Coming Clean

Not long ago, I was walking through the lobby of The Canebrake having just come out of a yoga session, feeling expansive and light and enjoying an organic banana. With what I detected to be exasperation and a hint of disdain, an employee said, “Look at you!! Have you always been so good??”

“Uh, no” was my reply.

Leaving the Temple

I got drunk for the first time when I was 13; babysitting for some neighbors on New Year’s Eve who told me as they left the house I was welcome to enjoy a bottle of beer from the fridge at midnight if I wanted. Perhaps they were kidding. Well before midnight, I’d consumed the whole 6-pack of Heineken and don’t recall how I got home. It wasn’t that it tasted so yummy, but I realized I had found a tremendous escape from my body. And that was delicious!!

Over the next few years, I found a group of older kids who would expose me to all manner of substances to “enhance” my drinking. Being invited to sit at the back of the bus one morning with the wiser, more experienced crowd of hell-raisers was certainly a step in the right direction. Margie had a mason jar that was full to the brim of a dark, foul-smelling liquid and she told me I could try some – was she kidding? I drank the entire contents at once. I began hallucinating strongly by 2nd period and, due to my greed, was never again invited to join the cool kids on the bus. School was a social nightmare; my least favorite subject was P.E. I spent many days hiding out in the girl’s locker room drinking Southern Comfort that I’d stolen the night before from a girlfriend’s parents liquor cabinet. Needless to say, I was neither at the top of my class nor very popular amongst my peers.

Destroying the Temple

The late ’80′s in south Florida offered vast opportunities for self-destruction and by the time I graduated from college (a year early thanks to my speed consumption), I had serious problems. I was drinking vodka daily – mostly behind the wheel of my car, inhaling enormous quantities of coke and enjoying a steady diet of Camel non-filters. My dreams of performing and living the rock’n roll lifestyle in New York had been shattered as I’d apparently become too great a hindrance to my supplier who’d set me up in a studio apartment on Bank Street in Greenwich Village. He put me on a plane and sent me home to my mother. Jackass. Back home in Florida, I wound up in a 6-month outpatient treatment facility. Who were they kidding?? Let’s just say it didn’t take and as soon as it ended I quickly moved out and moved on.

As it was no longer satisfying to simply kill myself by myself, over the course of the next four years I invited all manner of demolition crews (read: men and more booze) into my life. Rage and fighting I considered my strong suite; I’ve never been a big girl, but I’d step into the ring with the baddest of them. I’ll spare you the details; suffice it to say much of what transpired during those bleak and desperate years remains between me, God and a dear friend in whom I confided when I finally pulled my head out of my ass and decided to live.

Renovating the Temple

I remember it as though it was last night. I’m reeling and shaking on the floor in the fetal position with a tasty mixture of snot and tears spreading over my body; it’s 4am, I’m 25, and I’m alone. I’m done. My temple is destroyed and I want out.

Yoga teaches the body is our temple and 17 years ago this month I began the life-long process of renovating mine. Within a month of the above-mentioned night, I headed west to Colorado to live with mom (another article, another time!), heal my body and tackle the job of recovery that continues to demand more honesty and willingness then I ever knew I was capable of.

Renovations of any sort require effort, discipline and patience – virtues I strive to weave throughout my practice and my life. Where I once sought to slowly annihilate this amazing and precious gift of human birth, I now embrace every opportunity to make living amends with my body; hence the vegetarian diet, organic food, and daily yoga practice.

While I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity of restoration, I hope I never forget those days that are now so far behind me. Anything worth doing at all is worth doing well, right? This body is my temple, my sanctuary. It’s an honor and privilege to tend to it everyday.

Lisa Bracken owns The Canebrake where she teaches yoga and lives with her husband and three rescue standard poodles. She can be reached at

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