Everything is a Practice.

I have landed on a consistent, weekly writing practice. I say practice, because that is exactly what it is. The more I show up and do it, the better I get at it. Like everything else we do. We practice. Everything is a practice. That phrase used to piss me off when my once upon a time therapist would say it to me. Because I couldn’t understand what she meant. I would come to her freaking out about something or other and her words to me would be “Remember, everything is a practice.” I am sure my practice at the time was to scream “What the fuck does that even mean?!” at her. She was very patient. Or she wasn’t and she just had really good boundaries and a strong sense of self. I am guessing it’s the latter. My consistent writing practice has been taking place on Sunday mornings as of late, and even though I didn’t write this morning, here I am, showing up for myself. I didn’t write this morning because I went to yoga church instead. Yoga Church is the class that grounds and centers me for my week ahead like no other. It connects me to my past and roots me in my present. The therapist that I had once upon a time, the one who taught me that “everything is a practice” also happens to be my Yoga Church teacher. If you are familiar with my story, you already know I had a love/hate relationship with this woman. I could always count on her to call me on my bullshit like no one ever had. And I hated her for it. But I paid her good money to (in my mind) be mean to me every week. The reality is that she was honest with me in a way nobody else would be. She didn’t sugar coat the truth and wrap it in a pretty package either. I would have certainly preferred that. I have a head full of her “classic one liners” that were absurd and hilarious. But spot on too. Nothing is hilarious unless there’s some truth to it. When I first started going to the Buddhist Temple to look for some peace and clarity I mentioned this to her. She looked at me without batting an eye and said “Please don’t fuck the monks.” In my mind that was absurd, but in reality, I can see why she would say that to me. The me I was on that day anyway. I am sure I wasn’t even truly offended until I got in my car to leave and I am equally sure I called her and let her know how shitty I thought she was. That was the standard procedure. I would spend an hour on her couch. She would piss me off. I would think about it on my drive home and upon my arrival I would call her and yell at her. Or I would call her in the middle of the night, on the office emergency line if need be, because I needed something. Her. I needed her. During the time she was my therapist, I landed in a psychiatric hospital. They have telephones in those places, and I called her. Because I needed her. She reminded me to “practice my skills.” She was referring to the communication, emotion regulation and mindfulness skills that I had been learning in my DBT Group. It seemed a little late for me to practice those skills since I was already in the hospital, but I went with it. I practiced my skills and did what I needed to do to get out of the hospital. But I stopped practicing when I got out. I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. Within a few months, I landed back in the psychiatric hospital. And I called her. Because I needed her. She reminded me to “practice my skills.” “Everything is a practice” she said. I was so pissed because nothing about anything seemed like a practice to me. This was my LIFE and I was losing. I screamed into the phone “what the fuck does that even mean?!” She simply repeated that it’s all a practice. Life is a practice. I hung up on her. I practiced my skills, did what I needed to do and got out of that hospital a few days later. But when I got home, I stopped practicing. Again, I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. A month or two later, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Again. This time I was committed on an involuntary basis. This was a different hospital. This was a hospital where the steel doors were kept locked and I couldn’t leave if I wanted to. I was “a danger to myself and others.” I saw what real mental illness is in this hospital. I was terrified. I called my therapist. Because I needed her. She did not tell me to practice my skills. She did not remind me that everything is a practice. She said “Oh. You’re in the Ha Ha Hospital. Why are you calling me?” That was not the response I was expecting and I honestly didn’t know why I was calling her. I just knew I needed her. She told me there wasn’t a thing she could do for me. I told her bye and we hung up. She was right. There wasn’t a thing she could do for me. There wasn’t a thing anyone could do for me. I did what I needed to do to survive that hospital. It was not a good experience. Locked up. Terrified. I practiced my skills. I was there for 8 days. I was released from that hospital and eventually I started to “practice my skills” on a more regular basis. I wish I could say this is when I got sober, but it’s not. It took some more terrifying experiences to make me understand that alcohol was not helping me and was in fact destroying my life and killing me. I went back to therapy, and eventually did get sober. When I rooted myself firmly in AA, that therapist let me go. She had given me all the tools she could. She had pointed me in the direction of a skillful path. It was my turn to do the work. I was terrified. And I needed her. But I knew, it was time. I began the long, hard process of becoming a sober person. And it sucked. So bad. I kept in occassional contact with that therapist just to let her know my progress and make sure she was still there. You already know. Because I needed her. Eventually, I needed her less and less, but she was always there when I emailed her, and that helped me let her go. I got sober. I grew. My life changed. Our relationship changed. I don’t need her today, but I am grateful for her presence in my life. She has been a wonderful teacher to me in so many ways. She gave me what I needed at the time even though it was never what I wanted. Today in “yoga church” as she was giving a dharma talk, she made a reference to a scientist who was so ahead of his time, that he was thought to be crazy. Isn’t that always the way it is with scientists? She told the class how this particular man “ended up in the ha ha hospital.”  I almost died. I flashed straight back to the day she said that to me and the way it felt and the person I was. Then I flashed right back to the present moment.  I sat up a little straighter and beamed a little brighter because I am NOT that person today. That one little phrase made my practice that much sweeter. That one little phrase reminded me why I was there. I was there to practice. Everything we do is a practice.

