Slowly my need for alcohol diminished. I was no longer afraid of facing my emotions.
When my life hit that famous rock bottom in 2013, I didn’t go to a meeting or to treatment. I didn’t even accept that alcohol was playing a part in the disintegration of my ability to get through life’s troubles. That it was actually causing or contributing to so many of my problems. I still thought it was the friend that was helping me.
No, I ‘didn’t need’ treatment, but what I did accept I needed was a new direction.
I had tried lots of things to help me relax, including the Yoga classes I had been attending for years. I often returned home to a bottle of wine, cigarettes and joints! I was clearly missing the point of Yoga somewhere along the way.
Despite this, I had wanted to train to teach yoga for years. Now, with the reality that the 9-5 was not possible for me, the strung out, depressed, single mother of a toddler and a teenager, this seemed to be an excellent path to follow.
As if the universe was conspiring to help me, a local teacher had just started promoting her first teacher training course, just 20 miles from my home. I signed up and immediately and started to feel a lot calmer. Still totally wired and mostly drunk, but much calmer.
In April I went to a beautiful studio thinking I was going to learn to teach postures and meditation. I thought I knew Yoga.
Within a matter of hours I was truly humbled as I realised how little I knew.
As the months progressed, and I learned more about the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the Yamas, the Niyamas, the truly astonishing power of the breath, the real meaning of relaxation and so much more, I felt old knots unravelling in me.
Slowly my need for alcohol diminished. I was no longer afraid of facing my emotions. I was dealing with them for the first time in my entire life and laying waste to demons that had haunted me since childhood. I was seeing myself in all my beautiful truth for the first time ever.
On October 12 2014, after a particularly heavy, but great fun night, I woke up feeling like death would have been preferable. As I lay on my sofa thinking of all the plans I had to abandon for the day, I realised something I had never felt before. I actually preferred how I felt when I woke up sober.
I resolved I was never going to feel this way again. I had “resolved” this many times in the past, and never really meant it, but this time was different. This time I had seen an alternative I could bear.
A few weeks of ‘I’m not drinking today’ turned into ‘I think I am ready to stop drinking’ after I chose not to drink at my brother’s wedding. I had felt so good during and after the event that I couldn’t see any reason to make myself feel bad anymore.
I then began to start to talk about drinking in the past tense, and to share the extent of my dirking with friends and family, none of whom had realised just how bad my drinking really had been all those years.
Why would they know? I barely knew myself!
The Eight Limbs of Yoga, and particularly the first five, had been my steps. I got my therapy before I quit, and got to a place where I no longer needed to hide in booze.
For those who don’t know, the Eight Limbs of Yoga are the foundation of traditional Ashtanga Yoga (not to be confused with the modern interpretation of the word). Yoga is so much more than the exercise we know and love in the West. It is a whole system for life, that can, if we allow it to, guide our thoughts, our beliefs (not in a religious sense, but the beliefs that guide us through life), our sense of self, the way we speak to ourselves and others, the way we interact with the world, the way we connect to our spiritual side, the way we treat our body and much more.
Yoga is concerned with the whole self, and its primary purpose is to guide us to deep knowledge of our True Self.
This is something we really try to hide from in addiction.
Yoga helps us to face the things we try to hide from, to help us put a new perspective on our past, to live in the present and to create a better future.
The Eight Limbs gave me my 13 Steps. The five Yamas and five Niyamas, combined with the next 3 Limbs, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara, give me the tools I needed to find myself and bring myself out of addiction.
The remaining 3 Limbs of Dharana, Dyanha and Samadhi are far higher levels of spiritual practice which I have yet to reach! The spiritual journey is a long process, as is recovery, so these will come to me in time.
The five Yamas help us to think about how we interact with the world around us and ourselves, and help us overcome our baser, animal instincts which drive a great deal of addiction. These are Ahimsa, non harming, Satya, truthfulness, Asteya, non stealing, Brahmacharya, control of desires and Aparigraha, non covetousness.
The five Niyamas help us to elevate ourselves, to get to know ourselves better and to become better humans. They are Saucha, cleanliness, Santosha, contentment, Tapas, discipline, Swadhyaya, Self Study and Atman Pranidhana, surrender.
Asana helps us to release physical tension, heal all systems in the body, improve our focus, give us flexibility and strength, both in body and mind, and teach us to be in the present moment.
Pranayama teaches us to control and work with the breath. The magic that happens when we learn to breathe well is remarkable. In good breathing we can find inner peace, self knowledge, mental and physical healing and deep resilience.
Pratyahara teaches us focus, and gives us the ability to let go of distraction and unnecessary thought. This is achieved through being still focussing on something, usually the breath.
Yoga is known to be a great aid to recovery for its ability to help people recover and release stress and tension, but I know it can be so much more than that. Deep study of yoga, and a dedication to incorporating the teachings into my life, gave me a path to recovery that meant I didn’t need any other programme. Yoga gives us coping strategies, resilience, a positive mindset, self-esteem and empowerment, health, energy, and so much more, all of which is vital for a successful and sustainable recovery.