GABBY BERNSTEIN: “SOBRIETY STARTED MY SPIRITUAL AWAKENING”

For Gabby Bernstein sobriety played an important role in her spiritual awakening. Ruby Warrington asks her, could we all benefit from a more sober life?

I received my copy of Gabby Bernstein’s new book, The Universe Has Your Back, right when I was in the middle of organizing our #TuneInPeaceOut initiative for World Peace Day. Translation: I had zero time to sit down and read it. But an interesting thing happened.

Flicking through the pages, every time I stopped Gabby was riffing on how her sobriety had played such an important part in her spiritual journey. And experimenting with a sober life myself right now (check out my Club SÖDA NYC project here) the message that this is exactly the right path for me came through loud and clear (thank you, Universe!)

It was also clear that for Gabby Bernstein sobriety had played an important part in her spiritual awakening. I decided to sit down with her, to talk about the link between sobriety and spirituality, and get her advice on living sober.

(And p.s. the day I’m running this post—October 02 2016—is her 11 years’ sober anniversary!)

Ruby Warrington: So the reason I’m trying to be sober is because the way I feel when there’s no alcohol in my system is like, “Fuck, this is who I AM.” And honestly, I no longer feel like I can show up and properly serve on my mission these days unless I’m 100% myself.

Gabrielle Bernstein: I love that, and I think you should be sober then. That’s part of the reason I’m sober. This is the only consciousness I want to have. Although of course sometimes I’m like, ‘bye bye, get me the hell out of here’!

RW: That’s the thing, sometimes that still sounds nice! Especially when, and I know you’ve had issues with this too because you’ve written about it, I end up replacing alcohol with work. I fucking love what I do, so that’s okay. But then, where’s the release, where’s the escape?

GB: I have had to find that in the last five or six months. I realized I had become severely addicted to work, because I’ve been running for so long from these fears that I didn’t want to see. In the beginning stages of healing from this, I would find myself going to my desk and sitting down and literally numbing out with work. I was like, “Oh my God, that’s how I’ve been hiding.”

RW: I do that too. There’s a sense of relief when I can say, “Oh good, I’ve got like three hours of solid emails now and I can’t think about anything else.”

GB: Exactly. So what I’ve done is freed up a lot of that space for meditation. I meditate a lot longer.

RW: More meditation than your two TM sessions?

GB: I’m doing this Doreen Virtue chord cutting meditation in the morning, and then a TM meditation in the afternoon. It’s super good, I’m going to send it to you. As a result, I’ve been feeling more connected than ever. It also has to do with not playing into the word addiction, and being willing to heal.

Carrot juice on our interview date

RW: So on the sobriety thing, one reason I created Club SÖDA NYC is because I don’t feel like I identify the word “alcoholic.” As somebody in recovery, do you believe there is a middle ground when it comes to alcohol addiction?

GB: Absolutely. And it’s so good that you’re doing that. There’s some people that don’t find their way to AA but they want to have a way to get out of alcohol.

RW: When do you remember first finding an escape with alcohol and drugs?

GB: I guess in college, when it was uppers that I liked. I didn’t really even like alcohol that much, it was more like the snorting things.

RW: You mean uppers like Adderall?

GB: Yeah that’s what I was in to. I never liked alcohol, I just needed it to balance myself out. But by the time I hit my rock bottom in 2005 I was doing drugs and drinking every day.

RW: Were you fully aware of that being a problem?

GB: Yeah everyday I’d be like, “Shouldn’t do that again.” And then do it again. It was probably only seven months that it was really bad. The really bad didn’t last that long.

RW: So how did you seek help?

GB: I went to an addiction specialist who helped me understand that I was an alcoholic, because at the time I thought that I was just a drug addict. He was like, “No, you have an alcohol problem.” And I was like, “what do you mean?” He’s like, “Well what do you do every time you have a drink?” I was like, “I do drugs.” He showed me how this meant I was drinking unmanageably.

RW: I recently read an amazing book on alcohol addiction called “This Naked Mind.” And based on the teachings of this, plus my personal observations, I feel like a lot more people than will ever admit—even to themselves—are in a similar situation with alcohol and drugs. Do you believe this to be the case?

GB: I think that people definitely struggle…but it’s hard for me to comment because most of my friends today are sober. Well not “sober,” they just don’t really drink because they’re really health conscious. So I don’t see that much abuse of substances in my day to day. A lot of people come up to me and say, “Oh I got sober because of Spirit Junkie.” I hear people’s sobriety stories, but I don’t see people in their addiction anymore. But overall, I think it’s an epidemic. I mean addiction is an epidemic.

