Profiles in Recovery

Taunia Kellerby

A Buddhist path to recovery gave Kellerby the tools and insight to overcome heroin’s grip – and ease her suffering. She found healing in Refuge Recovery, the growing mindfulness-based recovery movement started in Los Angeles by Buddhist teacher Noah Levine.

“I’ve finally learned that I won’t think my way out of any afflictive state of mind. I will have to act my way out of it.,” Kellerby says.

She volunteers to bring Refuge Recovery and mindfulness meditation to people who are incarcerated. A veteran of the U.S. Marines, Kellerby also works at an addiction treatment center in Nashville.

“Life has become rich because I am no longer avoiding the parts of myself that need attention,” she says. “I have the capacity to feel; to tolerate and have empathy for what is difficult.”

What I lost to addiction:
I was a shell of a person sleepwalking through existence. I did not know who I was, and while using, I did not have the capacity to find out.

At my worst, I was:
Dopesick and desperate for a fix of heroin, surrounded by the drug task force with my hands in the air. My hair disheveled, I was wearing pajamas in the middle of the day, and a hospital band around my wrist from a recent week long stay where I almost died. I did not care about my life.

What worked for me:
My worst day, as described above was also my best day. Totally boxed in, believing I’m about to lose my freedom, the realization came . . . I want to be free more than anything.  Free from the enslavement of opiates, free from how I perceive myself, free from life as I had been living it . . . free from suffering.

I went to treatment 3 days later. I met a Buddhist teacher there who brought in mindfulness meditation to our group, and I was hooked. I attend Refuge Recovery, have a daily meditation practice and sit regular silent meditation retreats.

Rules I live by:
I practice daily meditation to cultivate awareness of what is going on inside of me and how I am relating to it.  Watch how I talk to myself.  Am I being judgmental or critical? Tolerant, understanding, or kind?

It’s all about acceptance and change. Stop fighting or avoiding whatever is there in experience. Accept things as they are . . . meaning whatever is here is here. No denial. Take action to create new conditions if needed.

Keep my environment tidy. Make my bed. Do my dishes. Keep everything in its place. Make sure my environment looks like recovery and not addiction. Daily rituals help to re-wire the brain. Create new good habits.

Favorite recovery quotes:
“It’s as simple as this: all positive intentional actions have a positive effect on us. All negative intentional actions have a negative effect on us. Recovery comes from positive actions alone” – Refuge Recovery

“Act your way into right thinking” – Alcoholics Anonymous

Stigma I faced:
The worst stigma is internal; my own self-talk . . . my own shame. When these things are addressed inside of me, the stigma from the world is not that powerful because I don’t believe it anymore.

What I learned about myself:
I have come to understand and accept my humanity. Every human being, through a built in survival instinct seeks to avoid pain and obtain pleasure. Self-centered craving to feel safe and comfortable is not our fault; we’re hard wired that way. I don’t have to feel shame and beat myself up for being human anymore. I do have to take responsibility for it.

I have to be aware of it and develop a relationship to it; to respond to pain with compassion rather than to react out of fear-based instinct. Understanding that deep down we all just want to be safe and free from harm, I can get in touch with my inherent goodness; my capacity for wisdom and compassion. This is what we are trying to recover. It’s not about getting the boyfriend, the job, the apartment, or the cars back –
although all of this will most certainly come when we recover our hearts.

On finding purpose:
Small daily acts of generosity and service are so important. They help us to change our perceptions of ourselves and the world.

Take the time to deeply listen to a friend or community member who is distressed without feeling the need to fix or solve anything.  Just listen and be present for them. Hold the door for someone. Set up chairs at a meeting and greet people as they arrive. Buy someone a book or a cup of coffee. Call and tell a friend you appreciate them and how they have supported you. Above all, be generous and kind to yourself . . . be your own best friend. This enables you to truly do it for other people.

SHED THE STIGMA:
If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected]