Bonnie Pelletier Donahue used to be a heavy alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine user. Her two marriages failed, her youngest daughter was taken away, and her family wanted nothing to do with her.

Now Bonnie is a Y12SR yoga instructor and the founder of Bonifide Yoga. She has dedicated her new life to yoga for 12-step recovery, her sobriety, and her kids.

Bonnie also owns and manages a dive bar that belonged to her father. She is surrounded by alcohol every day, yet she stays sober.

Listen to Bonnie’s descent into addiction, her many failed attempts at sobriety, and how she’s now crushing it in recovery.

CLEAN DATE: OCTOBER 16TH, 2011

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Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the Podcast now!

Bonnie’s Recovery Routine

The first thing Bonnie does when she wakes up is hits her knees and prays. She asks to be a channel and a message, and to be able to move her ego out of the way for the day. Then she sets and intention before doing at least five yoga sun salutations to try to tap in and connect to the day.

Her mind immediately wants to jump on her to-do list, so she forces herself to slow down and be in the present moment. Then she hits a meeting before going to work at the family business … a dive bar.

Bonnie had a shame attached to the fact that she works at a bar, but she has accepted it. She manages it for her father and it’s what pays the bills. Bonnie says it has forced her to become strong in her Y12R yoga practice and her recovery. She has to look the demon in the face every day.

I go to a meeting, and I go to the bar after.

Bonnie supplements her income by teaching yoga, organizing recovery retreats, and using AirBnB.

Spiritual Practice

Bonnie’s spiritual practice depends on what she is working toward on a particular day. Sometimes she does guided meditation. Sometimes she chants a mantra. Whatever she decides, she commits to twenty minutes each morning to connect to her Higher Power. Then she tries to maintain conscious breaths throughout the day.

The First Time

The first time Bonnie remembers the taste of alcohol was when she was a little girl. She went out to dinner with the family and was allowed to get a crème de menthe parfait for dessert. She got so excited because it contained alcohol.

Later in life, when she was thirteen years old, the cool girls invited her to a house party before a school dance. Bonnie put down an 8 – 10 ounce glass of crème de menthe before the dance. She was sick to her stomach and got into a drunken fight with her friend. This would be the start of a pattern that would repeat for years into the future.

The Battle, Wreckage, Rock Bottom, and Recovery

I am a woman in long-term self-discovery.

Bonnie says her surrender to recovery was like being dragged on the bumper of a car from New York to Florida. She drank because she was uncomfortable in her own skin. She had false beliefs and wanted to change the way she felt about herself.

She first decided to quit drinking at the age of seventeen. Her older brother took her and her friend down to party in Florida as a graduation present. She ended up becoming infatuated with a religious suntan lotion vendor who asked her to consider Jesus Christ. She became born-again Christian right then and there. This first period of sobriety lasted until 1990.

When I drink. I drop out. I drop out of whatever it is I’m doing.

Bonnie went to work for her dad at the bar. She didn’t drink on the job, but afterward she ended up in one debacle after the next. She met her first ex-husband down the street at another bar.

They got married, built a house, and Bonnie had her first daughter. She didn’t drink after that. Her friend told her about AA, but she was into being a mom. It was already changing her life so she didn’t go through the 12 Steps.

Bonnie didn’t drink and her life is good. There was the pattern, but she and her first husband had a challenging marriage. She didn’t have the skills to be in a relationship. They had two kids now in their dysfunctional household. When things in life weren’t going the way she thought they should be going, she started to go out binge drinking. Bonnie’s first marriage soon ended in divorce.

She picked up a drink and met her second ex-husband at another bar. They moved in together months later. Eventually they married and Bonnie had her third and youngest daughter. She went through spells of cocaine use and marijuana. She also went through periods of white-knuckle sobriety where she obsessively exercised and screamed at everyone. She knew about AA and went to a few meetings, but she wasn’t living in the solution even though it was right next to her.

I was doing the best I could for my level of consciousness. 

Her life became overwhelming and unmanageable. She started going to a therapist and practicing yoga, but still got high before and after her appointments. She says she was seeking a spiritual solution to a human existence and her substance abuse worked until it didn’t work anymore. Her second husband soon gave up on her and demanded a divorce. He also took custody of their daughter. Bonnie didn’t know what to do.

My family already wanted to have nothing to do with me, which was the best place in the world for me to be. 

After getting arrested for wrestling her sister in her own front yard, Bonnie spent ten hours in jail facing herself. She was picked up by a friend of her brother’s, a spiritual man who prayed for her and told her that legions of angels were on their way to help her. Bonnie finally gets the message. She gets to a meeting and commits with her whole heart and soul to recovery. She cashed in her 401K and took a whole year off of work to become strong and heal.

Recovery is amazing.

Working in a Bar

Bonnie still works in her dad’s bar as a way of making amends and showing up for him. He is eighty years old and loves her very much. She is the youngest of four siblings and she feels a sense of duty because her dad entrusts his business to her. Bonnie has dreams that someday she will transform it into a coffeehouse and a recovery bookshop with rooms upstairs for meetings and yoga.

What kept Bonnie from getting clean

I was afraid of what people who drank would think of me if I didn’t drink anymore.

Spiritual Awakening

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to forgive my ex for taking my daughter away.

Bonnie went on a Buddhist retreat at the Wilson House and realized that if she didn’t forgive, she would never stay sober. In that moment, Bonnie says she went from being a victim to being a member of the universe.

I know that god turns everything into good somewhere along the line.

Favorite books

The 4 Agreements Don Miguel Ruiz

Polishing the Mirror Ram Das

7 Spiritual Laws of Success Deepak Chopra

Best Suggestion

Get on my knees in the morning. Ask a power greater than me to remove the obsession. Show me the way of patience tolerance kindliness and love for myself and others.

For the Newcomer

The women of AA saved Bonnie from herself. They knew she was in danger of using AA as a dating service. Bonnie says that if you find a man that wants to fix you early in recovery, run. There is something wrong with a person who targets a recovering addict who is a vulnerable mess.

Men will pat your ass. Women will save your ass.

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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.