For Liz Stockbridge, the 12 Steps were what forced her to confront her alcoholism in the rawest, most holistic way possible. “It was this real, organic and amazingly beautiful process,” she says, of undergoing the steps while in rehab back in 2009, adding “I could feel my heart cracking open little by little.” Some days she got really irritated, restless, discontented - a natural state of the alcoholic when they are left untreated without a spiritual solution, or unless they can experience that same fulfillment with a replacement substance or habit. “Upon this realization of the general discontentment about addicts [through the Steps], I understood and felt it deep into my bones, because I had lived that my entire life. Even before I had picked up a substance I remember being that way,” Liz says.
Think for a minute and you can probably count at least one family member or friend who’s afflicted with some kind of addiction. Because it is so difficult to cure, and technically never really goes away, it is a frustratingly heart-wrenching illness, wrought with struggle for not only the personal directly afflicted but for all the people who love them. Addiction, whether to drugs, alcohol, food, etc., makes the most lovable and endearing person somehow unlikable, frustrating, and annoying. And that is because addictive behavior is ugly and difficult to bear. “I was so selfish during the peak of my addiction,” Liz says, with a laugh.
Through Liz’s recovery journey her most recent realization is to let go of perfection. “Previously in my recovery, I had not been able to maintain a sufficient amount of self-love, so I was constantly struggling with food, with overexercise, and freaking out about all of it. I would be like, 'Oh my God, it’s not going to be okay.' But now, the way I feel about it is that it’s all information. I’m imperfect and I always will be and I have really cool little quirks because of that,” she says. This time, Liz has been sober since April 2014, to which she says has brought her to a new understanding of loving herself, which was critical for her personal growth.
“I said earlier that I needed to learn the hard way, but I think everybody has to learn the hard way. The purpose of this life is to squeeze the consciousness out of you, so you go through these really painful experiences that squeeze and push you and it just oozes out of you – this new understanding – and you become Version 2.0, Version 3.0, Version 4.0, IF you allow that,” Liz says.
Most transformative for Liz was that while in rehab she discovered the yoga mat as the one place that took her mind off the compulsivity often attributed to addictive behavior. It was in yoga practice – both in a class environment and at home – where she discovered the kind of spirituality that worked best for her. Over time, it taught her how to function in life without using alcohol, food, overexercise, or sex to function in life.
As a result of her recent phase of recovery, Liz is now attending nursing school full time, she has earned her yoga-teacher certification, and she has starting teaching yoga as several yoga studios in the Portland, Maine, area. “Things have really changed for me this time around,” she says, adding that, “the cool thing about my addiction - which I've learned in yoga - is that the only thing required in recovery is to enlarge your spiritual life."
As for always being a recovering addict, she has dropped the shame and the stigma attached to it, instead developing gratitude for it. “I used to hear these people saying that ‘I’m really grateful I’m a recovering alcoholic,’ and I was like, ‘What are you so grateful about?’ But it’s so cool that [as an addict] you’re required for the rest of your life to grow spiritually,” she says adding, "At the end of the day, all that really matters, is the connections we develop with other people."
Liz Stockbridge teaches classes at Yogave Generosity Yoga in Falmouth, Maine; Bhakti in Motion in Portland, Maine; and Magnolia Fitness in Portland, Maine. You can follow her here and read her blog here.