The week before Christmas 2016 my world changed. I lost both of my maternal grandparents less than a week apart. They had been ill all year and it wasn’t unexpected, but when you lose people you love it’s hard no matter the circumstances. You’re never ready. My grandparents were amazing people. They lived great big lives. My grandfather is the smartest person I’ve ever met in real life. He was a chemist and did amazing things professionally (I’m particularly proud of his discovery of a method to remove selenium from flue gases – I have his plaque from the US Patent Office hanging in my house), but during that final year I got to know a different, softer side of him. My grandmother and I have always been very close. She was also very intelligent, the first woman to receive a M.S. degree in Zoology and Entomology from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). But it was how she lived her life after she left her career in science that really influenced me. She helped create an after school care program for children with special needs, and had a lifetime commitment to helping others. When I reflected back on their lives, I was struck by how brave they were. And I wanted to be brave too. I wasn’t sure I was ready – but a week later I registered for yoga teacher training that would start in April 2017. My main reason for doing it was simple – I had wanted to do it for years but always thought it was something out of reach. Something other people did – people with a better yoga practice (whatever that means), more time, and more money. I finally realized it would only happen if I made it happen. I started teacher training without any plans of what I’d do after.
All of my adult life I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and social anxiety that seemed to worsen as time passed by. I used medication for years to manage them, with only mild success. In November 2014 I had a serious reaction to my medication that caused me to quit taking it. For the most part I seemed to feel better off the medication. But as I had already been doing while taking the medication, I continued to self-medicate with alcohol. I do not identify as an alcoholic, but I definitely had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. So when I started yoga teacher training in April 2017, I also started to really examine my drinking at the same time. YTT unexpectedly became a form of therapy for me. During those 7 months I kept fairly quiet within my sangha, but soaked up everything. I wrote in my journal and listened to thought provoking podcasts. I read books that cracked my brain and heart wide open. When I look back at 2017 I know that’s the year I did the work. The hard and sometimes ugly work that I’d been needing to do for years – I guess my whole life. It was the work that medication, therapy, and alcohol could never quite touch.
Photo from HereNowYoga
After many breaks, stops, and restarts, I made the decision to stop drinking for good on the weekend of my YTT graduation. Even though I had 2 slip ups after (I prefer to call them learning experiences), I consider November 11, 2017 what I call my decision date. March 27, 2018 was my actual last drink.
After we graduated I was just as unsure what to do with my new YTT certificate as when I started. I taught a few volunteer classes and subbed a little here and there, but for the next 8 to 9 months I mostly continued to work on my personal growth. I needed time to water the seeds that were planted during those mind-blowing 7 months.
After graduation there was a part of me that really regretted keeping the huge brick wall up during training that I’d built up around me through the years. I didn’t share much about myself with my sangha and I worried that I’d really missed out on an opportunity to get to know some amazing women, and let them really get to know me. Luckily these relationships didn’t end when we graduate. Some of my yoga sisters I get to see regularly. Some I get to stay in touch with mostly through social media. But every time I see one of those beautiful souls in person – sometimes on purpose and sometimes we just run into each other around town – I’m filled with love.
Check back in a few days to hear more about how I finally made the decision to pick up regular classes and how the first 7 months of teaching yoga have changed my life.