How Princess Leia Inspired My Recovery

Sarah Bowen
The author in front of her car, which features a Princess Leia tire cover

I’m told I was difficult from the beginning—I was born six weeks later than expected.

As a kid, I started making sense of my world based on what I heard at home, at school, and—being a preacher’s kid—at church. Quickly, these beliefs intermingled with ideas from pop culture. Namely, Star Wars. Soon, I desperately wanted to grow up to be Princess Leia, who taught me I could grow up to run as fast as and fight as hard as any boy—even when wearing a dress.

Yet, born with the genetics for alcoholism, struggling with questions about my sexuality, and growing up in a hard-partying college town, my epic galactic journey took a hard turn. Becoming disillusioned with life, I succeeded in becoming an addiction-infused, confused, lonely girl. “Losing my religion” and my sanity on the way to the nearest kegger, I traded in a childhood dream of saving the Universe for 40-ounce bottles of cheap beer, cartons of Camel cigarettes, long nights full of punk rock, and random awkward hookups in the backseat of my tiny Ford Fiesta.

After graduating from college, for two decades, I pulled it (sort-of) together to start “adulting.” But, I relied on wine, a miraculous elixir, to manage life during this time. And it worked… until it didn’t. Raw and empty, I was increasing separated from others, drowning.

And so, my story of addiction was a tale of helplessness.

Miraculously, one day I reached the end of my proverbial rope. Reaching out like my patron princess to her dear Obi-Wan, I called one of my remaining friends and said, “Help me, Helen. You’re my only hope.” To this day, it remains the most difficult phone call I have ever made. And the most important. It took every ounce of courage and vulnerability I had. Luckily, Helen arrived at my house just a few hours later and started the process of getting me battle-ready to fight my own looming, metaphorical Death Star. Because addiction is indeed a life and death matter.

Soon, I assembled my own Rebel Alliance of healers—a therapist, a 12-step fellowship, a massage therapist, and a kick-ass acupuncturist—to join me on my long journey to wellness.

And so, the story of my recovery is an epic of hopefulness.

Since childhood, the word hope had burrowed deep into my heart from that tiny holographic princess on the movie screen, but my pain and addiction made it hard to access. As my recovery deepened, the princess appeared again to inspire me—or, more accurately, the human behind her, Carrie Fisher. Stumbling upon her memoir, Wishful Drinking, I learned about Carrie’s struggles with addiction and mental wellness. My connection to the woman behind the role grew, as I battled both addiction and the stigma attached to depression and hypomania (which I refer to as having occasional strong fluctuations in my Force).

Rocked by Carrie’s death in 2016, my higher purpose showed itself: To be a tireless advocate for hope and to help people recover it. I suppose you could say I’ve become addicted to hope. My license plate even says FORCBWU.

Searching for meaning, I looked back to my childhood belief in the Force. Obi-wan had described, “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the Galaxy together.” Tapping that connection, I averted a lightspeed crash fueled by illness, stress, addiction, and overwork, to assemble a beautiful, messy collection of beliefs and practices that work a lot better than cheap beer and expensive wine did—from meditation to forest bathing to volunteering to roadtripping to spiritually-charged locations. But most of all, the practice of Hope.

May the Force be with you, wherever in the Galaxy your recovery journey may lead.


SARAH BOWEN is a spirituality teacher, workshop leader, and author of Spiritual Rebel: A Positively Addictive Guide to Finding Deeper Perspective and Higher Purpose. Her work has appeared in Light of Consciousness, Common Ground, and The Mighty. She’s passionate about the study of the world’s great spiritual traditions, animal welfare, and travel to quirky, spiritually charged locations. When Sarah grows up, she hopes to be a Jedi. Follow her on Instagram @modernreverend.

Woman in a support circle

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