I always thought I was just a nice person who drank a lot. Back in high school if I got too drunk it was laughed at because that was part of being young and rebellious. In college if I got too drunk it wasn’t a big deal because I was in a sorority and drinking was part of our social environment. I was always friends with people who liked to drink and party just as much as I did. However, unlike my friends, I never quite got the hang of drinking and since the beginning of my drinking days at 16, I would always get waaay more intoxicated than everyone else. I still remember being at a party and the look on a classmate’s face when I told her I blacked out every single time I drank. We were seniors in high school. I was 17.
A “normal” drinker knows their limits. They can tell when they’ve had too much and they know what it takes to put them over the edge. A “normal” drinker can take alcohol or leave it and they are responsible about it. Taking a Gatorade bottle full of mixed vodka to the library or the gym or to class just because it’s “sneaky” and therefore “cool” is not normal. I missed out on a lot in college because I was too drunk to make it out to the event. Or I would blackout halfway through the event and have no recollection of the evening. Besides a few stories in my mind that particularly stand out, I made it through my drinking days in college relatively unscathed. I graduated with a 3.7 GPA and an internship with Walt Disney World.
The internship lasted less than 3 months, I was fired for being drunk on the job. I moved back to Chicago where I landed an amazing job doing fundraising and recruitment for a non-profit. Over the next couple of years things went great professionally at least. I met my numbers and my volunteers adored me. There were a handful of times though that my boss sent me home for smelling like booze and a couple of times where I blew off meetings or appointments because I was drinking, drunk, or hungover.
So while work was, for the most part, great, in my personal life my level of drinking was becoming serious. I was drinking daily, mostly by myself at home. I had gained a lot of weight and I didn’t really care about social activities like I once had. My sister and mom had a few talks with me over the years about my drinking habits and how they were concerned for me, but the talks didn’t sink in. I didn’t think that my drinking affected them because it was my choice and I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was blind to the disappointment and pain that I was causing people as a result of my actions while drunk. More accurately my actions not taken because I was already blacked out/passed out. I was ruining relationships with boyfriends, my best friends, and family members. All I could think about was drinking and as long as I had that, my life was more interesting and full.
Back tracking a little bit, I had a normal childhood. There were boating vacations to the lake every summer, summer camps, I had a cell phone. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I don’t come from a rough background, my life was not “hard”. But I still felt empty and that’s why I drank. I was bored and discontent with my life and drinking was a way to pass the time and make life seem more exciting. I don’t know how drinking to the point of blackout (almost daily), eating and watching movies that I would pass out during, or having whole conversations on the phone that I wouldn’t remember, makes life seem more interesting, but it did.
Then Friday, December 13, 2013 I hit my bottom. I won’t go into the story here (although I am happy to share it with anyone over a plate of nachos), but that Saturday morning I “came to” and knew that things weren’t right. Whatever had happened the night before could not be fixed with an apology and promise to buy the next handle of vodka. Much to the utter disbelief and disgust of everyone close to me who knew was happened that Friday, I kept drinking for the rest of the weekend. I knew in my heart that when the weekend was over my drinking days were as well.
My last drink of alcohol was December 15th, 2013. That Monday the 16th, at 25 years old, I went to my first AA meeting and have been sober ever since. Fast forward to today (937 days sober), I am a sober alcoholic and ecstatic with the life I live. I recognize my Higher Power as The Universe and I give thanks every day to my HP that I’m an alcoholic and for blessing me with this life and everything yet to come. Getting sober was scary at first. In social situations I didn’t know how to act, what would I say? Who would I talk to? Who am I now as a person without the liquid courage of a cocktail (or 9)? But through prayer and meditation it gets easier and then one day you realize it’s not an issue anymore and you are living a life better than you could have imagined.
Burning Man 2014 was an eye opening experience. It was my 4th burn and at the time I was 8 months sober. It had the potential to be overwhelming, but I brought my 24 hour chip with me, kept my journal with me at all times (journaling is a huge part of my sobriety toolbox), and I made it a point to find all of the sober camps in case I felt overwhelmed. At first I was outside my comfort zone A LOT, but just like how I’m comfortable in my own skin in life now, it was the same way at Burning Man. That was one of my most notable burns because I remembered more of it and everything that I did was based on me making the conscience decision, not the booze-induced judgement. The experiences meant more because I could soak it all in.
If you work the 12 Steps (and really work them), you will find that you don’t move on to the next phase of your recovery until you’re totally ready. With your sponsor, you work on building a working relationship with your Higher Power (whether it be God or like me, The Universe), learn how to live at peace with yourself, then figure out how to live a meaningful life with others and continue a program of recovery every day, for the rest of your life. There are these statements in AA called ‘The Promises’ which basically outline how your life is going to get better. They include knowing a new freedom and happiness, feelings of uselessness and self-pity will disappear, and fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. And the promises do come true, they materialize if you work for them.
As far as my yoga practice and how that is connected, my yoga journey began at the same time I got sober because I used my practice as a way to connect with my Higher Power. The connection I felt to my HP through my moving meditation helped release me from the turmoil going on inside my brain as I came to terms with my alcoholism. As I progressed in my initial recovery, I progressed in my practice as well. The week that I started AA was when I decided to take my first class. As I celebrated 90 days, I achieved Crow pose. As I reached 5 months, I accomplished my head stand. December 2015 I celebrated 2 years sober. I also started my 200-hour yoga teacher training so that I could get my certification and use yoga to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. To this day, I sit and meditate and move and mediate through my yoga practice every day. For me the two go hand in hand because in both sitting mediation and practicing yoga as a moving mediation, my mind is clear.
As I write this I am 1144 days sober. Together, sobriety and yoga saved my life. Life is a beautiful journey and I’m blessed to be able to experience it the way I do.
Today, I am One with my Higher Power, and I am at peace with myself.
Cheers to the good life.