Yoga Is My Recovery Superpower

Yoga Is My Recovery Superpower

It was a very unexpected benefit.  Laying in Savasana (dead man’s pose), I felt like the weight of the World had been lifted off of me.  There was a steady and deep contentment that had evaded me for the previous two decades despite many attempts to capture it.  One clear thought crossed my mind: Yoga is my recovery superpower!

My original motivation to go to yoga was to relieve the chronic throb at the base of my back that pulsated like the heartbeat of a wild horse. My other hope was to drop a few pounds that inhabited my hips and clung on with a death grip. A friend suggested that yoga would help both dilemmas. So off I went with high anxiety and a sticky new yoga mat.

Months later, while lying supine on the floor, it occurred to me that yoga was providing an enormous boost to my ability to stay clean and sober.  I was even feeling happy. The struggle of early recovery seemed to slip away as quietly and slowly as ice melts from a frozen pond in spring.  I was in the midst of a big thaw and I loved it!

My curiosity was piqued that morning as my yoga practice concluded. I wondered exactly how yoga had created such a sense of ease in my mind and my body.  I realized yoga is my recovery superpower because it helps me to cultivate discipline; experience bursts of joy; improve my focus, strength and stamina; and connect to community.

Cultivating Discipline

Yoga became a recovery superpower for me because it requires me to be disciplined.  I commit to rolling out my mat in a yoga studio or in my home.  Then I actually do it. The decision to practice is not enough.  I have to take action.

This takes discipline.  I experience the benefit of making a commitment and having the skill and ability to actually stick to it.  I hold this committment lightly so it does not become a stressor if I miss a day or two here and there.   

Being disciplined in this way has given me confidence, positive regard for myself, and a can-do attitude.  Not to mention the benefits of a consistent yoga practice!

Bursts of Joy

For some people it might be difficult to imagine how yoga would bring bursts of joy.  This was definitely an unanticipated recovery tool for me.

The bursts of joy come when I experience a physical release in a tight shoulder as a result of my yoga practice.  Joy also comes when I finally capture that balancing pose if even for only a second or two.   

And perhaps the most amazing experience of joy is walking out of the yoga practice when I feel renewed, reset, and ready to take on life clean and sober.

Yoga Is My Recovery Superpower

Focus, Strength, & Stamina

One of the greatest assets of a regular yoga practice is a sharper mental focus.  Being aware of what I am focusing on has helped my yoga practice and my sobriety.

Focus matters when I am in a pose on my mat and when I am living life.  I can see how I am holding tension in my body, mind, or spirit.  When I realize my focus is not where I want it or my focus is all over the place, I can make a conscious decision to redirect my attentions.

This is an excellent recovery superpower because before I sharpened my focus through yoga, my mind and emotions dragged me around like a wind slams a wind chime in a hurricane.  No wonder I was frequently anxious and always on the verge of relapse.

Because of my yoga practice, I have learned the relapse prevention skill of being able to direct my attention to more beneficial and supportive areas that support my recovery rather than destroy it.

I have gotten physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger as a result of my yoga practice.  My body muscles have gained strength as I learn new poses and take familiar poses deeper.  My mind has strengthened as a result of being able to choose what I focus on. Very few people actually have this skill.  Try focusing on your breathing for only ONE minute and see if your mind wonders.

My stamina to withstand that which I do not like has improved too.  I have learned to practice being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Now this is a magnificent recovery superpower!  When I am in a yoga pose that I do not like, I practice being with that which is uncomfortable.  I learn that I do not have to react. This translates off the mat when I am in conflict with someone I love or my boss is having a bad day and taking it out on me.

My stamina has improved and I have become more physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger.  I used to take everything personally, tire easily, and feel like I was constantly in a battle with everyone and everything.  My stamina has improved and I have put down my sword. There is tremendous freedom of spirit and I find peace and serenity.

Connect to Community

I did not go to yoga class to find friends. Yet over time, I saw the same people and we would small talk before and after class.  That led to having a coffee together and then attending a talk or going on a weekend retreat.  I practiced being in healthy relationships.  This was something that seemed out of reach for me in my active days of using drugs and alcohol.

Through my yoga practice I also found I was getting better at connecting with my loved ones.  I no longer had the need to change things to be as I thought they should be.  My acceptance and tolerance grew.  My ability to authentically contact with others improved.  This is a very helpful superpower in recovery!  The isolation of addiction waned as my ability to connect improved.

The skills I learn being on my yoga mat translate into real life situations.  My yoga practice is a superpower because it helps me to cultivate discipline; experience bursts of joy; improve focus, strength and stamina; and connect to community.

