Overcoming Addiction

If we’re close, you probably know that I’ve struggled with addiction for a long time but it’s not exactly something I’ve shared with the outside world. I’m not sure why I need to share this today but as I sit here with intense cravings, writing becomes my medicine.

I had my first hit of weed when I was 13 years old. I was going through a tough time. My parents were divorced and I had been terribly abused at home. During that summer visit with my father,  I told my mother that I was planning to stay there, moving over 2000 miles away to Fairbanks, Alaska. I was confused as she tried to beg me back in emotional fits that included attempted bribes or verbal harassment for “betraying” her, but I couldn’t stand the thought of returning to her torment.

New to town, I didn’t have many friends and when an older boy offered to smoke me out at the roller rink, I was all over it. Suddenly my depression lifted as I raced around the rink while headbanging and laughing. Soon after, I bought my own bag and kept buying bags whenever I had any money. I’ve smoked heavily, on and off, ever since. I’m now 38 years old – twenty-five years. When I was a kid, they used to say weed isn’t addictive, but I beg to differ. More recent studies state that for about 10% of us, it is.

Sure, I’d quit for periods of time. I think my longest was about two years after I first enlisted in the military. After that, I hooked up with a pothead boyfriend and began smoking heavily again while dodging drug tests with copious amounts of Goldenseal and water.

In my early twenties, I discovered diet pills. The first pills were prescribed to me after I had seen a commercial on TV. I was about 30 pounds overweight, technically obese. I was on the Air Force Weight Management Program and convinced the doctor that I needed Meridia or I’d be kicked out. I lost the weight and gained another addiction. My prescription dried up and desperate for that increased energy, I started buying Hydroxycut over the counter.

Anger and depression from unresolved childhood issues kept me seeking inner-peace and I eventually found freedom on the dance floor. I loved to party and began trying out drugs like MDMA, Acid, Ketamine, Adderall, and Cocaine. For the two years that I had a steady supply, I kept a “candy jar” of Ecstasy on my nightstand. But nothing ever hooked me like Marijuana. I had tried to quit using so many times. I’d give my weed away or dump it down the garbage chute. Or, I’d finish a bag and not buy again for a few days, but ultimately, I’d go back to it.

My mom died in 2015. While I didn’t realize it, I think I had my first adrenal crash at that time. I cried uncontrollably for months as I continued to “medicate” with weed, and counteract my fatigue with Hydroxycut and coffee. But I was unmotivated and a drain at work. It was clear that my heart wasn’t in it and I was laid off with a severance. I was told that an investor had pulled out of our start-up and sacrifices needed to be made, but looking back I’m pretty sure the CEO was graciously protecting my ego – I was the only one they let go.

I moved to Ecuador in an attempt to escape my misery. Cocaine was cheap and easy to come by. I loved it – It felt like what I thought perfect health must be like and I quickly ditched the chronic weed habit for a chronic coke habit. I dropped about thirty pounds and couldn’t live without it. I was doing a line first thing in the morning after just a couple hours sleep. I don’t think I hit REM sleep for over a year.

Friends were worried and I realized things were out of control. I needed to leave so I went to India for a yoga teacher training. While I was there, I’m pretty sure I experienced a second major adrenal crash. I saw an Ayurvedic doctor who prescribed herbs for emaciation and with deep concern on his face, told me that I needed to lay in bed for a week and do nothing. I laid in bed for a month while detoxing from my coke addiction. I cried, begged God for mercy, and began to see a way out as I received messages through dreams and visions. I’m still not sure if they were hallucinations or if God was speaking directly to me, but they got me to come back to the United States where I laid in bed for a couple more months as I dealt with sobriety for the first time in almost twenty years.

Shortly after my return, I connected with some Ayahuasca ceremonies. During these medicine journeys, I was able to see the abuse and trauma I had been bringing on myself. Though my childhood wounding was very real, it had long ended and I had become my own perpetrator. I hadn’t ever been able to see all the ways I was disrespecting myself before. I dropped the Hydroxycut and eventually the coffee.

It’s been about a year and a half since then. At first, I did buy some weed when the opportunity arose – so difficult to break these addictions – but that was short lived. The hook was deep though and I’d smoke at any opportunity. Since it’s so prevalent, the opportunities have been many, but over time it has become less and less appealing.

