Recovering from Addiction
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons
At only 28-years-young, Monica LeBansky has lived a life far beyond her years. You would never know the curly-haired, fresh-faced yoga instructor is a recovering addict.
LeBansky had her first drink at just 12-years-old. Like many teens, she was looking for a way to fit in. Despite getting good grades, she felt isolated. Partying, sneaking out and being known for, as she says, “down for anything”, is where she found the sense of belonging she was seeking.
As she moved into high school, her substance use worsened. By college she was a functioning alcoholic. “I was an all-day, daily drinker,” she recalls. On top of her drinking habit came myriad drug use, including cocaine, hallucinogens, opiates, and over-the-counter pills.
Her destructive behavior brought consequences. She had car accidents, seizures, failing grades, and often found herself in dangerous situations.
“I could no longer go a day without drinking due to physical withdrawals,” she says.
Whether it was during a blackout or a moment of clarity, LeBansky isn’t sure, but “I called my mom and told her I had a problem,” she says. “I soon went to my first treatment center and spent a little over four months there.”
While admitting she had a problem was a huge step, her road to recovery had only just begun.
It would be a very long time before she finally accepted what she knew to be true—that she was indeed an addict and alcoholic.
Rehab became a revolving door. Instead of a place to get better, she viewed it as a place to rest and refuel, load up on meds, make new connections, and buy time as she plotted her next scheme to get high.
At the very end of her spiral, LeBansky developed a severe addiction to methamphetamine. She says there were many dark hours, but at her lowest point, she was bouncing between living in a storage unit to staying on couches, and eventually became homeless. “I had developed unbelievable pain in my feet, legs and arms,” she says, “which eventually made it unbearable to walk or even hold an object.” LeBansky had gout.
She returned to treatment. “Not so much as an honest attempt at sobriety, but because again I had nowhere else to go,” she recalls. LeBansky says she was convinced she would die an active alcoholic and addict. She could not see another way out.
But her final treatment was different.
“I learned that there is a lot of hope in hopelessness,” she says. Designed for addicts who had exhausted all other attempts to get clean, her last treatment was a center for end-of-the-line addicts—chronic relapsers. “I was no longer coddled,” she says, “I was told that I was the problem and that my self-centeredness was the root of it all.”
It was there where she was first introduced to yoga. “It felt like hell. My body, mind, and spirit were so broken. Everything hurt and it felt impossible to focus my mind.”
But over time an unlikely passion emerged.
She found herself looking forward to class and caring more and more about her poses and her practice. For the first time in a very long time, she cared about something other than getting high. She wanted to be good at something. And that is what changed her life.
April 8, 2013 marked LeBansky’s four year anniversary of sobriety. Now, a yoga teacher herself, she is using her experiences to help others through their own similar battle. “A person who has struggled with [addiction] has an innate ability to help another person like no one else can.”
While every path is different, she hopes others will find themselves through yoga the way she has. “Whether or not its problems with addiction, everyone who makes it onto their mat is searching for something.”