My name is Kyczy and I am a recovering addict and alcoholic.
SF in the late 60’s! What a place for an alienated, frightened headstrong teenager to be. With a heart of a socially conscious rebel and the constitution of an addict I was let loose in a city that had the answer to my fears. As early as 9th grade I got into pot and diet pills, the summer before high school into protest marches and red wine, high school added acid and other drugs to the mix and it was off to the races. During this same period of time, as the oldest child and responsible one in a family that was coming apart at the seams – I tried to keep things together at home. I had been the good daughter, doing shopping, cleaning house, making dinners and bossing the younger sibs around for what felt like years. I couldn’t change that, it was who I was. My youthful “controlled drinking and using” meant that I had to be down and semi sober by late afternoon in order to get home to cook and do homework. At that point in my using career I was still trying to be a good girl. It was a pattern that would follow me through my addiction years. I walked a tightrope both internally and externally between being a good and eager student, friend and daughter and being a wild protesting politically active drinker and drug user. While I believed strongly in the political action against the war in Vietnam, and social change for both racial and gender equality, I was enchanted with drugs and alcohol and ended most marches and rallies going home with some older guy to get high, rather than with activists to write and plan for another day’s activities. I would sneak back home late at night and get up in a few hours to hitchhike to school and start the whole cycle over again. My bad behavior leaked into the home and I ran away a couple of times. I threatened to drop out of high school but accelerated through my studies having decided to graduate early – I was that unsure of my ability to continue the duplicitous life of the good girl / bad girl. I couldn’t keep the two lives apart. The complaisant student was no longer discernable from the full blown addict. After graduating from high school mid year at 17, I soon left home.
In and out of Jr. College, in and out of relationships, taking minimum wage jobs and hanging out with the kids who had or were to drop out of high school – I continued my drug and alcohol use. I did so until I embarked on my first geographic – moving to Colorado. Not before getting pregnant and deciding to keep the baby. I moved with the love of my life – hoping that the opportunities near Boulder would keep me straight and allow for us to make a regular “normal” life. However “wherever you go – there you are”; I was still a depressed, insecure, frightened, dependent girl. I was leaning on “him” to give me security and focus, I had no real employment skills – I was still a mess. I went back to doing what I knew how to do: the good girl in me volunteered in the elementary school, and the addict side worked in the local bar at night. Pregnancy made me nauseous and for a few months I was unable to drink. I was not a sane person; between youth, hormones, being large with a child, jealous of all women, and alone in the rural part of an unknown state, I was unkind and dependent, frightened and demanding. And that was before I started drinking again. As soon as my daughter was born I was back at it. Working in the bar made drinking affordable and it was all I did. I drank for entertainment, for distraction, and as an excuse for all the hell we put one another through. The relationship with “him” broke up, drama ensued and another baby was conceived.
Back to school, this time pregnancy could tolerate drinking so drink I did. Work in a bar, tend the child, go to school and study. For 5 long months I exhausted my body and mind with the cycle of school, mom-ing and working on the weekends. I again came to the edge of insanity and tipped right over. I created drama to re-unite myself and children with their father (unsuccessful), I finished my semester at University (successful) and moved back to California (geographic number 2). I had enlisted the help of friends to get me back to CA, they housed me and comforted me until I could find a place to live. With public assistance I was able to rent a place and enroll in school again. So the “good girl” part wanted to become a good mother, a good student, and employable. The bad part found IV drugs. I remained enrolled in school, gave birth to my second child, and had addicts and dealers in the house. I was part of the parent participation nursery school my daughter attended, was a member of a board of directors of a local non-profit, attended single mothers’ group meetings and went to college. I drank like a fish and used drugs. The 3 of us were incredibly fortunate that we were not hurt or harmed as the result of the lifestyle I exposed us to. With access to very little money – trade and barter were the methods I used to get what I needed. Alcohol and drugs were not for entertainment anymore – they were a requirement for daily living. Friends were betrayed, behavior was so bad that friends were lost, family was disappointed time and time again for broken promises and unreliable agreements. Even simple jobs like doing house painting for cash seemed to become beyond my ability. Once again I rushed through school to be certain I could finish – without a job skill but with a diploma. Relationships were trashed and eventually “falling in love” and moving in with a dealer was a reasonable solution to my using needs.
I was able to apply for and keep a receptionist job after graduation. Not quite what I imagined after having obtained a BA degree. I was ill suited for anything else. I quit IV drugs and stuck to all other methods of consumption as my dealer boyfriend frowned on IV use. I was now a round the clock drinker – my daily cut off was 5am – I had to be at work at 8:30 am and I thought that my breath would be clear after 3 hours. I worked 8 hours a day, picked the children up from preschool, stopped at a small corner market for a quart of rum, and went home to hole up, pretend to be mom, put the kids to bed and drink until morning. I did this for several years, breaking down my body, puffing up with the high sugar content of the alcohol, and living on poor food and little sleep. I ended up breaking all promises to my kids about trips to the zoo, the beach, the park, going outside. I often lost track of having fed them at night and would frequently dress them in dirty clothes due to the fact I had forgotten their laundry at the Laundromat until it had closed at night. I became so worn down and paranoid that I could not longer make decisions at a store, make change, answer the door or phone at home. Work became increasingly challenging and I was an emotional wreck.
