Patrick Bailey, a fellow writer, reached out to me recently. He has a close friend who, like so many of us, discovered the healing powers of dance. Here is her story, as told to Patrick.
If you are struggling with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or addiction, please know you’re not alone. Help is available. Reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness.
A Journey of Healing Through Dance: My Battle with Low Self-Esteem and Addiction
As a young girl, I always had issues with self-esteem. The other girls in my high school were naturally skinny, and I thought to myself that I would never measure up. My parents never told me directly that I was beautiful as I am–they were really just not that type of people. My mom and dad loved me, but I guess I needed those words of affirmation growing up.
This brought me to seek validation in other ways. I got into relationships not because I really liked those people, but solely because I wanted the attention they gave me. Right up to college, I had several ‘dating stints’ where I knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to last long. To make things worse, I picked up some of their habits like going parties all the time and drinking like there was no tomorrow.
From Self-Esteem Issues to Addiction
As I got out of my last relationship, unfortunately, it left behind a seed of dependency on alcohol. I somehow associated drinking with feeling good, feeling free, feeling confident–I didn’t have to worry about what others thought of me. I just felt like myself. As effects waned, then I would start feeling down again, and that fueled my dependence.
Thankfully, I did manage to finish college and got a steady paying job downtown as a clerk on a local publication. I took the morning shifts, and it was increasingly difficult to get up in the morning and become focused on my tasks after a night of chronic drinking. Still, I had to work. I needed to pay rent, and my daily spending including alcohol was slowly catching up to my paycheck.
I thought I could handle being “okay” even if I knew that I was taking in more alcohol than I did a few years back in college. However, as months passed by my spending piled up, and I was already a few weeks behind my rent, and nothing was in the fridge. The day before, my supervisor noted that I needed to do more thorough work, or else they were considering other people fit for my role.
I was at a low point, but I couldn’t help feeding my drinking addiction.
The Turning Point
I barely managed to make it through my first year of work. I am actually thankful that they kept me, but I got several reprimands about the quality of my output. I felt like I was walking on eggshells and feeling relieved when they tried to keep me. My self-confidence was low at this point. It’s like I knew I was going nowhere. My days were the same, I had nothing going on in my life, and my alcohol drinking got way out of hand. There was no progression and no sense of purpose–I was just existing.
One afternoon when I was on my way home, I had a very painful headache that caused me to be dizzy. I tried to walk up to the bus stop to resume my daily commute, but I was quickly feeling nauseous that I had barely time to ask for help as my vision dimmed. The next thing I remember was a loud horn and I completely passed out.
It turns out, some good Samaritans brought me to the nearest urgent care. I learned from the point I got dizzy that I actually crossed the street on a green light and got almost hit by a bus! I remembered taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection, along with a swig of alcohol on my way home. It turns out that the combination was almost deadly–and it caused the dizziness and vomiting.
The impact of almost being killed left a strong mark on me. I vowed to make a change once and for all.
Finding My True Love in Rehab
The time I recognized that my addiction was out of control, I admitted myself to an alcohol rehab program in my local area. During the assessment, I was asked several questions about what I think the root of my addiction is, and what my life was like before the substance abuse started.
It was a cathartic experience. Even in that simple question and answer session, I slowly unrooted the causes of my dependency. My low self-esteem, resentment towards others, and the lack of my parents’ affection are what caused me towards the downward spiral. After that evaluation, they recommended several options for me, including Dance Therapy. When I saw it, I was like “What?!” I felt like I was a person with two left feet!
However, my hesitant self gave dancing a try. My instructor introduced me to the basic Jazz dance steps, such as the cross-step, chasse, and traditional walk. I looked at myself in the mirror and slowly studied the instructor’s steps until I was able to imitate and put on my own style. Soon enough, it was the highlight of my day during inpatient rehab. I felt so confident, happy, and accomplished after each session ended.
Learning to dance Jazz was a therapeutic experience for me. Indeed, it gave me a whole sense of self, and the confidence I needed to create an impact for others as well. After rehab, I quit my clerk job and decided to be a dance instructor in my local community center.
The relief I experienced from alcohol is no longer there–I realized that when I filled the void with something more meaningful and helpful for others, I also found my sense of purpose.
I did find my true love in rehab, as crazy as it seems. Dancing jazz is my true love.
No Regrets, Just Lessons
Is your bondage a lack of self-confidence? I encourage you to try dancing. People often think that they need to be confident in order to dance, but it works the other way around–dancing gives you the confidence you need. You learn, grow, and become fulfilled on the way.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience with low self-esteem, addiction, rehab, and finding my passion. I believe that those challenges are what led me to where I am now.
If you are in a dark place in your life and there seems to be no end, trust that these experiences can mold you into the person you aspire to be. All you have to do is to commit to change–the smallest step can lead you closer into the light.