RW: And actually alcohol still kills more people than all prescription and all illegal drugs put together…

GB: Even more heroin?

RW: Insane, right? And in tests it’s the only drug that falls into the “extreme risk” category for addiction. Yet it’s the one that’s pushed on you from every direction the minute you’re old enough.

GB: Right. And I do think that from a spiritual perspective, if you want to have a closer connection with God then you can’t be muddying your consciousness.

RW: Which leads me to my next question. Do you believe that anyone who identifies as being on a spiritual path or who is seeking in that way, would benefit from at least trying an extended period of sobriety?

GB: Absolutely. I don’t want to say that if you’re on a spiritual path, you have to be sober. There are plenty of people that I know that are fine with a glass of wine. They have it once a week and they’re fucking fine. But I do think that it will only benefit you spiritually to have a sober life.

RW: My experience of this has been feeling truly “whole.” I think this is because as much as alcohol is about numbing out from fear, it’s also about hiding the parts of yourself that you don’t necessarily understand. That you find it hard to love and accept.

GB: Yes, that you don’t want to admit to, and you don’t want to feel.

RW: Totally. So I think for me, that sense of wholeness has been about accepting that even if I don’t really like myself today, that’s still me. It’s all part of myself. You know? So what about the plant medicines that everybody’s doing now, like ayahuasca?

GB: Well, I think sober is sober, and that’s a mind altering substance. You know my spiritual teachers do it and I’m not going to judge anybody, but I would definitely say that’s a relapse if you think you’re sober. Most sober people wouldn’t even take NyQuil!

RW: I hear you! So I’m kind of at this point where I’m experimenting with trying to experience each situation I would normally associate with drinking sober…

GB: You want to know how you quit drinking? You no longer give yourself permission. We all have permission giving thoughts—and, for example, I’ve been off sugar for three years now because I no longer give myself permission to have sugar. if you were like, “I’m no longer giving myself permission, any more, to have alcohol,” then interesting things could happen.

RW: Vacation are the really tough one for me…

GB: I feel like that’s okay! I think you can maybe not give yourself permission unless its a vacation. Except you have to be really strong, like, “When I come back I have to stop this.” Because even eating things on vacation that I wouldn’t normally eat, like cheese or bread. I come home and I want those things!

RW: Well I’m ready, because the more I commit to not drinking, the more I feel like this is a part of the consciousness shift that’s occurring right now. Like people are really invested in the idea that you can get high by tuning in, not numbing out. I think you’ve helped to spearhead this, and it’s actually been a really important part of your story, you know?

GB: There’s no doubt that getting sober was the catalyst for my spiritual awakening. I’ve had many, many more since that day, but that was the turning point for me. It was when I chose a life of deep connection rather than a life of numbing out. It was when I chose to wake up.

Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, The Universe Has Your Back, is out now on Hay House. And we’re giving away one signed copy!

To win, tag your next Instagram post with #NumiUniverse. Make sure to follow and tag @The_Numinous and be sure to add the hashtag #NumiUniverse—otherwise we won’t see your post! Winners will be picked at random and notified via direct Instagram message.

Deadline for entries: 1 p.m. (EST) October 5, 2016.

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: AN ACTUAL DATE WITH RUSSELL BRAND (KINDA)

Tending to my zen-den, a modern day witch hunt, and a Skype date with Russell Brand…

:: MONDAY ::
So I spent the past two weeks on vacation in Hawaii, where I had planned to switch off completely and mend my broken mind after pretty much a year of #nodaysoff. Which, for various reasons, is not how things panned out – but OH WOW, what valuable lessons and insights the Universe had in store for me instead! Why do I bring this up? Because rarely does life give us what we think we want – the Universe prefers to serve us what it knows we NEED. Basically the number one thing to keep in mind as we head into this Mercury (+ Mars + Pluto + Jupiter + Saturn!!) retro phase. So be open, be vigilant, and just watch in grace and wonder as it all unfolds.

:: TUESDAY ::
Mega congrats to my beautiful friend and collaborator Kirsty, who launched the most fabulous service today – an online subscription service for high-end, hard-to-find scented candles named Scent. When you set up an account, you’ll be asked to create a “scent profile” so all the candles you receive can be tailored to your tastes. Your zen-den never smelled better – and just in time for Mother’s Day too! Discover more at Scentfrom.us

Loving the beautiful imagery on Scent…

:: WEDNESDAY ::
And speaking of zen-dens – can we just officially acknowledge that ritual baths are currently officially a thing? Like is anybody out there not soaking with a bunch of salts, crystals, and activated herbs? Which is timely, actually, since with all those planets currently in retrograde, the big memo from the Cosmos is to slow things TF down. So check out this ritual bath recipe from Deborah Hanekamp, or stock on House of Intuition’s genius “bath bags” (like a tea bag but for your bath, see below) – and soak it up!