About five months ago, I had a hormone panel done to find out why my period was going haywire. The results turned up low cortisol and dopamine production. These hormones are responsible for energy throughout the day and feelings of joy. At the bottom of my test results, it cited “chronic marijuana use” among possible causes. I’m sure the cocaine was a contributor too.

It’s been hard to quit these accumulated habits. I’ve been exhausted – the result of all that borrowed energy. I’ve been moody and I have cravings all the time. I’ve also felt rather uninspired. I used to smoke a bowl and paint, write poetry, or go on a walk while photographing nature’s beauty. That’s mostly dried up now, but I know my own nature as a creator and I have faith that inspiration will return.

Ayahuasca has been a large part of my recovery. The shifted perspective and eye-opening awareness that I’ve experienced has become a part of me – imprinted at a cellular level. I was able to see who I had become and who I have to the potential to be. Ayahuasca also allowed me to experience how valuable I am to God, inspiring more self-acceptance and love and increasing my sense of self-worth. My memories from ceremony have given me the reinforcement that I desperately needed to quit.

Because of this, I’ve made the changes necessary for recovery. I’ve cleaned up my diet and simplified my life to allow for more rest. I’ve also left the city and am surrounded by nature. I’ve been working to replace old habits with healthier habits like getting outside for fresh air and grounding daily. I’m also surrounded by people who take their health as seriously as I do now. I’m so grateful for all of it… 2018 was my most sober year in the last twenty.

I am not perfect. I have definitely slipped, hoping a puff of weed at a party would give me those bursts of inspiration back but it hasn’t. And whenever I do fall off, with increased self-acceptance, I forgive myself and I renew my intention to quit. The path to healing is not linear. It is filled with ups and downs, good days and bad, but I’ve learned to roll with it and take it one day at a time.

8 thoughts on “Overcoming Addiction”

  1. My daughter has been on a path of escaping reality by using drugs and alcohol since her early teens. I wish that I could snap my fingers and release all of her pain but I know that’s not possible. I will present what you wrote of your struggles in hopes it will help her somehow. Thank you

    1. Thanks for your comment, Karen. When I posted this, I prayed that what I share is for the highest good and felt it was worth it to “out myself” if just one person benefited. Please feel free to reach back out if you or your daughter want to talk. Sending my love to both of you!

  2. Stephanie, very deep thoughts yet you have explained yourself in a few simple paragraphs. When I met you last summer I came home and, among many stories from your retreat, I also related how “together” you were, how grounded. And how worldly you were for such a young age. I am even more impressed now. I like you and hope a retreat reunion is in the future! As John Lennon says, “Let It Be.”

    1. Thanks, Frank. I so appreciate your words and that you’ve taken the time to read this. It’s been a long journey of self-reflection and improvement but I always try to make each day better than the last. I so enjoyed meeting you on our retreat and admire your energy and zest for life. It just feels good to be around you! I do hope we reunite someday. Sending my love to you! Hugs, Stephanie <3

  3. Stephanie, meeting you last year has been one of the treasures in my life! We never know what journey people are on! Your recovery is one of great courage! Despite your personal struggles are able to give your beautiful self to those who cross your path! Thank you for sharing your gift of yoga and cooking! I will pray God will continue to hold you in the palm of his hands and lift you up so you may continue lifting others!

    1. Thank you, Denise. It’s been a pleasure hosting the retreats and it has undoubtedly been part of my healing to share my gifts. I so appreciate your presence and that you’ve taken the time to read and comment on this! You are so kind and lovely. Thank you for your prayers. Love and blessings to you. <3

  4. Stephanie, thanks for for sharing your heart, your past and your future. The hardest part of addiction for me was once I got passed the obsession of daily use and later sporadic relapses was the deeper and darker guilt and shame of my choices. (And things that had happened to me) my experience is, once I started to heal myself…and was able to help others heal, the whole world opens up exponentially. Thanks for your detailed and gut level honesty. I encourage you to keep healing yourself…this will open your door to love and serve others. I see your passion for personal growth and want you to know you are already making this world better by being your best self.

    With Gratitude,

    K

    1. Thank you for sharing a part of your story, Keffory. It feels good to hear that you’ve healed yourself and I love what you’ve said about the world opening up. I so appreciate your words. <3

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