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It’s been one year since I have had a drink of alcohol.
One year of not poisoning my body with socially accepted drugs like cocaine, which was a constant thread in my life even while living in Miami where I lived and breathed a “healthy yoga lifestyle.”
The truth is, some of the most successful trainers and fitness instructors in the beautiful city of Miami fall victim to the pressures of partying and substances. In many cities, it’s a normal nightlife activity to sniff cocaine. It acts as a quick release social lubricant, just like alcohol.
This cycle unfortunately created a pattern in my life that led me to realize that 99 percent of my relationships with men were built on drugs or mind-altering substances. In every city I have lived in, from Fort Lauderdale, to Los Angeles, back to Miami, and eventually Philly. Every single man I “connected” with was somehow correlated to drinking and or drugging.
This is toxic—and this cycle was signaling to my mind and body that I was not worthy of a safe or comfortable relationship (or even just sex) if drugs or alcohol weren’t involved. It created a false belief that my personality wasn’t enough or, the complete opposite, I was “too much” to handle. So the comfort blanket of substances cleared any low self-worth and allowed me to step into a more confident alter ego who was not me.
A Decade of Substances and Self-Medicating
From age 18 to 29 every single sexual or romantic connection I had in my life was built on an unstable foundation of late, drunk nights and drugs. It made me temporarily feel on top of the world with a confidence that allowed me to do things I would never do if I were sober or clear-headed. This lifestyle signaled to my mind that the only way I would feel comfortable enough to connect in a deep way with someone was if drugs and/or alcohol were involved.
At least if my mind was altered, I could be in a headspace of “not giving a f*ck,” repressing my emotions, shutting down my needs, and just being there to see what I could get emotionally, which was never much. The archetype I lived in for over a decade of my life was one who attracts addicts, manipulators, narcissistic people, damaged humans, people who have a dark soul but void it endlessly with drugs or drinking. I attracted this kind of person whether it was a friend or romantic fling because I too used any kind of toxic tool to mask my pain or emotional turbulence from childhood or adolescent trauma.
Years of that cycle and pattern left me burned out, and my physical and mental health completely declined.
Since age 18, drinking and drugs were a constant in my life. Whether it was pills, cocaine, weed, or drinking until blacking out, that is what shaped my college years. It seemed as though my substance and alcohol use had seasons. There were some parts of the year when MDMA or uppers were stringing me along. There were other parts of the year when opiates and booze were the thread of my life. Usually, it had to do with who I was hanging around. I was never seeking a particular drug, nor did I ever feel physically dependent on a certain substance, but once I was in the groove of a new season or cycle, it became a part of me quickly.
One semester during art school, opiates were the only thing that “kept me going.” I was dabbling in them a few times a week as well as benzodiazepines, which is a terrible combination that ultimately led me into a sexual assault situation where I got taken advantage of at the dorms of my art school in Florida. The same semester I was in the booze and benzo cycle, my best friend’s sister died in a tragic accident. This trauma spiraled me into an even deeper and intense use of alcohol, pills, weed, and anything in between.
Sober Streaks and Waves of Use
So the drug seasons continued to ebb and flow through my college career. Ages 19, 20, and 21 were filled with as many music festivals as I could afford with my art school refund checks and whatever money I could save from my waitressing jobs. One music festival in particular, I traveled from Florida to San Francisco, and I tried molly and acid for the first time, which induced a grand mal seizure in the middle of a Dubstep concert.
These weekends of complete physical and mental destruction triggered immense comedowns and panic attacks, especially after the seizure experience. But that wasn’t enough to necessarily stop me from partying, it only made me lean on benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax to tame my panic and anxiety attacks.
These sober streaks have been a constant weaving in and out of my life. It seems as though the substance use came in waves, like it has a mind and energy of its own. The upheaval of a relapse was intertwined with what was going on in my current reality. The need to “use” or go into my toxic toolbox of bad habits was deciphered if something went wrong in my life, and often time had everything to do with my level of loneliness and isolation.
The Connection of Loss and Grief to Substance Abuse
Another vivid drug season that has left a scar on my life is when I drove cross-country to restart my life after the most traumatizing breakup of my life. I was 22 years old, and used alcohol as if it was my personal, adult Binky. I had the worst self-esteem, and my self-worth plummeted after being ghosted by someone who I naively thought was my soul mate.