Clarity Bath Bags, $8, House of Intuition

:: THURSDAY ::
An interview with Jessica Knoll, who’s runaway best-seller Luckiest Girl Alive is – hello – an absolute feminist classic. Do not be put off by the breezy comparisons to Gone Girl etc, this is a straight-up Medieval witch-hunt at its most gory. And in the Now Age? Girl comes out alive and kicking. It’s not giving anything away to reveal that Jessica recently came out about the rape scenes depicted in the book as being based on her own teenage experiences – in other words, took one giant leap for female kind in re-writing history from the perspective of herstory. Read it and weep (tears of  fully empowered female joy).

:: FRIDAY ::
Got so SO close to making an actual dream come true today, when I got to speak at an event hosted by the David Lynch Foundation with none other than…Russell Brand! Only Rus ended up being Skyped in – so near, yet so far. The topic? Meditation as a tool for addiction recovery and substance abuse, and of course Russell nailed it. I’ll share a link to the whole panel discussion when it’s posted online, but one classic RB take-away to take you into your week-end: “I used substances to access a alternate state of consciousness. Now I have meditation for that.” Amen.

SOBER CURIOUS: GET HIGH ON YOUR OWN SUPPLY

Join The Numinous & Guided By Biet for SOBER CURIOUS, a social experiment to discover what it means to get high on your own supply…

 

“Numbing vulnerability also dulls our experience of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light” – Brene Brown

There’s a reason sobriety is in, and it’s because it feels amazing. Blissful, even. Within days of alcohol leaving your system, you become aware of how much more at peace you feel in your body. A little longer, and you’ll notice how even a friendly text sends a tingle of physical pleasure along your limbs. Give it a few weeks, and you may find yourself breaking into spontaneous laughter at the sheer ecstasy of being alive.

This is what it feels like to get high on your own supply. But modern drinking culture makes it easier, often way too easy, to choose booze as our go-to method for feeling good (by simply numbing the “bad”). The price? We’ve all been there.

And so SOBER CURIOUS is a social experiment from The Numinous and Guided By Biet – a new space for the sober curious to investigate just how good life can get when we re-frame our relationship with alcohol. Far from “boring” (an accusation they love to levy against non-drinkers), what if choosing sobriety meant being “high” all the time?

This might not mean total abstinence from alcohol, either. The power of positive drinking can be a beautiful thing. A sacrament, even. But an occasional cocktail to celebrate life can also be a slippery slope into the kind of habitual drinking that becomes a substitute for sustained, self-generated joy; that dulls our awareness; that only exacerbates feelings of anxiety and emptiness; and that ultimately separates us from a true sense of self.

A proposed series of meet-ups, talks, workshops, and other events, SOBER CURIOUS could be for you if:

– You drink to feel good, but it often leaves you feeling worse (and it helps to talk about it)

– You want to drink less, but think this will mean the end of your social life

– You want to drink less, but think this will mean the end of DATING

– You want to cultivate a healthier relationship with booze

– You want to attend high-end, high-vibe events where alcohol is off the menu

– You love how good life feels when you don’t drink, and want to connect with other people who’ve discovered this too

– You want to experience getting crazy high on your own supply

Sign up for the Numinous newsletter to see how the conversation unfolds.

And a caveat: SOBER CURIOUS is NOT an addiction recovery program – although it may be a stepping stone to AA for some people. If you think you might need a higher level of support to address a drinking problem that’s negatively impacting your life, or in dealing with any underlying emotional issues that may be part of this, we also have the resources to connect you with people who can help.

GODDESS TRIP: DIARY OF A PSYCHEDELICS ADDICT

And almost ten years sober, her experiences inform her work as a healer to this day, says former psychedelics addict Jesse Heid.

Jesse Heid celebrating her 39th birthday earlier this year

My six siblings and I grew up in what I can only describe as a mellow and small Christian cult, created by my parents. Their worship centered around a Buddha-Christ figure and I took it very literally when they taught me, ‘Jesus lives in your heart.’ To me, Jesus was the most gorgeous, the most beautiful hunky guy. I had that classic ’70’s portrait of him on my bedroom wall, the one where he’s sexy Jesus with the beard.

I had always felt that I was Christ’s favorite kid. I really thrived on the sense I developed early on that I was sacred and Beloved to the Divine. He did everything with me, ballet classes and tea parties. He also was also the compassionate witness to all my childhood traumas. As a result, I had a very intimate, loving, and positively romantic relationship to the Divine.

