I don’t think that “spirituality” is healthy for everyone. I know for myself, I have to be really careful that I don’t get carried away with all of this new age, hippie-dippy bullshit. I find a mystical peace in the present moment, but I no longer seek a higher level of existence. The Authentic Self has always been enough.
It was in the seeking of Higher Consciousness that I got truly lost.
But let’s go back to the beginning. My relationship with alcohol has been a life-long love affair. Whenever my emotions were too much for me, I could reach for a bottle to take the edge off. I called myself a winorexic. I survived on Sauvignon Blanc, Adderall, and the occasional bag of Cheez-its from the vending machine at work. My motto was, “poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.” Eventually, I grew tired of my pity parties and the blackout betty lifestyle. One morning, I woke up with a shred of willingness to make a change. I got sober.
I assumed that the cause of all of my problems had been resolved….I didn’t realize that my biggest problem was actually me. Alcohol was but a symptom.
I sought help from a 12-step meeting in the East Village. I sauntered in…your typical WASP from Connecticut, feeling hopeless and horrified of catching something dreadful. I sat in the back in disgust. Party girl, for sure, but alcoholic? It sounded a bit dramatic. Despite my resignations, I gave the program a shot. Besides, I had nowhere else to turn. Once I stomached the fact that I had indeed caught alcoholism in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was introduced to this idea of being willing to believe in something greater than myself. I may have grown up Protestant, but I knew nothing about religion or spirituality. I was encouraged to develop a personal relationship with my own conception of God. After some soul-searching, I decided that my God stood for the Great Outdoors. He was a She, and She was in Nature.
Almost instantaneously, I was no longer that self-centered, uptight bitch that really wanted you to end your story, so I could tell my story, which was not only better than your story, but more directly involved me. I became genuine, caring, and kind. I was finally able to see and hear someone besides myself.
I began to see the beauty of the forest through the trees. I could experience the present moment and my senses took on new meaning. My perception of reality was altered forever. Alcoholism is considered a disease (dis-ease) of perception, and when your mind shifts, your whole world changes. It’s like watching black-and-white TV your entire life, only to wake up in 3D Technicolor one day.
As my recovery deepened, I started to think that I had a little bit more stardust than your average pixie….if I could conquer alcoholism with God’s help, anything was possible.
So I started spending thousands of dollars on angel card readings, healing crystals, and chakra cleanses to stay awakened and break soul contracts from past lives. I got certified in Transcendental Meditation and believed I had to rid my body of any toxin that might hold me back from eternal peace. I was obsessed with keeping my mind and body as spiritually fit as possible – clean eating, exercise, sobriety – nothing was off limits if it had the power to heal.
From the outside, it appeared I had everything. I was a vice president in venture capital banking and earned a generous income working with the innovators of Southern California. I looked like the typical yoga-obsessed, green juice-drinking, spiritually minded fanatic—I could explain everything in life by what phase of its cycle the moon was in– all pretty common on the West Side of Los Angeles. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Until I cracked.
After grappling with a breakup, my sister getting married, and a major move with a career change to boot, something inside me broke one morning. Still sober and compliant with my medication, I fell to my knees, and with tears streaming down my face, I began an entirely new conversation with God. I looked in the mirror and I began to sob, thanking God for every perceived misstep, each and every wrong turn that had lead me up to this point. I believed that I had found God and that She lay right inside of my heart. I had sought perfection my entire life and here I was feeling the unattainable – spiritual perfection. I was perfect. God was perfect. Life was perfect. God was Everything and Everywhere. I chose to step ashore from the Bridge of Reason. I was gifted the keys to the kingdom. If this was a game of hide and seektag, I was It.
I ran to my computer to figure out what was happening. That was when I came upon the terms Spiritual Emergency and Kundalini Awakening. I learned that when people awaken to enlightenment, they often experience pure ecstasy, and their understanding of time and space go out the window. I had zero suspicion that what might actually be happening to me was another manic episode. In fact, I began to believe that I had never been bipolar, the doctors had been wrong. I was just hatching to a higher state of consciousness this entire time.
I believed there was an enlightenment explosion happening in Venice Beach, and that I was at the forefront of the movement. I sent out a PowerPoint presentation on the path to enlightenment and my mission statement to at least 100 people in my address book. I had to prove to the world that I was the ultimate feminine authority, the High Priestess.
And then my dreams got me strapped to a gurney and transferred to the psych ward in Torrance, California.
I truly thought I was God, but what I believed to be a spiritual awakening, others found delusional. Eventually, I was released into the care of my mother, under the agreement that I would attend residential treatment since my mania was still in full swing. So off I went, to a luxurious treatment center in Malibu. I had dreamed of living in a Malibu mansion, but this wasn’t quite what I had pictured.
I got involved in a toxic relationship with a person that I met in treatment and my spirituality took a turn for the worse. We waltzed in and out of reality and psychosis for nearly twelve months.
I would take the medicine, then stop, believing in the Spiritual Emergency. I could no longer distinguish the true from the false. After a bad run-in with mania and cocaine, my doctor prescribed an antipsychotic called Zyprexa. This time, I took it religiously. I slept and ate for a month straight. I rarely bathed or changed my clothes, and gained 30 pounds in the process. My hair started falling out.
I wondered how in the world I had fallen so low. In severe mania, the brain has to put out mini fires, leaving synapses and nerve endings disconnected. What was once a working part of the mind, became stunted and disjointed.
One morning, as my partner killed a beer and finished a line of cocaine, pontificating on the state of the nation… I panicked. It was all too reminiscent of the Talking Heads song –“Once In A Lifetime”–HOW DID I GET HERE? The shock was sudden, painful and profound. This was not going to be my life. I knew I needed to get sober and return to a healthy state of mind and body, but I had no idea where to start. God had abandoned me when I needed Her most. I was going to have to get out of this on my own.
The reality of the situation was nearly too much for me to handle, but I was somehow able to quit everything cold turkey and to TAKE MY MEDICATION AS PRESCRIBED.
It took a few weeks, but I finally got up the courage to bolt.
I shuffled into my parent’s house in South Carolina with my Pointer two days later, utterly defeated. I no longer cared whether I lived or died. I knew I needed to get completely sober, but the idea of “being spiritual” literally made me want to barf. I wondered how I was supposed to find God, when I had believed that I was God? Nothing mattered. I lay lifeless in bed for weeks.
And yet, little by slowly, I did what I had to do: I accepted my bipolar 1 diagnosis. The medication had profoundly altered my existence, but my belief in a Higher Power returned. I found it again in Mother Nature. More specifically, I found it in the exuberant spirit of Lefty, my trusty pup. Whenever I look into his eyes, I see a gentleness and kindness that I know my God has for me. To him, I embody perfection and to me, I see the miracle of Life.
Previously, I was convinced that I had gone through a Kundalini Awakening — the death and rebirth of my authentic self in a state of Higher Consciousness. And yes, that’s essentially what happened to me, although some may call it a psychotic episode. Personally, I can see it both ways. My medication works well; it allows me to remain grounded and to participate in life here on earth.
No longer the party girl, I am now a woman with purpose, dignity and grace.