My Story vrozzycreative July 20, 2022
marytilson

My Story

On April 27, 2013, I entered outpatient rehab for the second time in a period of less than four years.

This time, it wasn’t to appease my parents or to temporarily escape the drama caused by my addiction. I was ready to acknowledge that I had a problem, to commit fully to my recovery and receive the help that was being offered to me.

Before I got sober, I was the epitome of a high-functioning alcoholic and addict.

I had become masterful at hiding my struggle from the outside world, often times overcompensating at work and other areas of my life to prove to myself and others that I was fine. Behind the facade of my sought after advertising job and the endless perks that came along with it, I was stuck in a shameful cycle of addiction to alcohol, adderall and cocaine that left me feeling out of control, and constantly on the edge of disaster.

Let me take this moment to remind anyone who needs to hear it, you don’t need to hit a rock-bottom to get sober. Because I didn’t fit the stereotypical mold of an alcoholic or addict, I allowed myself to live in denial and continue to use despite the negative consequences caused by my drinking and drug use.

Fortunately

On April 27, 2013, I finally reached my limit and decided to commit myself wholeheartedly to the path of holistic recovery.

After completing a 6-week outpatient rehab program for a second time at Hazelden in Chicago, I enrolled in my first 200-Hr Yoga Teacher Training with the intention of deepening my personal practice and understanding of Yoga Philosophy. The inner stillness and clarity I found during this time led me to question everything, and illuminated how much of the life I was living had been shaped by my addiction. Soon after I finished my certification, I quit my job in Digital Advertising and booked a one way ticket to Southeast Asia, where I furthered my studies of Yoga and Eastern spirituality and began teaching yoga full-time.

Reaching Thorong-La Pass, the highest point on the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas of Nepal

In my first year of Sobriety, my world opened up dramatically as old stories and limiting beliefs began to fade away and I found myself on an adventure on the opposite side of the world.

In 2014, I climbed the Annapurna Circuit, a 21-day trek through the Himalayas in Nepal which took me to my absolute edge – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This experienced opened me up to a higher power which exists in the sheer awe and wonder of the natural world. I have remained enamored by the wilderness ever since; it’s where I’ve found my deepest spiritual connection.

Teaching Yoga in Cambodia at Hariharalaya Yoga & Meditation Retreat Center where I was the Head Resident Yoga Teacher

I spent the following year as the resident Head Yoga Teacher at Hariharalaya Yoga & Meditation Retreat Center in Cambodia, where I led 40+ Integral Yoga Retreats and mentored numerous Yoga Teacher Interns.

The vision by Hariharalaya’s owner, Joel Altman, who remains one of my greatest teachers and mentors is to promote yoga as a way of life, returning humans to a simpler, more natural way of living “in the now”, in harmony with ourselves and our surroundings. It was the antithesis of the fast-paced, hustle culture I was brought up in coming from the US, and the healing environment I so deeply needed. At the retreat center, we lived in grass huts, woke to the sound of a gong, meditated and practiced yoga twice daily, ate delicious vegan meals grown in our local village, chanted mantras, attended dharma talks, sang, dance, laughed, and embraced life moment to moment. There was no technology, wi-fi or stimulants (not even coffee) on site, and yet there was a vibrancy and feeling of aliveness that I had never experienced before. This time of intense practice, study and teaching was one of the most transformative periods of my life.

Following that year, I spent 5 months in India, during which time I completed a 10-day Silent Meditation Retreat as part of a Buddhist Meditation Course and studied Yoga and Ayurveda (the world’s oldest healing system) in ashrams in Rishikesh and Kerala. I returned to Kerala several years later for an introductory training on Kalaripayattu, a form of Indian Martial Arts.

Mary Tilson

Leading a New Year’s Eve Retreat in Mexico

Since leaving the US in 2014, I’ve had the privilege of spending periods of intense practice and study in ashrams, retreat centers and Ayurvedic Healing Centers across Southeast Asia, India and Nepal

A combined passion for yoga & mindfulness, cultural experiences and nature became the inspiration for my own yoga retreat business which was born in 2015.

This evolved into retreats in Nicaragua, Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Indonesia, the Maldives, Kenya, and South Africa, which have been featured in Yoga Journal, Women’s Health Aus, and Compare Retreats. I also served as the Wellness Director for NIHI Sumba in Indonesia, named “Best Hotel in the World” by Travel+Leisure Magazine and consulted for several wellness travel brands. I’ve had the joy of mentoring countless yoga teachers in the Yoga Trade community towards building fulfilling careers sharing what they love.

There was a time in my life that I thought becoming sober meant I was a failure and was doomed to a life of boredom. I now see that my drinking and drug use was the only thing standing in the way of a life I could have never dreamed of before I got sober.

When the world came to halt due to the pandemic and anxiety, depression and addiction began to skyrocket, there was a clear call to move in a direction that my heart had been calling me in since the beginning of my own recovery journey. I launched Sun & Moon Sober Living in 2021 with a vision to open up conversations about addiction recovery and mental health, and empower others to experience the bright side of sober living through a wide range of well-proven tools and resources.

If you are new to this space, I encourage you to subscribe to stay up-to-date on free online community meetings, my favorite recovery resources and new podcast episodes. I will also be hosting a group training The Holistic Sober Living course beginning in June. Here’s a link to join the waitlist.

It’s an incredible honor to share this space with you. Thank you for being here!

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