I AM a channel

This morning I found myself reading bible quotes on the internet. This is NOT how I usually spend my mornings and if I am honest, it made me laugh a little. At myself and my openness. I call that smiling out loud. Earlier this week I heard myself use the phrase “I am a channel.” I know I am a channel although I didn’t know exactly what that meant when I said it. This morning I have a full understanding of what that means. It means I am a channel, not a reservoir. This is what I learned from the internet bible. “If you sow abundantly with a good (cheerful) attitude, then God will bless you. Why? So that you can bless others. Being a channel for God’s blessings means passing them on to others.” That doesn’t exactly sound like a direct quote from the bible to me, but I’m not willing to go dig and I am happy with what the internet has to say about being a channel. Makes perfect sense. I am well aware that one of my gifts is my enthusiasm. Remember? Enthusiasm means to be filled with God. I am FULL of enthusiasm and love nothing more than to drag others into that space with me. And I have this wonderful internet platform to do just that. I always think the internet version of me is “my best self.” People love internet me. I have pretty yoga photos and the best inspirational quotes. I can (and I will) write an entire bog about that one day. Back to being a channel. People connect to me and to my words. It’s truly a gift and I am grateful. I am always amazed at the people who reach out to me and ask me about my”story” and about recovery. I am always willing to spend time sharing my “how it works.” Everyone’s version of “how it works” is different, but I can tell you this. Pick a path and STAY on it. The path doesn’t matter and there are a million ways to the top of the mountain. My path seems to be constantly changing and evolving as I grow. There are some constants that keep me grounded. Yoga, Meditation and AA. These are the three that I never stray too far from. But here’s a little secret. Those things aren’t for everyone. Most of the other sober bloggers I read are anti-AA. They either don’t like the idea of calling themselves alcoholics or they don’t like the old school patriarchal feel of the literature. Some people don’t like the idea that they have to go to meetings for the rest of their lives. There have been many times in my sober journey that I have felt like AA isn’t for me. Probably as recently as yesterday. But I also don’t feel like I have to go to meetings. I choose to go. I enjoy being around other people who are “like me.” People who don’t look at me like I have two heads when I talk about that time I wanted to hang myself. Those people have been there and they get it. Also, like me, those people have found a solution and a better way to live. I am all about surrounding myself with positive people. I’m not saying that AA is full of positive people, because it’s definitely not. I have just managed to do that thing they call “sticking with the winners.” I take what I like and what works for me and I leave the rest. Isn’t that how life is supposed to work? We are all different and have different needs. I had no idea who I was when I began my recovery. I am still learning and growing and changing every day. I have no problem saying out loud that I am an alcoholic. I have friends who think I shouldn’t put that out into the Universe because everything is energy and what we put out is what we get back. Being an alcoholic isn’t a negative thing to me. My life has only gotten better since I began affirming to the Universe that I am an alcoholic. The Universe has sent me the tools and people I need in my life to help me along the path. In return, I get to give it away to anyone who wants it. I know what it’s like to struggle. I also know what freedom feels like. It hurts my heart when people reach out to me who are SOOOO close to grabbing a lifeline but are also too scared to actually do it. It’s not my job to save everyone, but it absolutely is my job to be there when someone reaches out. It absolutely is my job to share what works for me and it absolutely is my job to share the things I am enthusiastic about. I AM a channel, not a reservoir.

She’s Getting Closer

This week I went to see a healer.  There’s a shocker.  I went to see our island witch.  I was expecting some time on her table while she worked her woo woo energy magic on me.  What I got was a guided visualization/meditation, a lot of talking and working through my shit.  Not what I wanted, but exactly what I needed.  Isn’t that how it always works?   In that “getting what I need” what I got was a visit from my inner 3 year old.  At least I think she was three.  I didn’t even mention it during the session because it didn’t seem relevant.    During the guided visualization I was asked to find a pedestal to sit on.  A pedestal of my choice and my design. I tend to go with a giant mushroom because it has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it and Alice is a bad ass.   I was completely safe and comfortable on this pedestal.  Then she brought in a storm.  A tornado began to swirl around me.  A storm of chaos if you will.  I was safe in the center of this tornado and nothing could reach me.  I was asked to just notice what was swirling around me.  I don’t remember exactly what I saw, but when it was over, this sweet little girl came to me.  “To me” might not be exactly right, but she was THERE.  I could see her.  I remember exactly what she was wearing and exactly what she looked like.  She was happy.  She was beautiful.  She was probably the MOST relevant thing that happened during that session, so my choice not to mention it during session means something.  I’m just not sure what.  Perhaps I felt the need to protect her by not talking about her.  As much as I share with the world, some things are just for ME.  And some things are just for me until I am ready to share.  It was suggested to me that I go home and write.  Writing is my process.  All of my healers know this about me.  Guess what I wrote after that session?  Not a fucking thing.   The next day I saw my therapist and shared this information about that little 3 year old with her.  She smiled and said “She’s getting closer.”  I’ve been doing this inner child work for a while now without a lot of success.  And as I type that, I’m not entirely sure that’s true because what would success look like?  My therapist said that little 3 year old is the part of me that is joyful and playful and impulsive.  I prefer the word spontaneous because I think impulsive gets me in trouble.  At least it used to.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  “She’s getting closer.”  I am still trying to figure out exactly what that means.  Is she going to talk to me?  Does she have things to tell me?  What does she want?   My therapist kind of, sort of pointed out (by having me figure out on my own) that this little girl was me at the age I was right before my sexual abuse started. And dear God that session rolled all over the place from that to my drug addiction to the guilt and shame I still carry and back around.   When our time was up she suggested that I go home and write and write and write some more and guess what I wrote?  Not a fucking thing. After that session, with the full moon vibes in effect, I went straight to my studio to DANCE.  Because that is what I needed.  I needed to be in my body.   I needed to connect and I needed to move.  I am not sure what my aversion to writing has been this week, but it’s been strong.  I’m inclined to think that strictly because someone (2 someones) suggested I write, I automatically didn’t.  THAT would be the inner 15 year old that I know all too well.  Even without writing, I have had amazing insights this week.  I have been in 4 different women’s circles in the last 7 days.  Always a great place for me to be.  In one of these circles there was a woman who was surprised to learn that my “dancing career” is just three months old.  In her mind, I had been dancing for a lifetime, since it’s THE thing she sees me share about most.  During our conversation it occurred to me that dancing IS the joyful, playful and spontaneous part of me coming out.  And just maybe this is what’s bringing that little 3 year old closer to me.  In fact, I’m sure it must be.  Dancing has brought about a shift in me that allows me to let my guard down in a way nothing else does. I fully intend to keep at it and bring that little girl home.