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Sober Parenting

Sober Parenting

Sober Mom

“Tough day? Have a glass of wine!”

“These terrible twos deserve WINE!”

“Kid’s woke up at 5AM, #morewineplease”

“Kid’s wont go to bed #bringonthewine”

These are just some examples of things I see when I am scrolling through instagram.  I am not sure when wine became necessary to parent, but it seems to have a big role in the lives of many.  You should see the looks I get at playgroups when people find out I have two kids under the age of two and I DON’T drink. sober parenting.

I am a sober Mom. I feel very blessed to have entered recovery before I had my children.  It is not like I am saying that every mom that drinks alcohol is an alcoholic; but, the rise of day wine drinking and comments about mixing liquor into morning coffee to cope with the terrible twos is all over social media.  There are many blog posts that outline day drinking as a stay at home mom and justifies it because “momming is hard.”

Having my second child really changed my recovery.  Getting to meetings was no longer easy and that meant a lot less connection with other people.  I found myself on the brink of being close to postpartum depression.  I felt alone, overwhelmed and in way over my head.  Again, I am very grateful for my recovery and the tools I had because it kept me a sober parent and the thought of picking up never occurred to me.  After a couple of months of struggling,  Finding balance and a way to nurture my recovery while being a mom has been very helpful.

Tips for Sober Parenting

Here are some tips for being a sober parent:

1.Yoga- Yoga is something that I have always loved.  I love the asana(postures) but I also love the lifestyle.  Practicing yoga on a regular basis and many times with my children is a great way to connect with myself and my kids.  As a stay at home mom, I don’t get immense amounts of alone time.  Every morning after breakfast my toddler and I roll out our yoga mat and start our practice.  The baby lays on the mat or I wear her during this time. 

We have an awesome book that we read and follow the yoga routine in it.  We then look at our ABC yoga poster and my toddler picks out a few more poses to do.  This is not what I thought my yoga practice would ever look like, but it is pretty magical.  It gets me on my mat and it gives my toddler a chance to learn and grow in his own way. Yoga helps me to be a sober parent.

2. Mindfulness- There are so many types of mindfulness.  After yoga we sit and take deep breaths.  This is a way for me to be present and it just slows us both down.  We come back to this practice of deep breathing many times throughout the day.  Deep breathing is scientifically shown to slow the brain.  So throughout the day when either of us get frustrated or upset we will practice this again. 

Another way I practice mindfulness is to just truly be present in each moment.  This means putting my phone down and just being.  When I am truly present in each moment all my “problems” and “worries” instantly melt away.  In the present moment my problems don’t exist.  Being a sober parent means I have to deal with the array of difficult emotions and the sense of being overwhelmed at times.  I have found mindfulness to be effective tool in being a sober Mom.

3. Nutrition- This has been another big one for me!  With two small kids it is SO hard to find time to cook healthy meals.  So in our house we do a lot of meal prepping.  We plan our meals so there is very little work to be done throughout the week.  During the week my toddler helps me to prep vegetables which helps to occupy him while we get to make healthy food choices.  We also do lots of smoothies, homemade green juices and healthy muffins!  When I eat well, I feel better and I am less likely to reach for a negative coping skill.

4. Connection- Connecting with other adults is so important to me.  I can’t always just race to a meeting when I am feeling the need for connecting with people.  It is very helpful for me to practice being vulnerable with others and so I reach out to others more easily than I used to.   

I have wonderful friends that have become family that I met in AA.  It is a blessing to have these people to connect with because they live in the solution and we can talk about that and live it together.  I also have made some amazing friends with Moms who are not in recovery.  This has been crucial for my happiness too.  It is so nice to be able to talk with people who are experiencing similar things in regards to raising kids.  There are so many local groups in different areas to join and ways to meet people.  They even have mom apps to meet other moms!

Sober Parenting

Being a mom is hard!  Being in recovery has its challenges as well.  Drinking and parenthood do not have to go hand in hand.  Find the tools that work for you and take care of yourself.  You deserve it.  Being able to utilize the tools listed above has allowed me to find true happiness even through the sleep deprived, messy and chaotic life of being a sober Mom.

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Transforming Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage

Transforming Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage

Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage

I am not sure when it actually happened.  It was this long process that revealed itself as slowly as a New England winter transforms into spring.  It takes awhile and unfolds at its own pace.  It cannot be rushed. A few steps forward and a couple of steps back.  Slowly, progress is made. Chaos and Confusion

At some point, I realized “Ah. I. Can. Do. This.”   I can live happily clean and sober. It occurred to me that the chaos and confusion I was once living in addiction transformed in to confidence and courage. And this is how.

