5 Steps to Clarity

Life is like an ocean.  It ebbs and flows.  The only certainty is that there isn’t any. {except for death & taxes}.

Things change.  Our children move from grade school to high school.  They graduate. They leave the home.  We change jobs or retire or leave careers to start families.  We get sober, we recover, we move on.

I don’t know about you but when I don’t know what to do, I get uncomfortable.  And sometimes, that feeling of being uncomfortable lasts awhile.  I have come to learn that being uncomfortable, like grief, is something that I cannot push through.

I was recently putting a class together.  Each week, I painstakingly research topics that I can present to my class each Sunday.  This week?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  The BIG DONUT.  Nothing was “landing” for me.  All of a sudden, I felt as if I knew nothing.  My brain completely emptied.  I have NOTHING to offer, NOTHING to share. Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!  This went on for FIVE days.  The night before the class, still nothing.  THEN at 2:35 in the morning, it landed.  I am not alone in this and this has happened before; this not knowing.  So, my class topic?  Not knowing and what you need to know when you don’t.  Brilliant.

Here are the five things you can do the next time you don’t know. I have done ALL the research so you don’t have to.  {You are welcome.}

1.  BE STILL.  Pay attention to what is happening at that particular moment.  Notice what your mind has to say about it (probably a lot).  Notice what your body has to say about it {neck pain, jaw pain, shoulder pain?}  When we are still, EVERYTHING has a a chance to slow down; your breathing, your thoughts, the panic that comes with not knowing.

2.  GET COMFORTABLE with being uncomfortable. So, how do you get comfortable being uncomfortable?  Acknowledgement.  This can be something that you do on your yoga mat in a particular pose (ahem, suffering pose).  “I am uncomfortable.  This is uncomfortable.”  You get asked to present at a conference, the PTA.  You are overwhelmed as you sit with divorce or child custody papers.  You want to leave your job.  You want a brand new career.  Some of these are exciting and some are uncomfortable.  Acknowledge it.

3.  DO NOT make any decisions.  Making a conscious decision to not make a decision is actually MAKING a decision. {Yes!}

4.  Check IN rather than Check OUT.  Meditate, take a walk, practice yoga, pray.  The time you take to do one of these may be all the time you need to settle down and begin to know things again.  Netflix, boozing it, mindless eating, shopping, social media?  No.  When you “awake” from one of these stupors, you will still have the issue of not knowing…being uncomfortable and no solution or relief.

5.  OPEN yourself up to new ideas and ALL possibilities.  You don’t have to act on any of them.  When we are able to get centered and still we allow our mind, heart, body and Soul to get in alignment.  One doesn’t override the other as you allow each to have their say.  Be open to new ideas and possibilities.  Be vulnerable.  Let go of control.  Be honest with yourself.

There are no mistakes.  There really aren’t.  Just opportunities for new doors to open and new roads to travel.  Sometimes what you perceive as a mistake is a signal or indication that what you are supposed to be doing is not that.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

— Lao Tsu

 

It’s ok to not know.  You will, eventually, know.  Be Still.  Sit with being uncomfortable.  Check IN. Open yourself to all possibilities.

Stop Asking for Permission in ONE Step

I was recently sprawled out on a bamboo floor in a yoga studio COMPLETELY beside myself. My friend, mentor and yoga teacher watching in complete amusement.

I kept shouting “Who am I and What the F$%K am I doing?”

Potentially, this (not EXACTLY this) but this situation has never happened to you. You have floated through life taking inventory of who you are;  High School graduation, College graduation, Marriage, Children, Divorce, Death, Sobriety, Turning 40. You have stopped, evaluated, adjusted and moved on.  If so, this article is not for you… but please pass it along to a friend in need.

For the rest of us…

The culmination was the meltdown on the bamboo floor but there were a few signs before the meltdown; questions and angst and sickness.   THEN the meltdown and subsequent realization. The realization was that I was seeking permission and approval in many aspects of my life, not just a few.  And this was bothersome as I am not one to ask for permission or seek approval, from anyone.

This was SNEAKY; a simple, benign question like “do you like my hair?” wasn’t simple at all.  I was seeking approval of how it currently looked and then maybe ask “what do you think about this style?” again, not for an opinion but permission to cut it a different way, the way I wanted but was seeking approval to do it. UGH!  This was also happening in my parenting style, my marriage, where I work out, my clothing choices and my career.  I had lost my way and was looking externally for all the answers, never considering myself.

After some thought, time and talking, I realized that the angst, the being uncomfortable was ultimately coming from change; change in career, change in parenting, change in friends, change in lifestyle.  I hadn’t given much thought to my roll / my authentic voice in any of these things; change was just happening and I was just along for the ride.