But when I first altered my consciousness with marijuana around age 21, I started to hear a new voice guiding that Divine dialog, and it was the voice of a woman. This Great Feminine presence was the raddest experience of my life. Beyond words, beyond what I could describe as Love and Wisdom. When I started using various psychedelics and entheogens this Divine female voice took on a great authority – such authority, it made Jesus look like your super casual, chill best friend.

Goddess I call her, and her voice commands deep loving RESPECT. And, while in hallucinogenic and other altered states, I was in constant dialog with her. Mostly her talking to me while I tripped on this miraculous communion with her.

Although I certainly partied, I was intentionally using psychedelics and plant medicine as sacraments. I didn’t necessarily differentiate the “party” from what others call “temple” or “ritual.” Basically, I was in it for the transcendent, mystical experiences. And while I experienced deep healing on my adventures, of course this way of exploring consciousness can have tremendous consequences. Especially in a culture where as a trippy young healer, I had no mentors or sacred container for this unusual path.

For seven years, from 1999 to 2006, I tripped often, and was rarely truly sober – the time I was “landing” from one trip I was getting ready to take off on another. It’s important to note that I believe I was able to carry on like this for so many years because I was generally micro dosing – imbibing very small doses – of the highest quality substances. This enabled me to function well in my daily life, but still get Divinely freaky. I also think my severe allergy to alcohol has been a blessing really. I’ve never been able to drink, so I was never taxed physically that way.

But I was a psychedelics addict. I ate mushrooms almost every day for over a year. I would pop them in my mouth like people pop breath mints. I did psilocybin until they stopped having any effect, a tragedy when it happened. Other years, the pattern went something like: Molly on a Monday, Tuesday, some pot cookies and coffee, Wednesday, maybe a day off, LSD for Thursday, and bit of Foxy on Friday. The weekends would be a surprise mixed bag.

During this period, I was also running a Pilates studio in the East Village of New York City. I had a very robust clientele with a waiting list. I was a very popular teacher, and was frequently teaching while on psychedelics. Beyond surviving as a young women in the City, I was thriving.

And all the time, I felt the Goddess was teaching me the nature of the Universe. What I saw was a matrix of loving energy weaving through everything, and how the negative space between objects is perfect. That everything is whole, and also interconnected. Whenever I laid hands on my client I was able to see the matrix inside of us, the fascia system, and the way this extends outside of us to connect us to everything. That these filaments remain unbroken, and cannot be broken.

Jesse Heid today

If this sort of Divine Matrix can be an abstract concept to even the most dedicated “believer,” I could visually see this in a psychedelic state. And this is really what I was working on with my clients all day.

People would come to the studio to get a Pilates lesson, and then they would tell me their neck hurt. So I would put them on the Pilates Cadillac and work on their fascia, in a psychedelic state, and then tell them it was “Pilates.” And even while they were talking to me about their stressful lives, the Goddess was whispering instructions in my ear the whole time about what they needed for healing. It was all very mysterious and magical, and it really worked for me for a long time.

Goddess also revealed to me everyone’s true voice. That was consistent on every trip, no matter what I was on.  No matter what medicine I was dosing with, everyone I encountered spoke to me as an extremely vulnerable, innocent five-year-old. It even seemed like the more serious someone was, the more of a heartbreakingly precocious child they were inside.

I was working with CEO’s, neurosurgeons, film producers and their stars, and all I could hear was the innocent child, just trying to navigate and negotiate the suffering of this world.

Now remember, I am completely, 100 percent, not a rebel. I am a good girl, a product of my environment. I was doing what I was taught; “you talk to God. You do loving kindness and make art. You take responsibility for your Divine nature, as Jesus lives in your heart.” And I was never criticized by my family for doing drugs of any sort.

But I don’t think they knew how much I was doing. I don’t think anyone could conceive of how much I was doing because I was so highly functional. But in the end, I started mixing in cocaine. Not because I ever liked cocaine, it was never my drug of choice. But I rarely slept from doing psychedelics, and I had to go to work in the day, so it became like coffee to me. Plus, people were giving me coke for free. The East Village of NYC was different beast back then, and it’s how my clients would tip me sometimes.

With this harder substance in the mix, my lifestyle was finally taking its toll physically, and very quickly. I went down to 95 lbs. I also started to lose any and all respect for society’s rules. Everywhere I went, I was smoking a huge, fat joint.

