May 28 | Uncategorized |
Author’s Note: When Abby posted months ago on Instagram celebrating her sobriety anniversary, I could not have been more shocked at what I read. Abby was the first instructor I ever had at YogaSix, and she is described by me, as well as other students in our studio, as “wonderful” and “zen.” To hear she was once an alcoholic was a story I knew had to be told, because to see how she is now, also a new mother, is incredibly powerful and moving. Telling her story is truly an honor, and I hope it will touch you as much as it did me.
There was a time when Abby Vernon decided to end her life. Taking pills and texting her then-husband it was time to go—her scars, both emotional and physical, had become too much to bear. She had written a note, for the second time. This wasn’t the first time she tried to commit suicide, but she was determined to succeed this time.
Despite having just found out about his cheating, her then-husband came through after seeing her desperate, cryptic goodbye messages. He called 911, and the police came to Abby’s house and saved her. If they hadn’t come, she would have died.
Abby had gotten out of rehab days before, after doing a 30-day treatment for her alcoholism. While the rehab was successful, her world came crashing down again when she found out her then-husband had been unfaithful during her time in rehab. Her entire world was wrapped up in this man. When the cheating came to light, “I felt like I had no one,” she said.
She had met him in AA, where she had gone off and on. Having taken her first sip of alcohol at age 14, she instantly loved it. Its deep and vicious claws had sunken deep into her and she quickly became addicted to it. For Abby, drinking solved all of her problems. Like many teenagers, she was anxious, shy, reserved, and sometimes depressed. But drinking alcohol felt like all of those issues disappeared. She no longer felt anxious. Her shyness was gone. She was confident and she felt good about herself. She was drunk.
The drinking became worse throughout the rest of her teenage years, and at that point, “there was no turning back. I needed to drink,” she said. Her friends got drunk with her, but later realized Abby was more than a weekend partier. They eventually told her, “You have a problem.”
She soon started getting into trouble with the law, getting a DUI. She drank so much most days that she would black out, unable to remember what had happened the day or night before.
By the time she turned 27, she tried AA, and was able to stay sober for about a year and a half. There, was where she met someone. He was charming, charismatic, and sober. Just what Abby thought she needed at the time. They got married in Vegas, and her sobriety came to halt, again, and the drinking picked back up. She was beyond help at that point. Despite her family and friends’ attempted interventions, he helped get Abby into rehab.
The rehab worked, she was released, and then—news of the cheating. The pain she felt needed to be dulled. She couldn’t feel. She couldn’t allow herself to feel. She couldn’t allow herself to process the pain. She had to do something—so she started drinking again, and then, even that wasn’t enough to conceal her pain. So, she attempted suicide.
Once she was released from the hospital, she tried to make it work with her then-husband, who asked her not to drink, and Abby obliged. That was day one.
For years, Abby attended Core Power Yoga off and on, more for exercise purposes than anything else. But this time, while sober, combined with therapy, outpatient treatments, and AA, she became dedicated to her practice. “It helped everything come together,” she said. “I finally felt safe in my own body.” A feeling she had not known, or felt, in almost fifteen years.
Her teachers could see Abby’s transformation in her practice, and the emotion it brought out in her. They told her it was okay to stay in child’s pose and cry if she needed. Many times, that is what she did. Rather than drinking, she had found a way to feel and express all those emotions she had tried to bury for so long. And they all came out on her mat.
Feeling was new to Abby. She didn’t know what it was like to experience her feelings. There was so much. But she felt good. Through her friends in AA, group therapy, and her yoga, she had found a support system. “Yoga was my home away from home,” she said.
While living with her mother in La Jolla during this time, she practiced yoga at the Prana Yoga Center. Within a few months, teacher training would commence, and one of her teachers said she should try it.
“Yoga was interesting, but it was never on my radar,” she said. That is, the teaching was never something she considered. After this teacher encouraged her to try teacher training, she decided to take the leap and do it.
Teaching training brought purpose back into Abby’s life. Everything had aligned to make this teacher training doable—she did yoga for trade, working at the front desk and doing whatever the studio needed.
Once the initial 200-hour teacher training was complete and teaching a community class, she started teaching at Prana.
Then, she decided to move out. The marriage couldn’t be salvaged. So she cut the cord.
Soon after, she jumped into an additional 300-hours of teacher training, while also working at the YogaSix in Solana Beach, which was then called Haute Yoga.
“I was finally hooked on something healthy,” she said. “It felt good to be passionate about something and I wanted to follow that.”
Months later, while working the front desk at Prana, one of the regular students in the owner’s Sunday class connected with Abby and they soon had a healthy relationship, even as friends. After being friends for a while, they started dating, and three months later, he proposed. They were married a year later.
Living close the Liberty Station YogaSix, Abby started teaching at that location while also working at the front desk. Soon, she had a full-time job, which “felt like [her] dream job,” she said. She was doing something healthy on all levels, while also helping other people.
“I think my biggest ‘aha moment’ was realizing if I can recover from this disease and find peace in my life and relationships, I can help others do the same.” Now, if Abby feels emotional pain, she allows herself to bear it, and express it. She cries, she yells, she gets the emotion out, she exercises, and talks about it.
For so many years in her life, it was, “have a drink and numb it out.” Now, she finally knows what it’s like to have hope in her life. Yoga has been her number one healing and empowering tool, and it’s brought her back to true self.
As the Regional Programming Manager of YogaSix in San Diego and Lead Teacher Trainer for Point Loma and 4S Ranch, Abby now feels she is doing the work she meant to do all long, by mentoring other future yoga teachers. Leading these teacher trainings has also prepared for her motherhood, when she had her daughter in September 2017—something she never thought was possible in her former life as an alcoholic. She can now raise her daughter with a clear mind and open heart, along with her supportive husband.
She’s hopeful, peaceful, and positive in her life now, seven years into her sobriety. Or, as I’d like to say, and I’m sure the rest of us at YogaSix Point Loma would say: a truly wonderful being, and, by all accounts, zen.