Meg Kirby is the epitome of zen. The times I spent around this incredible woman stand out because she stands out. She’s a voice for equal rights and she serves as a witness to what yoga truly is: love. I was lucky enough to work closely with her at lululemon in North Houston. We recently caught up and Meg opened up to me about depression, finding herself before she could find true love, and how her pregnancy inspires her commitment to self discovery.
SobrieTea Party: How were you introduced to alcohol?
Meg Kirby: I was 16 years old. It became clear that drinking alcohol was the most popular way to have fun or to cope with stress. The mentality of binge drinking is “You have to drink. And you have to drink a lot”. We always made sure to have a designated driver, but we made fun of anyone else in the group who wasn’t drinking the way that we did. Growing up in Canada, where the legal drinking age is 18, alcohol was everywhere.
STP: How would you describe your relationship with alcohol?
MK: Self medication for depression. Alcohol is a depressant that lingers for days. So when I was drinking everyday or every other day, my depression got worse. And I didn’t even realize it until everything around me started turning to shit. I didn’t realize how deep I had gone into my depression, barely keeping my head above it. Now I can see that drinking was stifling my self discovery and turned me into a zombie.
STP: What’s something in your life that turned to shit because of alcohol?
MK: Everything. Nothing was ok, and I was letting everyone else make my decisions for me. There wasn’t a strong sense of self respect, or responsibility, I was just drifting along, drinking to stop my soul from screaming at me. My first marriage was one of those things I floated into when it should have never happened and my life got worse because of that indecision. Before I met my ex husband, I was drinking about two bottles of wine every night. I wasn’t sleeping; suffering from insomnia and anxiety. I was depressed. I ended up dropping out of art school because I couldn’t handle it. I hadn’t done any self-exploration, so I fell into a relationship where it was easy for someone to tell me what to do. So for a couple of years, I was married to a man who was absolutely terrible to me. I finally started reading the works of Osho and began to do some soul searching. What the hell am I doing? I’m drinking everyday and I don’t know where I want to go in life. Who is he? There are no reasons to be with him! Then I left him and never looked back.
STP: Did your relationship with alcohol remain the same after the divorce?
MK: Yea, the separation was difficult. We were separated for a year before we could file for divorce. He wasn’t physically abusive, it was more verbal and controlling. There’s not much help for relationships like that since there’s no physical evidence of verbal abuse. While going through the divorce, I was working as a hostess in a restaurant making very little money. It was a rough time.
STP: How did working in the restaurant industry impact your drinking habits?
MK: I worked near a college campus in Calgary so I was around a lot of students who binge drank. We were working late nights, so the parties started late and we went out regularly. It felt like it was OK to drink all the time because I had found new friends that helped justify these habits. I wasn’t drinking because I was depressed (though looking back, I clearly was), I was drinking because it was fun.
STP: So your relationship with alcohol went from being depressed and drinking alone to socializing and having fun in a group.
MK: Exactly. I honestly can’t remember much of it, but I know it was a hinderance to my health. During that time, I had also decided to pick up smoking. Having a cigarette would take the edge off at the times when I couldn’t drink. Before I knew it, I was smoking a pack a day. I was spending money as fast as I was making it. I would look at my bank account and think Damn. I don’t have money for groceries or rent, but I still went out for drinks and smoked cigarettes. In Canada, the alcohol prices are nearly twice what they are in the states, so for most people going out was a luxury.
STP: How did you get out of this vicious cycle?
MK: I started my own natural house cleaning business. As my business grew, I no longer needed to work at the restaurant. Working for myself taught me self respect and responsibility. I learned what I was capable of and that gave me pride and confidence in myself. I cut down on drinking to excess quite a lot to only once a weekend, or every other week with friends. Around this time, a friend introduced me to yoga and it completely changed my life.
STP: How so?
MK: My teachers didn’t take themselves too seriously and it helped me feel comfortable in class. Yoga taught me discipline and how to open up and discuss what I’m going through. I also learned the importance of community. That support and the abundance of love and compassion people brought to the studio was an immensely positive influence on me. Now I’ve been teaching yoga classes for a year and a half.
STP: When we worked together, we had a some crazy nights with a few too many drinks and shots. On your end, were those nights linked to depression or just having fun?
MK: It was a combination of having fun and stress relief. I know depression is never fully gone, but it’s interesting to see how it has evolved. Since moving to the States, my depression wasn’t a reason to drink, but it would increase the likelihood of a depressive episode. It wasn’t so much self medicating, it was just an unhealthy and unproductive habit.
STP: Did this behavior stop because of your pregnancy?
MK: Forced sobriety has been wonderful! When I’m stressed out, I still wish I could have a margarita, but overtime it stops becoming a craving because I realize how dumb it would be to give in.
STP: What do you do when you want a margarita? Have you replaced it with something else?
MK: Pomegranate juice! A nice shot of pomegranate juice can be amazing. Yoga and meditation have been a consistent antidote for my depression. And my relationship with my husband helps a lot. I’ve learned not to dwell on thought and to recognize bad habits. I can see a margarita and think Damn, that looks good!, but now I just start thinking about something else. This process took a lot of work, but the more I practice, it gets easier to let things go.
STP: Before now, what’s the longest you’ve gone without alcohol?
MK: Every once in a while, my body would get tired of drinking and I would abstain for 3 months. As soon as this break would end, I would go back to drinking full force with the same habits.
STP: How do we, as a nation, address the issue of binge drinking?
MK: It’s hard because it’s almost like a tradition that’s passed on. For me, education has always been the turn around point. In school we learn about the dangers of alcohol abuse, but at that age it just sounds like nagging. If we can teach how it affects the body mentally – not just physically – maybe that could have an impact. People also refuse to admit that drinking can be a gateway drug. Education is powerful because you talk about it, then your younger sister talks about it, then her younger friends talk about it and it trickles down. Also, it’s important to feel comfortable to talk to friends and family that may have a drinking problem.
STP: That’s such a fine line though. Since I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve quickly learned that I have to be very careful when discussing my sobriety. People often feel like I judge them for drinking or look down on their behavior. I struggle with knowing when to voice concern. I wish someone talked to me about my unhealthy drinking habits, but I probably wouldn’t have listened. That’s why I subconsciously surrounded myself with people who drank the same way.
MK: Yea, then years later you hear someone say “I wanted to talk to you about that, but I didn’t know how”. Initially that thought made me angry, but I had to realize it’s not their responsibility. Maybe that situation needs more education, so people can feel empowered to have those discussions.
STP: Do you think you’ll go back to drinking after you have the baby?
MK: I want to see how it goes. If I can’t have one or two, then I’ll recognize that and realize that drinking may be something I can’t control.