Evolving in Recovery

During my stay in San Francisco, I celebrated five years of recovery. To put it plainly, this means I have been completely free from alcohol and drugs for five years.

Five years recovery

(but not cupcakes)

Five years ago, my addictive relationship with alcohol brought me to a place of crisis. Wayne Dyer explains the term ‘crisis’ to be a situation in which a person does not have the resources to cope.

I did not have the resources to cope with my situation. I was destroying myself and the person I loved (Tyrhone). I was full of shame, confusion and self-loathing. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t even know that it was my unhealthy relationship to alcohol that had created such chaos in my life, but I had a hunch.

The mood swings, obsession with partying and drinking, depression and destructive situations I had been in over the previous 14 years gave me a clue, but were not of themselves strong enough to burn through the power of my denial.

My addiction was more powerful than me at that time.

Coming to the end of my own resources felt like the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it turned out to be the best.

At home, alone in my apartment, I ran out of ideas about how to reassemble the wreckage of my life. I still had a job and a car and a home and people who loved me. The ‘wreckage’ I am referring to was a mental, emotional and spiritual bankruptcy which wasn’t obvious from the outside.

As soon as I had run out of my own resources for handling my life, something miraculous happened. I was given the idea to go to a recovery meeting for alcoholics.

This may not sound very miraculous to you after what I have explained, but I know that this idea was implanted in me by a power greater than myself. It spoke to me from within, via a voice which was mine but from a deeper source of self than I had ever felt before.

Maybe it had tried to get my attention before, in fact I have no doubt that it had. But I hadn’t been in enough pain to listen until that day. I listened as though I had no other choice, because in some ways, I didn’t. I Googled AA as though I was being directed by an invisible force.

The thought to do so had never occurred to me before that moment. I knew not a single soul in recovery, in fact that word was not yet part of my vocabulary. I was not even sure I was an alcoholic. That night, there was a meeting around the corner from my apartment which I had lived in (and drank in) for over 3 years. I went.

Something kept me going back to that meeting and others in the area. It was hard not to drink, but there was something among those people which I had been seeking my whole life: connection, joy, honesty and love.

I got a sponsor, which is someone who walks you through the twelve step program of recovery. She was the first woman I met at that very first meeting. And she did so much more than guide me through the steps; she became an example of selfless love by offering her time to me and teaching me that I was worthy of forgiveness.

It would only take me another four years before I would believe her, but I kept working at my recovery because everyone told me not to quit before the miracles happened.

The work was challenging and liberating at the same time. I felt like I was swimming upstream.

Everyone I knew at that time, except for my new recovering friends, drank. I still worked as a flight attendant and would pour wine all day long in the business class cabin.

I would get into my car at the end of the flight and burst into tears from the sheer exhaustion of battling the thought that I would never sip Chardonnay again. As I drove past my favourite bar on the way home I would grieve the fact that I would never stumble out of it again (p.s it is suggested to take it one day at a time, but it took my brain a while to catch on).

I attended six weddings of friends in my first six months of recovery. I felt beyond awkward, uncomfortable and like I could jump out of my skin. I wondered if I would enjoy celebrations ever again. But, I waited for the miracles.

They came when I was ready to see through the fog of my self-pity. I had to say goodbye to my old life before I could welcome the new one. It was scarey. All I had was a fledgling faith that it would get better. It did. Then it got worse. The more honest I got, the more painful it would get, for a while.

Overall though, things have gotten better than I ever dreamed they could. I’ve experienced amazing things in recovery. It has been a journey I would not exchange for anything. I don’t even have the words to describe the miracles I have experienced, as most have them have occurred within me.

You know the presence that gave me that first thought to go to a meeting? I have developed a deep relationship with it. I am conscious of a power which guides me to the truth as long as I am willing to show up for the lessons. This doesn’t mean my life is pain-free, far from it. At five years into my recovery, I have much to learn and I have no doubt that there will be more lessons ahead.

But the journey I have experienced so far forms the basis of my faith that I am being taken care of, no matter what.

