When I was feeling the worst in my life, uncontrolled anxiety, depression, daily drinking to cope, all I wanted to do was escape. Take a break from feeling so stressed out about my life and relax with a few glasses of wine. But that daily wine habit quickly moved from a glass to a bottle and when I started opening a second bottle on a regular basis, I would just sit numbing my mind watching tv that wasn’t even interesting and waiting to pass out or get drunk enough to go to sleep so I could manage my demanding day at work again tomorrow.
At this point I knew about yoga but had never been to a class. I was never really interested in “working out” and thought that’s really all it was. A fancy wine country style of exercise. At this point in my life, I was balancing 2 homes in 2 cities and travelling back and forth between wine country and work country, running a busy full-service restaurant and balancing family demands with two teenagers.
One day, I don’t know why, but I was walking past a yoga studio and felt the urge to check it out. I went in and pretty much transported to what seemed like a different universe! There was aroma therapy diffusers and a soothing waterfall fountain, a beautiful inviting woman behind a live edge wooden desk asking how she could help. I said, “I honestly don’t know – I have never done yoga before.” She quickly shared the class guide with me and invited me to join a candlelight yin class that would be hosted later that night.
Let me tell you, that class CHANGED MY LIFE.
I didn’t quite know it then, but it would have a profound effect on me and decisions I continue to make even today.
The class was soothing, calming, warm and slow. I felt a little out of place and kinda silly not knowing any of the positions or terminology and having to look around to see if I was doing it right. But it was a SAFE place. And it was probably one of the first times I had ever really connected with my own body in such a meaningful way.
I cried the WHOLE damn time!
I had never had a response like this, so I thought I was crazy and wouldn’t end up going back for many years. But there was always something inside me that was coaxing me towards yoga, telling me to learn more.
Have you ever been curious about yoga? Thinking it seems like a good thing, like it might be relaxing or good for you but then the thought of people doing headstands on IG quickly tells you NO F’in WAY are YOUUU cut out for this kind of thing.
..Or maybe you have done yoga, maybe even a lot, but it has been purely a physical exercise activity and you go more for the vinyasa, flow or power classes that get you amped up and sweaty and often have little to no spiritual value.
I love that yoga has been introduced to the West, I think it’s a wonderful thing, but I know that what the vast majority of people think is yoga, is only a fraction of the tradition in its fullness.
So back to my story, in 2017 after a crazy few years and a heartbreaking breakup with my fiancé, I was called towards yoga once again. This time I would dive a little deeper, straight into an intensive 200 hr YTT. It was nothing short of life changing, I gained a deeper connection to self, I learned so much about the body and anatomy, a bunch of good feeling postures, and met people I really enjoyed being around, while also beginning to find a new voice inside of me and an excitement for teaching.
It was VERY different from the restaurant world I spent most of my time in!
If you have ever done a retreat, or a yoga teacher training (YTT), or maybe even just a really great class, you might know the feeling of being transported to a new and wonderful place and thinking “Wow this is amazing! I want to feel this way FOREVER!”
I know I did.
And I thought I would.
But the truth is, even though I was introduced to this beautiful connection to my body for the first time ever, I didn’t know how to integrate it into my messy life. Over time the benefits and effects started to fade away and before long I was back to feeling depressed, super stressed, out of control and no surprise here – my drinking was at an all-time high.
Here’s the thing. Yoga is a lifestyle. It is a commitment to your self-care and your spiritual journey.
So, let’s fast forward a couple more years, now I am on a journey to finally get my drinking under control. I needed to, it’s not that I really believed that my drinking was a problem, but I just didn’t feel like life should be SO HARD. I didn’t like the person I turned into when I drank too much. I kept screwing up, and it was unfortunately – always – connected to my relationship with alcohol.
Do you ever wish you could be more responsible with your drinking? Like if only you could have one or two and then walk away, then you would be ok? Maybe you wish you could just be a “normal” drinker?
Well just to let you know, drinking responsibly is a total myth. A marketing gimmick, made up by the government and alcohol companies to put the responsibility on the person instead of looking at the substance for what it really is. A highly addictive and TOXIC liquid made by the exact same chemical that helps run your car, ethanol. There is no “normal” …That’s like saying you should be able to “shoot up responsibly!” — NO ONE WOULD EVER SAY THAT! No one thinks you should be able to shoot up heroin and then be responsible with your intake. — But once you know the truth about alcohol, that is the sad reality that we are faced with in society today. We are taught to believe that WE should be the ones being responsible for handling this highly addictive substance and if we don’t, well then, I guess you are just weak willed, or it must run in your family. Let me assure you, neither of these are true.