Physical and Mental Transformation

Cravings for my drink and drug lasted long after detox.  The physically cravings had subsided but the mental ones were screaming like megaphones in my ears.  It was so loud that it drowned out every other thought and all other noise.  In many moments, it seemed near impossible not to pick-up to once again experience the comfort that comes from having that drink or drug ride the jet stream of my blood flow.

I knew what I had to do though. Chaos and Confusion

This time I knew I just had to wait it out.  The intensity of the cravings at times threatened to overwhelm me and win the battle.  I learned to just simply wait.  Sometimes with clinched fists and a tight jaw. But waiting always won.

Occasionally, I picked up the phone and called someone that I trusted just to say hello, to vent, or to distract my mind. I prayed too.  Pleaded really.  Going to an AA meeting helped most times.  I had to find those meetings where the topic of conversation was more than just war stories about the trials and tribulations of addiction.  I knew how to live addicted. The meetings that focused on living in the solution and provided tips on how to stay clean and sober were a lot more helpful.

Physically, I felt lousy, had no energy, and was awake when I should have been asleep and asleep when I should have been awake.  This fed the chaos and confusion of my daily existence for many months in early sobriety.

I clearly saw that physically and mentally I needed to transform chaos and confusion into confidence and courage.

Emotional Mixed Bag

There was also a deep sadness that resided inside of me.  For the longest time, I really could not figure out why I felt this way.  Then I heard someone explain that she felt like she had lost her best friend when she stopped drinking.  Me too!  I was experiencing the grief of missing my companion of drugs and alcohol that had been with me since I was a teenager.  We hung out together pretty much daily for literally decades.  And now my friend and companion was suddenly gone.  Knowing that this grief was real helped me to transform the emotional chaos and confusion I was experiencing into confidence and courage.

It seemed as though every little tip and piece of wisdom was another piece in the puzzle of sober living. I was gaining traction in putting the puzzle pieces together to create a unified whole.

Keep It Simple

I heard the slogan “Keep it simple” before and never really understood exactly what it meant. Actually, I never really gave it much thought.  It was only in the rearview mirror that I realized that is exactly what was helping me to stay sober. I had to keep every thing very, very simple.  In order to do that, I followed three rules that really helped in that first year:

1. Avoid Drama at all costs

2. Talk less and listen more (in other words stop having an opinion about everything)

3. Develop basic routines & rituals and be consistent

Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage
Avoiding Drama

It seemed as though every relationship in my life had some level of drama to it.  Both spoken and unspoken drama played at the edge of every conversation, silent glance, and the body language of those around me.  So much havoc had been created by my addiction that I no longer knew what was real and what was imagined between others and myself.  I was often caught up in the drama of friends too that really had nothing to do with me.  I lacked boundaries and stayed silent when I should have spoken up and spoke up when I should have stayed silent.

It occurred to me that one effective drama-killing tool was practicing contentment.  Just being with things as they are rather than trying to make them be what I thought they should be. This practice relieved a lot of suffering for myself and for others.

Getting through that first year of sobriety meant I had to take stock of what was causing me to be so upset all the time and redirect my attention and my efforts.

Learning to observe what I pay attention to and feed with my thoughts and actions became a very helpful skill.

Drama in my life got the boot.

Accepting things as they are takes a lot of practice.  But slowly, over time, it became easier and “I stopped fighting everyone and everything “ (AA Big Book).

Talk Less & Listen More

It also helped for me to stop having an opinion about everything and everyone.  It was as if I had to be the defender of all of my opinions in order to feel worthy.  My serenity was the price I was paying and it was costing way too much.  So I simply started to shut up.  When tempted to speak up I would ask myself “What am I defending?”  Usually it was so trivial it was not even worth the breath required to utter a word.  I found staying quiet made people want to engage with me more.  And it spared me lots of unnecessary physical and emotional energy.

This simple, but not always easy, practice was a huge benefit in transforming chaos and confusion into courage and confidence.

Routines & Rituals

The routines and rituals created by my active addiction were significant.  The certainty of particular ways of preparing and using drugs, the habits involved in daily drinking, and the thought, preparation, and energy needed for these activities oddly enough brings satisfaction and comfort.  Feeling in control and a sense of competency, even those it is injurious, provide a structure that brings familiarity and an odd sense of safety.

For those people that do not battle substance use disorder, it is likely astonishing to hear that there is comfort that comes from the routines and rituals of active addiction. But for those of us that have lived the hell of addiction, this makes total and complete sense.

