Recovery from addiction through yoga

Esther has kindly shared her story of recovery from addiction, and self empowerment.

Esther Nagle created a mask and comfort blanket out of alcohol for over 20 years. Wracked with self loathing and shame, she had virtually no other coping strategies in life besides drinking. When life got difficult, that coping strategy made things worse, and Esther surrendered into a breakdown.

That led her to Yoga teacher training, and her salvation. Through Yoga she learned tools that helped her reach a place where she no longer needed alcohol. This showed her that Yoga is far more powerful than she ever realised, and she realised she had a message to share.

Esther is the author of “Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga”. Esther is a Yoga teacher and public speaker, and the host of the new podcast Sober Living Rocks. She writes about her journey on her websites Sober Living Rocks and Balance and Breathe

Esther Nagle at Om Studio

In 2013, after 20 years of alcohol dependence, and depression, and 8 months of the hardest year of my life, I had a breakdown. I was the single mother of 3, two of whom still lived with me, a 3 year old and a 16 year old. My resilience was at an all time low, I had life hitting me from all angles with work problems, family health problems, a vicious breakup and court proceedings with the father of my youngest, who had managed to destroy what little self esteem and sanity I had throughout our relationship.

In August of 2013 I realised I could actually cope no longer, and, in a state of complete overwhelm, quit my job and fell into a vat of cider as I tried to cope with my breakdown. I spent the next few months crying, drinking, sleeping really badly, and making very erratic decisions before calming down a little and starting to think about what I was going to do once my government benefits ran out. I knew that the 9-5, commuting to sit in an office wasn’t going to work for me anymore, so I needed a new plan.

I had been going to yoga classes for a number of years, and it was one of the things I really loved in life. I had long wanted to become a yoga teacher, but had never been able to find a course that worked for me. I started looking again, and, as though the universe was lining it up for me, at the same time a local teacher started advertising her first teacher training course. I signed up and immediately felt myself begin to calm down a little.

The course started in April 2014, and within a matter of days my mind was being blown as I discovered aspects to Yoga I had never heard of in the 6 years I had been attending classes. I had thought Yoga was a physical exercise class, but I was learning how it could change me and my life at the deepest levels imaginable.

Through the practices and course work I started to unravel the knots that had existed in me for so long I didn’t even know they were there. I learned to properly relax. I learned the magic that happens when you start to pay attention to the breath and learn to breathe properly. I started to see patterns and identify the source of behaviours I had always just accepted as evidence of my flaky and unstable personality, and began to change them. I developed a new, positive outlook not only on my present, but on my past, seeing lessons and gifts in the pain of the past.

After just the first 7 months I was a different person entirely, and on October 12 2014, I woke up with the worst hangover ever, and made a life changing decision. True, I had made the ‘I’m never doing this again’ declaration many times in the past, but I had never really meant it before. I knew wihtout a doubt that I preferred waking up sober, and I no longer needed the comfort blanket of alcohol to help me hide from my problems. I had gained enough insight into myself not to tell myself I was quitting, and risk triggering my self sabotage, so spent the next few weeks making a daily decision that I was ‘not drinking today’. When I attended my brother’s wedding 6 weeks later, and shunned the endlessly flowing red wine in favour of Elderflower cordial, and had a really good time, I knew I had turned a corner. From that moment on I started talknig about quitting drinking, and, singificantly, started to finally be honest with myself and others about the nature of the problem I had lived with for 20 years. I had been an alcoholic in total denial and had risked so much to hide my addiction. Finally being able to talk about it, to be comfortable in discussing it with loved ones and strangers alike felt like a weight lifted from my shoulders.

I have been sober and smoke free (I quit smoking the same day, but seem to forget about that, despite having smoked for longer than I was drinking alcoholically, and being asthmatic!) for over 2 years, and at no time have I come close to a lapse. I know that this was completely down to the deep inner work I did through Yoga.

I was truly amazed to learn the power of Yoga, It is not just an exercise class, not just relaxation and meditation. Yoga is a system for living that addresses our whole being, how we live, how we speak, how we think, what we do to and with our bodies, minds and souls. It can improve how we relate to ourselves and to others. It can help us to defeat old habits and create new, more positive ones. Any change you want to make in life can be helped by adopting Yoga principles into your life.

I would love to hear how Yoga has impacted on your life, or how you have created positive change in your life

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