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4 Ways My Life Changed in 4 Years of Sobriety

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I painted this mug four years ago on May 25, 2011. I was hungover, shaking, and scared as I painted these lyrics from the song Fee by one of my most favorite bands, Phish. The three days prior, despite the promises I made to myself, I spent drinking and feeling completely powerless over alcohol. I did not know it then, but that was the first day of my sobriety. Soon after, through a series of synchronicities and miracles, I was guided into the open arms of a fellowship and to a sponsor who worked the 12 steps with me. She encouraged me, while also calling me on my crap so I could grow and transform into the woman I am today, or as our linage says: "A woman of dignity and grace."

These past four years have been quite the ride, and in this blog I am going to share four ways that my life has transformed in my recovery. Before I dive in, I wholeheartedly acknowledge and honor that there are different recovery paths. I believe if there is a path that resonates and keeps you clean, then power to you -- keep on truckin'. This is simply my experience.

Miracle One: Goals and dreams seamlessly came into fruition.

I used to create goal lists all the time, and yoga teacher training would always be in the top three. I didn't even really have a regular yoga practice and I certainly was not in union with my body and my heart. I believe now that something deep in my soul knew that one day teaching yoga would be a purpose, passion, and dharma of mine. However, at that time, I could never get my act together to really save for the training or do the research to find a program and teacher that I loved. When I was three months sober, an opportunity to embark on a 200-hour teacher training path basically fell into my lap at a rate I could afford with an organization that I was passionate about. I have been teaching ever since and feel aligned and connected through this work. I have immense gratitude that I have never stepped into one of the yoga classes that I guide foggy or hungover. This is one of the many miracles that causes me to me to gratefully, humbly, and wholeheartedly bow at our final Namaste.

Miracle Two: I acquired Integrity.

There were periods in my drinking days when my Thursday-Sunday self could not keep up with the more efficient and productive Monday-Wednesday self. I would change appointments, flake on people, and procrastinate because I was either partying or feeling ill. One of the biggest initial shifts, besides feeling energized and having extra cash, was knowing that I would show up for something and follow through. In early sobriety I used to make plans or tell someone I would have something done by a certain time and part of me would think: "Will this really happen?" After time, I began to trust in my capacity to follow through.

Miracle Three: I learned how to set boundaries.

I learned how to communicate my truth clearly and compassionately and let go of the outcome and response of others. I learned that I can't take responsibility for other people's feelings, and reactions. All I can do is be truthful and keep "my side of the street" clean. This one is not easy, and I am still practicing it. The first couple of conversations I had that fell under this umbrella were terrifying. I was, and still am, blessed with angels in the form of my sponsor, therapist, soul sisters, and spiritual running buddies who guide me and illuminate the trail that they so bravely and gracefully blazed before me. It gets a little easier each time I have to be direct to someone about what does or doesn't work for me. As I walk through the uncomfortable feelings and the fear, I dive more deeply into my power and my truth. And now, I get to be one of those Angels in the lives of the lovely souls just embarking on their path.

Miracle Four: I cultivated a true relationship with Spirit.

Call it The Divine, Higher Power, Universe, or as author Tosha Silver writes in Outrageous Openness, "The Force that keeps the birds aloft in the sky." My relationship to this Higher Power is the single most important piece of my recovery. I learned how to make conscious contact with this Force in my life through daily prayer and meditation. I feel Divine connection within and experience sychronicities, coincidences, and "God shots" often. I learned how to turn it over, offer it up, surrender and trust. Even when the storms of life do arise I feel supported, connected, held and never alone.

My favorite of the many slogans I have heard is: "Stick around for the Miracle." For me, there has not been once single moment where the sky parted and I was healed and transformed. There are, however, small but consistent shifts into a new way of being. My willingness to do the work, follow suggestions, and prioritize my spiritual practice are like little miraculous specks of kindling that fuel a Devine fire that keeps steadily burning within. The obsession to drink has been lifted and I can thrive in sobriety in many situations from the most tame of cocktail parities to (yes), even a Phish concert.

I wish you all a fun, connected, and miraculous start to your summer.


Carolyn Jean

I am a certified Life Coach and I also teach yoga in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.