There has be a TON of change in the last 8 years of my life.  I got sober, I got married, I bought a house, I had a child, I started and stopped and started again new careers and I just completed 6 months of intense teacher training.  Who I was 8 years ago, is not who I am today. Who I was 8 months ago isn’t who I am today.  And somehow, along the way, I forgot to completely check in with myself, to make a few inquiries and potentially some adjustments.

When I first got sober, I made changes and adjustments.  There were some obvious things that had to change in order for me to live a sober life.  So, my community had to change and I had to find things that I liked to do that did not include wine glasses and bars.  I became passionate about other things than happy hour and wine tastings. But since then, close to nothing. Limited personal inventory. No checking in. Very few adjustments. And A LOT has happened!  {see above} Additionally, until recently, I didn’t realize that I needed to check in with something other than my thoughts. i.e. Body, Heart, Soul.

So, I have come to one (kinda) step to freedom from this craziness. You just need to answer ONE question.

1.  WHO are you?

The title of this article is a bit deceiving.  Although there is only one question, it has a few “sub questions.”  {Sorry.  That would have been too long of a title.}

So…

1.  Who are you?

1a. What are you passionate about? What do you like to do? What are you devoted to?

1b. Are you living in accordance with WHO you are today or are you limiting yourself by NOT living in accordance with who you are and what you are passionate about?

1c.  Do you have a tribe that is in line with who you are?  Who do you connect to?  Do you make time to connect?  Are you including yourself when connecting?

1d. What permission do you need to grant YOURSELF?

1e.  What discovering and uncovering needs to be done so that you can THRIVE?

When I took the time to be rigorously honest about the above questions and write down the answers (thinking them in your head doesn’t work, I assure you.) things got clear REALLY fast.

Clarity looks like this for me:

I live in a hot climate.  I am athletic and busy chasing a 4 year old and balancing a career.  I am 46.  I want short hair.  I like short hair.  I want blonde hair.  I also like iced coffee and wandering around Hobby Lobby.  I like sharing my path to sobriety in order to help others live their best selves. I like my dogs and binging on Netflix.  I like the ocean and getting lost in books.  I like good food that nourishes my body and I dislike that it takes effort to cook but chicken nuggets from Jack in the Box is not my jam. I have heartfelt beliefs that everyone should have the choice to love whoever they want.  I despise hate.  I love the zoo. I love animals and would rescue all of them if someone would gift me some land… a lot of it.  I love my tribe.  I love the connection and the vulnerability and the authenticity and the rawness of it all.  I love love love my son.  I love his little dimply hands and the way he winks at me with both eyes.  I love watching the world through his lens. I love living my “brutiful” life. I need and want to continue to evolve and grow and be the best version of myself and also give myself permission to have bad days.

“I was asking for permission and approval because I was trying to find who I am in others rather than look within. It’s not as if the answers had evaporated, that they disappeared and I was just a body walking around (or lying on a yoga studio floor). I had them. I just wasn’t listening. I stopped asking.

My body had to go in to absolute revolt before I actually paid attention;  anxiety, being uncomfortable in my own skin, laryngitis and strep throat (x’s 2),  pressure in my chest and heart. And there was always this soft voice saying “you aren’t doing what you are supposed to be doing”.  And then ultimately, the bamboo yoga floor.

You don’t need permission or approval from anyone other than yourself. You don’t need to get laryngitis and strep throat in order to find and speak your voice.  Find out who you really are. Surround yourself with a tribe that will support you being you. You don’t need to stay stuck and search via other people to find your own voice and answers.  You have them already.

Life is in session.  Things are ever changing whether you like it or not.  Continue to ask yourself the hard questions. Never stop asking them. Allow the answers to change as you do.

3 Ways to Find Your Tribe

Spirituality is nurtured in a COMMUNITY. The oneness with others that springs from shared vision and shared goal, shared memory and shared hope.

— The Spirituality of Imperfection, p. 82

 I have been seeking a “tribe” all my life.  Some of the tribes that I have found were awesome and fulfilling and beautiful and some were disastrous; sports teams, a sorority, AA, business groups, the bar,  online forums, family, marriages, yoga teacher training.

The times that I most thrived in a particular tribe was when I was connected to the authentic me rather than trying to hide or change or “shape shift” who I was in order to “fit in”.

Part of being in a tribe is being your whole self.  Sometimes that whole self is broken; broken by fate, by people, by time.  Ultimately, however, people want to know your whole self, all the parts; even the broken ones.  That authenticity, that “realness” provides connection and oneness and a mirror for others.  It gives permission to others to also bear their broken selves.

Another part of being in a tribe is be able to hold space and bear witness.  Rob Bell once said (and I am paraphrasing) that sometimes bad things happen and we need to rally the troops and build that “thing” and fund raise for that “thing” and to get the whole community together to support and hold up whatever atrocity or tragedy has occurred.  And sometimes, what we are called to do and what is truly needed is to just to witness; not fix, not offer suggestion, not give a power point presentation on the 5 best things to do in the current situation but to just walk with, sit with and “be” with what is happening.  This is not easy but a necessary function of tribe.