In my experience, drinking was making me feel miserable but then when I would try to cut back, I was also miserable and feeling totally deprived. I would do ok for a short while, only to eventually wake up one morning after a binge night, asking myself what I did now and having to apologize for my crappy behaviour… Again.
It took me a while, but I finally figured out how much better my life was when I committed to going alcohol free. That was its own journey and a story for another day!
The point of this one is to tell you how I figured out that the journey to freedom from alcohol is absolutely congruent to the path of freedom through yoga.
If you want to feel at peace, cultivate calm, create emotional stability and find happiness for maybe the first time EVER, then I highly recommend finding your way to your yoga mat! But please keep reading because asana (the physical postures the West believes IS yoga) is only a fraction of what yoga has to offer.
Yoga is this beautifully rich tradition that dates back thousands of years, its wisdom being centered on a person’s journey to self-actualization. If you happen to remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from grade school, you might recall self-actualization being the highest point on the need’s triangle.
To me this means that we all have an innate desire, or need, to BECOME WHOLE. (Based on the current system of things and the belief that we are not in fact whole, the whole time! 😉) The dictionary defines self-actualization as “the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.” So basically, living into your truth, following your heart’s desires and doing whatever the F makes YOU feel like you are living up to your full potential.
Well beautiful human, the amazing (and super dedicated) souls of ancient India created a step-by-step framework for anyone to follow to be able to experience this very thing in their own lives.
The crazy thing is that it is still the most complete and holistic approach to living well in modern times!
This knowledge is referred to as the “8-limbed Path” or Ashtanga Yoga. (Not to be confused with the specific series of postures developed by Sri K Pattabhi Jois.)
The 8-limbed Path is the classical definition of yoga described in the ancient yoga text of the Yoga Sutras, by mystic Patanjali. This text is a collection of 196 Sutras, or sentences which outline the context of yoga and how to follow the path to liberation from suffering.
The 8 limbs help to categorize and explain the commitment to living a morally disciplined and purposeful life. What I think is great about yoga is that it isn’t a religious or dogmatic teaching, it is simply a structure, or path to follow if you truly want to live a meaningful life.
I am obviously not saying that your life is meaningless if you don’t practice yoga, but I am saying that I have found more happiness, joy, prosperity and fulfillment by integrating these practices into my life in a mindful and meaningful way.
So that brings me to how I found peace, happiness and freedom after over a decade (almost 2) of daily drinking.
It was a beautiful combination of finding This Naked Mind and deepening my spiritual practice through yoga. The two just click, they work together, on one hand I eliminated the psychological DESIRE TO DRINK through the science based and compassion led methodology of This Naked Mind. While I simultaneously traded in my drinking habit and focused on developing my relationship with yoga. I started learning, meditating, moving my body, appreciating myself more and finding more and more to be grateful for.
On New Year’s Eve it will be 3 years since I blacked out for the last time. 3 years since I woke up to find out that I had totally berated my brothers new fiance after the very first time we met. The last time I will ever have to apologize for turning into someone that I HATED, someone that is rude, toxic, and downright hateful. It will be 3 amazing years of growth, healing and reclaiming power over my life. It will be 3 years of learning to love myself and taking the time to figure out what the hell happiness even means. It will be 3 years of me building a beautiful life that I am proud of, of learning to self-regulate, of becoming less angry and more calm, of committing to live in my purpose and be of service to the world. Because I for one believe we (as a whole) can do a whole lot better than we are doing now.
This journey has allowed me to build trust within myself and find freedom from the pieces of my past that hurt so much that I had to numb away all the good and the bad in my life.
When we choose to numb our feelings like stress with a substance like alcohol, we don’t realize that we are putting an invisible cap on our level of happiness at the same time.
You might think alcohol is helping you cope, but in reality, it is stealing any joy you have.
You might feel like it’s relaxing, but it is actually releasing high levels of cortisol into your system which is also known as the stress hormone. The euphoric high of alcohol only lasts 20 minutes before your body counteracts the artificially high spike of dopamine and puts you in a depressive state for the next 3-4 hours.
Do you ever notice that your hangovers last way longer than it takes for your blood alcohol level to return to zero? Well, that’s why.
Is 20 minutes of satiation really worth the uncontrollable urge to drink MORE followed by hours of physical and mental pain and whatever other consequences come with your drinking experience?
I have decided for myself, NO, absolutely not.
But of course, you must make that decision for yourself.
However, if you want to hit the easy button on breaking up with booze and feel happy, confident and at peace, I’m here to tell you, that option is there too.
Onward beauty, to a life you LOVE.
ps. Check back in over the next 8 weeks and I will share more about the 8 limbs of yoga and how I am integrating them into my modern busy life and how I teach people every day how to reinvent their lives, and their relationship with alcohol through the powerful teachings of yoga.