In Recovery we talk a lot about power, powerlessness, control, the need for control, the lack of control, the loss of control. We talk about the will and surrendering our will.
There's not enough talk about using our will appropriately.
Surrendering does not mean that I no longer have a will, I don't give my will away. I turn it over.
Step 3 - We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the god of our understanding.
This is not giving up my will, it's making a commitment to be in service to a higher power by using my will appropriately.
When I take an attitude of relinquishing my will, it easy to justify laziness and bad behavior with silly phrases like "it wasn't god's will" or "must have been god's will".
Yoga, being a system of Self realization, just as the 12 steps of Recovery are a path back to my true self, teaches me how to use my will appropriately.
Active addiction left me in a state of emotional disturbance, unable to appropriately use or even access my will. My mind was riddled with disease (a dysfunctional way of interacting with myself and my world that started way before I used drugs for the first time). Yoga gives me access to my gut instincts, the truth of my heart and the authentic intellect of my mind.
12 step recovery and talk therapy, while helpful, still relies on the same diseased field that created my addiction. It takes a long time to sift through distorted thinking and ways of being with the mind still disturbed as a result of active addiction. It is possible, however to gain almost immediate access to the true will simply by committing to connect to the breath moving in and out of the body each day.
The early days of my recovery were filled with out-patient therapy and meetings, these methods were cognitive based, relying on my dysfunctional thought patterns and belief systems. 12 Step recovery is a spiritually based cognitive exercise. My mind took a long time to shed the distorted way of experiencing and interacting with the world. However, the mind and the body are not separate, just as the emotions and the mind are not separate. In early recovery and today, almost 16 years later, I have immediate access to the wisdom of my body through my breath. My body was fully clean long before my mind came back to itself. Rather than trying to solve a problem with the same mind that created it, I got into the present moment through my body and worked my way into my mind. In this way I recover body to mind
Yoga taught me how to heal working body to mind by training my mind to follow my breath. When I use my will to coordinate my breath and my body, my mind follows along. Creating this unity of breath, body and mind, I harmonize my life to my instinct, truth, and authentic intellect.
The mind is a field (I often think of it as a body of water, like a lake ), the thoughts are within this field and are both affected by it and have an effect on it. The emotions are both affected by and have an effect on the thoughts. The breath has the ability to move through the field, effecting the field, thoughts and emotions.
Recovery shows me the path to Freedom, Yoga gives me the vehicle to actively move on the path. The process of change and awakening comes in three phases: Behavior, Thoughts, Emotions. I appropriately use my will by choosing to act like the person I want to be, living the life I want. This choice activates my greatest power (my free will), and when connected to a spiritual principle (willingness, love, surrender), puts me in position to connect to my highest power. Our free will is a gift and a curse, it is through my choices that I move towards my lowest nature or my highest potential.
When I practice using my will to train my mind to follow my breath by moving my body in an intentional way, I'm accessing the power that I was born with, the power that I gave to the disease. I'm relearning how to appropriately use my will. I needed to gain this access back to my will to utilize it and know it, before I could choose to surrender it, this time to serving love. Today I choose life, I choose to serve Truth which is Love.
Blackout is a term used for the early part of treatment, when phone and social interaction is limited. I have put myself on Blackout from sex with another person (including kissing) and dating.
I'm single for the first time in about 13 years, and decided I should get reacquainted with myself, as I occur without being attached to another person. The relationship I had with my husband was a good one, unsatisfying, but relatively healthy. Some people might say that dissatisfaction is not a reason to get divorced, and they might be right. However, I left my husband because I was unsatisfied and thought another man could give me what I what I needed.
I was wrong.
The relationship was long (it was a so called reunion of a previous engagement) and messy and dramatic and not healthy at all. In fact, I thank my higher power regularly for carrying me when I could not walk on my own to get through that experience clean.
I had to beg God to remove this man from my heart in order to have the strength to let him go. I asked not "with loving force" as I often do, when requesting removal of defects or shortcomings. I literally begged "Please remove him, I do not want this". The relationship was pretty much over after that, but we carried on for another few months anyway.