There was one circle this week that I had absolutely no intention of going to. It was the same day as my therapy session and I was just done. But there I was. Exactly where I needed to be. The discussion took a turn toward the Patriachal society that we live in and there was (or more likely I felt) an attack towards the women who “allow” this type of behavior by “being whores.” I felt the need to jump in and defend these women. Which I did. My immediate thoughts and my response was that those women were once children who weren’t allowed to say no. Who weren’t allowed to be in control of their own bodies. I know those women. Those women were me. And then it happened. Another woman felt the need to defend “those women.” She opened her mouth and my story fell out. A story of being sexually abused from a young age and learning that’s what love feels like. A woman who was taught from a young age that this kind of attention is good attention. A woman who didn’t know that she didn’t have to give her power away or that she even had the option to live another way. A woman who thought her worth was based on her body. She had never been allowed to say no. It was so powerful, and as I sat there listening to her share exactly what I have never said out loud, all I could do was cry silently on the inside and touch my heart as I nodded my head at her, so she could see and know that I felt her pain. It was so incredible to see her own the ALL of her “story” and give a voice to her own inner child who was never allowed that voice. Equally incredible was the love and support she received from the circle. Nobody shamed her. Everyone witnessed and held her with compassion. Our stories, when shared, have the power to heal. I never doubt that. She reminded me of just how much truth there is in that. I told her that night that I wanted to write about her, without using her name. I asked her permission and made sure she felt ok about it. She responded by saying that I always write about her, I just didn’t know it. Again, blown away by the power of our stories and the connections we all share. I write to heal my own self and in doing so sometimes I help others along the way. The best.

In September I was in a circle with this same woman. That night we ended the circle with a little bit of dancing. She stood in that circle and said she would absolutely NOT be doing that. She even told us she might sway her hips a bit, but that would be the extent of it. A week later she showed up at the studio for ecstatic dance. She pushed past that fear and she has been dancing ever since. Four separate events in just over a month. I am pretty sure it’s her new favorite thing too! What I know is that she has connected to her inner child through dancing. That’s exactly why she loves it so much. Another shared connection with this woman. What a gift she has been to me this week. She has helped me sort out and make sense of some of my own shit. She’s a mirror. A teacher. I am grateful for her strength, her courage and her presence in my life.

A work in progress

“I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief.” I first read that quote several months ago and it hit me right in the feels. I knew I had an entire chapter to write about this subject. I’m not writing it today, but it’s there. There’s so much truth in that quote. I went to an AA meeting on Friday night, which isn’t something I normally do. I got called on to share my “what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.” Let me just say that I hate being called on to share. I pretty much hate sharing at meetings in general. My what it was like and what happened are FULL of  anger.  That’s who I was. An angry, raging girl who didn’t want to be sitting in meetings with coffee drinking old men. An angry girl who was fighting the entire world and the world was definitely winning.   There was a woman at the Friday meeting who had been there all those years ago when I first started coming around. She chimed in after I shared that she remembered those days and what I was like. “My story” is such a visible transformation that the people who remember me before I got sober love to hear me share. This woman confirmed to the group that I wasn’t lying or exaggerating and that I was indeed, FULL of anger and rage. She said they were scared of me and didn’t want to talk to me. I found a bit of comfort in that as it explained why maybe the women didn’t reach out to me and circle me in love and support. I wouldn’t let them. I was angry about everything. I was angry that the people in my life thought I needed to stop drinking. Drinking WAS my life. Also, I was way too young to be an alcoholic. I was angry that nobody could do it for me. As hard as I tried, it seemed this was something I was going to have to do on my own. That might sound crazy, but until that point, someone had always been able to rescue me and do the work for me. I was angry that my life hadn’t turned out like I thought it should have. I was angry that my life was over. I was angry that not drinking meant I would have to deal with my reality.  I was angry about my entire life up until that point and underneath all of that anger was fear. I was terrified to stop drinking and start feeling. I’ve shared this before, but I ‘ll share it again. I didn’t get sober for a long time after I got to AA. The people around me thought that since I was going to meetings, it meant I wasn’t drinking. They were happy and proud of me. I kept drinking for the next year and a half as I continued to go to meetings. But, I failed at hiding my drinking. I was failing at life in general. I’ve heard it said that “we get to the bottom when we stop digging.” On November 13, 2013, I stopped digging in a treatment center. I completely surrendered to a power greater than myself. I was an atheist. The power I surrendered to was the power of meditation. I sat with myself. I sat with my anger. I sat with a lifetime of bad choices. A lifetime of being a victim. I sat with a lifetime of grief. I sat with the ALL of it. I sat by myself. I sat in groups. I sat in retreats. I sat until I learned to be ok with me. But just ok. Not great. I was so uncomfortable in my skin. Even breathing was hard. So many emotions flowed through me. I can remember wishing I could physically rip my skin off. And yet, I learned to stay. I’m starting to notice now that as good as all of that meditation was and still is for me, there’s a part of me that was still using it to numb myself. Often when I meditate, I feel pain in my heart. Physical pain. If I tune into that pain it will creep up into my throat. There are memories stored away in my body and brain that still need to be processed. I know this, I feel this. When this pain creeps in, there are two things I can do. Explore that or find my breath. I have always been one to take the breath route and move past that pain. Until recently. This past year, with every new moon, one of the intentions I set is to remain open. I have really been working on that and it’s proven quite difficult for me. I may never be the woman who sits in a circle and cries in front of everyone. Not because I wouldn’t love to be that woman, but because I don’t feel safe doing that. It’s a trust thing. And that’s ok. I don’t have to sit in a circle and be that woman. In fact, since I facilitate 90% of the circles I sit in, it’s best that I don’t. See how I set that up in a way that works for me? It’s hard for me to allow myself to show up and be seen in all of my vulnerability. I’m getting “better” at it. It’s easy to write from that vulnerable place. I’m protected behind the computer screen. I am a work in progress and I’m sure I always will be. This past year I have gained so much knowledge about myself. Blogging regularly and allowing myself to be seen in that way has been huge for me. Therapy has been an amazing tool which you already know if you read anything I write. Yoga is my life and is always there to save me when I remember to take the time to get on my mat for ME. If you follow me on social media you will surely know by now that singing and dancing are my new favorite things. If you want to talk about inner child healing with me sometime, it will involve singing and dancing. And who knew? I don’t necessarily mean the kind of inner child connection where you just let that child come out and play. Not that playtime isn’t important, because it is and I love it. I’m talking about knowing when I am triggered, tuning in and responding from a place of love. I once had a therapist tell me “You’ll have to grow your own self up.” At the time, I had no idea what she meant by that and I’m not even sure why that’s something that stuck with me, but it did. And suddenly it makes perfect sense. She meant that I would have to heal and “raise” my own inner child. Hold her when she’s sad. Let her cry when she needs to. Let her express herself by dancing and singing through me. Let her tell her story through writing. Let her be seen and heard because that is all she wants. Be with her and acknowledge her.  Powerful stuff. My meditation practice has changed quite a bit lately.   Rather than turning away when my heart starts to hurt, I tune into it. There’s rarely anger but there is often grief. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I don’t. Up until very recently I have been afraid to cry because I believed that once I started, I might not stop. But, sitting through the tears has taught me that it will pass. And when it does, I feel so much lighter. Hence all the levitation I’ve been doing. 😊 A wise woman told me that “you’ll know you’ve resolved the conflict when you can tell your story without crying.” I’m not there yet. Instead, I’m sitting, singing, writing and dancing my way through a lot of unresolved shit and oh so grateful to have so many tools and so much support.