Mutuality is a key ingredient to tribe and truly what makes it “work”.  It really isn’t about the give/get or get/give but more what we give by getting and get by giving.  This is why living authentically and openhearted allows you to fully connect to yourself and the tribe.  I call this feeling “home”.  It’s cozy and safe.  But we have to remember that in order to feel cozy and safe, we have to be willing to be vulnerable and uncomfortable and unsure.

Three ways we can find a tribe, find connection, find where we truly belong:

1. Find your truest self.  This will require some digging, introspection and truth. Know that your truest self will change.  Sometimes that will mean finding a new tribe and sometimes that means finding a new role within the tribe you are in.

2. “Try On” different tribes.  Tribes are like a good pair of jeans.  You have to try on MANY before you find the perfect fit.  This is part of the process and shouldn’t be avoided. It’s like a treasure hunt for adults.

3.  “Show Up”.  Show up as YOU.  Show up as authentically as possible.  This way you will truly know that you belong with a particular tribe.  If you are a chameleon, the connection you are trying to find will be elusive.  That connection only comes when two or more souls truly “see” each other.

The tribe is not only there for you.  YOU are there for the tribe.  Showing up and being authentically you is what that tribe needs.  There will come a day where you are on the other side of pain or loss or suffering.  The tribe will need you.  They will need your experience, strength and hope.  And if you never had shared, never took the chance on finding you, never showed up and bared your soul, that exchange would never happen.  That beautiful reciprocity of getting from giving and giving from getting.

Lastly, the size of your tribe is inconsequential. The more you show up as yourself and the more others do the same the tribe will either grow in number or in depth and value. Remember, you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.

So, go forth!  Find your tribe and in the process, find you.

7 Ways to Create Post Vacation Bliss

What I have discovered is that it *is* possible to live in the “zen bubble” of Wanderlust in our every day lives but it takes work and self-awareness and presence and purpose.  It won’t just happen on its own.  We are in charge of our own peace, our own zen, our own Wanderlust.

I have been back from Wanderlust Squaw Valley for a week and was listening to MC Yogi, looking through pictures and notes and feeling excited and envious of those attending the rest of the summer’s festivals.  Wanderlust is a *must* if you are in to music, good food, yoga, friends, beautiful venues, a body of people hell bent on making our world a better place and a little shopping.  ((wink wink))

Prior to getting sober, I would never had attended this type of festival.  I was fearful, self-conscious, uncomfortable and downright judgmental.  I would have had my unfounded opinions, my contempt prior to investigation and feelings of “less than”.  And I am not sure that I would have attended Wanderlust the first year of my sobriety, either.  But the longer I am sober, the longer I am connected to myself and my life and others, the more I am willing to be *daring*! And going to Wanderlust, for me, was D-A-R-I-N-G!

And like most things that I am totally freaked out about and do anyway, I find out there was nothing to freak out about and that Wanderlust ROCKS and I kick myself in the arse for not experiencing this sooner… and then I get over myself and marvel in the glory of it all.  Same thing happened to me (over time) when I got sober.  Nothing to freak out about; self-awareness is a good thing, presence is beneficial, dancing is actually fun and not having a hangover is a total bonus.

7 things we can do every day to create our own Wanderlust: 

1.  Embrace change.
I have operated for the majority of my life under the assumption that change is bad and that I must try to control as much as possible to not allow that to happen.  Yes, I know, silly.  I see change as evolving and fluid and happening all the time.  Change of scenery, change your mind, change your location, change your job, change what you eat, change your marriage, change your general way of living.  And guess what?  You can always change back.  Change is constant and fluid and always happening; embrace it, get on the change train or spend your life pushing against it.

2.  Try New Things.
I had never been to a Kundalini class.  I had no idea what I was getting in to but we jumped in with both feet; got in to the front row and then proceeded to dance around a tent, with our eyes close, shaking every body part imaginable with 400 other people for 24 minutes. Want to smash your ego?  Kundalini is the class for you.  I enjoyed the festival *that* much more after I took two Kundalini classes from Gurmukh.  ((Staring in to your friends eyes and chanting while holding hands for 35 minutes will do that)).

Go to the front of a class with 600 people.  You won’t regret it.  Dance like no one is watching.  Participate in classes that challenge you emotionally and physically.  There are 200 to 600 people getting their groove on in your class…  they don’t care if your alignment is right or if your earrings match your spandex.  They are drinking in the moment… not paying attention to you. Go to a meeting, sit in the front row.  This is your sobriety, your recovery, your life.  No one is watching you, they are taking care of themselves, they are holding on to their recovery.