One night I sat on the edge of the bed – no special night, no special event, no difference between that night and any other – when I thought “I cannot go on, I cannot do this anymore”. It was unclear in my mind as to whether “this” referred to taking care of the kids and going to work OR whether “this” referred to drinking and using. I felt strongly that I could not do both, and if I chose to continue to drink and use – my kids would go, the job would go, and my actual SELF would go – my authentic genuine inside soul/self would drift away. I would walk out the door and not return – go into the arms of who ever could or would keep me high. I felt as if I could actually see my core being as a mist in front of my eyes; the choice between dissipating or integrating as fragile as my next breath.
I moved to the phone to call a friend who, rumor had it, was sober. She answered her phone and eagerly agreed to meet me and take me to an AA meeting the next day. I had my last drink that night.
Drugs did not leave me that easily. While I remained clean and sober for under 3 months, I knew I had to move away from the “guy” – he was, after all, also a dealer. So I moved so San Jose, what was to be my final geographic, hoping that a new town would separate me from my obsessions. My need for “him” was all balled up with my need for drugs and I was unable to keep them separate for quite some time. I finally broke up with him, cutting myself off from the supply and started a clean and sober life. I had not been honest in my meetings about the drug use, so I had not sought support in cleaning up. I slipped one final time – drinking a pint of cough syrup I had no business owning. That was 25 years ago.
During the last 2 plus decades I have raised my family, returned to school and obtained a professional degree, foraged a career, seen my parents through their final illnesses and my brother through a life changing accident. I have made friends with my family, and family out of my friends.
The road to emotional and spiritual health was not smooth. I was so rummy in my first meetings that I cannot tell you much about them. Some people can remember with enviable clarity their first meeting, their first work with a sponsor. That was not to be the case for me. This was due to a few reasons: I was very sick and, after the first five months I returned to drug use for another year. So while I stepped into the rooms July 5, 1983; my clean and sober date is April 29, 1985. I had continued to attend meetings almost daily to work with (and with hold the truth from my sponsor) this whole time. It wasn’t until I was ready to “go out” and use again in order to re-establish a “new” sobriety date that I finally told the truth at a meeting. I had heard a woman share who had done the same thing: had continued to use as she had continued to attend meetings. I felt nothing but compassion for her; I did not feel pity, I did not sit in judgment, I did not scorn her: I felt compassion. And as I listened and looked around the room I saw the same emotions on their faces: compassion, concern and care. I stood up with a burning desire to share and told everyone my story of self betrayal. And they loved me, too. I eventually went to all of my regular meetings; changing my sobriety date out loud and feeling humility with that action of amends. Now I could really dig into my steps for a second time with renewed honesty and more self awareness. While I had made honest amends the first time through, for all the issues and events I could remember and understand at that time; I had a new appreciation for who I had been and who I wanted to be. That gave me a finer comb with which to remove the tangles of my past. It was as if a fog or screen had been removed between my best inner self and others: I could listen with my whole heart, respond honestly from the totality of my being and be a sponsor myself. I could “give so freely that which had been given to me” – acceptance and empathy.
With the madness of having lived the lie of deception in my early “sobriety” I truly found the unmanageability of my diseases. I realized that I would have to include and rely on a power greater than myself for resolution and guidance, that I could become whole and find my genuine authentic self, and that there were still moral wrong turns to evaluate and evacuate. Once I understood at a more sophisticated level what I still had to address in my actions with myself and others; I looked for the themes of these imperfections and figure out the root causes. Fear, guilt, and insecurity were my main motivations in negative behavior. I then looked to address these root causes so that I would be less likely to continue bad actions based on these defects. I wanted to learn to trust myself and trust my relations with others. This took a lot of pick and shovel work. Where direct or actual indirect amends were to be made I became ready. With my sponsor I determined when and how to do this. Some people I had contacted the first time through and I needed to go back for “seconds”. I had to determine if this return was for myself or for them. What was my motive - yes with this review of the steps I learned at a deeper level that my motives mattered – even more than my intentions. Some amends, as we say, are living amends. I had to change how I acted and reacted with people. I had to be who I wanted to be, not who I wanted them to THINK I was. That takes a lot of attention and for this alcoholic and addict I had to really slow down. I think fast and act faster. I had to think, rethink, and then act. A truly enormous change. And one I didn’t get, truly understand, right away. And for that we are given the 10th Step. I was able to reevaluate my choices and my actions daily. Sometimes I am able to see quickly and sometimes slowly where I have been in error in my behavior. I also had to look at my thinking patterns to see where I went wrong. And even more deeply I had to look at how I thought about myself, how I treated myself and how I nurtured myself. I owed a big amend to me. This awareness came through my prayer and meditation. I needed to know what my spiritual road was and how to proceed. This is an ongoing search and I am patient. I tried organized religion, I tried me-ism, I tried “him” again, and I am on a very comfortable path now of worshiping the divinity in us all. I have my group of wise people who demonstrate the life I want to lead and advise me along the way. I have been able to take these principles into my, to weave them into my daily activities and in my relationships with my husband, children and grandchildren. I have been able to weave them into my daily activities and my relationship with myself.
