Onyx Yoga Studio 

 

45 Mountain Blvd

 

Warren, NJ 07059

I drank, a lot…

By Shannon Elliott

Edited by Chris Myers

april_imageRecently, I made a commitment to cut alcohol entirely out of my life after some seriously abusive drinking.  More about this as we go on…  This is a blog about my experience with alcohol not yours.  While I will talk about not drinking, I do not and will not judge others who choose to drink alcohol.  Ultimately, drinking isn’t the issue.  We all don’t abuse alcohol.  The deeper underlying issue is we make choices seeking connection but some of these choices actually take us further away from our connection to source. 

Edwin Bryant states in his commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Intoxication causes the mind and body to be agitated and stimulated and yoga requires a steady and peaceful mind.  Therefore, a yogi never imbibes such substances.”   This is not the only place the yoga teachings discuss not ingesting intoxicants.  This idea is repeated in many texts and the commentaries of many noted teachers throughout history.  It is clear and unambiguous.  This was one I blatantly ignored over the years.  Essentially, I practiced yoga in the way I wanted, i.e., conveniently handpicking the teachings.  My intention was mostly genuine in my desire to grow on the path and be a kinder and more loving being.  I just simply didn’t want to stop drinking.  I enjoyed fine wine, craft beers, and going out for fancy drinks with my friends.  I always had a tendency to drink a bit beyond my limit.  But it worked.  Well, it worked until I didn’t.

Relationship to Self:

Yoga makes it clear that in order to gain peace we must be able to concentrate the mind.  Excessive alcohol disturbs the mind.  I could not see what is best for me while abusing alcohol and then detoxing the next day from this state.  Internal cleanliness means removing impurities and alcohol is one.  I thought that alcohol made me more courageous, fun, and even fearless.  Now, I strongly challenge this.  It removed my senses, fears, and good judgement.  I did things that I would not normally do.  This is dangerous and the opposite of awareness and presence of mind.

B.K.S. Iyengar said, “The body is your temple.  Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”  When I stopped drinking, many negative things started to fall away from my life.  Alcohol was a symptom of my dis-ease with the lack of comfort with myself.  Not ingesting this substance gave me the clarity to see myself as I was and to work on my toxic thinking.  The first thing I noticed where the colors, sounds, and wind on my skin.  I had no idea that I wasn’t experiencing life.  It amazing how much more I like myself now – flaws and all. 

What started to fall away as I removed alcohol from my life?  Anxiety, obsession, self-hatred, regret,  insecurity, imposter syndrome, paranoia, blame, excuses, overreacting, judgement, dishonesty, fear, remorse, always wanting to be somewhere other than where I was, etc.  What internal torture!  When filled with this self-abuse, I would often focus on the negative and literally shut the light out.  Our actions are born out of our thought.  The body and mind interact.  So when I removed the alcohol, I gained new thinking, feeling, attitude, and emotions.  The result was a renewing of my mind.   

Marianne Williamson says, “A miracle is just a shift in perception from fear to love.”  My life is now filling up with tiny little miracles each day as I stay open enough to let the light in.  Because of this, I am getting better at owning my mistakes and working to actively grow.  I can trust myself now.  At times I still react out of proportion, but I’m getting a lot better.  Ask my boyfriend, he’ll tell you that I’m still Sicilian at heart.

Relationship to Others:

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras one the practices is Saucha.  Saucha is the purity of mind, speech, and body.  As we practice this and clean ourselves from the inside out, we increasingly become an open channel to connect with others.  I used to wake up each morning with the thought, “What can I contribute to life?” but in actuality the feeling was simply not there.  It felt like I was an imposter in some ways.  Now I feel the connection to my soul and purpose more than ever before.  I still ask myself the same question, but the self-centeredness is slipping away.  It’s no longer a fight to want to be there for others.  I don’t feel torn between two worlds.  I always knew logically I had goodness, I just couldn’t feel it.  By having the clarity of mind to take the next right action, my relationships are becoming more fulfilled.

Relationship to God:

My drinking separated me from my soul, my light. 

Also in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the important practice of Ishvara Pranidhana which is devotion to God.  Patanjali was very wise because he did not specify which God.  We can explore our own relationship to the divine and what that looks like to us.  This practice has been the biggest catalyst in my healing.  My experience of yoga really took off when I became open to the possibility of allowing the universe’s light to fill me.  When we are an open vessel we devote our thinking and actions to the divine.  The most beautiful realization is that once I started to connect with something greater than myself, I was able to experience love on a much deeper level.  Love is forgiving.  Love is unconditional.  Love is infinite.  Love is our purpose.  Love is friggin’ awesome!

I honor these yoga practices.  They saved my life while I was drinking.  They gave me life when I chose to stop.  I just can’t be who I was made to be when I was altering my state with this toxic substance.  As Joseph Campbell said, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

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