Enthusiasm

This week in the book The Artist’s Way  I came across the word Enthusiasm and its definition. The word enthusiasm is derived from two Greek words, en and theos. Theos is the Greek word for God. Enthusiasm literally means “Filled with God.” How freaking beautiful is that? Anyone who has spent any time around me has felt my enthusiasm for the things I love.  People tell me all the time that my enthusiasm is contagious. I get excited! I get excited about the things I love and I want to share those things with others. Now I know why I get so damn excited! I KNEW I was connected and divinely guided. So what am I excited about this week? EVERYTHING! I’ve mentioned before that I’m not like “normal” people. Whatever that means. This is a big week in the studio. You now how musicians and movie stars excite people? Well, I am not that girl. Healers who do awesome work excite me.  And authors. I love healers and writers. And, really, some musicians. So, I’m most likely not that weird at all. Whatever.  This week a psychologist who is doing awesome work and has written 5 books is coming to the studio! What?! I am already about to jump out of my skin with excitement. Here’s the backstory on that. Because social media spies on me and knows what I like, a book about EMDR and Mindfulness came to me in a FB ad. I am sure it was because I had just written a blog about EMDR therapy. You can read it here. Basically, the blog was about how much I suck at EMDR. When I saw this book, it occurred to me that while I may suck at EMDR, I am really good at mindfulness. I thought maybe the book could help me be better (the best) at EMDR. I bought the book, but it wasn’t for me. The book was written for professionals. I knew the book ended up in my hands specifically so I could give it to my therapist. She was so excited to get the book from me.  She showed me her calendar and had the weekend blocked off to take that particular EMDR and Mindfulness training from Dr Jamie Marich, the author of the book.  Synchronicity!  Unfortunately, circumstances beyond her control made it impossible to make the training and she had to cancel that weekend.  But, she had the book!  I then began my social media stalking, like I do, and friended the psychologist/author. I bought two of her other books and kind of fell in love with her. I sent her a message and awkwardly told her way too much about myself, again, like I do. Sometimes I still lack a filter. I explained to her that I am not a therapist, but I l have spent tons of time IN therapy. 😊 I told her I had bought her EMDR book and how much my therapist loved it. I invited her to come teach something, anything at Rebel Soul Yoga. And she responded immediately with a YES! We made a plan, put it on the calendar and it’s finally here! AND it’s DANCING! You can check out Dancing Mindfulness here. Soooooooo freaking excited! While the rest of the world is paranoid and pissed off that social media is spying on them, I’m over here loving it. Spy on and keep connecting me to great things and people!

But wait there’s more………..

I have a beautiful friend in Wilmington who wanted to bring her healing energy and help our community. We put our heads together and Mental Health Monday was born. Next week we will be co-facilitating a two hour healing session for those who are feeling the post-Florence trauma as a gift to the community. I will be leading us in a yoga practice to bring us into our bodies and open us up to feel our feelings and then we will roll right into a group therapy session to process together. (She’s a psychologist.). How freaking amazeballs is that? I am most excited to observe her group process.   She inspires me in so many ways and I am honored to co-create a beautiful and healing event with her. Enthusiasm is an understatement.

I love my life and the people in it. I can’t say it enough because I am constantly amazed. My gratitude game is strong! The right people cross my path at exactly the right time. I might not always recognize it immediately, but I am getting better at paying attention. I am connected and divinely guided at all times. I know I am being guided in a direction that I’m not quite ready to share with the world yet, but my soul knows. It’s just a matter of pushing the fear to the side, or most likely, doing it scared.  I am getting closer every day. In the meantime I will just be over here being Enthusiastic about every single thing in my life. Starting with the cacao ceremony and kirtan I am going to today!

Grateful for the ALL of it.