Six months into my new Los Angeles life, one of my best friends from college died in a tragic accident, so this spiraled me into a new season of substance and alcohol abuse. My boyfriend at the time, who was the sweetest soul, helped me through that incredibly challenging time in any way possible. I would drive an hour into the valley to sleep at his apartment every night after working my retail job and hitting hot yoga in Hollywood. I would be sure to have champagne or wine always available along with my constant supply of benzodiazepines.
This season of substance abuse lasted a while, and it was rooted from a similar seed that had been repeating itself through the years.
A seed of loss and grief, which is one of the most common trigger factors when it comes to drug use or relapses.
A “Healthy” Yoga Teacher in a Cocaine City
Between 2017 and 2020, I had a few long streaks of sobriety or “straightedge” lifestyle, as I leaned more into my yoga teacher archetype in Miami. The longest stretch of being “sober” was about nine months at a time.
I truly loved teaching full-time yoga as I lived and breathed a life of fitness and plant-based healing. But as a person who deals with attachments to escaping by using addictions, I slipped into the worst spout of drug and alcohol abuse in March of 2019 that lasted until May 2019. It was only a two-month stretch, but it was so intense, I was terrified that this was going to be the “relapse” that would permanently mess my body and health up—for good.
My disordered eating began to creep back into my life, and I knew that my adrenals and hormones were suffering after late, sleepless nights, and a consistent two months of poisoning my body at a rate that I had never experienced before.
The Final Straw
The summer hit, and after one last toxic sexual encounter with a “friend” who I thought would never ghost me, I fully stepped into a sober-curious phase.
Something clicked for me. I was done.
Done wasting my time poisoning my body with substances and done poisoning my life with toxic friendships and relationships and toxic sex. I didn’t label this next chapter as “I must not drink or do drugs,” but it came naturally. I had no desire to drink, no desire to hang out with people who always had drugs around. I leaned into my dark night of the soul, and embraced the spiritual isolation I was so deeply in (and this was before quarantine).
I spent endless nights alone in my boho room that felt more like a cocoon where I was soaking in rediscovery and falling in love with myself. I did shadow work every single day. I journaled and freewrote for hours and hours in my room, and gained any drop of clarity I could by bingeing tarot and astrology readings on YouTube. I was hooked on any channel of spirituality that would connect me to a deeper sense of understanding why I was in this darkness.
Instead of fighting the loneliness and the pain, I sat with it, I worked with it, and somehow found the way to fall in love with myself, my shadow and all.
During those dark months of summer into fall, I poured my heart and soul into a guided meditation course called Modern Meditations and Shadow Work Creative Writing. If I was going to be alone and depressed working through my Saturn Return and living a life of spiritual solitude, I might as well put my pain to use and transform it into medicine to help anyone I can.
2020 Clarity: Health = Wealth
Once 2020 hit, I was eight solid months into my sobriety, and I was feeling the momentum building that was connecting me to my spirituality. As my physical body cleansed, I could feel my emotional wounds linked to my childhood and other traumas truly rise to the surface, but this time I felt empowered and strong instead of scared or overwhelmed.
The cleaner my body, the lighter my mind became.
Even though I was still experiencing waves of anxiety and depression, my mind became less cluttered and I began to tap into these “natural high” bursts, which ultimately made me feel mentally stronger. As the physical body gained strength, my capability to bounce back out of depression episodes became quicker and quicker. It was clear to me that the underlying issue of my mental illnesses and chemical imbalances like anxiety, depression, and disordered eating were all rooted in some form of self-abuse and self-medication.
Alcohol is a depressant, and drugs like cocaine are a stimulant. Combining these two substances is a toxic yet perfect combination to permanently mess with the adrenals, hormone levels, and the entire endocrine system—the main powerhouse function that controls mood, inflammation, metabolism, digestion, and overall homeostasis of the body.
Suddenly, my mind cracked open to the dark truths of what my body was going through. The first few months of sobriety may feel good, but the body doesn’t really recognize what is happening until the cells can completely regenerate, so once I hit that eight month mark, my body began to reach new levels of healing, which came with a host of symptoms and flare-ups with my thyroid and Hashimoto. As the body truly begins to calibrate and make sense of the change in lifestyle, a deep inventory took place. Random food allergies, terrible digestion, inflammation, and hormonal imbalances can occur as the body heals the layers of toxicity that it became so used to. So if you are going through a rough time and leaning into a more sober lifestyle, please be patient. Recovering the body is not linear and healing can come in waves. It is completely normal to have other types of conditions and illnesses manifest during the journey of sobriety because the body can finally snap out of fight or flight and begin to let go.
