This is my 6th year anniversary of continual sobriety. As I witness where I’m at now, I can’t help but remember the path that brought me here.
I was raised in a strict religious household and drinking alcohol was considered a sin. I was shy and afraid to show myself and connect with others. This turtle enjoyed hiding in his shell.
When I first started drinking alcohol in college, I was amazed at how this different side of me would come out. Alcohol allowed me to loosen up and be more playful. I felt more attractive and funnier. It was a better party with Paul.
It wasn’t long until I found a new best friend in smoking pot. My inhibitions faded away. The high made the real world easier to be in. If I was ever struggling emotionally, I could get high and blow the troubles away in a cloud of smoke.
I loved creating things high, believing my creative flow expanded my normal boundaries. For a brief moment, it probably did. Life seemed better, love seemed easier. It blurred lines and helped me to express out of the box.
Without noticing, it became a crutch for me. In order to be fun and creative, I needed to turn to alcohol and pot to be a more likable version of myself. Numbing out these challenging emotions was my way of life.
As the addiction grew, the dependency became deeper. I experimented with other drugs as an escape. What started off as a source of creativity and pleasure, turned into a way of trying to fill this hole inside of me. As I continued in the addiction, the hole became bigger, the wound became deeper, the isolation became greater.
The secret was all-encompassing. I felt broken and I was afraid to show this part of myself. I couldn’t share it with others. I felt they were beginning to see the fun-loving Paul was collapsing. My laugh was too much, my fun was becoming shaky. The guilt and shame grew into a bigger monster that I would try to run away from. The challenging emotions just got stuffed deeper inside of me.
All I wanted was to connect. And yet, I was making all the wrong choices of finding that deeper connection I was seeking. People weren’t on the same buzz as I was, and so connecting with others became challenging. Fleeting moments of love weren’t enough to keep me afloat. Los Angeles became the loneliest place on earth. Instead, I found myself isolating at home.
I turned on myself. I was ashamed of my addiction. Yet I would tell you I could quit anytime I wanted. But I knew I wasn’t living to my fullest potential. And the depression I felt grew deeper and deeper.
I had gone to 12 step meetings before seeking help. I resisted the thought that I was “powerless” over my addiction. I’m too in control to be powerless! I hated the thought that any substance had power over me. And yet, I couldn’t stop my addictive patterns. It affected my friendships, work, and relationships. It was taking a toll on my body, mind, and spirit.
When I would share with others about how I wanted to kick the addiction but was having a hard time doing it, one friend shared, “There are some dragons in this life we may not be able to defeat.” Feeling crushed by that thought, I wondered, was I ever going to make it through this?
For a brief time, life seemed to be getting better, but I was not. I was busy, my career was moving forward, and I was in a new relationship. But I knew how rocky my foundation was.
Positive changes were short-lived for an addict like me. My rock bottom came when my relationship was about to end. My career and work were being affected, and I knew how much secrecy and shame I was holding within. I would lose everything.
I was deep in my yoga journey and had become a yoga teacher. I was developing the practice of Grief Yoga – helping others process their grief through yoga and movement. I was teaching what I needed to learn myself. How could I have any integrity asking others to be with their feelings and avoid my own? I needed to work on myself first.
I made a decision. I was going to stop using drugs and alcohol to numb out the pain. I started going to meetings and decided I actually was powerlessness with this addiction. And in that powerlessness, I could also choose to connect with a power greater than myself to help move me through the pain.
What happened after that was an intense road to healing. I experienced dark nights of the soul as I had to sit with my guilt. I was humbled and raw. I experienced powerful heart openings as I shared about the secrecy I held onto for so long. In shining a light on my secrets, the shame was washed away as I felt more open, authentic and hopeful.
Since doing my personal inventory and making amends from my mistakes of the past, I feel I’m walking a path with more integrity. I’m being more honest to myself and to others.
When I want to run away and numb the pain, I lean into the discomfort. I feel it. I get into my body and become present to what is. I love myself in the pain. I thought I would have to grieve the fun-loving guy who was no longer here, but I found a more authentic guy who loved authentic fun. Not easy – but way more fulfilling.
I now try to embrace the many parts of myself. My wounds, my love, my sadness, my anger, my hurt, my hope. I work on forgiving and letting go.
Some days are so much harder than others. When the cravings bubble up and I want to escape, I inquire within to a choice that will best serve me right now. That my actions have an effect on the future. I no longer want to feel guilt in making those wrong decisions. And when I do make a wrong choice, to choose to talk about it and come clean so the shame doesn’t continue to build.
It’s one day at a time for me. Today I choose to love my imperfections. I choose to see where I’ve come from and the wounded parts of myself. And to whisper to myself in that space, “I love you”. And breathe.