Namaste friends and bright, shiny lights! I have been purposefully absent the last few months, to quietly reflect on my journey and where I am headed. SO MANY things to catch up on, and reprioritize my life and path.
First off, I am STILL on the paleo/whole 30 track. Five months of no sugar of any kind, no grains or corn, no dairy, no legumes or processed foods. Only organic meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some fruit. I have also been taking probiotics, some supplements, digestive enzymes, and a host of Ayurvedic herbs that I got while in India and visited an Ayurvedic doctor, to heal my leaky gut issues and food intolerances. I will admit, it has been very hard to stay true to the course in some ways. I have already been gluten and dairy free for many years, so that was easy. Cutting out all of the hidden forms has been tough, as well as all corn and rice and soy, which I stayed away for the most part anyway. The HARDEST part is sugar. OH MY GOD, was I addicted. Was? AM! It is ridiculous the amount of cravings I still have after all these months. Recently I read sugar is 6 TIMES MORE addictive than cocaine! Which, I have never tried, but dammit, I can only imagine. The problem is, sugar is in EVERYthing. I mean it. Go read one label in your food pantry or fridge and you will be shocked. I can not believe the dreams of doughnuts, chocolates, cakes, muffins…etc I dream about. The funny thing is, I never really ate any of that stuff for the last many years to begin with. I never added sugar to my foods I cooked or ate. But, cutting it all out made me realize how much was in food that I ate at restaurants and hot bars, such as the ones at Whole Foods. Really? Whole Foods, really? WHY are they of all people adding sugar to food they are serving for health conscious folks to eat?? Because we are all dependent on it. I recently read that humans back in our ancestors days ate an average of 10 pounds of sugar a year. Americans now eat an average of 130 pounds of sugar a year! That is SICKENING! And, in turn, making us sick. I could go on and on about the percentage of obesity, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, etc in our society, but I don’t think I need to. Think about it; How much sugar do you eat daily? Have a “sweet tooth?”. I know I did. And apparently, still do! I pray for the day the cravings dissipate and I no longer dream of sweet shit I can’t eat.
The results of all of this torture, you ask? Well, naturally, I feel amazing! My stomach is healing, resulting in less gastric pain and all those nasty side effects, although I still battle horrible bloating at times and distress. I am realizing that I need to cut out fruit for a while, as I have been studying the levels of fructose in some of my favorites. I don’t feel this will be a permanent descion, but while I am getting to the nitty gritty of my detoxing, I think it is necessary. I will keep several lower fructose containing fruits such as oranges and papayas, but have to cry to think about saying goodbye to apples and grapes for a bit. I also am sleeping so much better! I have more energy. MY SKIN is amazingly clear. With the exception of a horrible breakout two weeks ago, my skin has been so clear! I made the mistake of trying Cassava Tortilla chips, which made the claim of being grain free and paleo approved. I got overly excited and destroyed a bag of them, so grateful for the snack and satisfying my amazing corn chip fetish I gave up. Well, dammit, the next day not one, but FIVE zits popped up one right after the other, as the cassava made its way through my system. Turns out, this root vegetable from South America, contains five times the amount of sugar that a white potato contains when digested. I was so bloated and miserable, on top of my skin erupting. Not to mention, heartbroken! No break for me, I suppose. Anyway, I continue on this path to repair my system and will one day, start to introduce certain things back in to see what I can and can’t tolerate. However, I doubt sugar will ever be welcomed back in, now that I have finally figured out what was destroying my skin and complexion.
