In 1996 I was lost and that is when Yoga found me. Each time I practiced over the years I felt weight dropping away. Not physical weight but baggage from my past that I had been unknowingly carrying around for years.
I knew that something was happening but I didn’t understand why or how yoga worked. While living in Florida during this time I was working in the service industry. This is where we met. He was a tall, lanky blond haired boy that had a sweet smile and a dark secret. We fell for each other easily and hard and ended up moving in together one year later.
Since he was a chef his hours were later and longer than mine as a server, but the fine dining industry carried a bit of prestige. He could look into my fridge and magically make a gourmet meal appear. We served the best of the best and made good money doing it. After our shifts ended the staff would all go out to eat and drink. The restaurant would close at 10 or 11pm and by midnight we’d be smashed and having a great time. It didn’t take me long to fall into this pattern that others had been living for years.
I did not know that alcoholism ran rampant in the restaurant industry. But we felt like we were on top of the world. We all had plenty of cash to spend and tipped like we were loaded, taking care of our kind. The bars in Florida at that time were open until 4am. Most of the time we didn’t get home until the sun was coming up. This was the lifestyle and I loved it, for a while.
When the next semester at school started back it was time to switch gears. I wanted to get to bed earlier and not go out as much, and my boyfriend didn’t like that. He wanted his party girl back. I worked really hard to find time to study, be there for him and work but eventually it all came crashing down.
We loved being together and I always felt so comfortable being in his arms. This was my illusion, I now see. He stayed out late and came home drunk night after night. He’d wake me up and want to talk about how the bosses had mistreated him and how he wanted his own restaurant some day. I consoled him but then lost sleep and was groggy the next day in classes. I began to resent him and things slowly got worse.
One night I was asleep and I heard him come in. But he wasn’t alone. I heard a woman’s voice, too. I got up and walked into the living room where they were standing. They were both totally wasted, I wasn’t sure on what. I had never seen him so out of it. I asked what was going on and he said she just wanted to use the bathroom. I refused. I didn’t even know this person and he couldn’t even explain who she was. He told me she drove him home because he couldn’t remember where he parked his car. This was before GPS and cell phones were not as sophisticated as they are now. I was livid.
I kicked her out and told him I couldn’t take it any more. I had finally found my voice to say no. He was very upset and angry and the neighbors were not happy that night, either. I couldn’t believe how things had shifted. Or maybe it was just me. I wanted more than this. I wanted more than fun. I had worked really hard to get to where I was at that time and I knew that he couldn’t go any further, or didn’t want to. He moved out the next day.
In my yoga practice I cried and processed what had happened. Unfortunately we worked at the same restaurant and it was so uncomfortable. We had the same friends and I had no idea how to do this. So I quit. I was offered a position in a new club that was opening on the upper level of the complex we worked at on the beach. The hours were better and the money was amazing. Still late nights but shorter shifts that gave me the time I needed to study. I remember stopping in the middle of the chaos and seeing the moon shining on the surface of the ocean below. But I was the only one. All of the drunk people around me were too busy trying to get laid.
Yoga had helped me walk away, and it wasn’t easy. I cried day after day, wherever I wasn’t distracted from the pain. Things were moving inside of me that I didn’t understand. It was a long slow process. I was now the proud owner of a lease for an apartment meant for two that overlooked the intercoastal waterways where parrots flew by squawking daily. I walked every day under the palm trees taking it all in and skated on the beach as often as I could. I was still drinking with friends after work sometimes but it felt like I was taking more control of my life.
From the outside compared to others, which is how I rated my success back then, I was still a mess. But yoga was teaching me self-acceptance. When I finally graduated and my parents came to the ceremony I felt so proud. My father had tears in his eyes afterwards and hugged me and patted me on the back like he always did. I was so happy that I was finally the daughter he was proud of. This was a huge shift for me. After all, I had been the one that kept them up night after night with worry. I was the one that got kicked out of high school. I was the black sheep who didn’t care what they thought of me. I now knew that that wasn’t true.