We all face a point in our life where things need to change. We can be directly inspired or have a traumatic life event shake things up. Either way, many millennials are trading in the booze for green juice. For those suffering from far greater issues of substance abuse, it can be a simple, solvable and affordable choice to make such a change, although challenging. That is the good news!
For me, my drinking was a greater issue that resulted in a traumatic “wake up call”.
It was my own spiritual experience. I took a very interesting life path and would not change it for the world. We always are looking for ways to fit in and be accepted and to get to a place where we feel relaxed to be in social settings. For many people discovering yoga and mediation, some are doing all the right things and still not experiencing the benefits they desire from these practices. Many continue to not feel good enough, worthy enough or whole. For some, it's the subtle effects of drugs and alcohol that might be what's holding them back, without them realizing. I love yoga, but when I was drinking and doing these practices, I didn’t get the full benefits, because I wasn’t really doing the work.
As a woman, society has always programed me to never feel like I was ever good enough. I didn’t think I looked “beautiful” and I struggled my whole life with the skewed perception of myself as a person. So I drank.
I drank, as many do, to feel accepted in social settings. However, I learned my coping mechanisms were incredibly harmful, and yoga and spirituality had the power to change my life for the better. So I am here to impart my humble experience about getting sober and becoming a yoga teacher and a more spiritual person.
Alcohol can turn some people into a hot messes. Thats right I said it! On the lighter side, alcohol may make you more willing to spill every thing you feel to someone after a few drinks. It might be easier to engage in conversations with people. You might even be more likely to take bigger risks. However, these don't always require “liquid courage.” It just requires the capacity to be honest to your self and who you believe you are and what you need and desire. That comes from your own reflection of self worth and does not need to come from alchohol or other substances.
If your drinking is anything like mine one drink is simply not enough. I needed a few drinks just to get through any social setting comfortably. At the time I was touring with bands as a woman, so I drank whiskey to make me more like one of the guys. There was always a point where I drank too much. I would cross a threshold where I could no longer have in-depth, meaningful conversations. Alcohol is a depressant so while it made me feel happy in moments, it left me feeling more unhappy in the long run.
I would get to a point where I was unable to walk to the bathroom without questioning how I was walking or if the words coming out of my mouth were even making sense. I was an extreme case. At times, I would even black out.
I'd wake up the next morning with this sort of sadness and shame, much heavier than the average person's hangover. There is no comedic relief from what happens during black outs and most times there is a lot of pain, suffering, and confusion.
And there were so many emotions when the alcohol wore off! When you suffer from addiction, you stop emotionally growing when you take your first drink. Luckily for me it was a little later in life! When I got sober I had stuffed so many emotions in my energetic pipes, that when the air started to clear and the hangovers subsided, it was waterworks for weeks! I spent hours on end feeling all the feelings life had to offer that I had not been allowing myself to feel for years.
I see so often now on social media, things like, “Well today was terrible. It’s wine time.”
So we are saying its okay to numb out and “relax” by having a drink, instead of journaling, meditating, or actually processing? Are we saying that this is a healthy way to cope? Unfortunately, for many, it is not healthy, regardless of how socially acceptable it is.
The spiritual path of yoga and meditation can be a better alternative. Please note this is a general statement and is not a reflection on everyone! We need to learn how to show our kids how to deal with feelings in a healthy way. I get so excited to see schools teaching meditation instead of detention. Its genius and can prevent a lot of substance abuse in future generations, as a way of coping with uncomfortable emotions!
There are two important lessons in beginning to deal with your emotions in a sober way.
1. It’s 100% okay to just say I don’t know how to deal with my emotions! Processing things, events and conversations can take time and that is okay!
2. It is 100% okay to not have the sun shine out of your you know what 24/7. You are a soul having a human experience. You will be forced to feel, feelings and all that is doing is creating space. The feelings are not facts of how you should believe or view yourself to be all of the time. Our mind is tricky and it’s our ego that will destroy us and make us believe not only the grandiosity but the self loathing and hate. So just like in meditation you can acknowledge it, but you don’t need to always believe it.
For me, alcohol, my drug of choice, was a complete waste of time and money! I wasted so many hours drinking and being depressed. Not to mention my wallet could have been way more full. You can save that money for several months of unlimited yoga class packages! Imagine that! Or that vacation you always wanted but didn’t think you could afford? Alcohol has gotten to be quite pricey, especially out at bars.
