A memoria on substance abuse and clarity, written by R.R. Shakti, PhD.
This post is bound to be wildly unpopular.
...Because I have found that people, in general, don’t like to talk much about their addictions or substance abuse.
I know I didn’t.
Last year (November 2017) my husband decided to take a year off from drinking alcohol.
My first (internal) response was something like: “That’s great for you since you (obviously) have a problem; but don’t expect me to give up the "half a glass" (the reality was 2 glasses) of divine red nectar I imbibe most evenings...forget it! You’re on your own!”
My defensive retort was accompanied by a sudden stinging (and humbling) realization, like a spanking from the Universe.
I mean who was I fooling? My indignant loyalty to wine (over my husband) was a sure sign of delusion.
It was time for re-evaluation.
Allow me to take you deep into my past.
My sordid relationship with substances goes way back before, and much more interesting than, mom-wine at the end of the day.
I grew up in an upstanding, church-going (kinda hippyish) Christian household, where a subverted weed of addiction grew (quite literally) in the basement.
My dad liked to smoke. A lot.
I remember relighting the butts he left in the bathroom ashtray and relishing the strange—slightly queasy but super buzzy—sensation I got from just one puff.
In 1991, my homeschooled, bible-studying, “good choice” days came to a screeching halt when I descended upon the State University.
The very first weekend of my very first semester away from home, “The Doors” movie (remember the absolute wizardry of Val Kilmer!?) played on a huge outdoor screen in my campus quad and my eyes were widened.
It was Jim Morrison’s poetic depth that attracted me...and the mystical dance of the human experience, approached with new found inside-out and upside-down “clarity.”
From that time on, most of my boyfriends we’re (conveniently) holding.
To the tunes of Jane’s Addiction, Kate Bush, the Grateful Dead, et al., I experimented with uppers, downers, and hallucinogens. I was known to swallow something before asking what it was.
Life became a backdrop for out-of-mind experiences. Going to the city was a great time for cocaine. Camping was ideal for mushrooms. Most movies were complete with just a little bit of acid, and music always sounded better when I was high.
I tried it all, from ancient herbs to newfangled chemical cocktails. My favorite sensation: sinking into the oblivion of a purple opiate haze. There was an occasion, or maybe two, when I had to reach across the floor to make sure my friend was still breathing—or maybe that was my friend's hand touching me...
It's a little hazy: psychedelic memories.
Cigarettes burned almost constantly, and a tequila shot was best chased with whiskey.
I ate the cake and drank the drink and found myself time and again, in a magic bubble, dancing with a bunch of fantastical puppets and an elfin king who looked an awful lot like David Bowie.
Wait a minute, I might be getting things confused with one of my favorite childhood movies...
But anyway, it’s true. “Real life” had become an impossible labyrinth—sometimes fun, but mostly confusing, emotionally exhausting, kinda scary, and (looking back on it now) really dumb.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret those days one bit. I mean, “Drugs are bad M’KAY,” (and simply not worth the risk of addiction) but I learned so much from taking them...like how to truly sit in discomfort and where to find my abandoned mind.
It was as if I threw myself completely off-balance—in fact onto the very brink of insanity—on purpose; so that I would have to distinguish my center from the chaos...again and again.
Then I started practicing yoga.
Wait, that’s not right. Not quite yet.
...And I’m remembering now that it was Nature—Nature saved me first.
Because when we were out there, on our mushroom quest to reach the top of Pikes Peak by midnight, for instance...
...or when I wandered off into the woods drunk and alone.
I was never alone.
The winds, and trees, and moon were talking.
They were trying to remind me that I am one with All.
Within the hallucination was a sobering reckoning with Reality...a beckoning to come home to my innate wholeness.
So after I told that one guy I was leaving
...and after I threatened again
...and after I had no choice because I had no money, and I had no job, and he was in jail, and another friend had died (drunk and hit by a train)...
And I found my way home.
...Up on top of a mountain, hiking, rappelling, climbing, kayaking, ice climbing (hated that, btw), skiing, snowboarding, surfing, scuba...
At 10,200 feet—and sometimes in the Canyon lands—and sometimes in the Great Barrier Reef—I got an Associates Degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership.
Me. A degree!
I went from climbing the walls to climbing rock-walls.
Me. Rock climbing!
And that’s when I started practicing yoga.
I had landed a job with the Colorado Outward Bound School and those cool Course Instructor cats were downward-dogging by the river. They hand-stood in the canyons. They were tree-posing at 14,000 feet. It was as if they were striking these yoga postures to throw themselves completely off-balance—on purpose; so that they would have to distinguish their center...again and again. They seemed to know how to peacefully sit in discomfort and where to find their befriended minds.
I succumbed to peer pressure (everybody was doing it).
I took a deep breath. And then another. And then another. And then I remembered:
One with All.
Little by little, breathing interfered with my smoking.
Drunk yoga was no fun. Believe me, I tried.
My lifestyle just changed. It had to, if I wanted to keep living in this beautiful Reality.
They say: "Yoga heals" and "Nature heals."
And it's true. Yoga in Nature was my medicine; but only because it reminded me that the healer is within. It showed me that there is nothing—at all—wrong with me. There is no emotion, behavior, or personality trait that needs to be "self-medicated" by any outside substance. Love never fails; and that means Love for my whole and complete Self...truly, madly, deeply.
Continued studies and practice fortified my experience of wholeness. But then I started graduate school. It was intense. I felt a little like Cinderella at the ball: in rapture for the moment, terrified that at midnight they would all find out that I didn't really belong.
I remember visiting the bar after class one day with a bunch of 3rd year students...already working on their doctoral dissertations.
They were 2 and "half a glass" in when I asked:
"How can you drink while you are writing?"
The most glamorous one replied:
"The real question, darling, is how could I write without drinking?"
Getting buzzed was like a creative right.
I bought it.
I started writing my own PhD work...enjoying the creative rite of a simple sip of wine.
Little by little, one glass here and there, turned into "half a glass" almost every night.
I made some stupid decisions while drinking...said some dumb things.
It wasn't debilitating, sure, but I certainly felt more tired than I needed to. Less free.
And then, that day, I faced that needling decision: to take a year off from the drink...
or to continue to pretend I was totally cool. But I already knew the answer—because I remembered—I am already home.
This evening I had a glass of wine—my first in over a year.
I might not drink another until next year. Then again, I might have one tomorrow...
But I truly don’t want a second drink right now (not even just “half a glass”)
...and that feels a lot like freedom. It feels like Love.
There are many, many factors that lead a person into addictive behaviors.
There are many healing tools that can bring a person back home to their wholeness.
If you struggle with addictions or substance abuse, please know you are not alone.
YOUR POWER IS WITHIN.
...but if there is a lot going on in there and you have forgotten where to find your center, help is on the way.
In Infinite Love,
R.R. Shakti, PhD.
About The Author
R.R. Shakti, PhD
Founding teacher of Inner Power Yoga®, Shakti is a Contemplative Mythologist, ritual facilitator, and writer who presents a Tantrik approach to personal empowerment and social action. Through contemplative story-telling and mind/body practices, she offers a vision of deep peace and radical freedom.
PSYCHE + SOUL