This is an excerpt from ‘Bent Back into Shape: Beating Addiction Through Yoga‘, my debut book. You can get some more free chapters of this below
At the age of 16 I discovered alcohol gave me a mask to hide my insecurities and low self-esteem. It felt as though a great gift had been given to me. I drank only on weekends, and generally had a good time. I was able to talk to people, to relax, to dance, and even more amazingly, I was able to talk to boys I was attracted to. This alone, to a girl so insecure that she was completely incapable of talking to boys sober, made alcohol seem like nothing short of a miracle potion!
When I was 20, my life fell apart in ways I could never have imagined possible, and the low self-esteem developed into deep self-loathing and a conviction that I was a despicable person. The mask became a comfort blanket to soothe my deep pain and I turned more and more to alcohol, and other drugs, to escape the inner critic who wanted to tell me constantly how awful I was.
This established a pattern of coping strategies that developed into total dependence on alcohol within a short space of time, a dependence that raged for over 20 years (punctuated only by pregnancy and breast feeding related abstinence), accompanied by increasingly poor mental health. As my addiction deepened, I lost countless hours of my life. I got so used to the blackouts I began to think it was normal to forget huge chunks of the previous day. I experienced ‘the shakes’ more times than I ever wanted to count and would find myself craving alcohol, tasting it in my mind so clearly I would have to have it. I would construct any excuse possible to drink and found social occasions when drinking wasn’t possible difficult, usually squirreling a bottle of something away to drink when I got home. I found it really difficult to establish and keep friendships that didn’t have alcohol at their center; if people didn’t drink I didn’t know how to communicate with them.
In my more self-reflective moments I knew I had a problem, but I was unable to face that fact. The fear of what would happen if I admitted my problem, the worry that my children might be taken from me, that people would judge me for my addiction was too scary. I carried on in denial, of course I was making the risk to my children far worse, I see that now, but I failed to recognize that at the time.
In 2013, after around 20 years of deepening addiction and worsening mental health, life took over; I was forced into the surrender that Alcoholics Anonymous talk about.
This surrender happened long before my recovery seemed to start, and was, in fact, an acceptance that I was powerless over every aspect of my life; it was more like a surrender into the nervous breakdown.
I sat on the step of my house, cigarette in one hand, glass of wine in the other, bottle just behind me. My mind was racing. I had just returned from a training course at my new job, a job which I really felt utterly under qualified for, in an organization I felt lost in. The job itself was great; it would have been a dream opportunity and given me the skills and experience required to create a very lucrative business when the project ended 18 months later. I was excited at everything I had learned during the training and the possibilities the job offered me (the arrival of my first salary during the training had been great too), additionally, people in the team were lovely. I should have been over the moon, so why was I sitting on the step of my house at 11pm, smoking, drinking, and working myself up into a state of great anxiety?
The music I was listening to and had been listening to pretty obsessively for months, gave me a bit of a clue. As I listened to the words of “I Appear Missing,” my favorite track from ‘…Like Clockwork‘ ,the latest album from Queens of the Stone Age, one of my favorite bands, I realized with a sinking heart the reason I had fallen in love with that track so much and why it spoke so deeply to me: the lyrics reflected my emotions exactly.
I always preferred to express my emotions through other people’s words and music than to vocalize my own. I was able to express anger easily enough but that was the only emotion I could ever really manage. Yet here Josh Homme was telling me of the pain I felt, how lost, how disconnected from my life, how out of control I felt. I had been listening to this song and this album for months without realizing it! I shared on Facebook that I was almost incapable of NOT listening to it; I was addicted to it, just as surely as I was addicted to cigarettes, wine, and misery.
The album tells many stories of misery, depression, feeling lost, not knowing what life is about, mistrust, fear, and isolation. This album,like clockwork, was telling me the story of my life, and I hadn’t ever realized it. This was my state of being for so long it was normal, but things had been getting worse all year. 2013 was already proving to be a hugely challenging, utterly life changing year; I had the realization that I too felt ‘missing’ from myself and that I was for a very long time.
This proved to be the catalyst for change.
From the start of the year, I had felt like I was under siege. With job insecurities, the discovery of mental illness, alcoholism and cancer in my family, and a vicious separation and child court battle with my ex; as well as a new, overwhelming job, the assault on my ability to cope with life seemed relentless. The mental illness and alcoholism in my family, while being incredibly difficult and traumatic for us all, was really hard for me: it seemed to me to be a mirror. While I was trying to comfort and be there for my family, I was desperately worried and fearful of the outcome. I was looking inward a lot, thinking “this could be me, I am doing this too.” I wasn’t swallowing the pills, and finding myself admitted to hospital for help, but it could have so easily been me that was there. There was a really big part of me that felt that I really deserved to be, and couldn’t quite understand how I had gone so long without being the one who was there.
A month later, with my level of anxiety and depression, as well as my consumption of wine and cigarettes rising, I realized the only way I was going to cope with life was to give up work and take some time to recover from everything else that was going on in my life. I accepted my life was out of my control and I could do nothing but allow myself to ride the waves. I surrendered into what I now have no doubt was a nervous breakdown, and, while I didn’t realize it at the time, began the long process of healing on a far deeper level than I even realized I needed.
If you would like to read more, and get a free video workshop about the healing power of the breath in recovery, then fill in the form below…