And that is not the only reflection on recovery I have been making. I have been in a relationship with my love, Kevin, for almost two years now. This past January he went into recovery from alcohol and drugs. He stayed sober for 5 months, and was amazing at it. I was surprised how he made it that far on his first attempt, with the lack of support he surrounded himself with; meetings and groups, kept the same toxic friends he used to party with, and a job full of addicts and triggers. After losing his father this past May to Pancreatic cancer, I started to watch the signs of a relapse heading his way. I gently suggested more meetings and grief counseling, offered by Hospice. He assured me he was “strong”, yet I could see it in his face and body language. The struggle was impossible. The reality and grief hit, and one night I came home after teaching a class, and he was drunk. Not just drunk, but REALLY drunk; car in a ditch, throwing up drunk. I was upset of course, but relieved because it finally happened. The anguish of anticipation was impossible. That night began a long struggle that lasted nearly two months. I moved out, breaking my own heart, but could not watch the pain and suffering and knew he had to hit rock bottom and seek help for himself. The next two months were scary, painful, heart wrenching, and just plain stressful. I shut down too; disconnecting from friends, not writing on this blog or Facebook, and doing nothing but reading and getting on my mat daily. I couldn’t do anything to help, and that was torturous. I believed our relationship was over, and that crushed me. It also propelled me to my path of recovery from co-dependancy and now on the path to recovering from childhood trauma and abuse.
I am SO happy to report that Kevin did hit rock bottom; calling me at midnight one night, while in a blackout, to take him to the ER to check himself in, because he could not quit drinking on his own. That led to a detox unit, and then almost a month in a rehab facility in Florida. He has been home for two months now, clean, sober, healthy and WELL into his sobriety. His work has been Intensive Outpatient Therapy, counseling, meditation, and AA meetings, as well as the Buddhist version of AA; Refuge for Recovery. He also goes to the gym and yoga multiple times a week, if not every day. He quit his toxic job, and will start anew somewhere else in the near future. He is working with an amazing sponsor and is even facilitating meetings now. He volunteers weekly at several different establishments, and we both started training to volunteer for a minimum of a year with The Literacy Council of our county, teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I of course, moved back in and our life together is fresh and beautiful…and Healthy! ( AND a work in progress!) He cut out all toxic friendships and has been creating new circles of friends; his Tribe! I could not be more proud of him!
Well, in all of that reflection and preparation for him to come home, I decided to seek out counseling so that I could be ready to take care of me and to know how to support him in a healthy way. I was so fortunate to find an AMAZING therapist, who is helping me to transform my own life. As we went through all of the things that were going on, we also started to uncover my traumatic past. I am realizing that I am in recovery from Adverse Childhood Experiences, and that I am a pro at stuffing down traumas and have been suffering for almost the forty years I have been alive. I truly had NO idea how much this has affected my daily life. I am the victim of neglect and physical,verbal, and emotional abuse, and have brushed it off for the majority of my life, never really giving it the credit it deserves for causing relationship issues and protective walls that I have put up over the years. I had a pretty dedicated marijuana dependency for the last 24 years, (although I would have never admitted I “depended” on it, but in reality would have probably suffered anxiety attacks had I ran out before quitting for good several months ago!) using it to battle anorexia and eating disorders in my teenage years, insomnia, and situational anxiety in recent years. DON’T get me wrong, I don’t thing marijuana is a bad thing or evil drug and I support it fully for those who use it for various reasons. However, I have been off it completely for the last 10 weeks, and couldn’t be happier. I look back at the last two decades and realize how I started to depend on it, crave it even. I no longer feel drawn to use it anymore, and am truly enjoying clarity and a clear mind and body. My yoga and meditation practice thank me too!
Doing your spiritual and personal work takes a lot of courage, and is where True Yoga begins. It is not just doing asana on a mat. It is going within to study the self and to find the true nature of ourselves. I like to think of it as putting on an oxygen mask, so that I can turn and help others put their oxygen masks on. What kind of teacher or practitioner would I be, if I didn’t practice what I preach from the front of the room? Not an authentic one, I can tell you that. Discovering my true self and trying to love myself deeply, despite all the shit that has been coming up recently trying to discourage my walls from coming down, or as my therapist calls this part of me “My Protector” from preventing this growth from happening, has been a REAL challenge. The fighter in me, and protector of me that has helped me through all the years of trauma, has gotten me to this point in life and it it terrifying to think that I am going to change and soften and become more vulnerable. EEKK! That word scares the shit out of me. I have described vulnerability as a weakness so many times, when deep down, it’s all I have ever wanted to be. A most wonderful quote from Brene Brown, a freaking GENIUS, that has been helping me is “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
When I first started meditating, I couldn’t make it two minutes without crawling out of my skin. SO many detrimental thoughts of self judgement screamed at me, in my mothers voice: “You’re doing it wrong. You’re so stupid and worthless. Can’t you just do something right? Why do you think you’re good enough to meditate?”…I started going to meditation centers to have to be forced to sit longer and loved the guided meditations! Somebody else’s words and voice to focus on other than my own! The more I have done this, the more I can sit. I sit every day now, sometimes up to an hour to an hour and a half. No guides, nothing but my sweet breath and whatever thoughts want to arrive. I have learned that through Insight meditation, if thoughts arrive and won’t go away, then they become your focus. I love this form of meditation! I have learned so much about myself this way. Learning why my thoughts come up and what they are really trying to tell me. I am healing and solving deep seeded issues this way. Is it easy or comfortable? Hell no! But, my truth is there. My breath and heartbeat are there. Love for myself is there. Healing is happening.
