Saved by Yoga, Again

I have been reminded all afternoon of the phrase, “Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.” After reading an article about unprocessed grief, some issues surfaced—issues around my own unprocessed grief. Issues that essentially triggered my addiction many years ago. I experienced emotions that my poor mind was unprepared for, and had no idea how to deal with.

Pre-recovery, my emotions would have sent me to the shop for wine and cigarettes—but this time I didn’t even think about it—I just felt the crappy, painful emotions. Every single chest tightening moment. I know that processing these emotions is going to be not just painful, but truly life-affirming. And that is OK—I’m ready for it.

I have writing to help me get my thoughts and emotions out. I have people around me who will love and support me through it. And I have yoga.

I know that yoga is going to be my salvation. As I was driving to teach my Monday night class, I was sobbing. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it—who wants a yoga teacher on the verge of tears?

Before we started I warned the class that I was going through some emotions. I asked my students not to worry if I started crying. They were so beautifully supportive. Someone suggested a group hug if I got upset, and that made me feel better. Even so, I assumed I wouldn’t make it through the class without tears.

But I was forgetting the healing power of yoga. What I needed most at that moment was to relax and let go, something I hadn’t allowed myself to do all day.

As I taught, I relaxed. I stretched, I breathed. I relaxed, I released.

And although at the end of the session I started to feel the emotions, I was relaxed and at peace. The pain has lessened.  I have no doubt that it will return—but I know I have yoga and I can soothe and comfort myself.

Yoga was my path to recovery. It will be my path through wherever these emotions are going to take me.

Inspirational SoberMommies: Clean Life. Clean Home.

When seeking inspiration for my sobriety, I’ll search for motivational quotes, books, and music. Yet there’s nothing more powerful than turning to the sober women around me and gaining motivation from their strength.

Here at SoberMommies, we like to highlight the stories of our sober sisters, to help paint a picture of recovery in all its forms. The first inspirational woman we’d like to share is Melissa Johnson, founder of Oklahoma’s Clean Life. Clean Home.

As I scroll through Melissa’s pictures on social media, the first thing I notice is her brilliant smile, and I can’t help but think, I am looking at a woman who has found true peace. Her freedom and joy literally shine through. While reading up on Melissa and visiting her social media, it became clear—she found her happiness in recovery by giving back.

Sober Mommies: Melissa, why don’t you start off by you introducing yourself?

Melissa Johnson:  My name is Melissa Johnson. I am the founder of Clean Life. Clean Home.

It’s a nonprofit in the Oklahoma City area I started in 2016 as my way of paying it forward to other moms out who have struggled with addiction but have turned their lives around for them and their children.

SM: Can you describe what your business means to you?

MJ:  CLCH is all about being of service, paying it forward, spreading kindness and hope, and showing the world that addicts do recover. My hope is by sharing these testimonies, a mother out there will have the courage to seek the help without the worry of being ridiculed or judged.

SM: That’s wonderful, I love it! Let’s go back to the beginning, can you share a bit about your life in active addiction?

MJ: I struggled with addiction for many years—alcohol quieted the voices in my head unlike anything I’d ever tried. My mind is always racing, over-analyzing, worrying. I’ve experienced walls closing in on me, the ground feeling as if it’s shaking and I’m about to fall off, night sweats, tightness in my chest.

Alcohol took all that away.

It started out as fun, but once that first sip hit my mouth, I lost all control.

SM: I cannot tell you how much I relate to that. Where did your addiction take you?

MJ:  I suffered many consequences and hurt everyone on path someway or another. When I was 21 years old I ran a red light and hit someone. When I was 24 years old, I was at another intersection in another blackout waking to the sound of glass breaking.

In 2008 I had my son and in 2010 I had my daughter. I thought moving a state away and having children would change me—but If anything, I was worse.

SM : Your addiction took you away from being a mom?

MJ :  In December 2013 my children were removed from my home after my son ate a marijuana brownie. He told the teacher he ate a brownie with medicine in it, which made him sick.

I got sober in February of 2014. It wasn’t easy; my body would ache, I felt as if I was walking around with no clothes on, I felt exposed.  But, I got a sponsor, worked the steps, chaired meetings, and got my kids back six months later. In May of 2015 my children were removed from my home again after a 24-hour relapse.

SM: I’m so sorry. Do you know what led up to that relapse?

MJ: When I think of the emotional state I was in up until that relapse, I feel compassion for myself. I had been barely keeping myself above water and I drowned. I hit a wall, I just didn’t care anymore.

My kids would not be back home until May 2016.

That was the longest year of my life. It was full of heartbreak, uncertainty, fear, and confusion.

That was my rock bottom.

SM: What was next for you? How did you find your strength to fight?

