When I was a child, I felt God in my heart all the time. My earliest memories are of this energy in my heart, this spinning, whirling love that “looked” to me like sparkling electric green-blue and white light. I always knew this energy was God. I never doubted or questioned it at all.
I can hardly even imagine what it would be like to be this sensitive young woman from yesterday’s blog entry, praying and praying but feeling nothing and then suddenly, at the age of 22, awakening with such force to the interconnectedness of everything. What a shock to the system to suddenly feel alive, to suddenly feel connected to Life, to all of Life.
For me it was a shock to suddenly feel dead. I remember being about nineteen when it happened. There had been trauma, oh, lots of trauma, but what I did to myself was the last straw. The cocaine was the last straw. One day I woke up and that place in my heart was simply dead. It was as if it was frozen, ice ice cold.
In an interview with a man named Peter Miller who is doing an extensive research project on the shamanic qualities of plants, I described this experience as having appropriated the power of the spirit of cocaine as my own because I felt so powerless, had lost so much of my own power to the relentlessly abusive and psychologically violent patterns of my family of origin. The Cocaine Daemon, filled that empty place inside me and gave me the illusion that I was empowered. But actually, it was sucking my Qi, my fundamental life force energy, right out of me.
I had attempted to appropriate it, and it was appropriating me right back.
If there can be such a thing, I was a fortunate addict. ‘Rolling Stone Magazine’ published an article on Cocaine Addiction in 1983 and I checked off all the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. A little switch went click in my head and I knew, just “saw” that my body was having a chemical reaction to the cocaine which was creating the addiction. I realized that if I continued putting cocaine into my body, that same series of chemical reactions would keep occurring. So I stopped. Right then and there. I never did another line again.
Well, I did get my nose repaired a few years later and the standard anesthesiology for rhinoplasty is liquid pharmaceutical cocaine, but after the surgery, I breathed through the cravings. I did not relapse.
There never was NA or AA for me. Not that I was rebellious, just that I didn’t know the options existed and the shame was so terrible, at having hurt myself so deeply, that I confided in no one what I was going through.
Yes, I was really one of the lucky ones.
It took almost ten years before the craving stopped, and for another five years I would still periodically dream I was snorting lines and wake up terrified, shaking myself out of sleep into the deep relief of my clean life. I did all the right things– I cut all my ties with anyone and everyone from that world; I turned to exercise, meditation and daily spiritual practice and developed a better diet; I tried to really process every single feeling I was feeling, leave no stone unturned and cry a lot, more than most modern, industrialized humans. I really really cried a lot. And as much as possible I did not criticize myself for crying, or for feeling anything. Gradually, I even learned to set boundaries with my family and say “No.” to cruelty and meanness, not with a rising battle of well-I’ll-show you, but with a bow and a “No thank you, please.” Gradually I relearned that incredible gift I was born with– loving kindness– and in relearning it, I learned also to protect it this time, and never ever to take it for granted.
Yes, I am definitely one of the lucky ones.
By the time I heard about 12-Step groups, I had been clean so long it really seemed moot. Instead, still struggling with family issues, I attended Al-Anon for several years. That was incredibly helpful.
Years later, I ran an addiction recovery program in the Lowell Prison. It was my 12th Step work. I was very very good at it. The women in that program helped me to heal my shame, to forgive myself, finally, for everything I had done to myself. They helped me to see myself in each of them, in their terrible stories, in their loneliness and desperation and deep sense of powerlessness. Together we survived all of our parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles, processed the collective ignorance, cruelty and selfishness of humanity, and helped one another to heal and to love.
I didn’t exactly follow the NA guidelines. After all, I didn’t really know them. But that wasn’t my job: my job was to be helpful. So I taught awareness. And it helped. It helped all of us.
And that feeling of God in my heart, of God being alive within my own heart, that eventually, after 17 years or so, came back home to me, and now, after almost 28 years clean, has continued to grow stronger and deeper. There is not a single day that I do not feel grateful for simply being and for being able to love.
Sometimes people find me strange– I am so grateful, so appreciative, so deeply aware of how precious life is and how easily it can be taken from us. Gone, gone in a moment, vanished. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable to be around me.
Sometimes they leave. Sometimes they stay. I go on loving them anyway. Just as life goes on being precious– whether we dare to truly feel that or not.
in Loving Kindness,
To participate in Peter Miller’s research project, take the online survey at: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/era/PsychoPlants/