I have had the opportunity to work with many women, to bring meetings into jails and institutions, to learn from every person I have met a little more about myself and a little more about “living life on life’s terms”. Often I cannot see a path or solution to an issue in my own life, but hear about it from another person in a meeting or sharing on an individual basis. I cannot see it for myself but am able, magically, to propose it to another. That is the how the program works- each person speaking about the best they wish for inside themselves and offering the best they have to one another; freely with out the expectation of acknowledgement or attachment to the result. This is a gift.
Once the abstinence was firmly a part of my life, once I had dealt with the wreckage of my past, once I was solidly involved in living daily life practicing the principles of the 12 Step program I still had an inner landscape to explore.
As I moved down the path in sobriety I found the need to heal my body – to get into movement, to rehabilitate my stagnant physiology. As my children grew up I had more opportunities to be on my own and could walk, try classes at a gym, even to take a dance class. Each of these had physical health as a focus and I became more fit and strong (initially I could only manage a walk around my block, eventually I came to be able to run a 10 mile race). Physical health was only one aspect of the recovery I sought.
I went to a church and hung around with people who had a spiritual life and a spiritual quest. I belonged to an anti war / non violence group. I was patch-working together solutions to my over all needs for a holistic answer to my longing. I was unsure what physical discipline could address my need to move into my body, and into my spirit, and into my recovery. And then I found yoga.
I do not have a flexible body, I do have a flexible mind. I am aware of my physical limitations, my desire for the integration of body, mind and spirit has no such limits. I was afraid of stepping into a yoga studio for the fear of not fitting in, lack of capability, and being “not as good as”. I actually had to try a few yoga studios to find one with a heart, the one that had room for the inquiring uncertain student in me. I had heard and read enough to know that there was more than the postures, there was reason for the breath and that the practice could provide me with a doorway. Sobriety had reached a plateau, my spiritual investigations had moved me away from a church – but toward something more defined than “Good Orderly Direction” or “Group Of Drunks” (as we say in AA).
My investigation into yoga started with the body and in finding a style that suited me. I eventually found it. Hatha yoga taught me to feel my insides clearly – to practice something difficult, sometime physically stressful, that led to inner peace. Unlike competitive activities, in Yoga I was being taught to explore my physical limits in balance and breath, with love and acceptance for where I was, moment by moment. The philosophy of yoga also intrigued me; my teachers were generous with their time and wisdom. In yoga was another way to look at recovery; with tenets, disciplines and observances that sometimes mirrored, sometimes complimented, and sometimes expanded on what I had been doing in 12 Step recovery. I was able to use what I had been learning on the mat about my approach to life and self discovery, apply the new philosophy and terms to enrich my 11th Step Prayer and Meditation beyond measure. I was truly being rocketed into what the Big Book of AA describes as the “4th Dimension”, one day at a time, one practice at a time, one discovery at a time.
So, in health, I was “off to the races” again. Studying yoga, yoga philosophy, becoming a yoga teacher, taking workshops and going on retreats to figure out how I could bring the beauty of yoga to those in recovery. I left my professional job and took to the streets trying to find a way to bring my passion for yoga to the sober and newly sober. I have been fortunate enough to be able to bring these principles into my work – I work in facilities that treat addictions and the results of a life of addiction: detention centers and halfway houses. I also work with at risk youth and the disenfranchised in community centers that serve the homeless and transients. I am blessed. I teach yoga. I bring the skills of mindful breathing and gentle movements, the benefits of relaxation in a safe environment to the people I work with.
I am still evolving, still excavating the years of bad decisions and actions to come to a remain with my true self. Service helps, meetings help, yoga helps. A daily reprieve form my spiritual malady is attention to my spirit – fresh and new each day – each sunrise a new beginning.
Namaste – Keep Coming Back – to the meetings and to the mat.
I live in Northern California and work part time managing a yoga studio, part time teaching yoga at halfway houses, detention centers and schools for at risk youth as well as in other venues where people in recovery can attend yoga classes. I am also a potter, teaching and selling my pieces at events several times a year. I am currently writing a book on Recovery and Yoga.