When I finally had a glimmer of relief from the obsession of this relationship and the compulsion to continue participating in it, I devoured Facing Codependency by Pia Mellody and started Talk Therapy.
I went on a few dating sites. Surprised at my interest in anyone other than this previous lover, I started messaging a fellow and entertaining the idea of yet another relationship.
He ghosted me.
I heard this message loud and clear from my Higher Power: Slow your Roll, sister.
This is a common message from my spirit guides, I tend to get ahead of myself.
This ghosting is what prompted my blackout. I committed to finishing out 2019 as a single, not dating woman.
Then came Elie.
We had been on a date or two as teenagers, but nothing came of it, probably because I was just getting ramped up in active addiction and he wasn't. Over the years, through intermittently living in the same neighborhood and social media we had occasionally intercepted.
Towards the end of my rocky, unhealthy relationship, Elie reached out to me with a desire to connect with other adults who didn't drink. We met for coffee and he was so warm and open and lovely that I wanted to set him up with my best friend Lynda. They feel the same to me, with their loving hearts and connected presence, I thought he would be good for her. Then he told me about his heartbreak (he was still recovering from a devastating breakup) and I saw that he was clearly not interested, or ready for a new love.
Elie and I started spending more time together, trading stories and lamenting our devotion that had fallen on closed hearts; as if we had been in the same battle and were left with the same wounds. We traded bodywork and energy work and I felt very comfortable and relieved to spend time with a person who felt gentle, strong, and safe.
Then, he brushed the hair from face and I swooned a little.
Maybe it was the blackout talking. I checked with my other male friends, even tried flirting with a cute guy at a school event. Nothing. No swooning, no zing, no buzz.
The last thing I need is an obsession, sexual, or otherwise. I write, I talk to my girlfriends, I talk to my sponsor. I ask my friends to pray for me when I know I'm going to see him. I rely on Elie's discipline and commitment to his own blackout. I believe that Elie and are connected through the heart and I feel that we can do many great things together in service to love. I'm confused by my attraction to him. I'm in no condition to venture into a sexual, romantic relationship, which would surely overtake these other potentials.
I consider not seeing him, for fear of falling into obsession. Fear of initiating something I'm not ready for. Fear of causing harm.
My sponsor, my dear, loving, clear, brilliant sponsor talks sense into me. She says "you don't want it to be a game" and I surrender. I see that I was getting off on playing with fire. Playing a game with myself by telling myself that I am committed to blackout, and seeing how close I could get breaking my commitment to myself. I was playing a game of chicken with my own values, self-worth and spirit.
My sponsor reminded me that I have a choice. I surrendered to win. I'm causing harm to Elie (using him for the thrill ) and me with this game of seeing how long I can resist desire. I do not need to resign to my self imposed blackout. I surrender to the reality of this day and become present to Elie as he is and I am. I let go of who I think I should be and who I hope that he is. What comes of this is a delightful, easy, fun, friendship of the heart.
I am committed to living my best life. Committed to fully inhabiting my life and expressing my aliveness. I believe this is how we save ourselves from ourselves, by following the light of our heart to our most authentic lives. What does that look like? It looks like being open to the possibility of doing something different in a familiar situation. Living Authentically means practicing humility and following the lessons and guides that life offers. The directions for the path to spiritual freedom are presented every day. Living my best life means using my gift of free will to choose from the heart.
This experience of committing to blackout mingling with an attraction and feelings that seem to challenge this commitment present an opportunity for me to be real with me. I can do what I have always done and get what I always get, or I can do something different. I choose to look at the fears that bubble up (fear of hurting someone, fear of getting hurt, fear of failing, fear of making a mistake and on and on). I choose to notice the habitual thought patterns that go along with a sexual attraction and decide to redirect my thoughts to the present moment through breath and body awareness. I choose to act as if my spiritual condition is my top priority in my life. My Blackout is not dogmatic asceticism. It is a desire to be anchored in truth, a desire to journey into the cave of my own heart, living in the love, freedom, and gratitude that reside there.
