From Lost to Found

I remember sitting in church around the age of ten, thinking that there had to be more to what I was being told—even though I couldn’t ask questions to find out more. It was only one man’s experience—and more than that, he was sharing what he learned was the “right” thing to share. It was never mentioned that spirituality was a personal thing we needed to uncover on our own, which is what I believed deep down but couldn’t yet formulate into words. Little did I know that was the beginning of my personal quest to find answers that made sense to me.

When I was around 12, I started searching. I got books on ESP and Wicca. I don’t know why, but it was what I was innately drawn to. I was told it was “bad” or weird, so I stopped for a while because, at that age, you don’t want to be different.

I lead an online spiritual group for women, and many of the women in that group had similar experiences around puberty. That’s the time you are just beginning to uncover who you are as a woman, because that part of you is awakening. It can be a magical time or a time to push down who you really are.

For the next couple years, I moved away from such things that “didn’t really matter” and focused on typical junior-high things like sports, friends, and first kisses.

In my freshman year, we moved to a new town where all the girls hated me because they saw me as a threat. I didn’t get to decide if I wanted to be different anymore. They decided for me. If I was going to be different, I may as well be really different to show them that I didn’t care and that’s how I wanted it…although in truth, all I wanted was to be accepted. I was called a slut, even though I didn’t have sex until I was 18, with my first long-term boyfriend.

And so my mistrust of women began. I never had a large group of friends. In a town as small as that one, there weren’t many options for groups to fit into, so I befriended other outcasts. Looking back, it was one of the biggest lessons in my life because it taught me not to judge a book by its cover and to accept anyone who accepted me. Now I’m doing the work of accepting everyone whether they accept me or not, which is much harder!

During this time, I was still searching for answers. I wanted to find a religion that fit all my beliefs, but I couldn’t. I found some things that resonated, but at the same time, things that didn’t.

I didn’t find my place in my school, and I didn’t find my place with religion. This was very hard on me. As an empath, I always felt so much, and thank God we didn’t have social media back then, because I’m sure it would have been a hundred times worse for me. I don’t think I’m alone here.

By the time I was 14, I was using alcohol to cope and find some way to fit in. I was always the one who could drink the most, and I was proud of that. It was a way for me to get recognition from my peers. If it couldn’t be for something good, at least it would be for something. I felt respected. And when needed, I felt numb. Which was better than a lot of the emotions that I felt on a daily basis.

Alcohol remained my drug of choice, mainly because it was the most readily available. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the case today. Many teenagers have prescription and street drugs at their fingertips all the time.

When I was 19, I moved to California to continue my college education in fashion marketing. My troubles with escaping escalated to a very dark place. I wanted to live the rockstar lifestyle. I loved music and the whole culture around it. This was definitely a group I wanted to fit in with. I began experimenting with cocaine, and this opened up a door for me that I didn’t know existed. I was confident, I was sexy, I was powerful. Things I’d never really felt before.

I was hooked.

I also found people who wanted to talk about spirituality for hours on end. This helped me formulate many of the beliefs I still hold today. It helped me uncover what was buried in my soul.

I liked it way too much and was doing it as often as I could get my hands on it. I was so exhausted that one time I slept through a fire alarm in my building while everyone else was being evacuated. I could have easily died that night.

That was my first wake-up call. My angels were with me that night. I truly believe they were trying to save me. The next time they sent me a message, thank God, I received it.

One afternoon I woke up out of a deep sleep (I’d often stay awake for two to three days straight, then sleep for two days). In my tiny studio apartment, there was a pigeon or dove flying around. I checked everywhere in my room to see how it got in. There was no way. The windows may have been open, but there were no holes in the screen. My door wasn’t open, either. I was the only one home and had been the only one there for the last couple days.

Soon after that, my mom told me I either had to come home or she’d cut me off. I thank God every day that I chose to go home, because at that time, I seriously considered living with one of the guys who’d keep a steady supply of drugs in my system.

My journey to recovery began then. I still had many obstacles, still turned to alcohol for my problems, and was still searching for God.

I felt shame about my addiction. I felt that it made me not good enough. Not a good enough daughter, sister, girlfriend…person. “Good” people don’t drink every day, after all.

Luckily, I found yoga in my early 20s. Until then, I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. I bounced around different colleges and areas of study, never feeling fulfilled—and I didn’t know why. After my first few yoga classes, I heard my Intuition for the first time in a long time since that fateful day when I moved back home at the age of 20. I heard it say that this was something I needed to pursue.

I began my first yoga teacher training in 2005. Yoga and meditation have definitely changed my life—not overnight, but slowly, over time. I am still not perfect and still fall back into old patterns of drinking to cope, but I can more quickly pull myself together. I love sharing everything that has helped me grow into the person I am now with other soul-seeking women who are ready to rise. Together, we can overcome shame, guilt, and regret, and change the world.

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About the Author | Crystal Gray

Crystal Gray has been teaching yoga since 2006. She has a large online community where she inspires women through her honesty and vulnerable storytelling. She believes all women have a voice that needs to be heard, and she wants to encourage them to uncover it so we can rise and change the world together.

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