MJ: I got a life coach instead of a sponsor, I began standing up for myself, I connected with women all over the world who were recovering out loud, and I shared my truth. I jumped through every hoop thrown at me by CPS and the law.

SM: Can you tell me your experience with CPS and fostering? I know that many of us mamas face that struggle as well.

MJ:  It was a difficult time, it hurt deeply. I cry as I remember those days, they were excruciating, but it only fueled my fire. In that difficult time, I found my strength, my voice, my courage, I found forgiveness, and I found compassion. It was a rough ride for a while. My son hated me and he let me know it on a daily basis.  

Now, we are better than we have ever been. We speak openly about the days they were gone and why they were taken. I remind them often to ask me any questions they want and to tell me any feelings they have about those days.

SM: Your story is truly incredible. And from all of that, Clean Life. Clean Home. began?

MJ: I cleaned homes as a part-time job and in April of 2016. My life coach suggested I start paying it forward by cleaning homes for women in recovery. 

Clean Life.Clean Home. were the first words that came out of my mouth.

I had no idea what I was doing or where this would take me, once again I decided I’d let my faith carry me.

SM: What a beautiful way to give back! What is the process for CLCH today?

MJ:  A mom in recovery from drugs/alcohol is nominated, if they are interested in sharing their story I will interview them and share their testimony on social media
and the website. Me and a group of volunteers will then clean their home for free, along with a bucket of new cleaning supplies, a $50 gift card to Walmart, and a CLCH shirt and mug.

Most of the moms are nominated are single moms, who work really hard juggling everything that goes along with parenting while maintaining sobriety.

We had a single dad too.

SM: So besides helping a busy mama, you’re able to have others share their stories and spread hope?

MJ: We hear about the ugly side of addiction on a daily basis; overdoses, moms being arrested while driving their children, parents passed out with the kids in the back seat. 

My nonprofit is my way of paying it forward to other moms who have been in similar situations but have made it through—moms who want to help shine a light on the other side of addiction…RECOVERY!!

If Melissa’s story inspired you, follow her for even more inspiration. Find Clean Life, Clean Home on Instagram, and, if you know a woman who deserves to be highlighted—send us a message!

Does Pride Have A Place In Recovery?

I’ve been thinking about pride a lot lately. Probably because recently I had to suck up my pride and make amends to those I’d hurt while drinking. Though I was ready and fully willing to make those amends, it’s hard to have pride when you’re saying, “Yep, I did all those crappy things.”

Pride while drinking is dangerous, for sure. It’s what keeps a lot of people from reaching out for help. It did for me, anyway. I thought I had everything under control because I knew my risk of becoming an alcoholic. My dad went into rehab when I was 16 and it was then that I really learned my pedigree. Genetics-wise, I was basically fucked. All kinds of relatives warned me that I had the potential to become an alcoholic.

What they should have said was, “Sara, you are already an alcoholic.”

But I didn’t believe I had a problem. I was too young, I thought. I only drank on the weekends (never mind that I blacked out every single time). I was still on the honor roll, still president of Key Club, still on varsity sports teams. I was a “model student” on the outside – as long as I kept the façade up, there’s no way I could be an alcoholic.

Even after I was raped three times while passed out, it was eight years after my father went into rehab before I let my pride go and admitted that I, too, was an alcoholic.

Since then, pride has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I am so proud of the strides I have made in my seven years of sobriety (particularly the work I’ve done in the last year). I feel like I’ve completely reset my thinking, and my inside now matches my outside. However, I know there are instances where my pride has bit me in the ass. I went off my depression meds because I thought I was fine. Cue the sad, the quick-to-anger, anxious mess I shortly became. My poor son had to feel the screaming and short fuse of Mommy Off Her Meds for a few weeks until I finally put my pride away and admitted that I do, in fact, need chemical support in this fight. Me, the advocate who is always saying that antidepressants are tantamount to the insulin a person with diabetes takes, and that there should be no shame in taking them. I let my pride get in the way.

So now I wonder. Does pride have a place in recovery? Where’s the line between healthy pride in how far you’ve come and sinister pride that sneaks up and sabotages recovery?

I Realized “Using” Can Apply to Sex Too…

I want to be an independent woman but my codependent self won’t let me. In the last few months, my home life has unraveled. My fiancé moved out and I’m suddenly a single mom with two boys under five.

A hundred things have changed. I had to resign from my position at work and apply for another job in a different city to make childcare work. My finances are precarious. I no longer have the support of my ex’s family and I haven’t any family of my own. I am four and a half years sober and my life has collapsed.

I am grateful I built a solid enough life in recovery that I know I can’t turn to using.

I know that a drink or drug is not going to make anything better. I might find temporary relief…but I know it’s not worth it.

