During my twenties, I developed a dangerous relationship with cocaine. Thursday to Sunday every week, it was all about getting together with a group of fast-living London friends and getting high.
Sometimes it was all-night house parties, sometimes it was at bars, and sometimes it was just when we were "staying in" with a bottle of wine. Besides cocaine, I was also abusing alcohol, drinking to excess every time I had the chance. It was almost as though I had no off-switch at times. It was the only way I knew how to take the edge off a comedown from the drugs.
I partied hard to numb my boredom and frustration, as well as the physical pain from my scoliosis, which I'd had since I was a teenager. I had no knowledge of how to manage the daily searing pain in my neck and spine, and so I was largely ignoring the condition.
I hated the way it made me feel: weak, less able-bodied, unable to move freely at times, and constantly tired and trapped inside a body I had little love for.
To make matters worse, I felt a responsibility to stay in my then-relationship of six years despite knowing deep down that we were going nowhere. We were both miserable and dragging each other down, but I felt that people would judge me if I decided to walk away from a guy who loved me so much and that I’d invested so much time with.
At work, I had completely lost my voice and my sense of value. I had a fancy title as an art director, but underneath I didn’t feel like anyone important. I felt like I was living someone else’s life. I’d never wanted to be a manager. I’d wanted to write music or do something creative, but somehow I’d got lost in the trappings of climbing the corporate career ladder to support myself. I had wound up with no idea of what I was really good at or what Natalie really wanted out of life anymore.
Drugs and alcohol were a way to create excitement, creativity, and an escape from a reality I’d created for myself — yet ultimately hated.
And for a very short time this seemed to work.
The Moment I Finally Hit Rock Bottom
But there were signs that my life was unraveling. I began to get sick and had to take time off work, at one point resurfacing with mono that I’d had as a teen. I was always the last one to go to bed, despite knowing I had to be up in a few hours. And I knew it was bad when the friends who would normally stay up with me pulled me aside at a festival to tell me how worried they all were about me.
A small voice inside me was saying, "How long are you going to keep doing this to yourself, Natalie? How long are you going to keep hating your body?" But I didn’t know how to stop.
Until the night I got a phone call that changed everything.
My grandmother, the woman I had looked up to all my life, had passed away and I hadn’t visited her in ages. So many times I had intended to go to the hospital while she was ill, but I simply didn’t make spending time with her a priority, just as I hadn’t prioritized my true friends during that time. I had been too “busy,” choosing to snort and drink away my problems. And now it was too late to say goodbye and tell her how much I loved her.
That moment, in the aftermath of a party at a friend’s house early one Sunday morning, I knew I was going to have to make some drastic changes.
How I Listened To My Body & Turned My Life Around
Over the next few months, I decided to stop using drugs and drinking altogether. That meant I had to distance myself from some of the people in my life who had no intention of doing the same.
I also ended my relationship with my boyfriend and moved back in with my mom for a short period of time while I figured out where I was going to live.
I begged my boss for a month of unpaid leave and headed off to Ana Forrest’s 200-hour yoga teacher training. I had been inspired after meeting my first private yoga teacher several months before, when the pain in my body had become unmanageable. Not only did she teach me about pain-relief and yoga — she opened my eyes to just how low I had let my self-worth become. She showed me I was capable of so much more.
And so after reading up about Ana and her struggles with addictions, I decided the intensive Forrest training was the new start I needed not only to learn more about my body and my spine but to turn my life around.
I had decided to empower myself, and that’s where my work really began. Ana helped me find my confidence and voice again. I learned how to heal, respect, reconnect to, and most of all, love my body. Soon afterward, I decided to walk away from the safety of my corporate job to teach yoga and coach.
But my work still continues, now and every day. I still battle the limiting voice that can sometimes chime in when I’m about to make a change or take a new step in life.
The difference now is that I have the courage to listen to my nurturing voice and hear what it has to say. As I've let go of anxiety, worry, and the feelings of not being enough, my physical pain has lessened. I know that my journey is about more than just working on my physical body and the scoliosis — it's also about cultivating a deeper sense of love and respect for the person I am.
So, if my story resonates with you, here’s my challenge to you right now: What does your inner voice want you to hear?
It could be begging you to stop destroying your body and your health. It could be asking you to let someone or something go and make a new start on your own. Or it could simply be asking you to be kinder to yourself.
Ultimately, turning your life around is about realizing that you're truly amazing, just as you are.
So if things feel hopeless right now, if you’ve reached the bottom like I did, understand that it’s a blessing. From here, the only place you can move to is up.
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