When I stopped drinking almost four years ago and experienced the seed of hope that maybe this time would be different from the previous thousand tries before, I made a promise to myself. I promised that this time self-care nurturing my non-drinking lifestyle would become a priority. So many times I had simply stopped drinking, desperately white knuckling and carrying on with my over-committed life as though nothing much was happening over here. Just quietly trying to save my own life but other than that it was business as usual. I stopped a major daily habit and did nothing else. This left me with a gaping, painful void. No wonder after a week or maybe with some super serious white-knuckling, a whole month, I would find myself mysteriously (not so mysteriously) back at the wine store picking up a double bottle, telling myself that all would be okay when in my heart I was devastated to be back at the same dark place again.
I was so tired of trying and failing. Quit. Misery. Fail. Drink. Hangover. Self-hate. And repeat. It came to a head Easter weekend of 2014. I woke up and knew that I had crossed a line. Desperate to find my way back to myself I called my old sponsor from a 12 step program and we met at a meeting. I was relieved to be doing something, but uneasy because I had tried and failed at this as well. Repeatedly. I could not muster up much hope that anything would be different this time. Enter yoga. I intuitively knew there was a wisdom in this practice that could help me find my path back to myself even though I had no clue how or why I thought this. So, I went to meetings and even stranger, I signed up for a yoga teacher training beginning in July. I had no intention of teaching but following my intuition, was drawn to go deeper into my practice. I instantly felt guilt over the “selfish” cost of the training. Nobody made me feel this way but myself. My rational mind knew that it would not take long to add up the cost of my dependence on wine and watch it very quickly surpass the cost of the course, with nothing but regret to show for the expenditure. The best part of myself reassured me that I was worth the investment to keep on trying for the life I knew must be possible without my chemical dependence.
I spent the money. And when the guilt came that there were much better things to spend that money on I simply said “… probably so, but let’s give this a try – there are also worse things to spend this money on and I have been doing that for years…” And this began the practice of committing time, energy and resources to my sober life. My intuition could not have been more right. That course broke me wide open and helped me to see myself in entirely new ways. At the end of the teacher training, I was committed to my sobriety (and my best self) in ways that I had NEVER been before.
I followed that course up with a trip to Esalen for a Recovery Retreat that October. The old voice speaking loudly, “…more money on this – selfish…” I moved forward anyway. Again, more learning and solid footing on my sober path. I noticed that my thinking around drinking began to change in ways I had not experienced previously. There was less fear of relapse and more excitement around what a life without alcohol could mean. The possibility of a sober life was intriguing, exciting. More than that, I was learning that there are many pathways to recovery which was such a profound relief.
The next year I invested in my YTT 500 hour training. I was determined to keep this train moving forward. I was making positive connections with women whose main focus was health and growth and spirituality rather than merlot and cab sauv and pinot noir. The guilt began to lose it’s voice as the the sober hours, days, months began to add up. Shifts in my beliefs were happening and it was a direction I wanted to keep moving in. But to do so took work and commitment.
One of my very closest friends who I met at my first Yoga Teacher Training turned 50 last September and though funds were tight, we used air-miles and some creativity to get ourselves to Kripalu to mark her milestone and to continue the trend of re-routing resources that would have been wasted on wine to further the development of my sober life. Because I am worth the self-care and my sober life needs nuturing and attention.
This past spring I enrolled in Holly Whitaker’s Hip Sobriety School and it was well worth the investment. It was a course I did from home each day. While I walked my dog each day I listened to her and Laura McKowen’s Home podcast. Each time I engage in this kind of learning, I come away with a deeper understanding of who I am and why the pain that caused the alcohol misuse.
At this moment I am sitting at a table beside the ocean in Costa Rica sipping some really good coffee. My husband and I try to go away each year just the two of us now that our children are grown. Many times this has been difficult because drinking on holidays used to be such a big part of vacation “good times.” This year I flew down a week early and to attend a retreat led by a woman who is 19 years into recovery. Following the retreat, my husband flew down and now we are on our own travel adventure. I feel no guilt about doing this. I feel gratitude for all that I learned while on retreat and so much gratitude for the woman I am becoming: my best future self is slowly happening each time I make myself and my sobriety a top priority.
I am coming up on four years of no alcohol this April. There have been periods of weeks, maybe even months where a complacency around my sobriety sets in. As though this way of living is a given, a guarantee. It is precisely at that moment of complacency that the thought of a glass of wine returns. That is my very loud warning signal that more self-care is needed. My intention is to stay ahead of that dangerous thought. I do that by prioritizing self-care so as to prevent any dangerous, old circuitry in my brain that could lead me into harmful thinking and then to devastating choices.
I am beyond grateful that I am able to do this. There are ways of making ourselves a priority even on the strictest of budgets. It is not what we do or where we go to do it that makes the difference. The transformation happens when we commit to making our own self-care around our sobriety a top priority without guilt or apology. I am a better partner, mom, daughter, sister, friend, helper because I am sober. I am sober because of my commitment to my own self-care, finally. Pura Vida!