Favorite Quote: Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you say and what you do, but they’ll never forget the way you make them feel.” 

You may know Sarah Scheper as one of the stars of VH1’s ‘Love & Listings’ reality TV series showing the behind the scenes lives of the power brokers in luxury Los Angeles real estate. Sarah shared that she is an alcoholic and has suffered from an eating disorder, and that she is living in recovery.

In episode 20 of The Courage To Change Podcast, Sarah shared her story with podcast host Ashley Loeb Blassingame. We’ve edited and condensed it here for a fast read.  You can listen to the entire interview here. Sarah’s big message: You Can Love Yourself

Sarah, 30, stopped drinking when she turned 21, ironically when she “was finally allowed to drink.” Now sober for almost nine years, she works every day on her sobriety and is living a big life because she is sober. 

Her drinking started as an anecdote to her battle with food, which started very early on. 

“I remember being really young, seriously, four years old, and I was in gymnastics and ballet,” Sarah recalls. “I remember looking at other girls and being like, ‘They’re so skinny.’ 

She remembers how embarrassed she felt about her body and how desperately she wanted to be skinny. She dreamed about being skinny…in her mind, it was the answer to all her problems. But it turns out, it wasn’t. “I just thought that in order for me to feel okay and be happy, I needed to be skinny,” Sarah shares. “The funny part is I did get so skinny….and I was miserable. It was the worst. I was crazy.”

Sarah’s first drink was when she was a freshman in high school. She found tequila in her parents’ cabinet and downed it. “I remember waking up and being like, ‘Oh my god, that was so horrible. I don’t know what happened.’ But then I was like, ‘God, I can’t wait to do that again, because I wasn’t thinking about my body for a freaking minute.” After that, she was hooked. The alcohol was anesthesia for the constant struggle with her body.

In and Out of Hospitals

Once she got to college, Sarah’s drinking quickly spiraled out of control. She was in and out of hospitals constantly.

“I was going to die, because I think with the drinking and the eating disorder, I would drink so much and I had no food in my system. My blood was just all alcohol. They would put me in psych wards, because they thought, ‘This girl is trying to kill herself.’  I was killing myself.”

Sarah sought in-patient treatment, where she met many young women in the same condition – anorexic and/or bulimic and/or alcoholic. Sadly, many of those women have since died from their disorders.

“At the end of the day I’ll have nothing if I don’t have this. I’ll be dead and I know that.”

Getting Sober Wasn’t Easy 

“In my early sobriety, when I first tried to get sober, I had so many slip ups and relapses, that at the end of it I was like, ‘Okay, if I’m going to actually live life and have somewhat of a life and if I want to be successful, I cannot consume alcohol. Alcohol is literally poison. I cannot drink it.’ 

The first year I was sober I couldn’t be around alcohol. I couldn’t look at it. It made me sick. I’ve been sober for almost nine years, so I’d say probably eight years of that the obsession has just lifted, removed, gone, bye, don’t think about, but that doesn’t mean throughout my journey of sobriety I wasn’t in trouble with the eating disorder. I was still throwing up in my early sobriety. I struggled with that. I would try to stop, but it was so hard. I just couldn’t let it go.”

When Sarah first started achieving success in real estate in the super-competitive Los Angeles market sober but fully in the throes of her eating disorder, she almost lost everything. Despite making money, her eating disorder was impacting her ability to function and her parents told her to, “Figure it out or move back home with us.’  Sarah was determined not to move in with them.

“So I had to hit my knees in sobriety. ‘Shit!’ I was going to die. It’s a gnarly eating disorder, especially the one I had. It wasn’t cute. It was scary. I could have definitely had a heart attack. So I remember getting on my knees and saying, ‘God, please help me, please, please, please. I need help. I just need help.’ When I did that, I got direction from my higher power. I started going to OA in L.A., which is amazing. I got a really good sponsor. Then I worked the program. I had to get a spiritual relief and solution and find contact with God again.”

At the beginning of her recovery though, Sarah was angry with God.

“I was like ‘F you, God. Why, God, did you have me struggle with alcohol and on top of it an eating disorder? That’s not fair. Just let me have one.’ But when I did the steps, especially that third step, I wrote out what I thought God was. I thought God was judgmental and angry and hated me and wanted me to suffer. Then I realized that my God and higher power is loving, accepting, wants the best for me. In sobriety I have to have God with me 24/7, every day.”

“Literally every day I have to be in contact with my higher power and be thinking of other people, trying to help other people, getting outside of myself.”

Learning To Love Herself

Through recovery Sarah has learned to love herself and to treat herself well. 

“I’ve learned to love myself through my sobriety, and that if something doesn’t make me feel good I don’t have to engage or be around it. I want to be around positive people. I’m not going to put myself around negative or uncomfortable situations. I don’t have to today. I’m loving myself. I know if I stay sober I’m just such a better person and I can have a bigger light to be there for other people or make someone else smile or make their day. It’s like a ripple effect.”

Sarah is now determined to give back and support others in their recovery. “My purpose in life is that I want to see other girls that hate themselves — that are doing things to hurt themselves, that are struggling with addiction — I want to see them stay sober and get all of their dreams and have an amazing life. And I want to see them say, ‘I love myself.’”

Ultimately, she says she is grateful that she is an alcoholic and has struggled with an eating disorder, because it is a gift. “I’ve learned throughout these years that I love myself. I don’t want to hurt myself. I don’t want to be mean to myself anymore.”

Quotes have been edited for clarity.