Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada, with my mom, dad and younger brother, both sets of grandparents, plus plenty of aunts and uncles. Family and friends surrounded me.
Drinking and smoking were a normal, everyday part of social life. Once I started to experiment with alcohol, I learned to love the social life. But it wasn’t long before the drinking itself started to interfere with my social life. So much so that I couldn’t go to my high school prom because I got caught drinking on the school ski trip. From there, drinking got in the way of every dream and vision I had for myself. It either prevented me from pursuing it or somehow tanked it in the end.
After drinking my way in and out of a first marriage, I tried a new relationship in another country. With a husband I loved, two beautiful boys, and a beautiful home, you’d think a girl would be pretty happy, but something was always missing. I started practicing yoga regularly at a local gym (mostly because it was cheap daycare and I could lie down at the end for ten minutes). I was keeping a daily gratitude journal religiously, all the while drinking like a fish. Right around my Saturn return, everything inside me collided. On the outside, things looked pretty good. I kept a nice home and had a small home based catering business with a friend. I was always hosting gatherings and family get-togethers, but people really close to me knew how much I drank, or maybe they just didn’t want to know. Not that it really mattered to me either way. I ran a pretty perfect ship, and I’d drink as much as I damn well pleased, thank you! I always conveniently lied about how much I drank when I found myself in therapists’ offices.
One evening in November, I went out to paint pottery with a girlfriend. She brought some sushi and I brought wine. She ate the sushi and I drank the wine. I then suggested we go out for some real drinks. After all, it was only 11:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night. After a few vodka gimlets, I remember saying to her that I thought I had a drinking problem. As all my good friends were carefully selected to enable my drinking, she said, “That’s nonsense. You’re a great person.” So off I went, one hand on the wheel and one hand over one eye, sailing the family-style SUV homeward. Once at home, an unhappy husband and a fussy infant greeted me. Thank God the other one was asleep. Who knew it was close to 2:00 a.m.? As I guiltily stumbled to the rescue, I fell and gashed my head on the nursery door. The mood toward me quickly changed to concern, but it was too late. I was headed toward a place I never could have imagined. As I rocked on the floor holding my head, all I could say to my family was that I was sorry, but mostly I was just sorry that I didn’t know how to live this thing called life. So I threw in the towel. Actually, I slept on the towel so blood wouldn’t get all over the bed, even though I was secretly hoping I would bleed to death during the night. The next morning I conveniently had a 10:00 a.m. therapy appointment, so I hid my new shiner under dark sunglasses and for once told someone the truth about my drinking. My therapist suggested I go to AA, so I called a friend of my husband whom I knew was in the program, and off we went.
I was impressed in that first meeting by the diverse group of people, but mostly I was impressed by their honesty. They were saying right out loud all the things I had felt and done but would never admit. No one commented on anyone else’s shares. They just said, “Thanks for sharing.” Women gave me their phone numbers and insisted I call them. I found this kind but ridiculous. I wasn’t going to call some stranger. I’m pretty sure my black eye contributed to their insistent reaching out. That night when I got home I felt more alive inside than I ever had. I could literally hear the fibers in my pillow crackling. I knew my life had changed course, but I had no idea how it was going to work.
At my second AA meeting, I decided to take the plunge and add to the end of my name “and I’m an alcoholic.” This was a truth bomb that would trigger a wave of destruction on “the world according to Kathy.” That one simple truth started me on a never-ending journey of growth and transformation.
I worked the program religiously—as the literature says, “with all the fervor with which the drowning seize life preservers.” Sobriety first, then everything else. Don’t drink and go to meetings. Get a sponsor. Work the Steps. I also maintained a regular yoga practice, attended therapy, and kept up with my gratitude journal. I knew I could never stop drinking on my own, and I’m not sure I actually did want to stop. But when they told me to get on my knees and ask a God of my understanding to remove the obsession to drink, I figured, what do I have to lose? So I locked myself in the bathroom so no one would see me, and as best I could asked a God I didn’t know to do something I knew was pretty much impossible (except those folks in AA seemed to have it).
