Addiction is one of those insidious things that creeps up on you. For as long as I can remember I have had an underlying feeling, almost like a second skin, of being not quite right. Flawed in some way and try as I might I could not drink, use, exercise, buy, starve or travel my way into that thing that was missing.
What started as anxiety as a child morphed into deep insecurity around my appearance in early teenage years and when I couldn’t find the right clothes that fit my body (think super Giraffe girl) I realized I could use my body to try and fix what I perceived to be missing.
High School and Junior College saw me exercising compulsively, obsessed with the space between my thighs and the soft padding on my hips. I kept food journals and aimed for 600 calories or less each day. I lost weight. People told me I looked great. I got scouted to model and even worked a bit as one, but it took a lot to keep the game going. Failure meant the end of me. Who was I without my thinness? What worth did I hold?
I spent years traveling the world running away from myself. During those times I found myself actively drinking and using drugs. I had a lot of low points. I called my dad from South America on Thanksgiving, told him I was addicted to cocaine. Came home, started treatment, left and went right back to it. I was so desperate to feel loved that I put myself in really dangerous situations with men, longing for them to validate me, and yet I found nothing that would melt away my feelings of worthlessness.
This was the toughest time because somehow a crack had gotten into my addicted self like a small shaft of light. I knew there was no answer outside myself to heal what I was feeling but I didn’t have it in me yet to look inside. The split in me between the self who cared and the self that wanted to become a shadow and disappear fought hard for years.
It was a trip to Brazil that finally cracked me open all the way. I saw gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes, free in their bodies, enjoying a beer on the beach and heading home for the night with their loved ones and thought “I want that”. I flew home and started an eating disorder program and as I dove into my pain with the support and accountability of my groups, my addictions, the symptoms of my pain, softened their hold on me.
What really helped me during this time, and everyday since then, was to start caring for myself in very specific ways. I created new rituals in my life, rituals of self care not of self harm.
I started yoga and meditation and each time I got on the mat in class I cried and cried. It was one of, and sometimes the only, place where I was okay to just be messy, addicted and broken. The mindful movement helped me stay aware of triggers and deep underlying emotions stuck in my body and move through them. Meditation helped me relax and start to sleep again.
My brain chemistry and body chemistry was all messed up from years of stress/drugs/alcohol/poor nutrition etc and brain and body chemistry is the number one factor in mood disorders! I didn’t want to feel like crap anymore so I started eating really good foods! I still let myself eat whatever I wanted (no restricting ever again!) but I added in things that are proven to be help rebalance and reboot the body and brain. Like veggies, superfoods, whole grains, olive oil and butter all as fresh and organic as possible. Note, I didn’t subtract anything I wanted, I just added in stuff.
Because of the nature of addiction to be isolating it was a real challenge for me to open up, I still struggle with it! I found a supportive group to process my stuff in and a therapist. I let my family and friends know what I was going through on a daily basis and the act of speaking the pain, and receiving support, shifted old patterns of fear of rejection and allowed me to start surrendering to a higher power.
Finally, I came full circle and started to teach yoga to other women and men struggling with addiction. Growing my mentorship and leadership role in the community allowed me to see how far I have come! The gift this pain has given me to be a light to other people in their own recovery journey.
Recovery is a way of life. It is an allowing of a space to explore what the pain that hides beneath the symptom of the addiction is all about and going deeper into it so that you can guide others on through their pain. To this day I am in therapy (10 years and counting!), I have support groups, I mentor others and most importantly, I stay curious to the new ways in which I am acting out my pain, any new addictions I might have picked up! Curiosity allows me to always keep growing as a person.
Because of my journey and what I learned, I co-founded a company called Ekka Recovery, the only holistic subscription box specifically designed to help with recovery. Ekka gives people the tools and the support they need to rebalance their bodies and brain, connect with others and grow in recovery and in life!