I am a Hope Dealer! Number 499! Plus P Productions sent me a Hope Dealer chip in exchange for my story. They are doing a very cool thing by giving a face to addiction and showing the world that we do recover. Check them out! http://pluspproductions.com
Everyone has a story. This is mine.
I was born an escape artist. Simple as that. I don’t ever remember being comfortable in my body and in my own skin. So I learned to escape it. I grew up in a loving home with two parents that worked hard to make sure they provided all the things we needed and most of the things we wanted. Alcohol was present in my home and I liked to snag sips of my dad’s beers from a very early age. I caught my first buzz at 8 or 9 years old. I was with my parents at a cook out hosted by their friends. A friend and I decided to sneak into the cooler of the adults and sneak wine coolers. Oh my! Instant LOVE. I was happy and warm and completely comfortable. I loved the way I felt. Being an elementary school aged child, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to drink, but any time the chance showed up, I took it. By junior high school I was drinking every weekend. I had also picked up a new way to escape my body and my mind. Huffing. As in sniffing cleaning supplies or other harsh chemicals. Paint. Glue. You name it. I either sniffed it, or put it into a bag and breathed the fumes. Every day. All day. By the time I made it to high school, I was the kid who snuck alcohol into school every day in a bottle of Chloraseptic spray with just enough red food coloring to make it look legit. And then came the drugs. Marijuana was first. Then pills. Cocaine and meth followed. By the time I was 16, I had quit school to do drugs and hang with anyone who wasn’t going to school. I had my 17th birthday in a behavioral health center. It should have been a rehab. Who knew? I didn’t see the point. I learned nothing because I didn’t want to be there. I left and resumed the same old, same old. My life was a string of alcohol, drugs and many, many blackouts. When I was 19 I met a stable man who wanted to marry me. He owned his own business and didn’t do drugs. My parents were thrilled. My Mom planned a beautiful wedding and then sent me on my way into the grown up world. The grown up world was not ready for me. During that marriage I drank every day and became addicted to pills. I managed to stay married until I was 21. As soon as I turned 21 I was able to purchase my own alcohol and really didn’t see the need to be married. I moved into a small apartment. Alone. I immediately became addicted to meth and in hindsight probably already was when I moved in. I had a job that paid for my meth addiction and little else. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep and I didn’t pay any bills. I eventually got evicted and went straight to a rehabilitation center in Nashville TN. It felt great to get my head straight. I remember how healthy I felt and how much I liked being in that center with so many women who were so much like me. They were also much older than I was and I had a really hard time imagining that I was as bad as them or that I was in the right place. I did my 28 days and went back out into the world of drugs and alcohol. I lost my job that I hated and to accommodate my drug addiction, I learned how to manufacture methamphetamine with some of my “friends.” How I lived through this, I will never know. I saw the most horrible things in the two and a half years that this went on. I hated the things I was doing, the people I was doing them with and mostly I hated myself. I was just broken enough to agree to trying another treatment center. This one was in Oklahoma and it was a long term center. I was ready this time. I was miserable enough with my life that I was honestly ready to leave it behind. So I did. I stayed at that treatment center the entire 4 months it took me to complete the program and then I stayed to work there. I met my second husband there. He had also completed the recovery program and was working there. The treatment center probably should have mentioned that it was a bad idea for two drug addicts to get married, but that’s what we did. Then we had babies. Two of them. Two beautiful and perfect babies. And I was happy. I was healthy and I was comfortable being me. Being a mommy. The good times lasted only a short time and my husband relapsed. I had the sense to know that I would not raise my children in addiction. So he moved out. I had no idea how to be alone, with myself and with my two children. Alcohol reentered my life. I found solace in a bottle of Makers Mark bourbon. Every night. After I put my children to bed. I drank myself to sleep. I had a man friend who lived in North Carolina. I called him to come and visit me. He came and pretty much never left. Within 6 months my two small children and I moved to North Carolina. Oak Island. Party Central. Everyone is on vacation all the time there or so it seemed to me. My alcoholism really went unnoticed for quite a while. Years. In those years, we had another child and lived a pretty normal life where I drank way too much. My behavior when I was drunk became pretty outrageous and AA was suggested to me. So I did what any good alcoholic would do. I hid my drinking. I knew it was a problem. Since nobody realized how much I was drinking, my behavior just seemed strange. I needed therapy. Obviously. And special behavioral therapy because my behavior was so fucked up. Enter DBT. Dialectal Behavior Therapy. DBT introduced me to mindfulness. DBT combines Buddhism and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy into one. The problem was that I was still drinking and, truthfully, usually drinking before therapy. I still saw my regular therapist who really kept pushing yoga and AA on me. After having a complete breakdown and ending up in a state mental hospital (which is one of the scariest places I’ve ever been), I decided to go into another rehabilitation center. I was ready to address my alcoholism. This treatment center was a 28 day program and it was close to home. I had my doubts. Once the fog lifted, I decided to try. I knew I had overcome bigger things and thought just maybe I could leave the alcohol behind. This treatment center had a lot of extras. Yoga, art therapy, guided imagery (meditation), and DBT. They didn’t call it DBT, but I recognized it. The problem was that I hated myself so much. So much. I didn’t think I was worth saving. I was failing as a wife, failing as a parent, and failing as a human. My anxiety was through the roof. Breathing is the one thing humans should be able to