As I continued to immerse myself in my recovery, I realized the obsession to drink had been removed. This was an incredible phenomenon to me. I felt I had found the Holy Grail. Over time I realized that if this Higher Power could do that, then it could do almost anything, and I needed help with everything. That’s what happens when you have a spiritual awakening. You are reborn. I had a new thirst for spiritual knowledge and experiences.
I took my first yoga teacher training when I had about 2 years of sobriety. I read every book suggested on recovery and spiritual awakening. This spiritual journey had many ups and downs inside and out. I learned to not squeeze the shaman and to not let the shaman squeeze me. Not all yoga teachers are spiritual or know how to ride the wave and have witness consciousness. I learned about chakras, mantras, meditations, handstands, headstands, shoulder stands, hot yoga, not-so-hot yoga. Reiki, Deeksha, breath work, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Anusara, Yin yoga, and restorative yoga. I was even initiated by a Cherokee priestess to perform the Rights of Passage to clear seven generations back and seven generations ahead. I traveled to India more than a dozen times for deep process to help people have spiritual awakenings and live happier lives.
Traveling to India changed me in so many ways. Landing in Chennai at 3:00 a.m. and hopping in a cab with a driver who hardly spoke any English but was holding a sign with my name on it was a real leap of faith. The idea of turning my will and my life over to a Higher Power got very real as the cab weaved through chaotic traffic that seemed to have some higher order to it. Even honking horns have a different meaning in India. In New York City, you can feel the curse words behind a loud honk, whereas in India the backs of trucks have signs that read: “Please honk.” The horns there are saying, “Hi, I’m behind you.” India is a game changer. The courses I took in India opened me to a deeper connection with my Divine and helped me to experience realms of consciousness I had only read about. I met people from all over the world who came to the Oneness Temple to awaken into higher states of consciousness. All of the courses were translated into many different languages. The monks who taught the classes would put us into a process that would dissolve the strongest of egos. I remember one monk asking our class of 450 people, “Do you know why you are all here?” He looked around the room and then answered, “Because you are the worst ones.” I found this hilarious and was the only one who laughed!
Being a sober woman has been my greatest asset on a spiritual path. I was constantly amazed to see the 12 Steps being revealed in the ancient teachings. I kept gaining more insight into the workings of the mind and the power of Divine grace to awaken us from our illusions. From AA to India, the program was the solid foundation I rooted into as I explored more esoteric spiritual practices.
During this time, I also was running my own private yoga studio. Yoga has been one of the most important parts of my recovery journey. I’m not sure I even would have been able to open to the possibility of making such a monumental shift without this ego-balancing practice. In essence, yoga means to yoke or unite, to create wholeness through a connection to “the All That Is” without bolstering the ego or small self. Spiritually, it provides a tangible connection to a Higher Power. Mentally, it reveals the chatter of the mind. Emotionally and physically, it creates a container of spaciousness to experience each moment without resistance.
All the ancient teachings I use add a new light and deeper meaning to the teachings of the 12 Steps. You can read the Steps over and over, and if you are growing in consciousness something new will always be revealed. Growth is what prevents boredom. Working on all levels brings greater growth and transformation. This is where sobriety can really get fun. You can grow in leaps and bounds.
I also began to offer retreats and workshops, hosting other sober women for weekends of yoga, relaxation, nourishing and healthy food, adventure, and personal growth. Helping other women connect with the Divine grace in their own lives and watching these women blossom and recover has been my greatest joy.
Somewhere in there I was also the program coordinator at a women’s recovery house. I’ve taught yoga in a Merrill Lynch office lounge and on rooftops in India. I love yoga, and I love to share it. I love to see that light turn on in others.
I did not stay sober just by working a 12-Step program. For me, sobriety is a full-time practice. It’s about meetings and fellowship and Step work, but it’s also about living the spiritual life full time. It’s about the food I put into my body, about my meditation practice, about yoga, about the way I connect daily with the Divine in my life. I’ve had many amazing spiritual teachers whom I have been blessed to study with and take in their spiritual wisdom. I wrote a book to celebrate my 20th anniversary in recovery called Soberly Ever After. You can find it at sobergoddess.life
May it light and protect the flame of your own sacred sobriety.