When I was drinking, I often claimed I wanted a more adventurous life. Yet there I was, sitting on the couch watching TV and downing glass after glass of wine. One of the driving forces that led me to finally ditch alcohol was a desire to climb out of my monotonous, gridlocked existence.
I entered the summer of 2018 with a year of sobriety under my belt and a list of challenging new things I wanted to try. I was eager to find out which activities would become essential parts of my life and what I might discover about myself in the process.
My summer exploits were infinitely more fun than nursing a hangover in the blazing heat. In addition to expanding my horizons, I made a conscious effort to learn an important lesson from each experience that I could apply to my recovery and life in general. In a perfect circle, quitting drinking gave me the time and energy to explore these interests, and the activities themselves gifted back tools that I am using to stay sober, awake, and present.
Aerial Yoga & Persistence
Practicing yoga at home played a huge role in my early recovery—it helped refocus my chattering mind on my breath and my body. Once I got past feeling creaky and unstable, I decided to give public classes a try, and first up was a gentle aerial class.
Aerial yoga involves a “silk”—a large piece of material that hangs from the ceiling in a long U shape. You can use it as support to get into positions that might otherwise be difficult to maintain, swing in it, hang upside down from it, and lie down in it like a cocoon. The practice is safe and welcoming to people of various body types.
In keeping with my tendency toward wild expectations, I immediately pictured myself flying through the air like singer P!nk. To avoid growing frustrated with not being an instant superhero, I scaled back my ambitions considerably.
I started taking the same class weekly, and I accepted that progress would only come with persistence. Pushing past your body’s resistance is both intimidating and invigorating—you must apply just the right amount of pressure. I plan to stick with aerial yoga for the long haul, seeking steady growth at a realistic pace.
Bodyflight & Boldness
Indoor skydiving, or bodyflight, as the sport is known, is not particularly scary. You wait around for long periods just to hover about five feet off the ground for two minutes at a time. When it’s your turn, an upward force of air suspends you in a Superman-like position while an instructor tweaks your body position.
Families with tiny kids were doing it the day I went, and watching those kids helped drive out any fear I was feeling. The biggest challenge, in fact, was the sense of being on display. The skydiving takes place inside a clear cylinder, and people sit around the tube, both those waiting to fly plus an outer circle of civilian onlookers.
For those of us who don’t like being watched, especially when we’re doing something new, this can be anxiety-provoking. I had to coach myself into getting past my emotional discomfort to locate the bold adventurer inside.
At the end, our instructor went into the tube alone and performed some fancy tricks. If I could learn those moves without an audience, I might give bodyflight another try. But for now, I’ll remain content with learning that I can overcome my self-consciousness.
Zip Lining & Courage
For years I wanted to go zip lining, but I never made it a priority until I stopped drinking. Now, I want to travel all over the world, so I can zip line everywhere.
In addition to zooming along on multiple lines, the treetop adventure course I completed involves climbing up rope ladders to platforms in the trees and maneuvering through obstacles. Much of the course is high above the ground, and I spent a lot of time hanging on for dear life to anything grab-worthy.
Tackling the Tarzan Swing was the scariest part of the course. Instead of gliding along in a semi-seated position like on the zip lines, you sort of throw yourself forward and swing like a pendulum toward a large vertical cargo net. You can choose a less frightening alternative route, but I had already taken the easy way out earlier in the course.
As I stood there terrified, I told myself that if I wanted the payoff of truly conquering my fears, I would have to jump off that darn platform. And I’m so glad I did. Being brave gives you access to feelings and experiences you might not otherwise encounter, especially on the couch.
Flotation Therapy & Patience
When I arrived for my first flotation therapy appointment, I was pleased to see that it was nothing like the sensory deprivation tanks I had seen in the movies.
You have a small suite to yourself; there is an area to change and shower, and the large tub is in a connected room with a high ceiling. The water is loaded with Epsom salt so that you float effortlessly, and the temperature is the same as your body, helping you lose track of where your body ends and the water begins.
For the first three-quarters of my session I tried to get situated and quiet my mind. Did I want the short pool noodle that they provided under my knees or not? Should I use the foam halo under my head? Was this really any better than soaking in the bathtub at home?
I withstood the instinct to write off floating before finishing even one session, and my patience paid off. During the final minutes I let go and entered a uniquely peaceful state of mind. Next time, I will book a longer session. And outside of floating, I will remember how patience is so often rewarded.
Rock Climbing & Faith
I dragged my husband with me to the introductory class at an indoor climbing center, and boy was I relieved that he came. Every climber needs someone on the ground who can “belay” for them—manage the slack on the rope, put on the brake when necessary, and help lower the climber down.
We learned to tie knots, do safety checks, and call out set commands, so I felt pretty confident that nothing major could go wrong. But on just my third climb, the instructor called out to me to “fall.” Say what?! He wanted us to see how easy it was to stop a climber from falling very far.
The instructor did have to ask me to fall three times before I finally took a deep breath and pulled my hands and feet away from the wall. Having this kind of trust in your partner and the equipment is not easy for some of us. In the end, I was so proud that I took this literal leap of faith.
Aerial yoga and zip lining may be the only two of these activities that I’ll return to regularly. But I can use persistence, boldness, courage, patience, and faith to guide me every day.