[Featured on Rebelle Society, August 2015]
When you’re 15, you’ll do almost anything to be cool, to feel a part of the world around you. A few too many tragic stories start like this, but this one turns out magically.
Sitting on the ground outside my out-of-town friend’s home, hiding from her out-of-her-mind mom, smoking my way through my first, out-of-my-league joint, 1985. This exceedingly popular friend had very cute boys swirling around her, and she thought I was cute, which was not typical.
I’d worn glasses up until about two months prior, and was just starting to gain the attention of boys like those.
I’d have done almost anything to be part of that tribe.
And it was funny, as that first time smoking so often is — hilariously, mind-bendingly funny. It was extremely out of character for me — it simply wasn’t like me to be doing the wrong thing: I only knew it seemed like the coolest thing.
And because I was finally getting cool now, that night I had a date with a most handsome boy: two years older, blue-blue eyes and a clear agenda. He came to pick me up, took me for a movie, a smoke, and a make-out session in his car. It was agonizingly awkward and, in hindsight, one of the riskiest choices I’d ever made.
Luckily for me, he deposited me home safe and sound, forever changed: feeling awful for choosing to have intimacy in a car off the side of the highway of all things, yet feeling on top of the world because it was with the likes of him. Him with a cool name and a cool car and a cool face.
So that was my first day smoking pot. It wouldn’t ever ruin me: I cared way too much about grades to let it get me much farther off-track than a B-minus average during one quarter of high school.
I managed to keep my habit in check and gain early acceptance to the smarty-pants school of my dreams, where I managed to keep my habit in full swing: I found friends with pot dealers within the first month. I smoked several times a week, and my vanity kept me from a daily habit then — grades were too important.
For me, pot quietly lurked everywhere, for years, calling to me to smoke increasingly more frequently, in order to start the day off right or to get creative or to take a break or because if I have just this one little puff I’ll feel so much better about myself today.
Not all was ever lost, though, which I think is what made it so hard to finally give it up almost 30 years later.
I wasn’t one of those who fell into more dangerous addictions: I dabbled in other drugs, but this one was mine. On the surface of things, it never destroyed my life. It only burned little holes in my soul and made me progressively more sad, under the auspices of making me more happy.
I took off for 3 1/2 years as soon as I met my son’s daddy: I knew I was going to get pregnant and breastfeed. Once my son turned two, I was thrilled to get high again — I was a mama, so those first few times seeing myself through my high eyes was downright exquisite, like the first time all over again.
I’d had a kid, I was highly functioning, and making a delicious life happen for myself. Within a few months of starting again, though, the wonder of the high faded, and the stronger need for the high set in.
It took six more years to finally let it all go.
And while it would never kill me, my addiction kept me making poor choices that opposed my rich purpose in this world. I was a slave. The promise of this high held my mind and my body so tightly, and shut down a part of my heart that was meant for far higher purposes.
There was nothing I could do, and had seemingly no reason to change, for a long time. I had everything: the most loyal and hilarious friends, a beautiful home, an exceptional kid, a handsome partner, a job that I love.
Except that I was starting to notice that I began at least three days each week with a morning puff off a joint just to get the day going.
Just to make it fun. Just to ease that sinking feeling that I was in the wrong life. Just to make the day more smooth. Just to finish that project. Just to get still. Just to meet up with my friends. Just to get to work.
Just to ease the feeling that I’m not enough.
Having just turned 43 years old, I woke up one morning telling myself this story, and something evolved right there and then, October 21st, 2014.
I’d been watching myself for too long, and that was the day.
I was done with making rules and breaking them, done with telling myself that yesterday was the last day — and then No, today’s the last day. I’ll just drop the boys off at school and the subway, run up to the roof and get a teeny tiny bit high, smoke a little tobacco, chill a while (I ‘deserve’ that), shower, then start working.
That dance took at least an hour of my time, every time, and I finally saw that all those hours were adding up, and I wasn’t living my whole dream. I’m here to help people, and I cannot help them if I’m stoned.
“Every day something must be achieved inwardly.” ~ Rudolf Steiner
To be sure, on those high days I’d managed to achieve all sorts of outward goals — I wrote, cleaned (a lot), learned how to cook (a lot), studied, hung with dear friends, even learned social media. Those outward goals haven’t disappeared, but they have taken a back seat to the inward ones.
The compassion for my self and my family that arises during a well-wrought asana; the patient love for myself expressed in a stroke of a minuscule watercolor painting. The quiet in my body that lingers long after my meditation.
And then the outward accomplishments effervesce from that residue of self-care. When I’m clear-minded and lighthearted, book proposals get written, and projects happen. Poetry flows, and that hour of chilling is replaced by Yoga practice, meditation, writing, art-making and divination.
The work of helping fellow teachers and seekers refine their mission and magnificence needed me to wake up and start loving myself.
On that day that it all shifted, I picked up May Cause Miracles and started to read Gabby’s writing for each of the 40 days in the book, and each day, I created some sort of still-life or tiny painting or written quote to reflect my understanding of that day’s message.
That was the beginning of what feels to be the best part of my life thus far; almost 45 and in my first year of sobriety, I’ve already heard from at least a dozen students and friends who’ve quit while watching my first 40 days, empowered by my willingness to share and heal.
I’m here to connect with other seekers in recovery, and locate meaning together. I’m here to remember myself today, and help others loosen the tether of drugs and get free. I’m here to keep telling the truth in all its evolving iterations and then close my computer and breathe.
Every day, I sit and breathe. I ask for guidance.
I tell the truth. I write a little.
I create one piece of art, no matter how small.
I remember myself at least once. I grow my spine tall.
I love myself inside and out, a few moments at a time.
I lean on the universe with my honesty.
I ask for signs, and I receive them gratefully.
Please listen here for my first spoken-word piece, entitled The Ritual of Recovery.
May it be of service to you and those you love.