By Sarah Barnes
Its fourth of July 2014, I’m fast asleep clutching a water bottle full of gin and my friends are dying of laughter because they can’t pry it out of my arms.
I’ve had a long time, on and off again love affair with alcohol. So when I decided to embark on a 90-day alcohol fast – my friends laughed in my face.
Joke’s on them though. As I sit here typing to you from paradise, also known as Blue Osa Yoga retreat and Spa in Costa Rica where I live and volunteer, I am approaching 90 days without alcohol.
But to understand the present and shape the future, I have to go back.
My 90 Day Alcohol Fast: Why it had NOTHING to do with Alcohol
I know what you’re thinking…I am supposed to let go of the past in order to move forward – that’s what people say, right?
As a yoga teacher by trade this is something I tell my students during almost every class:
“With each inhale wrap your breath around whatever doesn’t serve you any longer, and with each exhale visualize it leaving your body through your fingers, toes and head.”
To let go is wonderful advice when it comes to stress and dealing with situations I just can’t change. On the other hand, when it is time to take a good look at my life and begin a transformation, looking back is the first step to breaking the unhealthy cycles I’ve tumbled through over the past eight years.
Jump back to 2014. I am a ladder-climbing, top-notch lead spokesperson at a major alumina refinery about to go through a career-making contract negotiations with its union. I have my own apartment, tons of friends, a side job teaching yoga and more money than I know what to do with; but true to my gypsy soul – I am still searching for something more.
Turn the clock further back. During my college and early career days I explore that “something more” in dating and indulging in as many people as I can, gallivanting about the town on school/work nights, constantly filling my waking hours with activities, and drinking my way in to social normalcies during all of this. I’m pretty sure during these eight years unless I am deathly ill…I say yes to any and all invitations.
For my youthful and noncommittal soul the social aspect of drinking is a huge draw.
A somewhat shy person, entering college, and even worse my first career, is an exceptionally terrifying frontier without anyone to protect me from awkward situations.
A secret elixir – alcohol fills my voids, takes the sting out of rough days and softens questionable decisions.
I’ve always known this habit of numbing my intuition and justifying my actions with alcohol is unhealthy for both my mind and body, but I couldn’t stop indulging in the late-night meals, noncommittal and over dramatic relationships and binge drinking fiestas that made me feel like I was a part of something.
That I was cared about and loved. That I was living life to the fullest.I still can’t believe how wrong I was.
Leaping forward to 2015, I said, “adios” to the corporate life, sold my possessions and am residing in Costa Rica with the space I need to further pursue yoga and a healthier lifestyle.
The decision to completely upheave my life and volunteer for three months may seem crazy to some or inspirational to others, but to me it was a long time coming.
Blue Osa is a venue for yoga, healing and spiritual retreats, but deep down at its roots it is home to the myriads of volunteers that have cycled through. The resort, nestled in the biodiverse Osa Peninsula, is by no means rustic but sitting 11 km outside of the nearest town we definitely live in somewhat of a bubble.
Bubble or no bubble, the smell of wine wafting from the other volunteer’s glass across the table can still make me crave just a tiny sip.
As I am a human just like all of you, I allow myself to feel these emotions and then dig deep as to why I really want that temporary fulfillment of a desire versus the long-term reward of my goal.
By taking another breath, evaluating the actual desire and choosing to say no to something I enjoy, sometimes in excess, I feel like I am taking back control.
I finally realize by drinking after a long day or rough breakup I have created a habit of rewarding and reinforcing my insecurities instead of dealing with them as they arise.
My relationships at Blue Osa are also different—they’re real. Each one is built through initially awkward moments, emotional days and quiet nights when all the guests are fast asleep.
I finally started to notice the legitimacy of our friendships here during a long hug and nuzzle with Christopher, one of the brand new volunteers here. Although he has barely been here a week our bond is strong.
It still amazes me how much changing one self-destructive behavior cascades into handfuls of positive ones.
I now sit in a local coffee shop, Café Monka to be exact, detailing out this journey to you. For logical reasons it was difficult focusing at Blue Osa as it is always in an energized state and as the end of May approaches and this chapter comes to a close, I am feeling the pangs of uncertainty about leaving my new home here in Costa Rica; all of the smells, sounds and sensations of the jungle and the simple life that I have come to know.
Volunteering in the Osa Peninsula has afforded me so much space to sit in my skin and really feel whole.
Without the influence of alcohol I had to feel every emotion that arose from the moment I entered Blue Osa.
I reckon I won’t really know if I’ve completely bid adieu to spirits altogether until placed in a new reality, one that might not be as understanding of my new life choices, but the fact that my journey began in such an open and accepting place, I’d say, is a good start.
Now if I could just quit the coffee…but that’s another story for another time.
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About the Author
Sarah Barnes is a level 200 Registered Yoga Teacher, photographer, writer/blogger, communications professional and owner of Modern Warrior Yoga. Sarah is an alumni of Texas Tech University where she graduated with International Business and a Photo Communications degrees. She recently left her job as the lead spokesperson for Sherwin Alumina Company to explore the world and is currently volunteering at Blue Osa as a blogger, photographer and yoga instructor.