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about being addicted to meth. It was the last blog post I wrote. It’s right here if you want to read it. I never know what I am going to write about until I sit down and write. I wasn’t expecting to write about meth that day and I was unprepared for the way it would make me feel. As soon as I began to write that day, I was overcome with sadness. I cried the entire time I was writing. I am not one to cry and when it started to creep up on me, my instinct was to shut it down. I didn’t shut it down. I let it go. I bawled my eyes out. Big, crocodile tears, snot and ugly crying for an hour. I cried for my parents who lived through that Hell. I cried for the girl I was. I cried for my children who lost their father. I cried because it is just all so sad. When I finished the blog, I stopped crying and went upstairs to make breakfast for my boys. But I was still incredibly sad. I went to a yoga class in my studio and it came out again. Pigeon pose got me. Big, crocodile tears, snot and ugly crying again. I was exhausted when it was over. That was on a Sunday. I had no idea that on Wednesday I would be in Kentucky at my parent’s house, waiting out hurricane Florence. We evacuated Wednesday morning and I figured if we were going to leave, we might as well go visit people who love us all the world full. So that’s what we did. All of those meth memories were still heavy in my mind and in my heart. Even though that part of my life was 20 years ago, the memories are still fresh and home is full of emotional triggers. Nothing could ever make me want to use again, but the familiar sites take me right back. Every time. The first day I was there I went to an AA meeting. The meeting was just starting when I heard someone come in. I turned my head to check it out and was blown away by what I saw. Standing in the kitchen of this AA clubhouse was a friend I had not seen in years. Maybe 20 years. This woman had been a very close friend. She was the big sister of my best childhood friend. Growing up, she was like my big sister. I was at their house all the time and we did all the things together. All the normal childhood things. Then she started to grow up. We all did. She went first.   Sometimes, when she went on dates, she would bring us home a bottle of Boones Farm. If we were lucky, she would bring us vodka. I smoked my first joint with her and as I got into harder drugs, I drifted away from her little sister and gravitated towards her. When I was 17, I did my first rail of meth with her. She was in and out of my life for the next few years as we had different crowds that we associated with. Then, near the end of my addiction, at my worst, we hooked up again. It was an awful time in my life and I have to assume it wasn’t much better for her.  Meth is an awful drug. When I saw her standing in the kitchen area of that AA meeting, my soul exploded and I immediately jumped out of my seat to go hug her. Again and again. I couldn’t stop hugging her. She sat beside me during the meeting. I noticed that she couldn’t be still. She seemed nervous. Fidgety. My heart hurt for her. She has 18 months clean and sober. 18 months and she still hasn’t settled. Meth is an awful drug. She has been stuck in that world all this time. She never left. She got in trouble with the law a few times and is now in the drug court program. She had to go through a local treatment center. She has to check in with the court fairly often, keep a job and pass drug tests. Her main focus in life right now is not using drugs. We talked after the meeting and I shared with her how meditation and yoga have helped me in so many ways. I stressed the importance of finding a sponsor that shes’s comfortable sharing with. I told her she could call me anytime she was struggling and I would be there to listen and help guide her.  I wish I could give her what I have. It doesn’t work like that though. She has to want it and she has to do the work. I have never been more grateful for my recovery than I was in that moment. Grateful that my parents got me out of there. Grateful for that crazy, Scientology based treatment center in Oklahoma that tried to keep me forever but still saved my life. Grateful that I never went back to Kentucky to live. It’s a lovely place, but for me, it holds too many ugly memories. Before I went far, far away to treatment, for a long, long time, one of my dearest using friends told me I didn’t need such a long time in treatment because I wasn’t a “real drug addict.” She assured me that once I got there and saw all the heroin addicts I would realize that I didn’t belong. My brain told me she might be right, but my gut said she was wrong. As it turns out, I did belong. I was a “real drug addict.” I realize now that she was losing her best friend and she was sad. She got left behind. I hated leaving her and I had “survivor’s guilt.” I left her in that Hell because I wanted to live. I am still friends-ish with her and I have watched (from afar) her struggle to stay clean all of her life. I really had to distance myself from all of that. Have I mentioned that meth is an awful drug? My entire trip home seemed to be about recovery. I suppose my entire life IS about recovery. It has to be. I connected with a cousin who is much younger than me while I was there.  I only knew her as a young child. Thanks to social media I “know” her as an adult. An adult recovering from meth addiction. She too was in the drug court program and happened to graduate while I was there. Her mom asked me if I would like to come see her graduate. I will always do what I can to support people in recovery, so naturally, I said yes. It was a very sweet and moving experience. She has all the love and support of family and as long as she keeps doing what she’s doing, she will be OK. While I was in the court room I ran into the drug counselor who helped get me into my very first treatment center when I was 21 years old. He works in the drug court program. He has helped so many others since then and it was really great to see him. I went to yoga while I was in Kentucky and I went to more meetings. I meditate daily. Always.  Those things keep me grounded. I ran into another woman I knew from my childhood at the meetings. One I never used or drank with. She has 6 years in the program. We weren’t necessarily friends growing up and the way I remember it, we didn’t even like each other. But 20 years and the bond of AA changes that. She was so friendly and helpful. I was extremely grateful for her presence. She is a living example of AA. I was in Kentucky for a week and the ONLY people who reached out to me and said they wanted to see me are friends I know from social media who are also in recovery.  Amazing how that works. So often I feel like I’m not AA enough because I don’t quote the big book and I have so many other tools to support my recovery. But, being there, AA felt like Home. I was exactly where I was supposed to be. While I was in Kentucky,  I spent a lot of time with my parents. We just chilled together most of the time. I spent time with my brother and my sister in law. I saw my nieces almost every day. Ram Dass  said “If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” I’m not saying I’m enlightened, I’m just saying we had a lovely time and my Mom said I seemed more at ease this trip than I ever have. So. There’s that. 🙂 It was a sure sign that all the “work” I’ve been doing is working. I am thrilled to be back home in NC and I’m ready to get back into my routine.  I’m grateful for the reminders of my past last week because it makes me appreciate today even more.

