My name is Natalya and I've been a member of Recovery Dharma Denver since March 2022. My use of alcohol and drugs got steadily more severe over the five years or so before I finally found the courage to commit to my recovery, but taking a clear-headed look at my many years of use has opened my eyes to just how disconnected and adrift I was long before I ever considered that I had a problem.
I finally admitted that I needed help after I suffered several severe panic attacks while drunk and high. I have always struggled with anxiety, but I had never experienced anything as painful as that. My thoughts even turned to self-harm, another thing I had never considered before. And those nights, as I ingested more mind-altering substances to try to lock that pain away, it only pushed its way farther toward the surface. I told myself I would stop, tried to take (yet another) 30 days off, and wound up right back in the mess ("it's been 28 days, I deserve a reward... I just needed to clean out for a bit, it won't hurt me to have a little fun... I can handle myself"). Then one morning I woke up covered in hives and realized that my body was rejecting the substances I was ingesting to try in vain to quiet my mind. Terrified that I was drinking myself into an early grave, I made an appointment with my doctor and finally asked my therapist to help me find an addiction-recovery group.
I found Recovery Dharma after attending a yoga class at The Phoenix. I met a new friend and she encouraged me to stay and check out the group. I had plucked up the courage to try a class at The Phoenix (a sober active community) as my first stab at real sobriety because I was familiar with yoga and knew that I wouldn't have to talk to anyone if I didn't want to. But the thought of staying for a group discussion was much more frightening. When I heard that it was a group based on Buddhist principles, something inside me gave me the courage to overcome my fear to sit in the circle.
I will be forever grateful that I did. I immediately felt at home. Being in a group of people willing to be quiet in meditation together, willing to be vulnerable in sharing together, and willing to face their ever-changing internal landscapes without running away from the turmoil gave me the hope I needed to keep my feet firmly planted on the path toward my own wellbeing.
The concepts of Buddhist practice welcome the idea that life will not always be pleasant; in fact, life is filled with suffering. But by trying endlessly to avoid that suffering, we only create more pain. We become capable of tasting the beauty of life by learning to be present to whatever is happening in the moment. This doesn't mean that life won't be painful. Life is painful. We all know that. But life is also beautiful. To appreciate the warmth of the sun, we must know how it feels to be chilled to the bone.
I define recovery as committing to a path that leads you back to the truth of who you are, uncovering the layers that you have piled on over the years, and revealing the inherent wholeness of your being. Much more than just getting sober and avoiding substances, I am getting in touch with my true self. Learning to accept myself for who I am, and to challenge myself to become ever more competent and aware so I can grow into the person I am meant to be.
For years I was running from myself, numbing myself to the pain and angst and confusion inherent to life by using drugs and alcohol. I even applauded myself for how well I could manage, for my "impressive tolerance", and made fun of other people who couldn't hang. But all I was doing was keeping myself from learning the skills I needed to actually feel my emotions, feel my own discomfort, and use it to grow my capacity for compassion and joy.
I have experienced such deep satisfaction in my last 9 months of sobriety. And such deep sorrow. And everything in between. I'm not going to lie, it hasn't all been profound realizations and peace. It's been a lot of ugly crying and boredom and confusion and doubt. But the fact that I can write that and not immediately want to pick up a bottle to numb the tears that now want to rise in me fills me with profound joy. I have reclaimed my ability to feel the full range of my human experience. And I wouldn't trade that for the world.
I am so grateful to this community for supporting me along this path. When we sit in meditation together I feel the thread that connects us all, even if I only know a handful of people in the room. And on my darkest days when I feel the most alone, I know in my bones that I am not. We are all traveling this road together, choosing to be wide awake with both feet firmly planted on the path. Thank you to all of you who are walking side by side with me. I couldn't have done this without you. I will keep walking, feeling my feet each step of the way.
And I am stronger because you walk with me.
Natalya leads an accessible, mindful yoga class from 4-5 pm on Sundays prior to the 5:30 pm Recovery Dharma meeting at The Phoenix on Champa. It's free to anyone with at least 48 hours of sobriety. Sign up on the website or the app.
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