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Recovery from the Inside Out
Hitting bottom was not pretty. It looks different for each of us- mine looked bad, felt bad, smelled bad for me. Perhaps for someone else it would have been sooner, could have been later. That is the enigma of recovery. We each find our own bottom.
I was living in squalor, my clothes were seldom clean - spending a week or so in a pile on the floor being deemed “not that bad” and worn again. I was always late to my job, left early, and did the bare minimum. I was an unreliable mom- school pick up and drop offs were much the same: never on time and riddled with excuses. It was a grace that they were fed at school because, though I wanted to be a nutritious dinner and breakfast kind of mom, I seldom even got all the food groups in front of the kids every day.
I was paranoid, I was anxious, I was physically uncomfortable with back pain, chronic digestive issues, bad skin and thin hair. While malnourished I was bloated and overweight from my steady diet of booze and drugs. This went on until I could no longer go on. I was losing my mind, my will to struggle and I was losing my soul.
Getting clean and sober made a huge difference to all my senses. It was as if the world were now in full color, scents were more discernable, there was even a difference between day and night; something that eludes you when you are a 24/7 druggie. I was awake in the daytime doing daytime things with other people; night time was for sleeping and quiet and rest. It was a shock to my system.
I was on the pink cloud until I wasn’t - but by that time I had a pretty regular meeting habit and had moved away from my dealer boyfriend and the lures of that city. I had relocated (usually not recommended but highly important to my health and safety.) My kids and I started making a life for ourselves. A few years went by. I had a job, we got an apartment, the kids settled down and I was still a bundle of raw nerves.
While my health had improved, I was finally, around year three, able to really learn and retain what I read. I was able to do better at my job. My skin started clearing up, my hair got thicker, my weight returned to a more normal range. But I was still anxious, paranoid, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I went from numb to being over reactive. I vacillated between being super sensitive to being angry at everyone around me. There was no middle ground. I was confused and frustrated. I didn’t want to feel like this. I was afraid that recovery wasn’t going to do for me what it had done for others: allow them to graciously live “life on life’s terms.”
Therapy helped. Practice in feeling my feelings and tolerating discomfort helped. Time helped. I discovered yoga and that was a game changer for me. I learned how to breathe how to sense my body, to feel as emotions roiled around inside me. I learned that feelings could exist outside of a realm of right or wrong; that I just got to feel them. That's it. Feelings are not a call to action in that I don’t have to find an action every time I find a feeling. But that was a long process - it took time to move from head understanding, to heart understanding, and to body forgiveness. My body had to, at a cellular level, begin to unclench around emotions, memories, fantasies, expectations, and desires. They needed to move into and through me. My emotions wouldn’t kill me. Really.
Again- it took a long time; it took practice, it took breath, movement, meditation, and working with others (someone for me, and me for someone else.)
The amazing thing is that the promise of the program does come true: “it works if you work it”. Pay attention to how you feel, honor the feeling, let go of the gripping of resistance and the gripping of holding. Let go of the memories attached to the reaction to a present time event; let go of the anticipation of events that have not come to pass. Most of the time I can be; just be. Be with what is and let the anxiety fall away, the chronic physical pain of resistance and anticipation, the clenching of the belly so the digestion can return to normal, breathe and be at rest. As much as possible.
Yoga and recovery together are the magic elixir I had been searching for. I had been searching for the art of being long before I found the temporary band-aids of drugs and alcohol. I had always wanted to walk in beauty and now I can.
Kyczy Hawk, Yoga Teacher, Author of "Yoga and The Twelve Step Path", Yogic Tools For Recovery; A Guide To Working the Twelve Steps" and "Yogic Tools: A Workbook" - all available online. She hosts the Sunday 8 am PT Yoga Recovery meeting on In The Rooms. More about her and her programs at www.yogarecovery.com.
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