I'm in the process of packing for an extended trip, and got to thinking about the things that I have used in my recovery and sobriety that are now essentials in my life - the things that I use every day and that travel with me wherever I go. Kind of like "What's in my bag?", but without the Louis Vuitton or the Lara Bars.
1. Good tea.
It's ridiculous how much money I invest in tea these days (especially considering how much fucking coffee I drink). I probably have 40 containers of tea at my house. I use tea very much as I would have previously used drugs or alcohol - when I feel like I need something outside of myself, I boil water. There are some teas that have been instrumental in my healing and that I carry with me everywhere for their various calming or healing properties. For calming, I use Tulsi Original, Tulsi Sweet Rose, and Yogi Honey Lavender Stress Relief. For comfort or to lift my spirit, I use Numi Chocolate Pu-Erh , Yogi Chai Black, and Yogi Rooibos Chai. To help me sleep, I use Yogi Bedtime (knocks me the fuck out at night or brings me down when I'm anxious). I carry tea bags with me everywhere and use "in-case of emergency".
2. Essential oils.
There is a bigger story of why essential oils are so important in breaking addiction, but for this piece I'll just simply say that putting two drops of essential oil on your palms, rubbing your palms together, cupping your nose, and inhaling deeply is some of the best medicine I have found. I carry lavender and doTerra Breathe (a mint blend) with me everywhere I go, and when I feel like I can't breath, I'm anxious, depressed, I might scream, or I need to remember what the earth smells like while I am walking by a man pooping on the sidewalk, I whip them out and breath them in. It resets me in a way that is indescribably effective (just try it yourself). There are also specific oils for breaking cravings and healing addictions - try roman chamomile for insonmia, bergamont or citrus blends for depression, or clary sage for anxiety. I prefer doTerra brand for premium blends, and for a more affordable brand, Now.
3. Rosary and prayer beads.
I've mentioned before that I'm not religious nor do I associate with any particular belief system, but I do borrow traditions that speak to me. I picked up my first mala (prayer beads) a few years back, and in 2013, I picked up my first rosary from a flea market. I didn't have an intention to use either, I was simply drawn to possessing them. But I found myself for some reason - without thought - stashing them in my pockets and rubbing my fingers over them as I walked the streets of San Francisco, Manhattan, and Italy. Before long, if I was somewhere without beads in my pocket, I felt naked. Having beads in my fingers is a simple reminder of Who I Am and Why I Am Here as I navigate this crazy fucking world. If my patience is tried or my heart hurts, all I have to do is put my hand in my pocket and know that whatever it is I'm facing is just part of the journey. They are my grown-up version of a security blanket.
4. A Course In Miracles.
My first introduction to A Course In Miracles (or ACIM) was Gabby Bernstein's work, primarily her book May Cause Miracles (I've written about the impact this book had on my sobriety and life here.) I started really digging into the full text and practices of ACIM in spring 2014 and haven't gone for more than a few days without picking it up since. Translating/studying/teaching the course has become part of my day-to-day (or rather moment-to-moment) practice and aside from studying vedic texts and my yoga and meditation practice, it's foundational to my continuing evolution. It's like my compass. If I am struggling in any area, I can open it up to almost any passage and find some relief or understanding. I have a hard copy at home I read, and I also have a copy on my Kindle for when I travel. I recommend getting into the teachings of the course through practicing May Cause Miracles or tuning into Marianne Williamson's Livestream Monday (a free streamed lecture on the teachings of ACIM). Another new teacher to watch is Bridget Trama who is based out of LA.
5. Healing Music.
There are many reasons good music is so important. The most basic being that we humans are all just made up of vibrating energy, and music - being itself a vibration of energy - can help us attune to a better frequency just by listening to it. I made a Home Spa Playlist on Spotify when I first stopped drinking and played it in my apartment from the moment I walked in the door to induce a spa-like quality in my home, and also used it to amplify my in-home yoga and meditation practice. I've also started listening to a fair amount of Kundalini music (here is my Kundalini Playlist) and I chant along with these songs, which provides an even greater benefit - chanting stimulates the hypothalamus, rebalances the glandular system, and opens up our ability to communicate effectively and reclaim our voice (something many of us lose in addiction). Bottom line, what you are listening to affects you. If you are listening to metal or hardcore rap on loop, you're going to be affected by that vibration. If you are listening to peaceful chants, good words, and soft frequencies, you are going to attune to that. I invest the $9.99 in the monthly Spotify subscription so I can access these and other playlists from anywhere.