I replaced those harmful routines and rituals with more healthy ones.  I started walking daily. My phone counted and tracked my steps. I found it helped to create structure in my day and also was a boost for me mentally.

I also started with small things like making sure I was drinking enough water and trying to get to bed at the same time every night.  Self-destruction was replaced with self-care.

The process of moving from chaos and confusion to confidence and courage takes commitment, attention, and patience.  Letting go of the idea that I was doing things perfectly helped too.   Eventually, living clean and sober became easier than living in addiction.

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Transforming Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage

Self-Care is Necessary to Maintain Sobriety

Self-Care is Necessary to Maintain Sobriety

Maintenance is Self-Care & Necessary to Sobriety

Early recovery was one of the most anxious times of my life. It took me awhile to figure out that self-care is necessary to maintain sobriety.  I was missing this key ingredient to relapse prevention for quite sometime. And I paid the big ticket relapse price. Maintenance is necessary to remain sober.

In early sobriety, I was totally emotionally bankrupt. My inner state was full of chaos and confusion. I had never felt so unsure; a total lack of confidence.  I had a lot of self-doubt that I wanted to cart off by the truckloads. It paralyzed me. There was a lack of trust too.  Trusting myself and trusting others were nonexistent.  Everyone was walking on eggshells around me. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin. This enormous sense of unworthiness took up all the space inside me.

Physically I felt lousy.  My digestion system was always in turmoil and it was messing with my appetite.  I was skipping meals and then eating too much because I was so hungry. Food became a total annoyance. I never made time for it. And I was not selective at all about what I put in my body.

I was constantly tired.  Sluggishness clung to me like a cold winter wind. I just could not shake it.  I would go to bed so exhausted and lie there not able to sleep.  Days I could sleep-in I would be up at dawn wide-awake.  I was sleepy when I needed to be awake and awake when I should have been asleep.

I knew that I was not meeting some of my own most basic physical needs and this was affecting me mentally and emotionally.  Basic self-care habits regarding nutrition, water intake, and adequate sleep had been missing in my life for a quite some time.   It was affecting me negatively both mentally and emotionally.

It occurred to me that I had to somehow get out of my own way and create a road map that would heal and sustain my internal environment.  A sort of housecleaning had to take place for the way I was treating myself physically.  I began to see that my lack of self-care was feeding my negative emotional state. One was connected to the other. A plan for self-care, which was never a strong point of mine, seemed necessary to maintaining my sobriety.

But I had no idea where to begin.  My head was already spinning with all the recommendations and suggestions from the well-meaning people around me.  Go to meetings. Get a sponsor.  Go to the doctors. Find a therapist. Exercise.  Eat three meals a day. Take vitamins. Go to bed early. Get up early. Do this. Do that.

Yikes!  I was totally overwhelmed.  It did not help that I had no motivation, felt totally defeated, and had nagging and reoccurring doubts and fears that sometimes made me wonder, “why bother?”

It was suggested to me to start simple and build from there. Some quick easy successes would help me to stay motivated and would build momentum.

Self- Care: A Road Map For The Basics

My eating patterns being totally off were working against me.  This food thing had me totally perplexed. A good friend of mine had a very healthy diet and seemed to have this aspect of her life together so I asked her for some tips.  She had excellent advice.  She helped me to make small simple changes that were totally doable and not to difficult.

For example, I started drinking more water.  It helped to track how much I drank on a daily basis.  I did not start off with some lofty goal.  Just drink a full glass of water in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.  I knew I was supposed to have more than this but I had to start small to feel successful and in order to stay motivated. It was a beginning.

Next I added in eating salad and fruit whenever I could.  I just became conscious of trying to eat more raw veggies and fruits.  No big deal.  I was surprised at how easy it was to add these into my diet. I committed to eating one salad a day.  It seemed to be helping my mental and emotional states as I began to feel good for taking care of myself.

maintenance

It was easy to get caught up in thinking that I was not doing enough or doing it right.  That is my default-mode thinking.  So I gave myself permission to keep it simple and doable.  And when I did not meet my own standards, I was ok with that.  I let go of having to do it perfectly.  This was a huge relief.  To my surprise, this realization began to seep into other areas of my life too. These is what that slogan “let go” means.

I did not stop eating what some may consider junk food.  I just added in more raw veggies and fruit.  To my amazement, I began to crave more fresh fruits and salads then junk food.  Over time, the balance tipped and I was consuming more healthy foods and less unhealthy ones. When I took the pressure off and held the goal lightly, it seemed to go much better.