I enjoy being in love and I like sex. I will explore those relationships again, from a whole heart, not from seeking a thrill or distraction from the messiness of spiritual awakening. Just for today I am going into my own heart, creating landing points for love within myself and opening to the possibilities of love beyond my imagination. More will be revealed.
My best friend is Lynda, my son calls her "my Lynda".
We have been through some things together, a mutual friend recently remarked that we talk like an old married couple. This is what happens with best friends, we have inside jokes, encouragements and lots of love. Lynda is my emergency contact and the person in my life who always reminds me who I want to be.
So, of course I was the person who took Lynda to a minor medical procedure that required sedation. I brought my book and checked emails while waiting to be told that Lynda was ready to go home. An hour and a half goes by, the nurse comes out to tell my I can go back and hang out with Lynda while she finishes up. Lynda looks fine and of course she's made friends with the Nurse and knows her kids names and where they live. It turns out they are from the same area of North Jersey and have taken a little trip down memory lane. Lynda is snacking on pretzels and grape juice, and even though she seems a little loose from the sedation, she's alert and able to walk out.
I have no internal sense of direction, luckily Lynda knows which way to get home, another indication that she was fully recovered from her mild sedation. A few minutes into the drive home, Lynda starts getting uncomfortable. I give her some peppermint water and some essential oils to rub on her belly. We are chatting, but I can hear in her voice that she is uncomfortable.
Soon, Lynda is more than uncomfortable. She begins to writhe around in her seat, pushing at the door and the window as if she is trying to run away from the pain.
I feel my heart begin to race and my thoughts slow down. Now Lynda is saying
"Everything is white, Blakey, something's wrong"
I reach out to her, trying to stay focused on the road and pull back my instinct to reach for her, I cannot hold her and drive at the same time.
I look over at her as she says "Blakey, I'm scared" and again "something's wrong" I can see with my eyes that something is very wrong. Lynda's eyes are the wrong shape and they look green (her eyes are brown), she is a funny yellow color and covered in sweat.
Now my body has gone into emergent mode and I am trembling with the fear of what is happening and my inability to control it, holding onto the wheel and trying to focus on the road for a place to pull over or race into, to get help.
Lynda has a seizure (later we learn, not officially a seizure, but seizure like activity). Her eyes roll into the back of her head, her body curls into itself and trembles and sounds come out of her mouth as if she is still trying to tell me that something is wrong. Clearly something is not right. I teeter on the edge of panic as I think my best friend is going to die right next to me and there's nothing I can do about it.
Then it's over, almost. Lynda is conscious again. I'm still driving, we are a few blocks from my gynecologist and I briefly consider going there, thinking how nice they always are. Lynda reaches across and holds my shoulder "I'm sorry, honey". That's my Lynda, always so considerate and loving of others. I finally pull over and with trembling hands find the post procedure instructions and my phone.
I want the people who did this to Lynda to fix it, so I call them. I have a strong sense of fairness and justice. Illogical, as it is, I instinctually think that the medical facility that broke Lynda should fix her.
While I'm waiting for them to figure out who I am and what I'm talking about, Lynda looks like she's going to have another seizure, her eyes roll into her head as she starts to slump over. I consider running into the notary ( they have also been very nice to me and helped me out in a jam during my divorce), as if they will somehow make this stop happening. The nurse says I need to take Lynda to the Emergency room. I am unsatisfied with this answer, they did this to her, they should fix her. This is my irrational thinking that would be present whether I was in fight mode or not.
Lynda is feeling a little better by the time I get off the phone and does not want to go to the closest hospital (it' s not the good one, frankly) but now I'm thinking clear enough to know we need to get her somewhere in case she has another seizure. By the time we arrive at the hospital we are both pretty much fine, and able to laugh at "when was your last period?" this question like "enter your password". I could go on about the irony of women being asked this question at every turn and yet our society is so out of touch with the actual significance and relevance of the hormonal cycles of women - and men, but not here.
