The Art of Healing: How I Let Go of Drinking, Smoking and Found a New Ecstasy
When I was 6 or 7, I had my first cigarette, given to me by my mentally-ill uncle. "Want to try?", he smiled beneficially.
Dad allowed me to sip a little liquor here and there as I ate next to him in family gatherings. He was a frequent drinker, as a child, I couldn't understand why he needed to come home late, smell bad, argue with mom, and sometimes break things.
When I was in high school I still couldn't understand. I only resented, so much that I thought of killing myself.
One day I started drinking to find out what was so great about the transparent liquid that leave the tongue cringing, the throat burning. One day, too, I started to smoke. My lungs contracted at glamour invasion of grey air, circling around, sedating. I breathed out the thin misty ribbon and I watched it evaporate in the air. A part of me also evaporated. I felt strange. I felt escaped.
Then, I undestood. That's the reward. That's why dad did it, why uncle did it, why my friends did it. And why not? "Life is short." With this new discovery, I waded my way through my early 20s. I'd never tried hard drug, but I drank plenty, and smoked when I felt the need for some good invasion and escape.
It was fun. When I am drunk or sedated by cigarette smoke I felt like a superwoman. Brave. Sociable. Relax. The chatters in my mind stopped because of my brain's dysfunction. No negative self-talks. No shame. No worries. No sadness. No trouble. Only ecstasy. Exaggerated sensations. Otherworldly. Free.
But those moments eventually passed.
Then what was left of me? I did not even know. Not much. I doubled my effort to glimpse once more that state of ecstasy. When the substance began to withdraw from my system after it'd left a secret stain somewhere deep, I woke up startled by my reality. "Welcome back!" reality shouted, doubled the loud. That was my lot. Life was just that way. Worry not, I had my solution. So I looked for another moment. And another moment. And another moment.
I am a vegan now. My system had been cleansed of alcohol, and my lung had forgotten the grey invasion. When I look back to those years, the moments of ecstasy felt like an badly done piece of abstract painting. Distorted. Overwhelming. Confusing. It hurts my eyes. I do not know how I got out from my previous life.
There wasn't any eureka moment stroking through my brain like a church bell. There were countless baby steps fueled by the new attention I gave to my day. Yoga helped, yoga nurtured mindfulness in me. Yoga also brought forth a gentle but firm knowing; that taking those substances put my body and mind in pain; that I was in pain; that I deserved more; that I could heal; and that life could be different. Knowing created attention; attention created the courage to take actions and - perhaps more importantly – to take non-actions. I stopped.
"Saying no can be the ultimate self-care."
It wasn't easy but it was one of the best things I've ever done to myself and for myself. My eyes have never seen life and meet others' eyes more clearly. In this fine clarity, I sense a stream of vigor, and valor, and wisdom, and strength, rushing from the tip of my toes to the top of my head. I adore myself for being light, soft, and pretty. All at once, I feel like the Amazon River and the wild flower blooming on its bank.
Greatest of all, I experience a new kind ecstasy. It doesn't look like abstract painting but a Zen painting. Instead of leaving me rotten, it leaves me enlivened. I attain this state every day through writing and yoga and making art. They are my natural ways to express myself and my dreams.
"If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine, headaches, road rage, and dandruff."
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I believe the healing of my body and mind gives me the courage to pursue my passon. And then the pursuing of passon gives me the fulfilled, blissful estacy to let go of self-sabotage, which creates more healing. Another circle has emerged for me. In this circle I become alive.
But what helped me to heal in the first place? My heart used to sink everytime a friend commented about my abstinence: "Get a life!". I pushed through regardless because I have faith that I could heal. I did. I was getting a life, not any life but a magnificent life. I've never gotten so much life as I do now; and I know I am going to get more. Life is bountiful.
"Convinced that we are imperfect, we carry real pain. The cause of our suffering, however, is not our imperfection but our mistaken belief in our imperfection."
Rolf Gate, Meditations from the Mat
It's easy to reach outside for something to fill in the blank inside us. Food, sex, alcohol, cigarette, drugs, a person - the list goes on. We reach around, reach up, reach down. We forget one place we must reach the deepest: within.
In our true souls, we know it's not them we need. I believe all of us who suffer addiction or eating/drinking/smoking/shopping disorder know that we are following a plan of slow destruction. Abort! Abort! The internal alarm rings. Yet something forcibly holds us back from jumping ship.
That something is fear. This fear comes from the lack of faith in our ability to heal, to feel ecstatic again without anything artificial pumping, to be magnificent by the strength of our legs rooting firm in the earth, by the vigor of our spines, reaching through the openness at the crown of our head, through the lifting of our arms, to the pointing of our fingers.
Within us, we have everything we need.
"Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon as well as all the pilgrimage places… I have no encountered another temple as blissful as my own body."
Within you, you have everything you need.
To pay attention to the pain.
To take non-actions.
To stand firm.
Marching to the direction of your heart.