An Ex-Addict and a Dog Named Sheba

I woke up with the vulture on the headboard. Negative thinking. Not sure why, doesn't matter why. It was there. Negative thought bombardment draining my energy.  It makes no difference that I am in Maui teaching and loving it. The thoughts come anyway.

Today is also a writing day. I'm writing my book, and in the process exploring a lot about my family and my history. It dawns on me that this process of writing is stirring the pot and bringing up some difficult emotions as I recall previous versions of myself and others, versions I'd rather not revisit.

I decide to hitchhike to town. When you put yourself out there, without a plan, with uncertainty and the total realization that you’re not in control, things happen. The signs show up. Hitchhiking has always been that for me.

I put my thumb out and a few cars roll by without stopping. The fifth car stops. It's a woman in her 60s, browned from years in the Hawaiian sun, a lived-in face and body, hair kind of tattered. She has a dog—Sheba—in the back of the car, who is barking, not sure how she feels about me. I get in the front seat, consciously thinking about gratitude and love, and Sheba decides it's okay to have me there.

The woman tells me, "I usually never pick up hitchhikers because Sheba won't let them in the car.” Without missing a beat, she says, "I been here for 35 years. I left California because I was a drug addict, came here to Maui, got it together, and never left.” I turn my head away from her to pretend I'm looking out the window, but really I'm hiding my epic grin.

Recovery from addiction is one of the biggest topics in my life. I’m always interested in people who have dealt with these issues and I want to know how they managed to turn it around. With this woman's sudden declaration of recovery, I immediately feel clicked in. You know the relief you get at the moment when you remember something that you couldn't recall for a while? It's the moment when a wave's energy overtakes your desperate paddling to catch it and carries you by its own momentum. This was like that. My negative thinking stopped right then and I was in the flow of the universe.

This woman's story was not the typical “went to rehab, did the 12 Steps” version of recovery. She was acutely addicted to hard drugs and alcohol and dying from it. She left her environment, found a new place, and just got sober. Of course, I'm curious. In my world almost no one "just gets sober.”

“How'd you do that? Was there a human angel that came to your aid? Some kind of program?” I ask her.

"No,” she says, "I did it by myself. Well, me and the Almighty." I nod. That's enough for me to understand her path. I tell her that I went to rehab and needed the support of the 12 Steps to turn my life around. She nods and I sense that was enough for her to understand me.

You know the signs are everywhere. And when you see them, you realize the magic in your life. I had one such moment this morning with an ex-addict and a dog named Sheba.

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Tommy Rosen, a vinyasa flow and Kundalini Yoga teacher, is a leading authority on addiction and recovery, with 30 years of experience helping people overcome addictions of every kind.

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