without too much trouble and I couldn’t even do that. I have this tattoo on my hand that says “HOPE.” HOPE is an acronym for Hold On Pain Ends. I knew what it meant to be hopeless. Some tiny piece of me also remembered that there was a better way. I started to pay attention to that HOPE tattoo on my hand. I went to yoga. I went to the art therapy sessions and drew mandalas. I went to guided imagery. And I sat. I sat and I stayed with whatever “happened” to me. Whatever happened was all in my head anyway. It was so uncomfortable, but it also felt good to begin to get healthy again. Eating food instead of drinking my calories. Moving my body in yoga. It felt good. I knew my therapist would be proud of me and believe me when I tell you I was all about seeking approval. I knew that I was going to have to buy in to the 12 step program they were selling. I had a hard time with this because of the whole God thing. This had always been a problem for me. I did have a tiny bit of faith in meditation. My therapist was adamant that meditation was the medication for me. I trusted her. She was the ONLY therapist I ever had that didn’t steer me wrong and I loved her for that. I began to use my morning free time to meditate. The others would play ping pong and foosball and I would take a yoga mat and go off on my own to sit. It was miserable. I could only sit for minutes at a time. 2 or 3 minutes. But I did it. Every day. 28 days flew by and I left treatment to go into a half way house. That didn’t work for me. I needed to be home with my children. I couldn’t get better away from them. My family was scared that I couldn’t be at home and get better either. I had tried before without success. I missed my family too much. After one week at the half way house, I came home. It was two days before Christmas. On Christmas I got a brand new meditation cushion from my mom. A beautiful Zafu and Zabuton set. And I sat. I sat and sat and sat and hated it. My mind darted here and there and everywhere. I went to local yoga classes. I hated it. I was so uncomfortable in my skin. I hated moving in front of people, I hated being touched by the teachers and most of all I hated the tears that I seemed to cry every time I was in class. I went to AA meetings. I didn’t hate them as much as I hated yoga and meditation, but they were weird and the people were weird. I went anyway. My life started to suck less. I was told that it’s not only OK to cry in yoga, it’s perfectly acceptable. I was taught that everyone’s mind darts around in meditation. That’s why it’s called practice. I was taught that all alcoholics and addicts have to learn how to get comfortable in their skin. I wasn’t special or unique. That little voice in my head, everyone has one. The AA people explained to me that I don’t have to act on every thought that enters my head. I really wanted people to meditate with, so I started a local meditation group. I posted to a FB page for locals in my community and found some people willing to sit with me. These people helped me so much. They were my teachers. Older. Wiser. They taught me that nobody really gets to meditation because things are so wonderful in their lives. They were all searching when they found meditation. Searching for something better. I was still going to yoga pretty regularly and still not loving it. But, I went anyway. It gave me something “wholesome” to do during my day that distracted me from my desire to get outside of myself. What it did was put me directly inside of myself. Inside of my body. It was moving meditation! For the first time in my life I was able to be in my skin, in my body with no distraction. I learned how to breathe deeply. I learned how to let go of my thoughts. I learned how to create space in my body by letting go of the years of torture I had put my body through. I learned to invite love and light into that space. I started to grow and to thrive. I wanted to practice yoga all the time. I started going to multiple classes a day. One day I saw a FB add for a Recovery Yoga workshop in Carolina Beach. I registered and I went. What I found there changed my life. I found a group of yogis in recovery, just like me. The people who put all of their addictive tendencies into their yoga practice. The people who, just like my meditation friends, came to yoga in crisis. Searching for something, anything better. I cried through that whole 2 hour workshop. This time it wasn’t my body opening up and letting go of years of abuse and anxiety, it was gratitude. Gratitude to be in a room of people who I felt a part of. Gratitude for my sober life. Gratitude for everything. I knew these were my people. The next week I signed up for a yoga teacher training in that same studio. On the first morning of teacher training we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. Again, I heard through every one of these women’s stories that nobody gets to yoga because they love their lives so much. Yoga is healing. Yoga is love. Today I am a yoga teacher. I teach yoga to help people heal. We are all recovering from something. It doesn’t have to be addiction or mental illness. We don’t make it into our adult years without some sort of trauma, grief or loss. I teach yoga to help people heal. I teach a lot. I have the opportunity to teach mediation every time I teach a yoga class. Meditation IS yoga. I always incorporate meditation into my classes. Meditation came first for me. I had to learn how to stay with whatever came up. Until I did that, my yoga practice couldn’t grow. The two work together for me. I start my days with 20 minutes on my cushion. Every day. In times of chaos, I come back to my cushion to sit with it, to let it pass. In times of crisis, I hurl myself upside down into a handstand. My body and my mind are both aware of what they need today. It’s a beautiful place to be. I have so much gratitude for all of it.
3 thoughts on “Hope Dealer”
We are all lucky to have you walking the planet happy healthy and sober! Fascinating story and congratulations on a thousand days sobe.r
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Shannon. Thank you for sharing your story. Congratulations, you are beauty & courage and will continue to inspire many people as you shine your bright light on the world. I couldn’t agree more, I believe that Yoga Teachers are survivors, of something, the stories may vary in detail but bring us together in such a special way. I look forward to meeting you and landing in one of your classes soon. Rooting for You! Shine On. Shannon 🙂
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Thank you my beautiful new friend. ❤️