For six years, I’ve suffered from living with the confines of an anorexic and alcoholic mind. What I learned most recently from my recovery through addiction is that it’s only through long time periods that we fall closer and closer to our most authentic self.

Since being 18, I’ve had many rock bottoms and many instances where I’ve bent over backwards to people please that it has broken me. When I graduated high school, I took a year off to devote to mental health and pursue an intensive yoga teacher training. Through this experience, I learned a lot about the sutras and the history of yoga. The main premise I took away is that the relationship to our yoga mats is a microcosm to our relationship to life. Our body stores all our trauma, emotion, fear and the inner manifests to our physical. For me, I was very flexible physically, especially in my back since I was a dancer growing up. But, it also reflected my constant need to bend over backwards to people please. I didn’t even know who I was anymore since I tried to feel validated and approved by pleasing others. I always tried to make people happy, which could come off to be inauthentic.

On the surface I seemed fine. I was going out, doing well in school, and had many friends. But, I was really struggling with alcoholism. I was having debilitating panic attacks, anxiety, and this turned into suicidality. Living just felt unbearable knowing I always had to please people. I just remember one night blacking out and waking up in a psych ward. I had nothing except being surrounded by four empty white walls. I was alone with myself for a week. My priorities were shifted to recognizing I’m worthy just because I’m alive. I don’t need any external forces to prove my worth. I’m worthy since I have a beating heart.

At my first recovery meeting, I met my sponsor who was seven years older than me and 5 years more somber. New York is such an over-stimulating city, but I’m learning how to surrender to the thoughts of being a perfectionist or comparison. Through my sobriety, gradually over time, the attachment to grades and perfection has lessened and my anxiety is slowly gone. As part of my daily practice, I regularly go to yoga and focus on meditation and prayer. I also make it a point to see my friends and build out concrete social time, whether it is to get a meal or just hang out. Building connections and creating a strong support system is important to my mental health. My relationships are my biggest priority and I’m constantly checking in with how can I practice more acts of kindness to the people I care about.

Being in service of love has grounded me and constantly reminds me to come back to my truest self. The other night I was feeling down after studying in the library for hours. I decided to go to a recovery meeting where I made such beautiful connections. I then went on a date with myself to a little Thai restaurant, wrote in my journal, and ordered Pad Thai. At one point, the waitress came over and told me she never saw someone with such radiant energy. To hear someone say that reminds me to continue accessing the inner light within, knowing all battles are worth it.

*Name changed to protect her privacy.

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