And with all this being said, I had the honor of being a guest on a local radio show last night, hosted by friends in my local Meditation Sangha, at Asheville Insight Meditation. One of my Dharma teachers, Eddie LeShure and his lovely partner, and a fantastic Yoga Instructor, Margaret Kirschner, host a show focusing on all types of addictions and recovery. The show is called A Mindful Emergence, and the title and topic of the show is called “Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Healing Potential of Yoga and Meditation.” you can listen to the podcast recording here:Show 98 with Jill Phoenix
Although I did not get into the details too much about the abuse and neglect, and stories of the traumas I suffered, we did touch lightly on them. The focus was more about the solutions and not the problems or issues. I didn’t want to get too deep into traumas and stories, as that is what my counselor is for! I have a hard enough time accepting that I am a victim of serious abuse and neglect, but to actually share stories of certain events can be a bit too much. I can say that having a bi-polar and schizophrenic mother, who made me the target of her mental disorders, was no easy walk in the park. I was beaten frequently, sometimes with random objects and fists, had boiling water poured on me, denied hospital visits after dog bites and random other incidents requiring medical attention, endless amounts of verbal and emotional abuse due to her delusions, ridiculed and harassed about my looks and weight, leading to many years of anorexia and self image issues, kicked out of the home as an eleven year old at midnight in the low income and dangerous neighborhood we lived in-left to fend for myself to find shelter and food, even put in a car with her as she threatened to kill both of us, barreling towards and through a four lane highway. ( No idea how we survived that one, but we did! Thanks to the magic of the universe!) I could go on and on, but the point is, I am not alone in what I suffered from. I also know, I am strong and lucky to not have inherited any of her mental disorders. I feel so much empathy for those who have suffered much worse, let alone sexual abuse, which I can say I am so grateful I did not suffer. Yoga and meditation are what literally saved my life and made me feel love and respect for myself. My journey through recovery of co-dependency, anorexia, and low self esteem has not been an easy one. Being comfortable in skin you were ashamed to be in from an early age is a tough battle and to learn to accept traumas and to allow yourself to become vulnerable and to actually trust others is not easy, when all you know is to protect yourself at all costs-even making yourself an impossible partner to be with because the defense system is always in place. Trying to control the chaos of your life and those in it, is a terrible way to live and quite frankly, is exhausting. Yoga has taught me to let go. Trust. Breathe. Love. Be who and what I am. And the journey is so worth it. The road may be bumpy and rocky as all hell, but I have never been one to have it easy, and I made it this far, so why would I want it any other way?!
If you are a survivor of ACE, or other traumas, I can’t recommend enough seeking help and guidance. Whether through therapy, yoga and meditation, and/or support groups, the important thing to remember is it was not your fault and you are not alone. You are not responsible for other peoples illnesses and actions and abusive behavior. Some how I was fortunate to have always known this, and I am not sure why. I have always accredited it to one of my past lives as a guardian angel whispering in my ear that my parents actions were not my fault and that they were ill. Not everyone is that lucky. But, there is help out there in endless ways and support is there. Please do yourself a loving favor and seek help. This life is a beautiful one and you deserve to be and feel love.
Thanks for reading and listening. This blog is a healing journal for me and my path as well. It is so nice to have an outlet to share. Namaste!