Drug Addiction is a Horrible Monster

When I was 21 I was addicted to methamphetamine. I had already been married and divorced. I was living with my parents because I was unable to take care of myself. Methamphetamine is a horrible drug. They all are I suppose. I did a lot of them but none of them took hold of me like meth did. I lived in a community where meth was rampant and so many people were addicted. The thing is, when I first started doing it, the people I knew who introduced me to it seemed pretty normal. They had jobs and houses and lives. Until they didn’t. I had a job when I first started too. I think we all crashed and burned at the same time. I worked third shift and meth helped me stay awake all night. My habit also cost me most of my paycheck. I sure wasn’t using my money to pay my bills or buy groceries. I would come home to my apartment after work and use all day. I rarely slept. I had a friend who came over and used with me a lot. On one particular day, he was there for hours, smoking meth, like usual.  That afternoon he left to sleep it off before work that night. I managed to fall asleep and woke up to tons of missed calls and a voicemail telling me that my friend had gone home, went to sleep and never woke up. The rest of the message said “I hope you aren’t using that shit.” I didn’t go to work that night and as best as I can remember, I stopped going altogether. I locked myself up in my apartment, stopped answering my phone, stopped answering my door and hid from the world. For days? Weeks? I really have no idea. Until my mother showed up with my ex husband. I can’t imagine what I must have looked like. I’m thinking death is a close description. There was no food in the apartment and there were no lights. I had used every single light bulb as a makeshift pipe to smoke meth. I was terrified of the dark. My TV was the only light I had. My mother talked me into going to a treatment center in Nashville, TN.  Not far from where we lived. I went. For 28 days. I began to feel human again. Eating and sleeping and learning all about addiction and recovery. I went to meetings and I think I thought I would be fine when I left. I was not fine when I left. I left on the weekend of July 4th. I moved in with my parents after I left the treatment center. Within two days of being out, I told them I was going to a meeting and instead of doing that, I went and bought meth. And just like that, it was on again. I used to stay out for days on end, not sleeping and not eating, until I was absolutely insane and extremely paranoid. I hung out with people I hated and did things I hated even more. That’s how it is when you are addicted. I had to be where the drugs were. I would come home and crash at my parents house. They were kind enough to keep their house available to me so I had a place to go when I needed it. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for them to witness this time in my life. The reality is that their memories of this time are probably more accurate and more horrifying than mine. I would roll in while I knew they would be at work, shower (maybe), eat (maybe), and sleep for days. This went on for a long time. My mother researched treatment centers. She would leave information around the house for me to look at. It wasn’t a secret that I was a drug addict. I had accepted that this was my life. When you reach that place of no longer denying, hiding, or lying about being a drug addict and you just accept that this is your life, it’s a special kind of Hell. I knew it was going to kill me and I had accepted that too. I assumed it would happen in my sleep. I remember coming home one day and trying to sleep. I had the worst headache and every time I got still, my body would go into convulsions.  I called my mom at work and asked her to come home to be with me. She did. I didn’t want her to take me to the hospital so she just laid down beside me and kept a cold washcloth on my head. Eventually I fell asleep. I’m sure when I woke up I went right back out and stayed as long as I could. And this was my life. I hated it so much but I also couldn’t see a way out. My drug using friends and I even had a nickname for meth. We called it “Hate/Kill” because it was that fucking awful. I remember my last big binge. After being awake, smoking meth for days and days, a “friend” showed up with some mushrooms. I decided it would be a perfcet time to try them. I was wrong. I was already halucinating from the amount of drugs in my system and it was intensified by not sleeping. The mushrooms pushed me over the edge. I ended up outside of someones house walking around lost in the driveway and sobbing. I begged my “friends’ to take me home. In my memory the door was locked that day and I climbed onto the roof over the porch and busted our a window to get into the house. It’s also possible that was a halucination, but it’s very clear to me either way.  I went in the house and went to bed. My parents were planning to go to South Carolina to visit family that weekend. Instead, they stayed home because my mother was certain this was the weekend I was going to die. They saved my life that weekend. They talked me into getting into my Dad’s truck and going to Oklahoma. They had found a treatment center far, far away from everyone and everything I knew. A long term treatment facility that could last anywhere from 4 to 6 months. It was a miserable trip for all of us. I was in the back seat eating, snorting and trying to figure out how to smoke the meth I brought with me. When we finally got there, I gave what was left of it to my dad, told him not to smoke it, and never touched that shit again. I was done. I went into their detox facility and slept for days, waking only to eat and then going right back to sleep.  I was terrified to come out of my room, but on my 23rd birthday, I surfaced because the people in charge wouldn’t let me hide any longer. They escorted me around the property and into the main cafeteria. I was physically ill and emotionally broken. I was angry, sad and miserable. I knew going there was a mistake and I wanted to leave. I sat in the cafeteria, alone and crying my eyes out. I couldn’t believe I had ever thought this place would be a good idea. At that moment, an angel walked into my life. He was carrying a small gift bag when he approached me. He said my parents had left a birthday gift for me. It was the cutest handmade ceramic frog. The frog had the most ridiculous smile with giant white teeth. I loved that frog. At that moment, I knew I would be ok. I had no idea how much my life was about to change.  On every level. That angel with the gift bag became my best friend.  I finished the treatment program and stayed in Oklahoma to work at the treatment center. My best friend was already working there.  He was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met in my life.  Sweet. Kind. Generous. Brilliant. I eventually married him.  I loved him with my whole heart.  I still love him. I will always love him.  “They” say that two addicts in a relationship is never a good idea.  I can understand that logic. He gave me two beautiful children and so much more.  It hurts to share about him, but the long and short of it is that he relapsed.  I didn’t. I knew my children needed a mother and I couldn’t be that if I picked up drugs. I survived and he didn’t.  Drug addiction is a horrible monster and there’s not always a happy ending.  I see him every day. He’s alive in my children. They inherited so many of the things I love about him.  I just wish he could be here to see it. 💔