3.  Dance.
At Wanderlust, there is music everywhere.  You have an opportunity to dance all day.  Take advantage.  And when you get home from your trip, load up your Spotify account with all the artist you saw and dance.  Dance in your car, dance in your kitchen, dance in the shower, just dance.  Close your eyes, take yourself back to the front row of your MC Yogi and DJ Drez class with your besties on either side of you and dance.  Your Soul will thank you.

4.  Eat well.
You will be hard pressed to find anything processed at Wanderlust.  Smoothies, and bowls and vegan deliciousness abound.  Curry and coffee and Kombucha.  Try it all.  Check out the local favorites.  Savor each mouthful, each conversation, the buzz all around you.  Do the same as you walk the recovery path.  Cigarettes and caffeine and your smartphone are just other distractions, other addictions other things that take you away from *you*.  Eat a good meal.  Drink water.  Slow down.

5.  Write it Down.
Keep a journal.  Things are said. Nuggets that you think that you will remember but you won’t unless you write it down.  They will change you.  They will change others when they hear it.  Doodle.  Write down how you felt after a class.  Write down how you feel as you leave to go home. Write down the sights and the smells and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  Write down the themes and the stories and the connected-ness of 10000 people.  Write it down.

I never wanted to do this.  Not while using and not in early sobriety.  I was *afraid* of someone actually seeing my thoughts.  I, apparently, got over this. ((wink wink)).  It’s cathartic.  Write it down and burn it if it makes you feel better but write it down, write it *all* down.

6.  Rest.
Nap in the afternoon sun.  Close your eyes and really rest in savasana.  Stay in bed another 45 minutes. Get an iced coffee in the Wanderlust tent and sit on the comfy cushions and rest.  Be still, even for just a few minutes.

Stay a minute or two longer in the meetings you attend or come a bit early and chat with the person pouring the coffee.  Baby steps.  Look them in the eyes.  Keep it simple.  Smile.

7.  Take what you need and leave the rest.

At Wanderlust and in recovery, you will come across some things that really stick with you and some things that really just don’t.  That’s ok.  But take it all in.  Then take what you need home.  The other stuff you may want later… or not.  Notice what you are in judgement of, notice what makes your heart and soul sing.  Take it all in.

Wanderlust and life and recovery within both of those things is a journey.  Seasons change, we change, circumstances change. I really did my best to be present for those 5 days.  To embrace all of my emotions, to rest and to take note.  I embraced my friends and the meals that we had together and the absolute belly laughter and all that we experienced.  I didn’t need my smart phone to capture everything.  Although much has been erased from mind after years of drinking, my week at Wanderlust is not one of them.; the freedom and the joy and the smells of a cool, alpine summer evening.  I can’t wait to get back.

What is your next adventure?  Where are you going to sit in the front row? Where are you going to be more present?  I can’t wait to hear.

 

The Audacity to Recover

au·dac·i·ty
ôˈdasədē/
noun
1. the willingness to take bold risks.

Addiction. Recovery. Sobriety. Drugs. Alcohol. Shopping. Sex. Technology. Gambling. A lot of buzz words these days and like some of our favorite quotes and sayings, I think they have been used so much that we have become de-sensitized to them. We have stopped listening, hearing and feeling what these words truly mean.

Getting sober doesn’t mean quitting things. It doesn’t mean the fun in your life ends and that you need to move to a monastery in Israel in order to find peace and enlightenment and recovery. It also doesn’t mean that you *wanting* to get sober means that you are currently sleeping under a bridge, haven’t had a shower in weeks and everything you own resides in a shopping cart.

Life is not black and white. There is a lot of grey. Labeling people and afflictions is our need to make things black and white. Labeling people and afflictions can make it really difficult for people to truly recover or to get help in the first place. Who wants to be labeled an alcoholic? An addict? A gambler? A cheater? Not me. We are not a behavior, *I* am not a behavior.

What would it look like if recovering from an overuse of a substance was like recovering from strep throat? You go to the doctor, you let them know your symptoms, they prescribe a treatment and you are on the mend. No one says that you can *only* have medicine for 7 days or 28 days. No one says you have to label yourself as a “strepthroater”. No one says that you have to hide out at home and not tell anyone about your strep throat. No one says that you will never recover and that you should be afraid. People aren’t ashamed to walk in to the doctor with strep throat. *I* am not strep throat, I *have* strep throat. I can recover from strep throat. This is how sobriety and recovery is for me. It is my story. I abused a substance. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t want to do that anymore. I have found the root cause of my wanting to do that. I have recovered. I have and continue to heal.

I have nothing against 12 step programs. In fact, I credit those programs for my recovery foundation and I participated in these programs for the first 5 years of my sobriety. I got to a point, however, that I was able to start thinking for myself again. I was able to trust my decisions. I listened to that little voice inside of me instead of drowning it out with booze, drugs, men, over training, shopping, etcetera. Little by little, I stopped being afraid; afraid that my “disease” was doing pushups in the backyard *waiting* for me, afraid of my past, afraid of relapse.