Trauma, Substance Abuse, and Toxic Relationships
The real problem was my traumatic childhood, or the sexual assault in college. My issue wasn’t that I depended on a literal substance, it was the constant urge to soothe myself away from emotional pain that I couldn’t make sense of.
I was addicted to the emotional escape. This escape could dress itself in many different costumes, from drugs like cocaine or pills to bingeing and purging or overexercising. This escape disguised itself as the perpetual need to fill an endless black hole within my being.
This also led me down the path of narcissistic relationships. I was the pretty, empathetic, and passionate girl who threw herself at all the wrong people. I found myself hooked in a never-ending net of men who at first fell for me and lured me in with their manipulative ways, which then eventually turned into them labeling me as “too much” or “too intense.”
They would brush me off and ghost me. Boys who only wanted me around on their time, and didn’t seem interested in me but more so “the idea of me.”
Now that I have had plenty of time to sit back and casually reflect on the scenes of those past relationships, the looping pattern is obvious to me now. Once the pretty girl’s mask comes off, and she shows that she too is human and dealing with her own dark shadows and trauma, that is the cue for the man to walk away. Once the dirty veil is lifted, her trauma and humanity is on display.
A woman with a deep and intellectual mind can be intimidating to a man, especially if he doesn’t know how to express his emotions or “deal with” his own insecurities or traumas; their only logic is to push her away, pretend nothing is wrong, and leave her in the dust.
There is only so much time a woman can play the role of the perfect lover who has no painful past to heal.
If a friendship or a romantic partnership makes you feel “bad” or in any way guilty or shameful for bringing a bit of your baggage to the table, then that is the biggest red flag signaling you to run far away from that relationship. We can’t lug all of our baggage through our lives without a little help from our family, our friends, and our lovers. That is why relationships exist—to grow, evolve, and help one another grow through the hardships of life, together.
The Now of My Sobriety
I’ve been healing so many layers of trauma that in my experience, being “clean” right now is what spirit has told me to do. My body is still cleansing and detoxing the layers of drugs and alcohol, it doesn’t take just 30 days—it takes years. So why would I waste my time and poison my body with how hard I am working to heal?
Many people have messaged me on Instagram asking if I will be sober forever, and my short answer is no. As I do recognize that AA and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) provide a space to help people overcome their deadly addictions, I do not necessarily put myself in the box of powerless or forever addicted. Yes, there are thousands and thousands of recovery stories from AA or NA settings, but when I stepped in those rooms, I felt a deep sense of non-belonging.
When I attended AA meetings in Philadelphia, after introducing myself in the group: “Hi, my name is Gabrielle and I’m an alcoholic,” I felt like a phony. Something within me knew that I wasn’t in the same boat of giving up my power to a liquid substance like alcohol or drugs.
Sobriety Without the Labels
So, will I ever drink again? Never is a strong word, and I am in the headspace of empowerment instead of lack. Again, I don’t follow AA rules. I follow more of an outlook like Dr. Adi Jaffe who cohosts the podcast “IGNDT podcast.” Dr. Adi guides addicts through a recovery process that differs from the original platform and empowers his clients through different aspects and new wave perspectives of substance recovery.
He and his wife Sophie speak openly about their work, which has a refreshing angle to the whole “sobriety” realm. This way of healing has helped me realized I am not a prisoner to my past, and I can make space in my life to have a balance between living a clean and sober life, while integrating a healthy way to drink at some point in social settings if it feels right and in alignment.
So yes, I’ll probably have a drink at a special event like a wedding but for now, I am completely content in this cleansed lifestyle.
Clean from drugs. Clean from toxic sex. Reclaiming my power and self-worth through cultivating a legitimate clean slate.
Mind, body, and soul.
For a deep dive about sobriety, meditation meetings, support groups, and manifesting healing, listen to Gab’s podcast, “The Vibe Within.” And check out these two powerful episodes: 2020 Clarity and Health = Wealth and Finding Community, Support Group Meetings.