My Voice

Warning. I fully intend to talk about monster phlegm today. If you are tired of hearing about my monster phlegm or have an aversion to the term, this post might not be for you. Here we go. Last week I hosted a moon circle. Like I do. It was fabulous as they all are in their own way. During the circle I was leading a guided meditation. I don’t practice or have a script, I just lead from my heart. I let spirit flow through me. Sometimes it’s smoother than others. This particular evening was extremely smooth. I was connected and divinely guided. I led everyone out of their heads and into their hearts. I asked them to drop the protective walls that we put in place and just allow themselves to FEEL whatever is in their hearts. For the first time, maybe ever, I felt my wall drop and I sat in that circle feeling wide open and vulnerable. It felt really good and as I noticed it, my throat suddenly closed up and I had an attack of “monster phlegm.” This is never a good thing when leading meditation because the next few seconds are spent clearing my throat loudly. It sucks, but I’m human. I was well aware that there was a connection to what I was feeling and that sudden attack to my throat, but the circle wasn’t the place to figure all of that out.  Or maybe it was and I just didn’t. And then I kind of let it go and moved on. Then, on Wednesday, it happened again. This time I was with my therapist who I trust completely. She said something I didn’t necessarily want to hear and my heart got hurt a little. Immediately, my throat was attacked by monster phlegm. This woman is smart.  She asked me what I wasn’t saying. Because she knew. I acted like a 5 year old and said “nothing.’ She asked me to go into my body and feel what was there. Again, I acted like a 5 year old and said “nothing is there, and there’s nothing I’m not saying.” I hate that I did that. The reality is that there was something I wasn’t saying and I knew my heart hurt. I wasn’t ready to talk about it and she completely respected that and gave me the space I needed.  I was so aggravated with myself on the drive home and for the rest of the evening for not being better at expressing myself.  I am my own worst critic and I can still be harsh with myself at times.  I did send her a text to tell her the thing I wouldn’t say while I was on her couch, which made me feel better, but the whole choking in the moment episode really bothered me. I was determined to love myself a little harder the next day. I called a friend who is an amazing healer and told her about the two instances of monster phlegm. She completely understood and explained it to me so simply. Simple if you are into chakras that is. I happen to be into chakras. Our Sacral Chakra is our center for emotions. When I supress emotions (which is always), it manifests in my throat. The two chakras are connected. I am blocked from speaking my truth because somewhere along the way, I received the message that it’s not safe for me to express my emotions. This is why I suppress my emotions in the first place. Makes perfect sense. I took my new knowledge and went to my Artist’s Way group. I shared this knowledge with them and when I had a monster phlegm attack and couldn’t share some of the triggering things I had written for the course, they understood and loved me just the same. The beauty of this Artist’s Way course is that it’s connecting me to my happy inner child.  Almost everything that comes up as I remember her is the joyful stuff.  This particular exercise that triggered me was a letter from my 8 year old self to my today self. My 8 year old had a lot to say, but the one thing she really wanted me to hear was “Find our voice.” With all the trouble I have had with that this week, it broke my heart. After the group I went to lunch with two friends. I dissociated a few times during lunch and they kept bringing me back. That’s the awesome thing about hanging out with people in recovery. They never even batted an eye or acted like it was a big deal at all. I guess it wasn’t really a big deal, but I did think I was past that. I was hoping so anyway. It bothered me to be in that space and to have people notice it.  I taught yoga after lunch and it put me right back in my body. Always a good place to be. Friday I got over myself and decided to love myself even harder. I accepted that this is just where I am right now and it’s REALLY not that big of a deal. I spent the day with a friend doing awesome things and spent the evening ecstatic dancing in my studio with people I love. So much fun and such a healthy way for me to move emotions through my body.  Saturday morning I taught an 8 am class. I had everyone in class pull an oracle card. My card hit me right in the feels. “As I express my thoughts, feelings and ideas, they are welcomed and easily comprehended by others.” BOOM. And just because I am not constantly “working on myself,” I rested like a boss the rest of the day.  This morning I went to yoga church and an amazing thing happened. I found my voice. I was able to speak up and speak my truth when I knew I needed to. Confidently. With no monster phlegm. Wouldn’t it be nice if this was all behind me now and everyday for the rest of my life I could easily express my emotions. The reality is that I have this beautiful new awareness and something to practice. It will get easier and I WILL find my voice. It might not happen this week, but it will happen. Awareness is everything.  It IS safe for me to experience AND express my emotions.

Dancing is my favorite thing. This week.