I started loving my life. I started investigating my core values. I investigated my opinions on things; opinions and thoughts and “truths” that I had held on to for years that were no longer serving me. I investigated words like co-dependency, boundaries and trauma. I found ways to connect to myself rather than finding ways to distract myself. I investigated and found peace with emotions and feelings. I investigated Anger, Joy, Happiness, Sadness, Grief, Guilt, Shame, Apathy, Boredom, Confusion, Panic, Terror. I investigated my past. I investigated my “triggers”. I investigated people. I found some that I really connected with and I found some that I really needed to stay away from.

I found my inner athlete, again. I found peace in yoga, meditation, and running. I found that paying attention to my breath brought calm and less stress. I found music and laughter and food and philosophy and hope. I found others that were doing similar investigations; finding their way and sharing their knowledge.

There is hope and inspiration. There is recovering and recovered. There is sobriety born out of a love for life rather than a fear of what was. There is an acceptance and a love and a knowledge of who each of us are. There is self-awareness rather than denial. There is a realization of truth rather than fantasy. There is ownership of mis-steps and honoring *that* truth. There are emotions. There is joy. There is sadness and grief. There are tears. There is laughter. There is the ability and willingness to be teachable and live with our eyes and hearts wide open.

I write all of this knowing that it may not be popular. It may not “fit” with your recovery or sobriety narrative. However, it is my story. My truth. And when I first got sober, I needed to hear a lot of stories and truths. Stories of experience, strength and hope. I needed to hear it from CEO’s and actors, teachers and lawyers, and construction workers. I needed to hear it from those who lived high on the hill and at the homeless shelter. One of the many nuggets that I took away from my 12 step meetings was to “take what I needed and leave the rest”. My wish is that one person is able to see that there are many paths to recovery, that you can recover on your own terms. This, however, does not mean that you do it by yourself. I know, for sure, that is not possible. You will need help. You will need guidance. You will need people and connection in order to get your feet underneath you. But you will learn to walk again. You will learn to run again. You will be able to trust yourself and others again. You are not broken. You have been on a path that may not be serving you anymore. There are other paths. Look around. You have a choice to change the path you are on. There are others waiting there for you.

The Audacity of Recovery. The moxie to even *think* that you can recover. The boldness for you to be you and find your own path & for me to be me and find mine; for all of us to find peace and hope and joy and to bear witness. I can’t wait to hear *your* story of boldness and audaciousness and moxie. Tell it, write it, speak it. We all need to hear it.

This article was originally posted on The Sobriety Collective.

Why *YOU* need Yoga Fusion

What do YOU think when you hear the word YOGA?

Do you think chanting, burning incense and people doing really contorted things with their bodies??? Well, those things MAY be true in some yoga studios but not at a Yoga Fusion class!

Yoga For Golfers utilizes the force of gravity against your own body weight, creating weight bearing, strength building exercises as well as flexibility. This process assists the body to move easily through a full range of motion. In addition to gravity, breathing awareness and use of the breath are the fundamental practices of yoga as well as any fitness activity. Proper breathing improves the quality of the poses by increasing the blood flow to the muscles, body temperature and improving endurance.

Rotational sports, at their foundation, are the same (baseball, tennis, golf, etc.); the intentional and dynamic movement of the body in three planes of motion the frontal plane (side to side), the sagittal plane (flexion & extension front to back), and the transverse plane (rotation). At Alexandrite (as a Level II certified Yoga For Golfers instructor) I am teaching a unique and proprietary methodology developed by Katherine Roberts. This cutting edge methodology is a blend of yoga, dynamic exercise using body weight and Versa Bands as well as powerful functional motion. The goal is to drive improvement, in performance, from the first tee to the last putt. YFG focuses on achieving body symmetry, balance and alignment throughout the swing to increase power as well as enhancing flexibility and core development to improve mobility, strength, power and endurance.
Did you know that for every 1mph you gain in your golf swing, you will achieve approximately 2.3 yards? In addition to more yardage, you will also get more out of your game. How many rounds do you take 3 holes to warm up and then collapse on the last three holes? This is a common occurrence. YFG will prepare your body to play from the first tee and facilitate endurance so that you can finish your round without being exhausted or hurt.
There is NO yoga experience necessary. Class starts with a rotational assessment, dynamic warm up, standing exercises, balance exercises, core work and then rest! Safety is always first and foremost in my class. There are ALWAYS modifications so that each person has their own successes in class.
Jen Yockey is a Class A member of the LPGA T&CP Division, 200RYT, Yoga Alliance, Yoga For Golfers, Level II Certified Instructor, C.H.E.K. Golf Biomechanic, Mother of 1 rambunctious boy and 2 rescued pups. She teaches Yoga Fusion at Alexandrite on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00am. www.yogawithjenyockey.com | 760.219.7953 | jennifer.yockey@hotmail.com

Photographs From the Edge

I am not sure when the last time I opened those boxes was; over a decade, for sure. They have traveled from a broken marriage in Seattle to Portland for a job then to Palm Springs for another job and to Florida for another… they traveled through many more states and apartments, homes, rooms and finally to this garage… for the last 6 years.

