma and I am a grateful alcoholic. I know that it may sound funny to hear those two words together, but it’s so true. I think so many people are scared of the “A word” because the picture in their head of who an alcoholic is is never a pretty one. In my time in recovery though, I’ve listened to the most beautiful and eloquently stated concepts of what it means to live a meaningful life come straight from the lips of a recovering alcoholic. 

 

In my active addiction, I used binge drinking as the solution to my problems- something to take the edge off. When I drank, I was numbing not only the pain that life brought me, but also every other emotion, and masking it under the label of “having fun” or “just going out for drinks.” I’d wake up with a massive headache and crippling anxiety about what embarrassing thing I’d inevitably done the night before, which only compounded my aforementioned problems. Drinking for me was like placing a band-aid on a deep wound; a temporary and ineffective fix to something that very obviously needed more serious tending. 

 

In AA, I’ve received a very special gift, a literal guidebook with steps to healing my wounds. Once I decided that enough was enough, I found hope in the words of alcoholics, the beautiful humans in the rooms of AA, to live a sober life. I’ve gained the courage and confidence to pursue my dreams and I wake up every day not with a hangover, but with hope. All the experiences I’ve had in my life have led me to who I am now. My name is Emma, and I am a very grateful alcoholic.