With all the inner child work I have been doing, I forget that child wants to play. This week I let her do just that. On Sunday, I met up with friends and danced at the Buddhist temple. At least for a bit. On Tuesday I played on the beach, chanting, singing and not giving a fuck what anyone thought. I’ve been busy levitating everywhere. That’s really fun to do. Wednesday I locked the studio and had the BEST solo dance party ever. That’s really what I came here to write about. Who knew dance could be so healing? Except, my dance teacher friends and therapist friends. I know they knew. I always did love to dance. When I was drinking. I stopped dancing when I stopped drinking. The dancing stopped because the going out to bars and clubs stopped. The parties on my top deck stopped. It never occurred to me to have a sober dance party in my living room. Until recently. Living room dance parties have been a thing for me all summer long. And the singing! LOL My husband told me last week that all I do is sing and dance these days. How freaking awesome is that? Of course, he’s wrong, but I do A LOT of singing and dancing. Pure joy. That’s my inner child at play. I told the Universe (and my friends) that I wanted to dance and guess what happened? All the dancing. All the time. The Rebel Soul schedule is FULL of all kinds of dancing! Ecstatic Dance. Belly Dancing. Dancing Mindfulness. Qoya. I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Qoya, because I hadn’t either. Let me tell you, I love it already and I haven’t even tried it. Tonight I am leading a moon circle and you can bet your ass that we will be dancing. I have always known that movement heals. It wasn’t until I took a trauma informed yoga training in January that I understood why. Then I read “The Body Keeps the Score” and just WOW. Mind Blown. Really. Then, because I am who I am, I read everything I could find on healing trauma through movement. I struggled to get sober and I’ve known since day one that I needed more than just a 12 step program. 12 Step programs are great and I am in no way knocking them. 12 step programs do a great job addressing the mind and spirit piece, but they don’t address the body. We are whole beings. Mind, body and spirit. To truly heal, we have to address these all. My yoga journey began in a treatment center. Most of you know how much I hated yoga in the beginning. Maybe for the first year. Nobody explained to me why it made me cry, and if they did, I wasn’t listening. I just know that I hated crying in front of people and I felt like such a freak. I thought something was truly wrong with me. Today I understand that I was releasing years of trauma and emotions that were locked in my body. It all came flooding out in tears and anger and sadness and even rage that I didn’t know what to do with. So I sat with it. Holy shit did I sit with it. In reading an old blog post, I realized that this was the beginning of repressed memories resurfacing for me. Only I wasn’t ready to deal with them back then, so I filed them away and completely forgot they were there. Aren’t humans fascinating? I live in my head way more than I probably “should.” My therapist reminds me every week to try to feel my way through things. You might assume I would be good at that by now as much as I practice and TEACH yoga and meditation, but it’s not my natural state. I am forever trying to figure everything out in my mind. And honestly, sometimes I get busy and forget to get on my mat and drop into my body. Dancing has been a great way to do just that and it’s a nice compliment to all of my other practices. Plus, it’s FUN. When I said I had a dance party on Wednesday, what I really mean is that I experienced myself from the inside out through movement and music. A personal Dancing Mindfulness practice. I closed my eyes and connected to my breath. I witnessed my mind and let go of judgement. You feel me meditators? Then I began to move to the music. The intention was to stay focused on my breath and my body and for the most part I was able to do that. Emotions came up and I was able to move them through my body by feeling them rather than thinking about them. It was very similar to the way yoga works for me, but it was dance. No alignment. No sequence. I danced for two hours with a few breaks when I needed to rest. In no way did I solve all the worlds problems, but I had peace, clarity and serenity when I was through. So beautiful.

Also, hair flipping and booty shaking fucking rocks.

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It’s always about the inner child.

This week in the “I went to a healer and this is what happened” saga. I have been seeing an Integrative Energy Medicine Therapist for a while now. I find it’s a nice compliment to therapy. I call her an energy healer, but she’s all the things. She’s very loving and sweet. She’s also a Shaman. She’s one of the few healers in my community that I didn’t really know before I started sessions with her. Which is exactly why I picked her. It has taken me a while to get comfortable with her. I’m mostly there. As open as I am when I am writing, or even in a circle (if I am leading), I am actually quite guarded one on one. I even notice it with my therapist when we talk about uncomfortable things and I trust her completely. This week I had a Soul Retrieval session. I was online reading all the cool things that Shamans do, looking for the next new thing that is going to heal me when I came upon an article about Soul Retrieval. What I read wasn’t exactly what I experienced, but what I experienced was incredible. I was expecting to lie on the table while this healer did all of her woo-woo magic and brought back every little piece of my soul that escaped each and every time I dissociated throughout my life. Again I was surprised that it really wasn’t woo-woo at all. Maybe slightly, depending on the world you live in and how open you are. I’m wide open. Rather than her doing a bunch of magic while I relaxed, we started with a seated, guided meditation. She spent a long time guiding me through each of my chakras. This particular woman has an amazing ability to guide me into that sweet space between sleep and consciousness. I love it there. It feels like sleeping while I’m awake. Maybe that’s her woo woo magic! After that I did get onto the table where I am sure she put some crystals on and around me. Then the magic happened. Not really, but kind of. She guided me back to the memory of little girl me. The inner child that I have always felt so disconnected from. The little girl who was full of joy and light. The little girl who was whole. From there we moved on to the moment things changed and that little girl became “broken.” I was there with that little girl in that first moment she gave her power away. I was able to connect with her, hold her, love her and nurture her. I was able to tell her that she was not broken. I was able to be there for her and give her what she needed in that moment. It was quite powerful. I was able to do all of this without being verbal throughout the process. She held the space and guided me while I did what I needed to do. The whole experience was beautiful. I went to an inner child healing workshop two weeks ago hoping for an experience like this, but it didn’t happen for me. Funny that I wasn’t expecting to connect with my inner child during this experience and the entire session was just that. Two and a half hours of just that. We get what we need exactly when we need it and I guess two weeks ago wasn’t my time. Ultimately what I got from my Soul Retrieval session is the understanding that whether or not I picked the specific circumstances to learn the lessons I’ve learned in this life, they are the lessons I needed to learn. I am here to share and teach and I have always had everything I need right inside of me. I am a seeker and a searcher and I have been looking for the person who would wave that magic wand to make me what I already am. WHOLE. I keep getting directed back to this again and again. I teach this regularly. I KNOW it in my head and just maybe it is starting to sink in to my heart.
One more little tidbit of information that I want to share, because I find it fascinating. Most of you know that I am facilitating an Artist’s Way group. I am doing this because I need the accountability of a group to finish it. Never have I ever made it past week nine on my own. A friend recently asked me what week nine is about. Why do I jump ship at week nine? I honestly had no idea, nor had it ever occurred to me that there might be a reason I couldn’t get past that week. Each week has a theme. I peeked ahead in the book. Week 9 “We will undertake healing the shame of past failures. We will gain compasssion as we reparent the frightened artist child.” Mind. Blown. Everything keeps coming back to the inner child.