There had to be some part of me that was afraid to open those boxes; especially the part of me that has been sober and living a VERY different life than the decades before; the life that was in between my carefree childhood and 7 years ago. The life that I can now look at with sober, seasoned, adult eyes… albeit teary ones.

In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it. ~ Mitch Albom

I opened them. They were full of dust and dirt despite the duct tape and clicking lids. I opened the box with my childhood notebooks and citizenship award and even the speech I gave as the Mayor of Walnut Grove City, at 7… who knew?!?!. I opened the boxes the contained all the pictures of the soccer teams, the swim teams and the articles my parents collected over my golf career. All of these made me smile. I laughed out loud many times at pictures my longest friend took of me in a shower cap and full braces… and in my nightgown. I took pictures of the pictures and sent them to my friends so that we could all laugh together.

Then, I got to my high school report cards and pictures of my junior prom. I felt as if someone kicked me in the chest. This is when the unraveling started; the loathing, the shape shifting. It’s when I stopped asking for help and built barrier after barrier and façade after façade trying to convince you (and me) that all was ok and that I had it ALL figured out. Sadly, so far from the truth.

I found the acceptance letter to the UW, articles on my accepting a scholarship for athletics, notes from my Mom and Dad; ones that they had sent to me and notes that I had sent them. So incredibly sweet; all of the things they kept. I found notes warning me of academic probation; from the coach, from the sorority. I remember distinctly being so pissed… my bad grades were THEIR fault. I mean, REALLLLLLY! I remember going to the bar rather than the library. I remember being in a panic every quarter. I remember not going to class because I was doing so bad anyway. I remember denying that I needed help, denying that I was drowning and that I had NO idea what I was doing. I remember thinking that not only were my grades bad but my performance on the course was awful, as well. It was a sinking ship and I chose to drown rather than reach for a life raft.

I found pictures of sorority & fraternity events and having crystal clear memories of VERY BAD things happening. I sat and opened more and more folders of pictures of me drinking and acting out. I found pictures from a marriage destroyed and other relationships torched.

Then, the guilt and the shame set in. I haven’t felt that feeling in a very long time. Guilt and shame of time and opportunity wasted. Guilt and shame of relationships dismissed and bridges burned.

My poor husband walked in on me sobbing and there were truly no words, for either of us. He never knew that girl; no experience with the drama, the outbursts, the hangovers, the deception.

I am 7 years sober. After much time and reflection, I look at the period of my life between 17 and 38 as an experience not an identity (Thank you, Holly). This was not always the case, however. The first 6 years of my sobriety, I spent a lot of time in a 12- step program. I fully immersed myself in to recovery and identifying as an alcoholic. I found a design for living, myself and loving relationships. I found out how to communicate and ask for help. I found out how to forgive and to make an amends.

The last 18 months, however, I have found that my experience is not my identity. I view it like any other experience or event; my pregnancy, my experience as a marathoner or professional golfer. I was and I am no longer; I am not pregnant, I don’t run, I don’t play professionally and I don’t drink or use drugs.
As I finished going through the boxes and put what was left back in to the garage, I became less sad and more grateful. Grateful for my family; for ALL that they gave me and sacrificed and how much love I felt going through the boxes and the care that was taken to preserve those moments. I also was so taken aback by the flood of happy and hysterical moments of my youth. I had some really great times.

There is forgiveness and Grace. It, more often than not, does not happen on our time table. Time not only serves as a buffer to our past but also as a natural scab builder so that we can go back and look at things when it is not as raw, not as fresh and with eyes that are less wounded or filled with judgement.

It took me two weekends and about 7 hours to go through those boxes. I did a lot of starts and stops and reflecting. I recognized when I was overwhelmed or sad and took a step back. I shared with my son and husband all that has happened and most of what was recorded digitally or otherwise.

It is sometimes said that you “shouldn’t look back as you are not going that way”. For me, it was important to look back; to give that girl some Grace, to marvel at a life lived and accomplishments earned.

A college team mate and I were talking and I mentioned to her that some of the images made me sad and that I was sure that I owed her an apology. She assured me that an apology wasn’t necessary and additionally said something so lovely and wise:

Well Jen, life is definitely a learning curve and we all have to figure out our relationship with alcohol sooner or later.
My wish for you is that you figure out your relationship with drugs and/or alcohol. Be kind and gentle with yourself as you move through the process. Progress and presence over perfection.