6. Long Deep Breaths.
I wrote about this recently (and provided a tutorial), but Long Deep Breaths (LDBs) are my number one tool for stasis and sanity. I have reminders on my phone to do about 10 LDBs 3x a day, and I also continuously employ them (it's become habit to breathe right and consciously).
This is probably one of my less talked about/most treasured resources. YogaGlo is an online yoga on-demand service. My two favorite teachers - Steph Snyder, (Vinyasa, who I trained with), and Kia Miller, (Kundalini) alone have close to 300 different classes combined. That's just the tip of the iceberg - there are thousands of classes and meditations to choose from, and some of the best teachers in the country are featured. I started using YogaGlo in very very early sobriety - late 2012/early 2013 - when I just wasn't down to go to a class. It is where my love of Kundalini flourished, and where my obsession with Steph Snyder took root. I have traveled extensively and taken it with me as I have gone - hotel rooms, gyms, my mom's living room, AirBnBs, corporate apartments - you name the place and YogaGlo has been there with me. It's $18 a month - the price of one yoga class in SF - and it's worth its weight in gold. I have 10 classes loaded into my iPad and I take a travel yoga mat with me most everywhere I go. (My favorite classes are this Steph Snyder class for addiction recovery, this Steph Snyder class for restoration, this Steph Snyder class for sleep prep, and this Kia Miller chanting meditation to clear the past. I'm RESTRAINING MYSELF here from listing 100 of them - so I suggest signing up (first two weeks are free) and taking a spin yourself. If you are interested in how yoga has helped me recover from addiction, here is a great piece.
Prior to sobriety I read Bloomberg Businessweek and US Weekly, and one self-help book a year. That changed for me in October 2012, when I started to research addiction and explore spirituality. Since then, I have read well over 200 books (side note, I also stopped having sex for an entire year, so there's that.) Books are ESSENTIAL to my recovery, sobriety, evolution. I can't read fast enough, particularly if it is about addiction, spirituality, neurobiology, socio-biology, self-help, or social justice. Okay, basically if it's non-fiction. Some of my favorites on addiction are John Dupuy's Integral Recovery (BIBLE), Guy du Plessis' A Guide To Integral Recovery, Clean by David Sheff, Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston, and of course, Allen Carr's EasyWay To Control Alcohol. My favorite spiritual books are The Living Gita by Sri Swami Satchidananda (also LOVE Eaknath Easwaran's translation of the Bhagavad Gita), A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson, Awakening Joy by James Baraz, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (read it twice), and The Dark Side of The Light Chasers by Debbie Ford (read it three times). Other must reads include The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope, and Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver.
9. Pocket Meditations.
I've spent a long time perfecting shorter Kundalini meditations so that I can access them without the instruction sheet wherever I am. My top three favorites are this this one to balance yourself, this one to overcome panic, or this one to self soothe and restore emotional balance. I use these in bathroom stalls, on trains, in closets, wherever. They are quick and effective at helping me pull out of a state before it spins worse.
10. My iPhone Camera.
Part of my recovery has been using my creativity, and photography is my primary outlet (ahead of writing). Prior to 2012, I hadn't been interested in photographing things myself - I dated photographers. And then in December 2012, severely hungover in NYC with a dear photographer friend, I found myself asking him how to take pictures so I could Instagram better. We spent the day taking shots and by the time I made it back to SF I had ticked away 6 hours on photoshop. A few months later I found myself in Sicily, Sorrento and Rome for the first time and it was all over - I was madly in love with what I saw, and I wanted to capture every pixel of beauty I could. And it has continued - I have holes in my jeans from dropping to my knees to capture something, I spend at least a few hours each week looking through the lens and then editing it to my standard of perfection. This creative outlet has become as important as meditation - it's where I transcend, where I feel closest to God, where I feel the most alive. Maybe you aren't a photographer, but I guarantee you that you are creative. Perhaps you have wanted to play a musical instrument, maybe you've been pulled to draw or take art classes or pottery classes, maybe you want to start mixing music or even sing. I've had clients take dancing lessons, piano lessons, chanting workshops, guitar lessons. Many have started writing, some have started cooking, still others have learned to garden, one has a sewing machine and wants to make her own clothes. We humans - all of us - are naturally creative. Find your outlet (or as it may be outlets), and keep your mediums close at hand.