Yet, I still need relief. Sometimes I don’t want to be a mom or go to work or be responsible. Sometimes I feel like I got the short end of the stick. He’s doing whatever he wants and I’m “stuck” with kids, childcare issues…and everything else.

I am in a world of pain and seeking relief. I won’t drink or drug. Food isn’t doing it anymore—I’m too stressed to eat. The house isn’t getting any cleaner. So I’ve turned to my old favorite distraction…men. I need to fill the void. I want to feel good about myself. I NEED TO BE VALIDATED. Sex was a huge part of my past and I know how to tread softly (at least that’s what I told myself).

I was seeking out men that I knew were “safe.” I told myself to be careful—I told myself not to get attached. It’s just sex…no strings…blah blah blah. That works at first—until I begin to get attached—then I get hurt. So I find another one. And another one.

I get so wrapped up. Then I crash. Hard.

It’s like I’m speedballing with dating.

It’s hard to be a sober single mom.

But I realized that when I date someone and they don’t make some sort of sexual advance, I usually wonder what’s wrong with me. I’m taking a good hard look at that reaction and trying to turn it around. I’m spending more time with guys that don’t treat me like an object. It’s refreshing to go hang out with someone and just talk.

I’ve stopped seeking out guys. I’ve set a couple standards I’m trying to adhere to. I tell my tribe what I’m doing, even when I know they are going to give me shit about it. I share the ups and downs and through that, I can see myself. I’m trying to see myself as my tribe sees me and I’m working to get the men in my life to see me through that lens.

I’m getting a better idea of who I want to be and who to surround myself with. I am learning how to show people that there’s more to me than my body. I like to do stuff and go places and share my interests. If you can’t share that, I’ve got no time for you.

It’s all new. I never cared about that before…it was always physical, always “what’s in it for me?”

I don’t know that I’m going to stop seeking companionship, but I am damn sure going to be as smart as can I about it. Hell, I might even learn a thing or two along the way.

Now…if you’ll excuse me…I have a date.

Addiction isn’t a Choice

The suggestion that we, as addicts, knowingly take our first drink or drug fully aware we will become addicted, is both insulting and naive. There are plenty of “normal” people who experiment with drinking and/or drugs and don’t become addicts. My brain is simply not wired properly. Unlike “normal” people, I can’t take just one drink. I never have and never will be that girl who leaves a glass of alcohol half-full or turns down a drink because I’ve had enough. I’m an alcoholic. One drink will never be enough for me.

Addiction is a disease, no more a choice than cancer.

Yes, I made a choice to continue to drink after I realized I had a problem, but by then I was already caught up in addiction.

Today, I chose to be sober. I chose not to pick up that first drink today because I know for a fact that it will take me back to my active addiction. I chose every day not to let addiction beat me. I make the choice to take action every day, just like a person with diabetes chooses to eat responsibly and take their medicine.

There’s no shame in illness.

Addiction is an illness with no real cure—only remission.

I did not decide to become an addict, but I do make the choice every day to utilize the tools I need to stay sober. I know today that I am much more than my disease. I’m a mother, a wife, and a friend. I’m a person living with a disease.

Do we treat people who develop lung cancer differently if they smoke? Do we blame people with cancer for taking the risks they did, or deny them life-saving treatment because they might be at fault? No, we treat them as people with an illness that any one of us could have. We understand that some people smoke and don’t get lung cancer and that some people have a predisposition which places them at a greater risk. We don’t shame people with lung cancer for smoking even though it was a risk. We provide these people with support and medicine. We help them fight their disease.

Why is addiction different? Why is there such stigma attached?

I am not proud of anything I did as an active addict. Not a day goes by I don’t play some part of it back in my mind and feel guilty. I used to be so afraid to tell people I am a recovering alcoholic. I was worried about what would they think of me, whether their kids would be allowed to play with my kids. I was worried that they wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore. I worried about side or dirty looks from my kids’ teachers. I thank God I have yet to really experience any of those reactions. I’m sure people talk, or maybe they can’t believe I talk so openly about my recovery. I’m okay with that. I understand that keeping my addiction and recovery a secret doesn’t help anyone, but being honest about it might open the door for someone else who’s struggling.

We all make choices and mistakes we’re not proud of. People who make bad decisions aren’t bad people.

We are all human, and just because we make bad choices, doesn’t mean we can’t change.

I wish we could stop looking at addiction differently than other illnesses that can be triggered, and try harder to provide help instead of judgment.  If we could just listen more, make an effort to understand the person behind the addiction, then maybe the next time you heard about that “drunk” or “junkie,” it might be because he or she got sober.

No one makes the choice to become ill—to become an addict, but we do get to make the choice to recover.

photo credit: zubrow via photopin cc