This article was originally posted on addictionunscripted.com: https://addictionunscripted.com/photographs-from-the-edge/

Anger, Sobriety and the Next Indicated Step

I have written this over and over and over again. I have deleted and re-written this more times than I care to admit.

This last 24 hours has been rough. I don’t tell you this for sympathy but to refrain from stuffing it down, hiding, compartmentalizing or denying it. It’s how I stay healthy and sane today; to feel the feels, to stand in my truth and then put one foot in front of the other and take the next indicated step, regardless of how small or how painful.

When I first got sober, I was angry. Really angry. It scared me how pissed I got; how intolerant and impatient I was. I spoke to my sponsor, at length, about it. Prayer and acknowledgement wasn’t the answer for me, finding the root cause and a solution was.

I am a willful person. This is AWESOME when you are trying to achieve something on your own (hence my success on the golf course). This is NOT awesome the rest of the time as willfulness in relationships and pretty much every day life causes aggravation as everyday life includes other people;  friends and spouses and parents and children and well, the guy in front of you at the gas station that doesn’t pump gas fast enough or the woman at Target that wants to write a check for a can of diet coke. You know… *PEOPLE.* The root cause, for me,  was two things: Control and Not Being Heard. I did a lot of digging and therapy and yoga and meditation and Soul searching to exorcise The Anger. I believe that anger is a good thing. It doesn’t need to be repressed but it also doesn’t need to be explosive and emotionally debilitating.

I am going to digress here. Do you remember the movie Pretty Woman? The one with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts? They were in the bathtub. And Richard was saying to Julia that he spent $10,000 in therapy to say “I was very angry with my Father”.

Although I am not angry with my Dad, I do get angry and frustrated about things. I still am miffed that I cannot control everything. {ha!}. But today, I am able to say how I feel “I am angry” or “That hurt my feelings” or “I just need to be heard.” It’s nothing earth shattering but speaking my truth has been an integral part of my healing. The second part of this is that sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, I am not heard. Sometimes, I say what I need or how I feel and it is met with resistance or with an inability to help.  *THAT* has been another learning experience.

So, after 7 years of digging; discovering, uncovering and discarding stuff around control and anger and not being heard… I have found out THE REAL REASON that this is my path. And it has nothing to do with me. {Shocking.} All of this work, all of the Blood, Sweat and Tears is not about me after all. It is about helping my son.

He is a beautiful boy. He is smart and funny, silly and inquisitive, empathetic and compassionate. He is also willful, wants to be heard and gets ANGRY when he doesn’t get his way.

So yesterday was bad. There is no need to go in to details but the melt down that ensued after he didn’t get his way scared me… and his Dad. It scared us because we couldn’t help him. It scared us because our sweet, loving, gentle little boy couldn’t get a hold of himself, couldn’t right the ship, couldn’t find a way to self -regulate and get unstuck. We were utterly helpless.

 The feelings all came rushing in.  I have felt this way. I have felt this way as an adult; watching myself drunk and out of control and unable to flip the switch; hurting myself, hurting others.

Days like yesterday used to be spent in the bar; drinking and forgetting and pushing away and shutting down. Although I didn’t hit the bar yesterday, I did get in to bed. I did binge on Quantico and vegetarian pizza. But today, I don’t have a hangover. I don’t have *another* problem because I drank and then drove and then got a DUI or in an altercation. Today I got up. Today I put one foot in front of the other. Today I took the next indicated step. Today I reached out and asked for help. Today I spoke to my husband and let him know how awful I feel and why.

Things are going to be okay. I am so grateful for the friends and professionals in our circle. I am grateful for my sobriety and the tools that I have to get me through hard days. I am grateful for the presence in my own life so that I be of service to my son. I am grateful for the 7 years of hard work I have done on my own issues so that I can bear witness to others.

The uncovering and discovering should never end. Elena Brower recently said two things that have stuck with me the last 24 hours {I am paraphrasing}; 1. The best teachers are the best learners. 2. The continual practice of being a yogini on and off the mat; not only the yoga studio but at home.

Today I am grateful for my willfulness. It got me up today. It keeps me going when there is some part of me that doesn’t want to. It pushes me to take the next indicated step; even if it is small, even if my legs feel like they weigh a ton, I take it.

Use the Think Box and the Play Box

Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott are perhaps two of the most successful teachers in the game today.

I say that because they coached Annika Sorenstam when she was dominating the LPGA Tour, and they also give advice to Yani Tseng, who is currently dominating the women’s game. But make no mistake, Nilsson and Marriott, founders of the Golf54 academy and Vision54 Coaching for the Future, also work with plenty of male golfers, including PGA Tour stalwart Kevin Streelman.