Lynda and I one time got stuck at a train station for 2 hours. No problem. We love each other and are good at making the best of situations. We meditate. The emergency room stay was the same. Lynda is the most gracious patient, I joke with the nurse and doctor and display some of my fun facts.
I go get us some sandwiches and we make our way to my house, to watch TV in the air conditioning. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for Lynda. My best friend who did not die in my car. My friend who loves me right where I'm at, my friend who is easy to love, my friend who takes me for a walk when I want to hide in my shell, who reminds of the person I want to be. I was powerless over what happened to her and had not much I could do for her, except to get her to the hospital. I do have the power to feel, express, and share my love. My life is better with Lynda in it.
Check out her beautiful work here lyndapilkington.com
Yoga and Recovery are both paths to spiritual awakening, both encourage us and provide a way to find our internal locus of control and be in the world in a way that suits our nature. These systems are the one path for me, saving my life and giving me a life worth living, enjoying and celebrating.
A tenet and major tool for both of these systems is awareness. Awareness is the beginning of change and transformation.
I was not eligible for surrender until I became aware that there was an issue. Even after I became aware of my own unmanageability, change was not immediate. Awareness is the beginning, when it is combined with utter desperation and willingness, movement towards change begins. I was aware that I was an addict long before I became desperate or willing to do anything about it.
The first time that I was in treatment (late 2002), my external unmanageability was apparent to myself and anyone who was around me: I didn't look people in the eye, I didn't eat or bathe regularly. I made feeble attempts at recovery after that first time: I went to meetings, I got a haircut, started taking daily showers again, my mom let me stay with her and would take me to meetings. I started looking like I was alive, but I had no willingness to be known. I kept lying to others about my true internal state and kept using, which was how I ended up back in treatment a few months later. The second, and last time that I was treatment in 2003 I had an awareness that my life was unmanageable on the outside (I was yet to be confronted with my internal unmanageability).
I was truly dumbfounded as to how I was in treatment again. I had an awareness of my unmanageability, but no awareness of who and what I was. I was fooled by outward improvements and thought that I had reset myself to 4 years before my first time in treatment when I still looked functional. I needed an awareness of my nature and the disturbance within it if I was going to change the trajectory of my life, which was very much in danger at this point.
In my dumbfounded, desperate state, I opened a recovery book that had been given to me and found the awareness that I needed. I'm sure I had been given this information before in meetings, or by others in recovery. In this moment though, my desperation created space for awareness. When I opened the book and read that once I put one in me I was in the grip of something more powerful than me, I understood in an instant the truth of this dilemma. I accepted that I could not control my addiction, that I was in the state I was in because I had taken one pill. Once that one pill was in my body, I was in the grip of a force that I could not overpower. This awareness led to a frightening thought "If I can't overpower it, how will I survive?" I knew then that I had a spark of a will to live and that I wanted to survive. I wanted to live.
My exposure to the miracles of recovery had left a seed of hope that Recovery was more powerful than this addiction that lived inside of me, and if I could just get clean, perhaps Recovery could overpower my addiction by enveloping me in unconditional love and a return to awareness of my spiritual nature. The awareness of who and what I was had initiated the process of change and transformation.
My Recovery began in that moment, as I surrendered to a spiritually focused way of life and embarked on the journey to a fully embodied life. I needed more awareness. Awareness of the faulty, outdated belief systems that kept me from knowing that I am spirit. Awareness of these limiting, deceptive samskara incites action to move into expansive, authentic, thought patterns and behaviors.
Today, awareness is still the beginning. Yoga brings me to the reality of this moment. My body and breath are here now, where there is truth. Awareness of truth guides me to my fully embodied, authentic life.
The past few years of my life have been tumultuous, chaotic, and extremely revealing. Through it all, I come to the truth of the present through my breath in my body. Each breath letting go of what is not me and embracing what is. Awareness, like all spiritual principles operates much the same way as the muscles in our bodies. Practicing awareness of my breath in my body and my body in space, builds the muscle of awareness. Awareness becomes strong and dexterous, so it is available to discover the more subtle truths of the heart, the true teacher.