10 Years

Like most single millennials, I can’t afford a home in the San Francisco Bay Area (yet). 

My landlord won’t let me have a dog. Or a cat. Or an outdoor cat. So for the time being, my roommate and I have named a local squirrel and exude joy and gratitude when she shows up; kind-of like we would if we had a dog. 

In the absence of any living thing to love, any home to upkeep, and any lover to keep me occupied (could someone hand me a tiny violin, please?), I have turned to house plants as my source of “children.” Stick with me, I know it’s getting grim. 

I have houseplants, no more than 8. For 1,000 square feet or so, that’s respectable. I haven’t turned into the “crazy houseplant lady” just yet. Even so, I’m learning so much from these plant babies. 

  1. My plants seem to do better with plant friends nearby. 
  2. The plant closest to my record player is the happiest and healthiest. I do not believe this to be a coincidence. 
  3. When a plant isn’t thriving, I don’t think there is something wrong with the plant. I look at its environment, how I am treating it, and what adjustments I could make for it to be as healthy as possible.  

Almost 11 years ago, I had no houseplants. Yet, I found myself sobbing on my college roommate’s bed (shout out Mariah Flores. Go Aztecs), comparing myself to a house plant. 

“I’m like a plant in a pot, Mariah. I need a bigger pot. I need new soil. I need a new environment.”

Very astute for a 19 year old addict to point out. 

I was 19 when I knew I needed to stop drinking and taking drugs. I knew it. Like, I KNEW it. I had come face to face with an immovable roadblock. Life was not going to continue- rather, I was not going to continue living life- if I could not do it with a clear mind. 

So, at 19, I “quit college,” moved home, and started my healing journey. Now I am 30, have been *almost perfectly* sober for a decade, and thought I’d write about it in case, you know, anybody else might benefit from my story. 

Here’s the short of it: I started drinking, alone and heavily, the summer before high school. It quelled my anxiety. Helped me worry less. Gave me confidence to approach romantic relationships and, some may say, increased the odds of me being labeled as a “good time.” 

From the time I started drinking, I never went a week without it. Except once, at age 17, my friends and I made a bet that I could not go 100 days without drinking. I did, and to celebrate my victory I got sledge-hammered and slept in a literal tool shed. 

From age 14-20, I accumulated loads worth of additional trauma that only contributed to my pre-existing PTSD and mental health issues. Getting sober did not fix any of those. In fact, my issues were magnified during sobriety, and I was physically and psychologically weaker as they were approaching my psyche. Great combo. 

So, first half of twenties I was getting healthy. Recovering from years’ worth of substance abuse and eating disorders. Getting my body right. My head slowly followed. 

I did a lot of yoga, cried a lot, hung out with my dog and older individuals who I felt safe around. I didn’t have many friends my age at that time. I dated one person for maybe 4 months before calling it off. Too many feelings. Patience. 

Second half of the twenties felt like my late teens. I was finishing school, holding down a job, and starting to branch out again and make friends as this “new version” of myself. Things got better. I regressed, at times, but mostly things got better. 

I learned about codependency, how addiction plagues families, and got really into the science of healing. I became a yoga teacher, finished college, and started doing work I actually cared about instead of work I thought was appropriate given my age and experience. 

I had a fuckton of help, resources, and support. While I haven’t been drunk since September 10, 2012, I have slipped in my sobriety. I lied about it for a while, then got honest and felt better. Maybe it’s the Catholic Guilt. Maybe it’s my little Jiminy Cricket. But, I felt better. 

I stayed sober, made more deeper, fun, friendships. I fell in love (twice!), traveled the world (literally), and now get to work with amazing people trying our damnedest to right some historical wrongs and save the planet in the meantime. It’s been a whirlwind. 

People who know me sometimes say things like, “You’re so strong” in reference to my recovery. While that might be true, I’d like to point out all the people and institutions that helped me in my recovery, either by sharing knowledge or financial resources so I could heal gracefully:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Minnesota Starvation Experiment 
  • Eating Disorder Recovery bloggers
  • Reiki Healers
  • Acupuncturists
  • Yoga Teachers
  • Licensed therapists
  • Compassionate friends
  • Dogs 
  • My grandma
  • My mom
  • My dad 
  • My family 
  • Organic foods & farmers
  • Chinese medicinal herbs 

And, maybe most importantly:

  • Strangers who were willing to be honest about their struggles and their journey towards “success.”

So now what? I’m 30, sober, and grateful as fuck for moments of inner peace and stability after a lifetime’s worth of attempts to get here. 

Holler at me on IG if you ever wanna talk @shawnamarieyoga

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