Voice of Recovery: Esther

Name: Esther Nagle
Age: 44
Location: Rhondda, Wales, UK
Recovery Date: October 12, 2014
Recovering From: Booze, weed, cigarettes
About Esther: I am a writer, yoga teacher, stress in recovery coach and speaker. I am a single mother of 3 amazing souls. I love music, walking, yoga, learning, reading, and dancing.
Website: Balance and Breathe
Twitter: @EstherNagle
Facebook: @BalanceBreathe


Q. Before you entered recovery, what did you think the “thing” you were addicted to gave you, did for you, etc.?

A. It gave me confidence and ‘fun’, but more than that it gave me a place to hide, a way to numb, to pretend I was happy, to pretend I liked my life, and a way to ‘deal with’ stress and self loathing. I learned from a very young age that if I drank enough I could stop feeling for a while, and forget about my problems. It also ‘helped me sleep’…but I had to stay awake till 1am to get drunk enough to get to sleep, and struggled to wake up in the morning!

Q. Now that you are in recovery, what have you learned about that “thing?”

A. It was ALL lies! Everything I thought alcohol gave to me it actually took from me in bucketloads! I realised that I was creating a lot of the stressful situations I lived through so I had a justification to drink, and waking up hungover most days and having to be a full time employed mother created a tonne of stress and unhappiness. My confidence was non existent when there was no booze, but it wasn’t real when there was booze. The emotions I tried to numb manifested themselves in so many ways they might as well have been standing in front of me waving flags! I got myself into so many situations I wouldn’t have done had i been sober I often marvel that i survived it all!

Q. How are you recovering (e.g., 12-step program, rehab, counseling, on your own, etc.)?

A. I had a breakdown, trained to be a yoga teacher, and through what I learned there, the coping strategies I developed, the ability to sit with my emotions, to forgive myself and let go of resentment and so much more transformed my life and one day I realised that the price of my drunkenness was no longer worth paying. Yoga and writing have kept me sober, as well as knowing how much happier I feel – I cannot imagine wanting to wake up in the morning knowing that I have thrown that away by drinking again.

Q. In recovery, how do you give yourself what you thought that “thing” provided?

A. I look in the mirror most days and smile a big loving smile at myself. I often look at my before and after pics and give thanks for how much better I looked (much of my self esteem problems came from body image issues, so feeling that I look good, while I know it is not the most important thing, gives me some of the confidence I need. Writing really helps me to process my emotions instead of drown them. I have self respect now, which I never had before. I achieved my life goal of writing a book, and whenever I feel crappy about myself I remind myself that I got sober and wrote a book about it, therefore I can do anything! When I get stressed I take big deep breaths, go for a walk, do some yoga, write stuff down, dance, talk it out, or sleep. But the biggest thing that gives me the boost I need is knowing that my youngest son is safe in my care, and that he has NO recollection of seeing me drunk. He is happy, and I wake up every morning before him, and am able to care for him in the night should he ever wake. Knowing I am a good mum is a great way to remind myself that I am in a good place!

Q. What was your “rock bottom” or “breaking point” when you realized you needed to change?

A. 2013 was a massively difficult year for me, with problems in my work, close family and a savage break up with my youngest son’s father to contend with. This was roughly year 20 of an addiction I had never really acknowledged, so I was numbing myself to epic proportions. One night, I was listening to a song (I appear missing’ by Queens of the Stone Age, while drinking and smoking like it was going out of fashion, when it hit me that the song was telling me exactly how I felt! I was out of control in my life, and it took someone else’s words, that I had been listening to as addictively as I was drinking, to show me just how bad things had got. A few weeks later I quit my job and fell gladly into a full breakdown. This led eventually to my decision to train as a yoga teacher, which led to my recovery within 7 months of the 13 month course. This story is expanded upon in a post I wrote.

Q. What has been the hardest part of recovery so far?

A. The immediate shrinking of my social circle. ALL the people I used to hang out with were drinkers, and a lot of them fell by the wayside when I stopped drinking. I understand, I am not sure I would have been able to handle someone like me in my life when I was determined to carry on drinking, WAY too uncomfortable to be around, but it is hard to deal with sometimes. Where i live, there is little else to do in the evenings but drink, so it is hard to meet people. As a single mum I don’t always get to go out when I want to, so have realised recently that I am starting to feel really quite lonely. Not an easy thing to admit, but good to do it. This might be the first time i have done so in public, thank you!

Q. What about recovery has been easier than you had anticipated?

A. EVERYTHING ELSE! I thought life without booze would be unbearable, but it is actually the complete opposite. The loneliness I mention above is a new thing, because for the first 2 years I actually really enjoyed my time alone – meeting myself properly and learning to like me was a necessary and enjoyable journey. I found i was able to sleep properly, i like getting up early in the mornings, I can deal with stress in different ways, and I smile a lot more.

Q. What has helped you the most in recovery?

A. Yoga, writing, music

Q. Who has helped you the most in recovery?

A. My yoga teacher, my close friends, my youngest brother, my kids, the people I have connected with through the online recovery and female entrepreneur community, and myself! (oh, and George Harrison. He might be long deceased, but if it wasn’t for George Harrison, I might never have discovered Yoga, and I might not be sober, or alive today. I am getting his Dark Horse record label logo tattooed on my arm on the anniversary of his death in November, I have waited 25 years for it and I am beside myself with excitement!)

Q. What has been the biggest surprise about recovery?

A. That it is fun and enjoyable. That I can enjoy life without booze, and I am less bored in life than I was drunk.

Q. What role has family played in your recovery?

A. support, love, and i know they are proud of me

Q. Knowing what you do now, what would you tell your pre-recovery self about recovery?

A. you’re going to be just fine and you’re going to love it, there really is nothing to be scared of

Q. What would you say to someone who is thinking about recovery?

A. take a deep breath, honour yourself for recognising that you need to do this, get someone to talk to, and do it…it really is the best gift you can ever give yourself

If there is anything else you want to add, please do …

I think recovery is essentially the development of resilience and stress management strategies. Yoga, in particular breathing, relaxation and mindset practices, are a powerful tool to help in this. I highly recommend that you try yoga, and don’t give up if you don’t like the first teacher you come across – keep going and you will find one that works for you

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