Artist Sooze Sigel has started a Women for Sobriety group that meets at the Mill Creek YMCA. She has been a member of the group for seven years in her previous home of Asheville, North Carolina, she was a group moderator. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Artist Sooze Sigel has started a Women for Sobriety group that meets at the Mill Creek YMCA. She has been a member of the group for seven years in her previous home of Asheville, North Carolina, she was a group moderator. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Women for Sobriety’s new group meets at YMCA in Mill Creek

After years with another program, Sooze Sigel says she’s helped by a positive approach to recovery.

MILL CREEK — Sooze Sigel knew in college that she was different, that when it came to alcohol and marijuana she wasn’t like a lot of her friends. She wasn’t a take-it-or-leave-it user.

Drinking became a serious problem that followed her into adulthood and beyond. By her early 30s, Sigel was married and expecting her daughter. It was a “completely clean pregnancy,” she said, but later she knew she’d need help to overcome substance abuse.

All these years later, at 69, Sigel is happily sober.

She’s an artist whose inked prints of fish and foliage decorate the walls of the tranquil apartment she shares with her husband. A “wanna-be grandma,” she volunteers with a children’s program at the Mill Creek Family YMCA. She plays mahjong there, exercises and leans toward a plant-based diet.

“I’m a happy camper,” Sigel said recently. “That’s part of our deal with WFS.”

She was talking about Women for Sobriety. The nonprofit was founded in 1975 by Jean Kirkpatrick, a Pennsylvania sociologist and author who overcame years of struggle with alcoholism — not the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Reagan administration.

“It’s an empowerment approach for women,” Sigel said. She spent 17 years in another recovery program. Although she said she stayed sober during those years — and for another seven years maintained abstinence “on my own” — Sigel feels Women for Sobriety better serves her needs and suits her philosophy.

Last month Sigel started a local Women for Sobriety group that meets 6:30-8 p.m. Thursdays at the Mill Creek Family YMCA. It’s free and open to women 18 or older facing issues of alcohol or chemical dependencies.

“It’s difficult to walk in the door,” Sigel acknowledged, but she said there’s support to be found for those who do. With 10 or fewer women in an ideal-sized group, she said, meetings don’t focus on past failures, but “concentrate on the positive.”

The organization’s mission statement, Sigel said, speaks to women, with its premise “that addiction began to overcome stress, loneliness, frustration or emotional deprivation in daily life.” The abstinence-based self-help group employs a “New Life” program, which the mission statement says “acknowledges the very special needs women have in recovery — the need to nurture feelings of self-value and self-worth and the desire to discard feelings of guilt, shame, and humiliation.”

Women for Sobriety emphasizes a positive self-image with 13 “Acceptance Statements” that include “The past is gone forever.”

At meetings, Sigel said members share “a positive for the week,” and if someone has an “urgent need” it is addressed. “And there’s a huge online community,” she said.

Sooze Sigel’s artwork includes fine basketry she made after taking a class in pine needle weaving at Everett’s Shack Art Center. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Sooze Sigel’s artwork includes fine basketry she made after taking a class in pine needle weaving at Everett’s Shack Art Center. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Sigel, who moved to Mill Creek two years ago from Asheville, North Carolina, said she’s been “a proud and enthusiastic member of Women for Sobriety for more than seven years.” For three years in Asheville, she moderated a Women for Sobriety meeting, known in the organization as a “face-to-face” group.

She’s been retired about 10 years from her job as an art director with a New Jersey newspaper. After her daughter and son-in-law settled in Seattle, she and her husband of 20 years, Alan Sigel, moved to Mill Creek.

While Women for Sobriety doesn’t emphasize the past, Sigel did share one episode that was a lesson in the grip alcohol could have on her life. While on a cruise for her 50th birthday, she said, “I thought maybe I’m cured.” Soon after thinking she could drink moderately, she knew she was in trouble.

Today, though, with the help and community she found through Women for Sobriety, she is so much more than a woman in recovery.

In June, the YMCA of Snohomish County honored its outstanding volunteers for 2018-2019. Sigel was recognized as the Mill Creek Y’s standout volunteer in the program area. Other honorees were named for volunteer work supporting YMCA policy, youth and financial development programs.

At home in Mill Creek, Sigel’s artwork is on display in her living room and cozy studio. Along with her stunning prints, representations of fish and flora, are creations she made after taking a class in pine needle basket weaving at the Schack Art Center in Everett.

And printed on a tote bag in her studio is a motto, which is also the title of a book by Women for Sobriety founder Kirkpatrick: “Goodbye Hangovers, Hello Life.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Women for Sobriety

A Women for Sobriety group meets 6:30-8 p.m. Thursdays in the Cascade Room of the Mill Creek Family YMCA, 13723 Puget Park Drive, Everett. It’s free and open to women 18 or older facing issues of alcohol and/or chemical dependencies. Those attending are expected to be drug- and alcohol-free the day of meeting. Photo ID needed to enter the Y branch.

Information: www.womenforsobriety.org or email 1099@womenforsobriety.org

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