This might be one of the most important things I have ever written, as a woman, in 38 years.
Sitting in my bra and a wrap skirt, cooling down with a mug of lemon juice and water, my thighs literally still shaking after a 15 km walk in the sun, not just walking but also carrying vegetables in my backpack and a bagful in each hand. A bountiful harvest of beautiful locally grown goods.
Why walk 15 kms for vegetables? Many reasons, and having just completed an over 600 km walk across Spain recently, it feels no huge feat, just a pleasant and much needed meditation and one which somehow brought my past smack bang into my present.
You see, I used to be a heroin addict. You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, or to talk to me. My passions these days are health and well-being, meditation, creativity and self-empowerment, and have been for some time. I’m a healthy woman overall and one of the ‘lucky’ ones it seems. If you can call tussling with your darkest fears and inner demons, learning to forgive one self and enter the long hard journey of complete surrender ‘lucky’.
I do. There’s not many days I don’t feel grateful just to be alive.
So today as I walk, I meet a couple of people along the way, I talk about the benefits of nut milk with a man I bump into who has recently had a heart attack. I’ve never met him before, but we are going the same way and he opens up about changes he has had to make in his life style. I enjoy the exchange. I’m very passionate about nut milk and make my own…I love it and I tell him how he can easily make his own.
I carry on walking, pondering, enjoying the enhancement of my senses the further I go, the sun on my skin.
A car pulls into a gravel driveway in front of me and a woman waves out. Being shortsighted and not having my glasses on it takes me until I reach the car to see who it is.
It’s a woman I knew when I was an addict, a woman who by rights had a lot going for her: relative wealth, good looks and intelligence.
But addiction doesn’t care about these things, it will grab anyone and take them down into the abyss of a hellish destruction that few seem to truly come out of whole.
As I said, I am one of the lucky ones. I experienced this hell and I lived to tell the tale, not only lived but thrived and grew on so many levels I see it as a blessing.
I get in the car and I say hi, and we do a brief catch up. Last time I saw her she had been busted by the police and to avoid prison, was sent to rehab and I learn then had to have an electronic bracelet for a year. She also has a daughter who, naturally, is developing behavioral issues with all this upheaval.
This is not a place I wish to revisit, these times, these people, these memories, and to be brought face to face with what “could” have been my life.
Her hands are shaking. They have her on some new prescribed drug she tells me, her face and body appear puffy and her once good looks are fading rapidly.
Ironically she drives me to the local organic store I’m on my way to. We chat, I tell her what I’ve been up to. She wants to have a coffee sometime and I feel like running a mile, heading for the hills. She tells me how it is hard to get motivated and even leave the bed, the couch, the TV, how she was clean but it didn’t last long. Even being on prescription drugs is not “clean.” Often they are worse or at least equal to street drugs.
I want to head for the hills.
But if my journey and my spirituality are not for extending my hand to another human being in their time of need, then quite honestly, I really don’t know what it is for.
If I found a way to break free, and to do it alone. There was no rehab for me, for example. I did it through finding my spiritual self and experiencing more trauma than I ever believed was possible, which then acted as a catalyst for huge change. I found meditation, which was a key tool among many other things.
And my god, I would have loved someone to come sit in the dark with me from time to time, to show me a little light, someone who had been there. Someone who wouldn’t judge the pitiful state I was in.
I had to become a warrior to save my own life. My spiritual journey was and is not about enlightenment, so much as fighting for my very soul, and finding and wrestling all my demons until I could then show them love and compassion and forgiveness. This took me years. That is and continues to be my personal enlightenment, to bring the dark I have experienced and been, into light. I still have battles, but they are new ones and more ephemeral. And I have scars, on my flesh and on my soul, but to me they have a certain beauty I am learning to be more comfortable with each and every day.
In this day and age addiction can wear many faces, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of easy solutions. I can’t offer this woman an easy solution, and I can’t offer her anything other than my own story, from my own heart. Maybe a walk now and then in the fresh air, in the healing embrace of nature, sharing a little time and a drink of something warm on a cool day, or of something refreshingly cool on a warm one.
And if my journey and the skills I learned can’t benefit another, if the strength I gained isn’t used to lift another, it feels the very antithesis of what I learned along the way while healing. So I won’t run.
I’ll reach out my hand instead.
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Assistant Editor: Daniel Garcia / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Chris Grosso