The more space I get between the present moment, and my last drink/drug, the better I am able to see the alcoholic patterns throughout my life – including (especially?) within sobriety. The more time I spend listening to other people share their stories and experiences, the more my experiences begin to make sense. I believed that being sober meant living without drugs or alcohol. I thought that if I fully abstained from substances, the problems would go away, and for a while they would – but always temporarily.
For a majority of my drinking/using years I was not a daily user, and based on that alone I was fully convinced I didn’t have a problem. I would go out on the weekends, getting absolutely obliterated – because once I started I didn’t know how to stop. At first, like it is for many, substances filled the large void in my life and for the first time I felt comfortable around other people. I felt good about myself, was being social, and felt that I had found a solution to the constant discomfort of life. Until, like many others, it stopped working. Periods of sobriety, whether a day or a month, were filled with an escalating discomfort that is referred to in recovery programs as restless, irritable, and discontent. It wasn’t the craving of the substances that often had me using again, it was to get relief from the discomfort. But beyond the beginning of my addiction it had stopped working, and I was always just one drink, one line, or one pill away from the relief that never came.
In early recovery, I knew that I had transferred my addiction to yoga, but I figured it was a healthier addiction and knowingly accepted it. Yoga was the first thing I had ever found that actually made me feel better beyond the moment when I was doing it. I felt connected to the world around me in a way that I never had before, and I was forming a healthy relationship with my body and self that was previously non-existent. When I was upset about something, my first move was to roll out my mat, and I could spend hours there. I would practice until my body gave out and I’d crawl to my bed to sleep and start the whole thing over the next day. But then it slowly stopped working. I would somewhat desperately double up on classes, sometimes tripling up, just trying to get back my yoga high. I tried more Yin, more Ashtanga, more meditation, more everything but my mind was back to being restless, irritable, and discontent. Don’t get me wrong, I still received a plethora of benefits, and it still would help calm me, but it was no longer the solution to all my problems the way it once had been.
Finally realizing that the problem wasn’t on my mat, but in my head, and that my addiction with yoga had followed the same path as all my other addictions was hugely relieving. I took some space, and practiced when I felt like it but spent more time at the gym and running. I realized I needed to shift my relationship with my practice, not force it nor end it. So eventually I ended up here, doing a 36-day yoga challenge where the goal is to show up every single day without expectations and being willing to meet myself with where I am at that day. Taking away the expectation that my practice would relieve the discomfort has me moving more lovingly, and making space for my breath. I don’t take all the optional Vinyāsas, and I listen to what my body needs instead of what my mind wants.
I can feel the shifts happening in my life on the mat and off. I’m starting to recognize and acknowledge the discomfort without getting as caught up in trying to relieve it, and that feels uncomfortable, but accepting how I feel in that moment for what it is feels good in that fundamental self-loving way.