Remember when 2012 was supposed to be the end of the world? When I look back to 2012—well, a lot happened. I kind of smile to myself when I think about it because for me, that was the end of something. An end of an old life and a new journey I had no idea I was about to embark on... and quite a difficult one.
I was going to Florida State University studying Biological Sciences, and I had the next ten years of my life all planned out. Little did I know that it was never my plan to begin with. Untreated mental health issues and living with a chronic health condition (Type 1 Diabetes), a lack of proper support, no true coping skills, an absence of any routine or self-care, and constant self-medicating to escape my body all eventually escalated, and led to a suicide attempt that I hid completely from all of my friends and family.
Deep down in my heart, I knew I needed to go home to south Florida. But living through the narratives of others and what I thought they needed me to be was holding me hostage. My unrealistic expectations of perfection had me feeling like going home was giving up, that I had failed myself and my family; having no idea of what was coming scared me so much. All of these thoughts filled my brain as I contemplated what the “right choice” was. Ultimately I put my ego aside and decided to come back home.
Fast forward to 2016. I made the choice to end a long-term relationship that was based solely on trauma bonding, started working out regularly, and slowed down on self-medicating. I truly began taking time to look inward and made attempts to understand my childhood trauma (as well as my emotional addiction to people who perpetuated that trauma), my reasons for self-medicating, and the unhealthy toxic cycles I had been stuck in for years. I started wandering around my neighborhood, sitting and meditating in different parks. Meditating turned into yoga, and that's where the true magic happened.
There was really only one pathway I had ever known growing up, and that was to pray—which I definitely still do—but there was always something missing, something I was waiting to really click with. That's what yoga became for me. I was able to resonate with not only the spiritual aspect of the practice as a way of life, but also the physical and mental aspect of yoga. I loved how it was a union of body, soul, and mind. It was a way for me to manage my mental and spiritual health as well as my physical health and medical condition. Little did I realize that this was becoming my recovery pathway before I knew anything about recovery, the 12 steps, working a plan, having a wellness toolbox, etc.
While going through my 200-hour yoga teacher training, I experienced such profound breakthroughs that I can’t even put them into words; truly, it is something that needs to be experienced to be understood. I also learned how the body holds on to trauma and stressful events from the past. There were certain parts of my body that were always in pain: my hips and shoulders (the first two places that the body holds onto stress). I was showing up to yoga five days a week at 5:30 am, bright and early… something I was never used to, and was definitely resistant to! But it taught me how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. To face my fears head on and sit with them. To sit through the pain of my emotions. To calm my monkey mind and to separate myself from my thoughts. I learned I was NOT my thoughts, that I was not a bad person for thinking certain things or feeling certain things. I always wanted to put a label on something, call it “good” or “bad,” but yoga taught me to simply notice and observe. These principles are what I apply to my life today, both on and off the mat, and they have helped my recovery in so many ways. This practice was a powerful shift for the better in my life.
When I started working at a recovery community organization in 2017, I came across many people that utilized the 12 steps in their recovery. People constantly asked me, “So what’s your clean date?” I almost felt like I didn’t belong or that I was an imposter, because ultimately I didn’t have a clean date. I knew in my head it had been some time since I self-harmed or had a recurrence of mental health symptoms, but I wasn’t completely abstinent. So what did that mean for me in terms of labels?
This line of thinking made me ask myself “Am I actually in recovery?” I would go as far as to make up a date in my head just so I felt like I could fit in. It took a lot more soul-searching, finding my voice, and learning how to live authentically in my truth to come around to it, but ultimately when I found my way, there was no turning back. That’s when I realized that YES, I was in recovery. It was just my own unique version of it. There was no pathway better or worse than mine; I had choices and options. This is what worked for me! I was finding peace within myself, happiness in my relationships, and motivation to pursue my hopes and dreams—and no one could take that away from me.
While continuing to unravel years of trauma, I also began to remember all of the things I enjoyed and embraced as a child: dancing, singing, painting, drawing, and creating. It’s been such a gift to remember what joy is in its purest form, and to embrace that childlike wonder again. A world that once felt very black and white started to fill back up with color as I put the pieces of my identity back together, with some things that I always knew were there and some other things that were new for me. I understood that this journey of un-learning and re-learning was going to be a lifelong process, and I was so ready for it.
Today I am thankful that I’ve found a plethora of wellness tools I can choose from, yoga definitely being one of them. And yes, my pathway and the recovery I chose is not going to be for everyone, but I wouldn’t go back and do anything differently. I am proud to be part of a community that truly embraces all pathways and all people with open arms, because ultimately we have to ask ourselves what we’re truly here for. And for me, that will always be human connection—with others and with myself.