In case you are new to my blog, I am a yoga teacher blessed to be working in the recovery field. Yoga, Grace and Gratitude is a collection of experiences and conversations I have had with my students, some funny and heartwarming, some poignant. They all have one thing in common, our shared humanity.
This is the story of Terry.
In a perfect world, mine at least, one would not have favorites. Everyone would be loved and appreciated equally. Fantasies aside…..Terry is a stand-out favorite. Even while going through the brutal process of detox, he always showed respect and emitted a good vibe. Quiet at first, by degrees, Terry began to reveal himself. One day, in the middle of class, I glimpsed a side of his brilliance.
“Now it’s time for the “piece de resistance!” I proclaimed, as we were about to move into the last yoga pose of a series. To my surprise, Terry responded “l’amener sur!” Which means in French,“bring it on!” From that moment on we enjoyed lively mini-conversations extolling the benefits of learning languages; how they grow our brain and help us see life from different perspectives. Terry, a young man from the midwest, was fluent in three languages other than English.
Having worked as a chef in restaurants in San Francisco, Terry was a wiz in the kitchen and loved to cook. Usually after class, I’d find him in the kitchen preparing magnificent meals for the other guys at the house. (I am sure they were wondering, how did we get so lucky?) As Terry progressed through his recovery he’d speak about giving back. He imagined himself returning to work, in the recovery field…..serving meals on the side, of course!
During class one day, I thought I’d try a visualization I had crafted. Even though there are therapists on hand, I try to be careful not to trigger bad memories. So, after a brief body scan, I had everyone imagine themselves at their favorite beach. Their future Self begins walking down the beach towards them; recovered, empowered, full of love and guidance.
Before we finished the visualization, I sensed someone get up and leave. I briefly opened my eyes and saw Terry leave the room. When we were all done, I noticed him sitting outside, head hanging and shoulders hunched over. I toyed with the idea of going over to see how he was doing when one of the staff walked up and sat beside him.
I was still wondering about him two days later, when I returned. The staff person approached me saying, “Terry wants to share something with you”.
Terry told me that during the visualization a past memory had surfaced that had caught him off guard. As he described it, he had been driving with his family; the love of his life and their baby. A drunk driver sideswiped the car. He and his baby son had minor injuries but the the mother tragically died at the scene.
Despite the accident not being his fault, Terry carried an enormous burden of pain and guilt. Instead of visualizing his future self, it was SHE who was walking down the beach towards him.
Terry later waxed poetic about being a dad, saying his immediate plan was to get strong in sober living so he could become the father he knew his son deserved.
Over the next few weeks, he began wearing his bright tie-dyed shirts and dispensing lots of hugs. There was no doubt that Terry had undergone a transformation and his heart was wide open. When his thirty days were up he said, “ I’ll be back!
Looking at me with a sideways glance he said, “next time as staff!”
Goodbyes to students are filled with well-wishes and prayers for the unknown journey ahead. And, as I walked out the door, yoga mat under arm, I heard Terry whisper "I love you", in three languages.
That was about 3 months ago (from the time of this writing). Yesterday I found out that Terry had overdosed and left this world.
He made it home, but not to his earthly home. Sadly his little boy will never see his daddy again nor will the rest of the world get to experience his brilliant heart.
For those that knew and loved him in his last days, he will remain, an
angel among us.
We might never know what happened. It is possible Terry began to miss his 12 Step meetings. It is rumored, that approximately one out of 10 remain clean after completing a program. Despite good professional help, many go through treatment time and time again.
It remains a very sad statistic.
While Terry was unique, his situation is not. Some may say his time spent in treatment (as well as thousands of others) was a waste of time and money. But, as I saw first hand, his time with us, working the program, was filled with revelations and love.
One month however is simply not enough.
It is not enough time to work through the type of pain that frequently spawns addiction.
It is complicated, I know. Insurance only pays for so much. Getting into a program is an absolute life saver for those who are ready. For many others, the subsequent revolving door of treatment, (if one is lucky enough not to overdose first), seems far too short-term and inadequate.
Rest in Peace