In San Francisco I attended a Recovery 2.0 workshop run by Tommy Rosen, who had just released a book of the same name. I had been following him for a while and was inspired by his work of integrating yoga and meditation into the twelve steps of recovery.

Recovery yoga workshop

I listened as Tommy shared parts of his addiction and recovery story. I heard him talk about fear and resentment, steps and sponsors as I sat, delighted, on my yoga mat with a copy of his book by my side.

Tommy Rosen book

Then I followed his instructions for the powerful yogic breathing exercise, ‘breath of fire.’ I had done it before, but not like that. I was completely and utterly present. Nothing else existed for me except my awareness of my breath (that only took me thirteen years of yoga!).

I focused on the sharp exhalations with my arms outstretched as instructed. Then, as directed, I brought my hands toward each other at my heart center. I felt a buzzing energy between my hands as they hovered in front of my heart. My mind was empty and my only awareness was of this tingling energy. It felt like I was holding something.

Tears began streaming down my face and I began to sob. I was not sad, nor was there any particular thought which led me to this powerful emotional out-pour. It just felt like something was being released from me. Part of yoga philosophy is that trauma and emotion is stored in the body, and while I had practiced yoga many times before, I had not experienced such a physical reaction as this.

I felt a huge sense of calm afterwards. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even embarrassed that I had been sobbing in a room full of people!

Throughout the workshop, there were many words Tommy said which struck me to my core, but particularly these:

“Rock bottom happens when the addict tells the truth.”

“Become thrilled by the subtle.”

“If you have recovered from addiction using the twelve steps, shout it from the rooftops!”

I realised that my recovery had indeed begun when I started to tell the truth and that over the course of five years, after shedding a river of tears and discovering a source of inner guidance, I had indeed become thrilled by the subtle; the breath in my lungs, my boyfriend’s eyes, the shape of a leaf. Things I had never been able to notice before.

leaf

I had also decided a while back to forgo my anonymity as a person in recovery, in the hope that it would encourage others to seek help for their addictions and de-stigmatize the disease. His words made me feel positive about that choice.

During the workshop I experienced the different aspects of my journey – travel, recovery, yoga and meditation – coming together like a magnetic jigsaw puzzle. I felt the presence of that same power which directed me to my first recovery meeting five years before, leading me further along the path toward my truest self.

Five years ago I could not have dreamed up the evolution I would undergo in recovery. Ironically, I came into recovery because I ran out of choices. Now, I have all the choices in the world and yet I choose my recovery every single day because I am so in awe of the gifts it has given me.

Tommy Rosen book signing

subscribe to sarah somewhereThe Kindle version of Tommy Rosen’s book, Recovery 2.0 is currently on sale for $1.99!

 

Comments

Evolving in Recovery — 26 Comments

  1. Sarah I’m a withdrawal nurse and love following your journey it’s truly inspirational you are such a beautiful writer. The stigma and ignorance around addiction in the community that you talk about not only hinders people’s recovery but can actively stop them from seeking help. I have no doubt that by “coming out” and sharing your story with the world you have been the “power” that instigates change in a person’s life. There is no greater gift than that. I wish you all the blessings the world has to offer.

    • Audrey, thank you so much for your encouraging words, they brought tears to my eyes. I am so thankful you took the time to write them! As someone working on the front line of this terrible disease, I take my hat off to you. Your patients are blessed to have you on their recovery team! I definitely recommend Tommy’s book, it is a great read :-)

    • Thank you so much, Kim. Yes, I think that is true for us all. We just never know the impact of showing up in life as our truest selves. I was so used to seeking instant gratification, and this journey has been the opposite of that. A slow burn – one which you look back on and can identify all the tiny steps that led to such a huge transformation. I am sure you can relate :-)