Nilsson and Marriott have written three books on golf with Golf World’s Ron Sirak. The latest, Play Your Best Golf Now, crystallizes the concept of the Think Box and the Play Box. Their first book, Every Shot Must Have a Purpose, however, introduces the concept. I think their approach will help you shoot lower scores almost immediately. Hey, if it works for Annika and Yani, why not give it a try.

Basically, Pia and Lynn contend that every shot has a decision line. That’s an imaginary line that divides the area where you do all your thinking and strategizing (the Think Box) from the area where you simply hit the shot (the Play Box). Annika was superb at this, says Sirak. Once she entered the Play Box, she never hesitated or became distracted. She simply went through her routine, trusted her technique and pulled the trigger. She left all of her thinking behind–in the Think Box.

Here is a short excerpt of the first book. Try their approach this weekend, and I bet you’ll play better golf.

As you stand in the THINK BOX you should consider all the variables for the shot: wind direction and strength, the lie of the ball (is it below your feet and will it thus fade away from your body?), the hazards you need to factor in, and, if you are in competition, the point at which you stand in the match. VERBALIZE your intentions for the shot. “I am going to hit a 6-iron at the tree behind the left corner of the green and the ball will fade toward the pin in the back right corner of the green. It is a good, firm 6-iron for me.” Imagine the shot you are going to hit.

The only time there is any indecision should be when you are in the THINK BOX. When you cross the DECISION LINE to hit the shot, there must be total commitment to the shot. If you get over the ball and are not comfortable with the decision you have made, back off, retreat to the THINK BOX, and come up with a plan in which you have trust. If you are going to be slow in any part of the game, it must be in the THINK BOX and not in the PLAY BOX. The DECISION LINE is the doorway from one room to another.

When you cross the line into the PLAY BOX, leave doubt behind, make your grip, aim the clubface, align the body, connect to the target, and hit your shot. The longer you wait to hit the shot the more opportunity there is for doubt–and tension–to creep into your mind and body. And remember what we said about tension being the most effective saboteur of the golf swing. Decide, commit, swing. It’s as simple as that.

Jen Yockey is a Class A member of the LPGA T&CP Division, Yoga For Golfers Certified Instructor, C.H.E.K. Golf Biomechanic, Mother of 1 rambunctious boy and 3 rescued pups. She teaches Yoga Fusion at Alexandrite on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00am. www.yogawithjenyockey.com | 760.219.7953 | jennifer.yockey@hotmail.com

The Secrets to Finding Connection

I recently finished my 200RYT.  I spent 6 months with 21 amazing people.  This certification is the first of its kind; Life Coaching + Restorative Yoga.  That being said, the bond, the connection that was created during the six months was significant.  In order for us to better serve others, to help others heal, we had to heal ourselves.  You can’t give away what you don’t have…

As we gathered around for dinner that last evening, we all had a giggle about how little we knew about each other’s “minutia”.  Our souls are forever bonded and that, in and of itself, is powerful and enough.  But the mind started to ask “What does your husband do for a living?”  “Where did you go to college?”  “Do you own anything other than yoga pants?”… (wink. wink.)  And then we continued to laugh about how all of that doesn’t matter.  That what we know is plenty and full and lovely.  That Soulful Connection is so powerful. More powerful than minutia.

Perhaps you have had that “feeling” before.  You meet someone and immediately feel connected, without “KNOWING” them.  Or you meet someone and you immediately know that you DON’T want to know them, something is off and doesn’t “feel right”.

We have connections with people, places and things.  With our kids, our partners, our siblings, our parents, our friends.  We have connection with ourselves and our emotions (or not).  We have connections with things that don’t serve us, that actually create disconnection; food, booze, shopping, social media, being “busy”.  These “connections” are buffers from things we don’t want to feel, see or know.

Some connections are profound and defy words and some are deeply crushing.

For this week, be curious about these four things:

1.  Your body.  Are you connected to it?  Can you feel your heart open? (like when you see a really cute puppy) or feel it close? (when you see someone that has hurt you or scares you.)

2.  What do you “do” when you have strong “connected” or “disconnected” emotions?  Can you sit with your sadness, joy, anger or do you disconnect by overeating, shopping, watching tv, adding to your already busy calendar or drinking?

3.  If you want to have and show empathy, receive and give love, and want to be SEEN and be a witness to others, to have CONNECTION…  we have to be vulnerable, we have to feel, we have to remove the mask.

4.  You have the inalienable right to choose your friends, your intimate relationships, your connections.  You have the right to make changes when those relationships are hurtful or toxic, regardless of proximity.  You don’t have to remain connected to someone or something just because that is the way you have done it in the past OR you were taught “that you should”, OR that “it’s for the best” OR that is “what we do”.

You are a beautiful Soul.  You are enough.  You are powerful.  Be Connected.