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For Shits and Giggles

Near the end of my drinking career, I wound up shitting myself in public repeatedly. I shat myself WHILE TEACHING a yoga class. I defecated in front of two homeless men in a public park, obnoxiously near my house, and I once constructed a makeshift outhouse from cardboard boxes pulled from the recycling while in my best friend’s parent’s driveway. If only that were the end of the list. It’s immensely frustrating and humiliating to feel betrayed by your own body. Little did I know, my body was whispering kind encouragement or shouting critical direction the entire time. It first spoke meekly, but grew in fervor and intensity each time it went ignored. Eventually it ripped the reins right out of my hands and slapped me with symptoms I couldn’t gloss over, such as losing control of bowels mid-way through a multi-pitch climbing excursion. (Don’t worry! I got my pants down…… that time. In case you’re wondering, my climbing partner did not die that day.)

When I say, I couldn’t ignore them, what I meant was I TOTALLY ignored them. I wasn’t listening. After one particularly defeating episode of irritable bowels, I finally booked an appointment with a physician. She performed a basic physical and asked me questions about my symptoms. I remember the pregnant pause that followed the inevitable and high stakes question.

“How many alcoholic beverages do you consume in an average week?” I scanned my brain feverishly for the “right” answer. Not the honest answer, of course. I wanted to answer with a number low enough to avoid chastisement, but high enough to relay that I was definitely a drinker. Just in case that mattered.

“Twenty?” I tried out. I bit my lip and watched her reaction. She stopped writing and looked up. “Dammit! Too high!” I scolded myself internally.

“You drink twenty alcoholic beverages in a week?”

“- Ish?” I stayed non-committal. “It varies.” The more honest answer might have been closer to double. I’d avoided counting. A bottle of wine, plus a pre-shift beverage. Maybe a shot or a couple glasses during my shift. Factor in your occasional celebration or brunch. Was anyone on the planet without religion or a heart condition seriously drinking less than twenty?

She set down her clipboard and approached me seriously.

“Binge drinking can destroy your digestive system’s natural flora. If you’re having twenty drinks a week, you probably haven’t been able to regrow the healthy bacteria required to process most foods. I recommend bringing your alcohol consumption down to less than ten drinks a week, as your doctor we recommend no more than eight.”

“I’ll work on that.” I lie. “Any medication that might help me along?” She prescribed me a low fodmap diet and probiotics, in addition to her recommendation that I reduce my drinking. I left her office sweaty and sad. No part of me felt willing or able to apply her harm reduction. I did start exploring with diet. Willingness is quirk-ily selective.

The body communicates wisdom. It’s certainly wiser than my mind which, at the time, thought twenty drinks would be the rational lie to tell my doctor. The body is wiser than most our minds, in my opinion. For instance, our bodies tell us to eat when we’re hungry and sleep when we’re tired. Most of the people I know have minds that avidly disagree with these concepts. Our body shares insights such as “Don’t go in there!” or “This job is excruciating!” through gut twists or tension headaches. Sometimes my body tells me not to rock climb for a day or three. My mind frequently disagrees or questions it. Yet it speaks. This body is talking. Frankly, it rarely shuts up.

Sometimes my body speaks to me of pleasure and ecstasy. It tingles with loving awareness. It melts into the arms of friends. It adores contact, yet some days it screams for space. My body merges with the wind and soars when it’s lost in a desert adventure or a mountain excursion. My body loves the woods. My body feels home there. My body curls away when it’s angry and won’t let me rest until there’s resolution. My body hates lying, even to doctors in defense of my loyal-est companion alcohol.

My body doesn’t lie to me EVER. I may not understand it. We may not be speaking the same language or I may misinterpret, but it never lies. Often I’m not tuned into the body’s radio station. I’m synced up with a different frequency. My mind and I, we think we’re so smart, so calculated, so realistic, but without the body, our best laid plans end up feeling, well, CRAPPY.

To be real, (authenticity is among my highest values) I still occasionally find myself putting a roomful of people into child’s pose, while I excuse myself for an emergency evacuation. Pizza is delicious and life and digestion can radically and frustratingly fly out of control. I’m still learning what is or is not worth it on any given day. Yet I no longer navigate my daily life in fear of a humiliating loss of consciousness or my body staging a public rebellion. My body is an Apostle Peter not a Judas Iscariot. It’s my strongest ally and my most honest friend. May I return the favor with kind and loving friendship.


Yogi Gone Rogue


Anika Spencer | San DIego, CA

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