I started to see a Jungian psychoanalyst, and it was clear to him, I think, that here was a talented young healer, going too far on her mystical trip. He was like, “Are you smart? I think it might just be the drugs that make you feel smart.” Soon I wanted to know if I WAS talented, if I WAS creative, if I had any value, if my friends even liked me (which it turns out they didn’t really), without drugs.

At the same time, the Goddess was telling me; “I’m bringing the hurt if you ever do cocaine again. And by the way, you have to take THIS much acid because it won’t work anymore…” I couldn’t do Molly anymore. Everything was just giving me a headache. When it finally ended, I had taken drugs for 92 days straight, just a few days over 3 months.

That last trip, I mixed a lot of cocaine with acid. Do not EVER do cocaine and acid. I felt as if every single fiber of connective tissue in my body was having a migraine. For days, I could feel my nail beds. I lay on my back for about seven hours to protect my spine. I was in full head to toe spasms. Every single part of me was throbbing with the message; “It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.” And I needed that brutality. Pain is my greatest teacher.

When I quit drugs, I went through the terrible loneliness of feeling disconnected from the Divine. I went from a Universe that was beyond Technicolor and blissful joy, to a world that was grainy, fuzzy black and white. Food didn’t taste good. Music sounded like shit. People lost the innocence in their voice. And my friends were very, very angry at me. Very angry at me for quitting drugs, because, I realized, they had lost their best curator for trips. I had curated fantastic trips.

Jesse in her psychedelics heyday

I felt like I had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and kicked out because I couldn’t handle it anymore, and had abused the sacraments. But I also had faith that things were unfolding as they should. I quickly figured out that not only did I have a drug addiction, but almost an addiction to spiritual epiphanies. Now I needed time to digest, to integrate the massive insights I acquired. The Jungian analysis was really fundamental to this. I saw my therapist three times a week for six years.

Physically, I went from one hundred to zero by myself. I swore off absolutely everything that could alter my consciousness, including several years without caffeine. I was being penitent. And there was no 12-step group for psychedelics. I would piggyback on Cocaine Anonymous and AA, but that didn’t work out for me very well. I was dropped by every sponsor, predominantly because they weren’t a psychedelics addict. They were alcoholics, and it’s just a very different vibe to recover from.

I feel very blessed that my body had an easier time dealing with withdrawal than most, and that I was able to fully quit on my own without medical assistance. But my mind and spirit was in hell. I also had to get over the shame of being a psychedelics addict. It was hard work to do that, and it was hard work to participate in life and to show up for people.

On another level, I also had to participate more spiritually. I couldn’t just take the medicine and have Goddess come to me. I actually had to do the work to get into a mystic state. I found myself studying meditation, ritual, and ceremony to try to integrate the wisdom I sourced on my trips into my daily life, but also simply because I missed my communion with Goddess. This period of recovery was a cocooning stage really, where I withdrew from the world to work on myself.

I consider it a miracle that my ability to understand spatial relationships on a very deep somatic level, my understanding of inner space, remained with me through sobriety. Psychedelics taught me everything that I use in my career as a healer now, and these days I just tell my clients the truth when they ask about my methods. That this is something I developed when I did psychedelics regularly, and explored inner space. I often say that once you peak behind the curtain, you can’t “un-see” what you found there. However, integrating that wisdom into daily life is a whole other trip!

I also know that for my spiritual evolution, I needed to know the real darkness of addiction. I relate so deeply to the path of the Wounded Healer, and so many of us are battling addictions of every sort. I’m much more of service as a healer having had to heal myself from my addiction to hallucinogenic drugs. I look back, and rather than deny that part of myself, I feel blessed I got experience it. But I’m far more grateful I got to recover from it.

I do not recommend MY path to anyone else however, and I consider myself very lucky to be here. But witnessing the renaissance for psychedelics unfolding around me now, and the healing aspects of non-ordinary states of consciousness in general being celebrated, actually makes my heart sing. I’m also thrilled to see real support for the appropriate research into the healing properties of these substances, as well as social support for people exploring consciousness through hallucinogens.

For anybody who is choosing to experiment, I’m also beyond stoked to see all the resources out there for people to educate themselves and stay safe and healthy. Check out the awesome organizations below that are helping us evolve towards cognitive liberty and safer inner explorations.

As a healer, teacher, and artist, some of Jesse Heid’s most passionate work is introducing people to their fascia connective tissue and exploring the tensegrity of the fascia matrix throughout our entire form. Jesse holds a BFA in modern dance and composition from CalArts and has been a popular NYC Pilates teacher since 2000. Find out more about her and her work at Alignedspiritpilates.com, and follow her on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

For more information about the safe use of psychedelics for healing:

MAPS: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Women’s Visionary Congress

The Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Congress