  2. Congrats on reaching the five-year mark! I’ve had someone very close to me go through recovery and to see his transformation was amazing. I’m so happy you’ve found and are undergoing yours so courageously. Thanks for taking us along your inspirational journey.
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  3. Congratulations. Keep sharing your story! While I don’t relate to the literal addiction side of it, the idea of finding your authentic life and sharing the struggles that create that life are lessons we can all learn from. I’m sure you’ve touched the lives of many whom have never responded to your posts, perhaps still in the beginning stages of the journey, but nonetheless moved by your story. XOXO
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    • Thank you Rhonda! Yes, recovery is about living, so the process for uncovering the peace and joy which exists within us all is universal. Plus, I think everyone is recovering from something, it’s part of the human condition. I have come to believe we are more the same than we are different xxx

      • It must be helpful having that understanding from him. My partner drinks too much and it is one of the only things we fight about (as well as my need to travel when he wants to settle down in a stable life). He’s not an alcoholic and doesn’t drink every day but I grew out of the binge drinking of my teens and early twenties and he hasn’t completely
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        • Hi Katie, yes, it’s a tough one. I almost destroyed my relationship through my drinking and I am so lucky I was given another chance. Relationships are tough at the best of times, adding alcohol abuse into the mix is a killer. Just follow your heart and try to live by it, hopefully your man will see that you are worth more than the drink, and if not, have the confidence to know that you are. Lots of love xxx

  4. Talk about sychronicity, higher power, God or coincidence?-what ever you may call it. I receive your blog and was forwarding it to a friend as we remember you from the Nedlands Tarts meeting. I hadnt actually read the entire content I just saw that it was your 5th birthday and I thought Chris would love to see how you were doing also. I was new to the fellowship and loved listening to your shares in Nedlands.
    As I was forwarding the email I was actually listening to the replay of Tommys Webinar, I didnt even know your blog contained him in it.
    Congratulations on your 5th birthday and Im hoping I can come to the retreat in Bali but will know for sure later on. All the best one day at a time x

    • Wow Lorraine! Yes that is definitely one of those moments which reminds us we are all connected to something bigger!! I am thrilled to hear from you. Just seeing those words here, ‘Nedlands Tarts’ makes me smile!! I miss that meeting and all of the wonderful women there. I carry you all in my heart every day. We are so blessed to have this connection aren’t we? Would love to have you join us on retreat, if it works out for you. If you have any questions or concerns at all, drop me a line. Thank you so much for your message Lorraine, it made my day! Much love to you on your recovery journey xoxo

  5. Laying in the dark reading this and crying….because of how much your writing about recovery moves me and connects me and teaches me new things. The simplicity and authenticity of what you share cuts through to my spirit in such a direct and powerful way. It gives me hope to stay the course and re engage …. To not drift, to remember the miracle of our recovery journey, to focus on gratitude that our lives have bloomed beyond the corner bar and our lonely apartments. Really, your words are an amazing gift to me and to others. Thank you Sarah for writing. Please don’t stop.

    • Aw, love you! Your friendship is one of the many miracles of this journey! I miss you but am so happy you are going ‘home.’ Please give everyone a big hug from me Xxx

  6. Sarah, I am 25 days into sobriety…it’s hard…I have drank for 15-20 years…I have only quit this long once before 5 years ago…I have no idea what I am doing other than just not drinking

    • Hi Jeff, yes it’s damned hard! Especially in the beginning. At 25 days it is all about just not drinking, one day at a time. Every day you don’t drink, you are getting well, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Are you going to meetings? I highly recommend it. I couldn’t imagine doing it alone. I promise if you pick up the tools of the twelve steps, your life will get better. Don’t give up before the miracle happens. You got this Jeff!!!

  7. It’s amazing how long it takes to fully experience such a simple thing in yoga. I have had those moments where it all comes together and you truly experience the breath or the lightness or clarity that you’ve been working so hard to grasp. And then as soon as you try to hold on to it, it’s gone. But it’s such an exhilarating thing – why I keep going back for more. Your journey is a tough one, but an amazing thing to watch. It inspires me to better myself and face my own demons. Thank you for sharing your story. Addiction is an ugly thing, but like many ugly things, it can bring beauty when we have the courage to fight it.
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