I also stopped skipping meals.  Even if I was not hungry at mealtimes I would have a little something. Slowly, my digestion system started to heal and I began to feel a lot better. maintenance

The Importance of Sleep

Regarding sleep, I had a habit of staying up too late and then getting up late and feeling rushed and stressed in the morning. This really started each day off with me feeling grouchy and unsatisfied. So I started going to bed at a set time.  I tried 10:00pm but that was just too early for me.  I would lie there awake and my anxiety would amp up.  So I tried 10:30pm. Most nights I was asleep by 11:00pm.  This was a huge improvement over 12:30am, 1:00am, or sometimes 1:30am that I was experiencing before. I tried to get eight hours of sleep whenever I could.  My sleep plan did not go perfectly every night.  Like with my eating, I held it lightly and overtime I started to wake up most days feeling rested and ready for the day.

In early sobriety the body and soul are still healing.  I found out that my water intake, nutrition, and sleep patterns really matter.  When I started to take better care of myself, I started to feel more confident and worthy.  I actually started to like me!  The momentum began to build and one twenty-four hours of sobriety became another twenty-four. Before I knew it, days turned into weeks which turned into months and I was putting some clean and sober time together.   

In early sobriety, I discovered out that self-care is necessary to maintain sobriety.

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I Needed Help Too

I Needed Help Too

One of the first shocking phrases I heard at my loved one’s detox center was “ You know? You need help as well. You can recover.” I needed help too.

I could not believe what the nurse was telling me. How could I need recovery, if the addict was my family member, who had been struggling with substance abuse for a long time and had just been admitted to the center? And what exactly did she mean by recovery for me? Was I supposed to be admitted there as well?

To tell you the truth, if being admitted to the hospital would have taken away all the pain and sorrow, all that worry, and all the fearful and sleepless nights I had been having for years, then I would have been packed and ready in a second. Unfortunately, my recovery looked like something else; it involved something new, something that included an understanding of life in different terms, and most of all, an understanding of love in a deeper way.

Having a loved one who struggles with addiction brings family members to a whole new way of living, and no one is ever prepared for it. We keep trying to convince ourselves that things will get better if only we made ourselves clearer, if only we tried harder; if only we said the right thing, at the right time; if only, if only …

We delude ourselves, in our despair, to believe that this situation is temporary, that our loved one could straighten things out if he or she wanted to. We are so eager to see this chaos end, that we might even allow abuse and neglect without knowing it. More so, we turn to believe the promises we are told over and over again, in the false hope that everything will be ok soon. But our desire cannot fool reality. The addictive behavior comes back again and again, and an overwhelming feeling of despair takes over one more time. Realizing this, I saw that I needed help too.

This cycle can go on for years and years. Little did we know that our actions had the power of interfering with our loved one’s sobriety because we were actually enabling. Our demanding or begging, cursing or threatening, offending and manipulating were just reactions to the fear we were we experiencing and in reality, we were only contributing to the chaos. Changing this pattern of action and reaction is what recovery looks like for me.

New Strategies

These automatic and well intended reactions are ultimately impeding our loved ones to accept what they are doing to themselves and others, to face the consequences for their actions, and to finally seek help. As much as we struggle to admit it, it is our wish to be helpful that is counterproductive, and at first, it’s very difficult to understand and to accept because we have the right intention and a lot of love to give. However, we will need to learn a new way of loving; a new way that will allow us to communicate with the person we love, without engaging in their chaotic needs.

We will need to learn to overcome the emotional loss, and begin slowly to understand and accept this new way of loving, (that seems so unnatural to us at first). This is what recovery looks like for me.

help

We Need Recovery

We need recovery, as family members, if we still believe that our love will be enough to overcome addictive behavior. We need recovery if we still believe we have the power of controlling what other people do and say. We need recovery if our thinking has become distorted as a consequence of having a loved one who struggles with an addiction we can neither understand nor cure. And we need recovery because we cannot do this to ourselves any longer. It doesn’t go away just like that.

Today, many years after that episode in the detox center, and many meetings, prayers, and self-reflections later, I can say that I deeply understand what my recovery means to me. It really saved my life and my sanity discovering that, to my own awe, I could still live a serene life in spite of what my loved one does or does not do. It allowed me to reconfigure my perceptions of what I thought my life would be, and be more accepting of what life has brought me. Not just as a punishment (the way I first thought of it), but as an opportunity to participate in life more fully.

My recovery showed me how to love in a deeper and more compassionate way, and to be less judgmental of others. It allowed me to build a whole new relationship with family members who struggle and to include those who don’t. Today, I know I can love more fully and have a sense of acceptance and compassion I never dreamed of having before. I am so grateful that I realized that I need help too.

Guest Blogger: Gabriella T.

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