Sometimes, we even go out with friends to pick someone up. Do you really think everyone is meant to meet their future partner in a bar? I know every man I met in a bar was a man I didn’t want to be with. Sorry guys, it just wasn’t my vibe.
The amount of time I spent in dive bars when I could have been exercising, reading a book, hiking or even doing yoga was vast. The things I could have accomplished in that time would have been amazing!
When I got sober not only was my wallet happy, but so was my body! I had more time to do things for me. I had even shifted out my friends. I was a toxic person in victim mode and surrounded myself with toxic people. My circle of friends are way healthier for me now. We drink green juice and ride scooters to waterfalls here in Bali! We go to the movies in the middle of the day and call each other to hold space for each other when we are in a space of emotional suffering, instead of meeting to drink our sorrows away.
When I first started telling people I didn’t drink any more (keep in mind I was touring with bands), it was like I had two heads and it sometimes made people uncomfortable. They could not imagine why I wouldn’t want a drink! My drinking days were not glamorous by any means but it was hard at first to say "no I’m good". The more time that passed the better I became about it. The less fearful I was about being judged and most importantly the less reactive people became around the idea of me not drinking.
Now I have so much fun out at night dinners, laughing with friends, sharing jokes and stories, and having a wonderful time. We all remember the next day and none of us have hangovers!
You will find some supporters but don’t be surprised if you find resistance as well. Remember most people don’t know how to stop drinking.
It has been programed in their mind that they need to drink to fit into public settings and many don’t know how to genuinely connect with another human being without it. Again, for some, it's not a massive problem, but for some, it's a coping mechanism. For me, I thought it helped because I was depressed, suicidal, overly sensitive.
Yoga challenged me like nothing else did. I started practicing yoga while still drinking. Still depressed. Still desperate and unsure how to just feel comfortable in who I was as a human being. I was meditating and that was cringe worthy and nothing was changing or shifting for me like everyone said it would. “Yoga is great for you! You will change so much!” Nothing profound changed, except I was getting exercise. Which was good, because I was not as depressed. Yet still could not stand myself.
When I got sober in the spring of 2012 and things changed.
A few months into sobriety, my yoga and meditation practice changed. I experienced deeper states of meditation. I cried through a lot. I unclogged the pipes where I so desperately wanted to feel loved and worthy and more. I wanted to feel like I had a life worth living. Luckily, I had the help of an outside program that paired with yoga and meditation and for the next 5 years I realized a lot about myself, my drinking, and why sobriety was so important for me.
I was able to learn how to cope with the sexual traumas I had faced over the years, countless terrible relationships with partners that were not good people. I started seeing red flags earlier and avoiding these past patterns. I started putting myself and my spiritual practices first. I became more focused on connecting with others on a deeper level. My friendships have flourished and are deeper and much less superficial.
Through sobriety, I have learned to:
Ultimately I got exactly what I wanted. I feel peace and love for myself. I have a deeper understanding of my own self worth and have an easier time getting away from my ego and connecting with my higher self. I just had to do all the work to get there! It was not just yoga and meditation. They are phenomenal tools to be the best version of you but they are not the only tools.
THE NEXT STEP: SOBRIETY CHALLENGE!
Did you ever challenge yourself to stop drinking 30, 60 or even 90 days? If you did, had you seen a difference in your life? Did it get better or worse? Were the feelings too intense that you gave up? Did you know most people can’t stop drinking?
If anything written here resonates with you, I challenge you to give up alcohol for 3 months (yes, 90 whole days without alcohol).
See how it impacts your life! Journal about it. Talk to friends about it.
If you are struggling with addiction, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Know that you are not alone, and change is possible! If you are simply wanting a healthier lifestyle, this is one way to create a positive change in your life. You can even reach out to me! I am a sober living coach. I show people how to live and happily live in sobriety with the confidence to be grounded in who they are as a human being in their transition into sobriety.
By Ayla Grace Zelles
"I am a sober living coach, yoga teacher, public speaker and blogger. I live and teach by the simple rules that we are worthy of all that we desire. We can have a life we are wildly in love with. We just have to work for it and it is ours."
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