Editor’s note: The author of this piece chooses to use “alcoholism” and “alcoholic” to describe individuals with alcohol use disorder. It is The Temper’s policy to refer to persons who have an addiction to drugs and alcohol without using these terms. The author’s choice of wording in this piece reflects their point of view and not the policies or viewpoint of The Temper.
The day my life changed started out like many others. I woke up hungover, stumbled my way into my windowless basement apartment bathroom, and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Shame washed over me as I looked at my reflection. Puffy, red eyes with dark circles adorning the space beneath them. Gaunt cheekbones, paler-than-my-usual-pale skin. I looked hollowed out, a shell of the person I once was, of the woman I longed to be. I quickly looked away, disgusted with myself and my excessive drinking.
Deep in the throes of my alcoholism, I woke up every morning cloaked in shame and promised myself that today would be the day I stopped drinking. But inevitably, I’d make excuses for myself as the day wore on. “I worked hard, I deserve a drink.” “My friend canceled on dinner plans, so what else am I going to do?” “My dog peed on the bed again, I need a drink.” Full of self-loathing, I’d walk to the liquor store and buy myself a bottle of wine, my “reward” for whatever made-up excuse I’d created that day. Apart from my outer appearance, I hid my drinking well. If an unexpected guest showed up at my door, I’d quickly hide the empty wine bottles from the previous days in the furnace room. My friends knew I loved to party; I was the friend who everyone knew you had to “tuck in” for the night after a long night of drinking. But no one — not even my closest friends — knew I drank alone every night of the week, party or not.
On the morning my life changed, I got dressed and went to a nearby McDonald’s for some greasy food — my usual “cure” for my empty, roiling stomach and thudding head. On a whim, I entered the Goodwill store that stood next to McDonald’s and walked straight to the bookshelf, where I found a book called Remembering the Future, written by a Reiki practitioner/intuitive named Colette Baron Reid.
At the time, I wasn’t particularly spiritual. In fact, I thought anything metaphysical was hogwash. But something compelled me to spend 50 cents on the book and, with a stomach full of greasy food, I went home and read the entire book in two days.
A recovering alcoholic, the author used Reiki — a form of energy healing — to get sober after some horrific, alcohol-fueled events occurred that drove her to give up drinking.
It wasn’t that I was particularly taken by the subject matter or poetic writing (of which there was none). I continued reading the book because I was surprised to find so many parallels in my story and that of the author’s. Not only did we share a birthday, but she too found herself living in Toronto after the end of a failed long-term relationship. A recovering alcoholic, she’d used Reiki — a form of energy healing — to get sober after some horrific, alcohol-fueled events occurred that drove her to give up drinking. Seeing myself in the author’s story, I registered for a Reiki course the following day.
As I learned the healing modality of Reiki, I began to feel a shift within myself. My teacher told me I was a “natural”, which gave me a boost of confidence that I was sorely lacking at that point in my life.
Knowing that I was able to use my hands and energy for the good of others gave me a purpose — one that I wasn’t sure I would ever find only months prior. As I began to spend more time giving Reiki to others, I also learned to use it on myself. What I had previously thought was complete bunk began to transform my life, the way I saw myself, and my consumption of alcohol. I practiced Reiki on myself and others every chance I got, and found it to be healing. Whether it was a placebo effect or actually energy healing didn’t seem to matter — my life was changing.
As I learned the healing modality of Reiki, I began to feel a shift within myself.
Reiki itself didn’t make me sober, but it gave me enough inner strength to realize that I did have the capability to go a night (or even a week!) without getting drunk to the point of passing out. It gave me a renewed sense of enjoyment in life. This healing modality helped me find the self-love I needed in order to join AA and get completely sober.
My journey to sobriety wasn’t without its struggles and Reiki wasn’t a cure-all. I still had to do the work and there were many times when I felt like giving up and turning to the bottle once more. When those moments happened, I would turn away from my cravings and instead turn inward, focusing on the principles I’d learned from Reiki in order to stay sober.
There are days that I am tempted by the lure of alcohol. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and sometimes I get dreamy about my relationship to alcohol, remembering the warm buzz rather than the out-of-control feelings, the damaged relationships, and the morning after self-loathing. When I feel myself yearning for a drink, I instead turn to Reiki to keep myself grounded and sober.
There was a time when “divine intervention” was a term I’d scoff at. But finding that book in Goodwill all those years ago feels as close to divine intervention as I can get. I can’t help but believe that something larger than me helped me find that book, that it was meant for me to find that day.
When I feel myself yearning for a drink, I instead turn to Reiki to keep myself grounded and sober.
Now with years of sobriety under my belt, I continue to use Reiki in my professional and personal life. I use it to help babies and toddlers sleep better, I use it in my volunteer work with palliative hospital patients, I use it to conjure up lottery winnings (kidding!). Every Reiki student learns the five principles in the first class, and I still use them to this day: “Just for today, I release angry thoughts and feelings. I release thoughts of worry. I’m grateful for my many blessings. I practice expanding my consciousness. I’m gentle with all beings, including myself.”
Today and every day, I am grateful. I am sober. I am free.