It's 10am on a Friday and I'm sitting in a cafe in Chelsea, New York, hungover and sipping on my half caff almond milk latte.
It's my second coffee this am. Normally, in Toronto, if I were to drink 2 half caffeinated coffees I'd be questioning my sanity and searching CAMH admittance info.
But for some reason, probably 'cause I've coat checked my anal retentiveness while on this trip, I'm feeling good from my caffeine high mixed with residual rose vibes from last night's dinner.
As soon as I landed in Newark yesterday, I knew I was gonna let loose and enjoy maself! It's been a long and hard 6 months since my breakup and I've moved through a lot of stages.
Anger, grief, shock, denial, old addictions rearing their nasty heads and periods of intense anxiety all made me take a beat, look at what I needed to do to create the space for healing, then get into action.
July 8th 2018 I wrote a blog Why I've Gone Boys, Booze + Bad Vibes Free This Summer. I was spinning and needed to ground myself with practises that I knew would minimize the negative impact on my health and body. I was desperate to find my centre of gravity while I was in the eye of the storm.
The storm looks different for everyone, but is essentially the same. When we're stressed, and in a situation that triggers us (that we haven't yet learned to move through in a healthy way) we can revert to old patterns, addictions, mindsets and fear-based thinking.
Boys, booze and bad vibes definitely don't help me find calm in my internal storms because they all contribute to me reliving old ways with addictions.
As an addict, I MUST be mindful and as careful as possible to identify the times that I'm leaning on unhealthy crutches to manage the discomfort of life's stressors.
Our storms can look so different from each other's but can still cause the same behaviours. Whether it be constant work stress, relationship stress, money stress - it doesn't matter. If something triggers us and we don't have the awareness to move through that trigger with a healthy plan, we can end up either consciously or unconsciously engaging with addictive behaviours that don't serve our highest self.
Addictive behaviours can look like binging, over-exercising, falling into bed with person after person, sugar, booze or drugs, excessive shopping, you get the picture...
I thought that by going boys, booze and bad vibes free I was going to come out on top and cruise through that heightened period of stress with minimal war wounds.
Man, was I ever wrong.
As much as it probably helped, it definitely wasn't a cure-all approach to side-stepping self-destructive and addictive behaviours.
I was intense. My A-Type personality was firing on all cylinders. There's a fine line between being super accountable to your health and healing and engaging in perfectionism and addictive tendencies. Us addicts need to be able to check in what others who can offer an unbiased opinion on how you're doing.
If we need help, it's important to ask for it then follow through.
Addiction can be scary and like quick sand.
You need to assess the situation quickly and move fast.
I think I escaped with minimal bumps and bruises. I definitely wasn't perfect but I was the most authentic and accountable to my health than I've ever been while in crisis.
The week I moved into my own apartment I felt everything shift. I started sleeping through the night. Sleeping in later. I was sending less and less dark and dirty techno sets to my fellow house music lovers (sorry Lara!) and...
My anxiety went away, periods began to improve, and now, 6 weeks after settling into my own nest, I have found enough calm, healing and normalcy that I felt now's the time to let my hair down, fly to New York, roll with my homie and HAVE SOME FUCKING FFFUUUNNNN!
So let me clarify - when I say I'm filling up on boys, booze and bad-vibes it's really more like this:
I'm creating the space to reflect on my relationship with myself, boys, men, romance, whatever you wanna call it, by being 100% single. No dates. No romance. Just me.
As a love addict, sober reflection on love is scary and is mirroring some deep shit. Now that the frenetic energy has subsided I can see that my love addiction has still been at play and to truly heal I have to first admit I still have a problem.
The book I brought down to read is called Facing Love Addiction by Pea Mellody. One I read several years ago and thought I had truly addressed, but I can be honest, I truly hadn't.
Addiction is a complicated thing. Many people don't like to talk about it or think about it. We don't like to wonder whether we are or not and the idea that we might be, tehn thinking of aaallll the work that has to happen in order to heal can be so incredibly overwhelming that it stops us from taking action.
My opinion? What's the alternative? Continuing to tumble through life with an untamed mental illness, gathering more and more war wounds with each fall?
No thank you.
I'd rather be a warrior, face my demons (cause I know I'll fucking win) and no matter how much energy it takes, or how long, know that I'm showing up for my highest self, doing the work to grow, even if it takes a lifetime I'm moving in a more positive direction for my existence.
Although I'm not actually dating, I'm filling up on the learning on boys that's necessary for my healing. I'm filling up on the right kind of boy energy for me rn.
I've been an addict with almost everything. Except gambling, I've always been highly irritated by that whole scene for some reason. But everything else, I was into. Especially booze.
I was that girl who was hammered 7 nights per week. The one who got arrested in Italy for swimming in the Trevi Fountain (more on that in another blog), the one who would leave all my tips behind after a bartending shift and wake up to a text from my manager saying "did you forget something last night?".
There was like $500 - $800 in that envelope. I was an idiot on the regular.
But a lesson I learned while working through my addiction to alcohol (each addiction taught me a different lesson) was this: Once an addict, not always an addict. In a sense...depending on the substance, once you deal with the emotional trauma, one should be able to engage with that substance again in a healthy, more self-regulated manner.
