EVOLVE x Zoë Pawlak

A Journey to Sobriety and Curating Self-Care Habits with Artist Zoë Pawlak

Have you ever had a drink at a party just because it was offered to you? Maybe you didn’t actually want it, or perhaps you were just being polite, so you took it anyway. Maybe, since it provides some liquid courage, you’d be able to interact with others more easily. Nobody wants to feel awkward or left out.

The societal pressure to drink is almost insurmountable. Whether at a birthday party, family get-together, or during a night out, it seems inescapable. Alcohol is used not only as a social crutch to make engaging with others easier but a creative one. For decades, people and artists alike have been told that a bit of alcohol will get the creative juices flowing. But at what expense?

Zoë Pawlak is an inspiring artist and industrial designer born and based in Vancouver. Rooted in painting, the through-line in her work is her unique capacity to maintain a strong personal aesthetic while committing to telling the truest version of her stories. Zoë is a local entrepreneurial leader, speaker, and passionate about community. She believes that great work tells the individual narrative with an honest vulnerability, allowing the viewer to step into a shared narrative they can then claim as their collective truth.

Zoë’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Interior Design, and Martha Stewart Living. She’s presented select works at ICFF, WestEdge, AD Design Show, and IDS West. Pawlak’s paintings are in the private collections of the Government of Canada, Cristina and Trevor Linden, Cobie Smulders, and Club Monaco.

Zoë understands first hand this struggle all too well. As a mom, entrepreneur, and artist, she balances the world on her shoulders. Succumbing to the

external pressures placed on her, she turned to alcohol to cope. After admitting that she had a problem, she sought to regain control. Now, eight years later, she has emerged on the other side of addiction to live a prosperous and bountiful life through practicing sobriety and using self-care practices to keep her on track.

Evolve had the pleasure of speaking with Zoë to gain insights into her journey through sobriety and self-care.

Sobriety and Self-Care

Committing myself to sobriety and self-care are the only ways I have been able to become the truest and highest version of myself. The gifts I’ve reaped are beyond my wildest dreams. I’m still me at my core, but now I have peace and a purpose that I never thought I could enjoy. The transformative experience of sobriety has introduced me to a community of amazing people and self-care rituals I couldn’t imagine life without.

Here are my four daily rituals that you can use to feel like your best self:

Cold Plunging: As daunting as it is, cold plunging has allowed me to master my mind-body connection. Every week, a few friends and I go out in nature and do this difficult practice, which has helped me overcome hard times. We end each session by verbalizing what we are thankful for, allowing us to be grounded yet vulnerable.

Daily Movement: Usually in the form of yoga or a sport, this practice helps improve my mood, boost my energy, and relieve any stress I feel from the pressures of being a mom, entrepreneur, and artist.

Reading: I read a lot when I first decided to get sober. I enjoyed it because it was a ritual I reserved for myself whenever I had the chance to unwind. It doesn’t matter what you read, but you do it! It fills the time in a constructive way. There is so much we can learn from books.

Journaling: I journal every day. Writing has been my greatest witness. I love moving the sticky bits out of my mind and letting them go on paper. Both practices have helped me foster a deeper sense of inner peace.

I created the Vessels and Muses Oracle deck to marry my interests in writing, painting, and serving others. This 40-card deck, crafted through intuition, features my original artworks paired with soulful, reflective messages and journal prompts. Consistent journaling has helped me overcome life’s most challenging moments; I’ve come out on the other side with intense perseverance and love. This deck is an extension of myself and my offering to serve others in their own journey toward self-discovery and healing.

The cards feature a variety of figures and vessels that speak to universal themes of longing and vulnerability, two emotions I had to relearn when I began my sobriety. I had a burning desire to become a better version of myself. I wanted to be open about my emotions and inner battles. But I knew full sobriety would be the only way to reach this pinnacle.

The landscapes, like my life now, are simply calm. The color field paintings allow viewers to enjoy the passive experience of indulging in emotive memory. The color combinations are one of my favorite places to develop as a painter. I aim to bring together colors not naturally seen together, like bright and calming neutrals, to ease any sense of overwhelm. Painting is a unique career. It’s a privilege to be creative and make a living out of it, especially as a woman in Canada. Despite creating large-scale, luxury, and custom paintings for clients, the Vessels and Muses Oracle deck features all the same work in a palm-sized iteration. It’s small but powerful in purpose. It holds my art, my journey, and the guidance I use today.

I am open about my story on social media because I have seen it change lives. The view we have of alcoholics is very narrow. I think because I don’t look like someone who is represented in the media as such, my vulnerability about it has created an opening for people who fall along a spectrum of use, abuse, and dependence. I have persevered for my kids, who are now older teens. Someone said to me early on when they were little: “Let your kids be your reason, not your excuse” and so I have dedicated my life to staying sober, helping other people with creative entrepreneurship and their own journeys. We all really need each other – now more than ever.

If you’re struggling, tell someone you trust. That person can be your yoga teacher your sober aunt, or me. Admitting that you are struggling to somebody else is really the first step towards liberation. There’s freedom and joy on the other side you never could imagine. Plus, you will see that later on in sobriety, you get to actualize a lot of your gifts. You become more brave and able to do the things you have always longed to do.

For more information and to get a Vessels & Muses Oracle Deck, visit Follow Zoë on Instagram @zoepawlak.

Share this post

Start typing to see posts you are looking for.