On Alcohol, Awakening, and Rising
March 24, 2019
I will be two years sober this July. The last two years have been transformative in ways I never could have imagined, and the first gift of Divine love that I gave myself on this leg of my journey was recovery.
Recovery allowed me to see my life and the work to be done within it clearly, to be receptive to messages from the Universe, and to begin actively working on serving my highest good.
I had to fall in order to get back up.
My fall, and my subsequent rising, began in autumn 2013.
It was my second semester at the University of Tennessee. I was 20 years old, drinking frequently and involved in an abusive relationship. I moved into my first apartment early that year with two friends from high school. I was working in an upscale casual restaurant and spent a lot of time with my coworkers.
I was also becoming increasingly depressed. My relationship was tumultuous, my roommates had moved out because we couldn’t all get along, and I was not doing well in school.
I tried to get help at the student counseling center, but was met with a wait list as I continued to flounder.
All of these issues came spilling out of my mouth as I met with my advisor during fall break to talk about my spring classes. She listened attentively and gently suggested that I take some time to sort things out before I continue with school.
I withdrew from all my classes that day and never returned to UT.
That evening, I sat on the floor of my friend and coworker’s condo drinking red wine while her son slept soundly in his bedroom and she and another coworker took pregnancy tests in the downstairs bathroom.
When the tests came back negative, more wine.
I had nearly finished a bottle by myself when they began to ponder if we should get some weed.
I had never tried marijuana, but was not opposed – especially after a bottle of red wine and an emotionally heavy day.
Yet another coworker soon arrived with some friends and I remember us all sitting on the sectional and passing two blunts. I remember being told to inhale and being passed the blunt more times than I can count. I remember crossing the room to sit next to my friend, and then I remember coming back to reality with her on top of me, shaking me and threatening to call my parents if I didn’t snap out of it.
I have no idea what happened outside of me while I was gone. I just know that inside of me felt like seizure. It was as if I could see the neurons firing in my brain. I saw electricity. I felt like I was traveling through the cosmos, one with all and absolutely weightless. I saw repetitious cycles and layers upon layers of consciousness and reality. As my friend shook me, I began to swim through the layers, back to my conscious self.
I was paranoid, shaky, and disoriented for a full day after. The “friend” who shook me back to reality told everyone I faked it for attention and refused to talk to me again.
Though terrifying, this experience set in motion the events which would eventually lead to my journey with recovery.
I was so scared by the experience that I didn’t touch weed again for months. But before I did, I sought therapy to help me make sense of what happened and finally address my depression.
I still see the same therapist six years later. She saw me through the height of my substance abuse, including one time where I texted her incoherent messages while drunk and high and she nearly had to call the police to come check on me.
She saw me through my first attempt at sobriety, which included a stint in a crisis stabilization unit for suicidal ideation at about one month sober and a calculated relapse beginning with one beer at midnight on my 21st birthday.
She was the first person I texted when I found out I was pregnant and she warmly welcomed Henry into her office at two weeks old.
I began my current journey with recovery in summer 2017. Since then, my life has become nothing short of magical, and I know this is only the beginning.
A week ago Friday, overwhelmed by the demands of training for my new job, school, and single parenthood, I withdrew from all of my classes at ETSU.
Days later, my son was kicked out of daycare and the same day, I learned that his father is planning to move across the state in three months. I have always handled the overwhelming majority of our son’s needs, though he has always been semi-present to help on a somewhat regular basis. Him moving creates a significant hole in my support system when it comes to Henry’s care.
In almost two years of sobriety, I have never wanted to drink so badly as I did last Tuesday.
There was ugly crying involved. There was incredible doubt for how I would proceed on my path. There was fear, self-loathing, shame, and despair.
And two days later, there was a package on my doorstep, a token of love and encouragement from my dear friend in Johnson City, made concrete by the Universe and Amazon Prime.
That Saturday evening, I attended an Ostara ritual. Though initially skeptical, I ended up thoroughly enjoying the experience and leaving the circle with a great sense of clarity, empowerment, and peace.
I had never participated in a Pagan ritual before, and I was caught off guard when the priestess began passing a goblet around the circle. Panic settled in quickly as I realized it was probably filled with the wine I had seen on the kitchen counter earlier.
She handed me the goblet.
“May you never thirst.”
I brought it to my face and smelled it – something I’ve learned to do with every single thing I drink, something that’s saved me from accidentally drinking alcohol more than once.
“I’m in recovery,” I whispered.
“It’s ok,” she replied.
I didn’t know if she meant it’s ok that I’m in recovery, that it’s ok if I don’t drink the wine, or if it’s ok if I do. I did know that nothing is more important to me than staying on the path to my greatest good, and the foundation of that path is built upon my recovery.
I later learned that the act of taking the goblet is sufficient for the purpose of the ritual – receiving the blessing and intention is primary to consuming the wine itself.
I handed the goblet back to her.
I’ve learned that we will always have to repeat lessons until we learn them properly. While in school it may sometimes suffice to study the night before and forget what we have learned after the test, in Life, we must truly comprehend the material in order to move forward.
I’ve been learning about Kundalini energy lately, and this passage struck me the first time I read it:
“…the awakened Shakti persistently moves us toward higher and more intoxicating levels of reality, until finally we merge into the bliss of the Self.”
Kundalini, the Secret of Life – Introduction, xxii
I didn’t much like the concept of intoxicating levels of reality. I’ve been fleeing intoxicating levels of reality in the interest of becoming grounded and holistically well for nearly two years. I was terrified of using spirituality as another means of getting high, of escape.
However, as I continue to learn, I am coming to truly comprehend my lessons – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
Spirituality is not an escape, it is a return to the Self, and that is intoxicating, liberating, and beautiful.
As I embrace these lessons, I’m working with the theory that my awakening began with something resembling rock bottom, a bottle of red wine, and passing out and/or having a vision of the true nature of existence on my friend’s couch.
I’m working with the theory that I don’t need to accomplish anything on any sort of schedule – I need to enjoy my life and honor what it has to teach me.
I’m working with the theory that we have all been the high priestess and we have all been the destitute, in one way or one life or another, and as such, we have a sacred obligation to lift one another up as we would hope to be lifted up ourselves. We are all one.
May you never thirst.