For me, it was about understanding the emotional state that made me want to binge drink and escape.
Usually loneliness, fear, embarrassment and anxiety, would all be triggers that would make me want to escape and drink heavily.
Now, when those thoughts creep in, I practise mindfulness to properly connect with the compulsion and move through it in a healthy way.
Reminding myself of my power in the situation, the root cause of my emotion, what's actually happening (not what my fear-based mind is making up about a situation) and choosing a more self-loving and positive thought all help to diffuse that energy so I don't try to balance it out with self-destructive behaviours like binge drinking.
Last night I had 3 glasses of beautiful rose with my friend, Charlie, at this dope Mediterranean resto in the Flatiron District in Manhattan.
We stopped for a sec to take stock of the fact that this is life! This! This dinner, this night, this conversation and the energy - we will remember this night when we're 90. It's an experience that will forever be engrained in our minds.
How fucking sweet is that?!
There was no frenetic energy. No fear, no self-doubt, no anxiety-fuelled drinks.
It felt celebratory. It felt light. It felt like being in the moment. And I was still sipping on my lemon water and putting my ear plugs in before 1am.
No arrests. No dramatic fights, break-ups or phone calls.
I feel calm enough to engage in a healthy way with booze. I feel self-loving enough to enjoy without the fear of self-destruction.
I had a pretty 'fuck you' type energy this past summer, I'm not gonna lie. I felt like I was walking around with a perma-shield all day. I was in such 'defence mode' that if anyone judged me, told me something unsolicited about myself, disrespected me or irritated me, I had ZERO problem letting them know and throwing up a double "FU" just to make it clear.
I. Did. Not. Want. To. Be. Fucked. With.
And I wasn't.
I had zero tolerance for bad vibes. On the weekends I wanted dancing, music, fun dinners, travel, jokes - anything but bad vibes.
Why? I literally couldn't handle any more anxiety than I was already feeling.
My reptilian brain was in the driver's seat. This goes back to my early years of experiencing abuse and having PTSD and stress can trigger relapse.
CBT can only go so far. Pair that with a brain injury that's affected my limbic nervous system and you've got a girl who has a really hard time regulating her emotional control centre and can get extremely affected by others' negative energy.
It was my duty to protect myself. I had to be mindful of not only the people who I let into my energetic field, but also the amount of time that I allowed myself to feel negative emotion.
If I wasn't careful, I could tail spin into a really dark place if I let my heart actually connect with the pain I felt.
It isn't alway a good idea to feel.
We have to be energetically aware of what our nervous systems can actually handle.
So, I (kinda) kindly requested 'good vibes only' from those around me and casually slipped by any person or situation that felt heavy and shitty.
Until last month.
It was the tail end of September, and I was at the cottage at Big Gull Lake and as soon as I woke up the first morning of 3 that I was there, it started.
I could not stop crying. Literally.
My friends were at the fire pit and I was just sitting there. Crying.
I'd go inside to listen to music, cook, smoke weed and be alone cause fuck did it ever feel good to finally just feel all of that pain.
It was like a fountain. It didn't stop. I'd wake and cry. Cook and cry. Poke the fire and cry. Drink coffee and green smoothies and cry. I went to be listening to Four Tet ... and cry.
It took me 3 days to stop crying. And for a week after there were residual showers that would come and go with less intensity, but they were still coming.
I knew it was time to feel the bad-vibes that I had been suppressing while in 'survival mode' for 5 months post-traumatic event (my stupid breakup in April).
I'm now listening to different music which is evoking different emotions. I'm having deeper and darker conversations with myself and my writing. I'm ok reflecting on the more heavy vibes, realities and beliefs that are coming into my awareness.
I'm ok with all of that now because I've created some bandwidth. I've created enough separation, through taking time from the initial intensity and pain and can now authentically and with less self-destructiveness feel the bad vibes and learn from them.
I don't feel there's one way for us crazy humans to move through life, addition, compulsions and healing.
No matter what your triggers are and how they manifest into behaviours for you (food addictions, alcohol, drugs, shopping, relationships etc), you may find there are times that you need space from it all, and times when you need to dive right in. And how and when you choose to engage with removing yourself from your triggers and crutches or latching right onto them, as long we we're staying self-compassionate and self-empathetic, we're gonna be ok.
Life is hard. Life is beautiful. Life means everything and also nothing. It sometimes makes sense and often doesn't.
But when you find yourself in New York City, with a dear friend who's oozing open-mindedness and good vibes and you're looking back on 6 months of super hard work of trying to not completely unravel, you drink the beautiful glass of rose...you eat the dark chocolate, have the extra latte while you write the darker, more vulnerable blog while sitting in the corner of a cute Chelsea district cafe and think:
You are one brave, badass and sweet soul.
Then throw your Ray Ban's and camo backpack on and explore life in this ever-evolving skin that feels like a woman who's truly finding her way with self-love, authenticity and a bright, bright future.
Be well with Hope,
Cassandra Hope RHN + CPT
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