The Accidental Addict

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I have a story to tell, and I will prefix it by saying the very idea of this vulnerability terrifies me. That said I am inspired by my recent admiration of the recovering alcoholics and addicts in my life.

I’ll start by being blunt. July 14th, 2014 was the last day I ever took an opiate into my body. Codeine was the vice that took me by surprise. It was the one I hid from the world, the one I normalized because it was legal – it WAS normal. Codeine is a hell of a drug, one that wears the face of a medicine, and for some really is medicine. For a time at least. Profound empathy and emotions have always been both my gift and my burden, imagine my shock when I found a way to turn them both off nearly completely. This was the most dangerous form of seduction I have ever endured.

TW: talk of depression/suicide/opiates

I have never celebrated this anniversary, I guess it’s because a part of me still doesn’t want to admit that I was/am an addict. But that doesn’t stop it from being true, in 6 months I will be celebrating 3 years sober from codeine and other pain killers. I will admit that not a week goes by that I don’t feel the tug of oblivion, that said thats a hell of a lot better than when i felt the tug every day, or every hour even.

In the spring of 2009 I had my first tooth abscess, the mixture of several bulimic relapses over the course of my teens and then becoming pregnant wreaked havoc on my teeth. Over the course of 2009 and 2015 I suffered 7 abscessed teeth. Now let me tell you something, I have the pain tolerance of a masochistic horse; but infected tooth-nerve pain is a special kind of hell I would wish on very few. Electric, hot, blaring and absolutely unignorable this was the type of pain you would do anything to stop. And betwixt raising the thousands of dollars for dental work I tried pretty much everything to sooth the anguish. The doctors in their piteous gaze were more than happy to provide me with a plethora of pain killers. These I learned worked a lot quicker when you mixed them with hard liquor – and actually wait! Not only was my physical pain gone, but so was my emotional pain, and mentally I felt better that ever. Really fucking great, oh hot damn I could take on the world. What I didn’t understand then was that much like my physical pain, the emotional hurt wasn’t going away, it was just building up. Waiting to crest in the moments where I wasn’t cavorting in euphoric numbness. Those moments were the worst.

So I guess I became an addict, but I had no idea. Throughout my years of being around substances and as a “bad kid” using various party drugs I never found myself particularly pulled to continue on taking any of them. It got the job done sure, but it was merely experiences. Even with smoking I was very much aware that I did it for the social lubricant, the connection. In my hubris I had thought myself immune to such an affliction, how could I be an addict? I know better than that.

I once was given the reflection

“You are a very real person, in a very fake world. That is why you hurt so much”.

While the expression was well meaning it only plummeted me deeper into a space of emotional exile. Why did the whole damn world get to be fake and I had to deal with realness. I wanted to be fake too, I wanted to stop hurting.

So around 2010 life got hard, really fucking hard. I, awash in stereotypes tried to balance life as wounded knight, a single mother, a private dancer, a vengeful lover and a starving artist. Even after my teeth were fixed I still continued to pop these pills, openly I would state I had migraines, or that I took them to stay awake at parties. When you’re so nonchalant about something so frequent people start to believe you’re just fine, I certainly believed as such. In late 2010 I went to the doctor, at the end of my rope with my depression. He gave me a test and after spending 15 minutes talking AT me concluded I was indeed dangerously suicidal and needed to be medicated right away. He prescribed, Effexor, Ativan and Quetiapine. I expressed my trepidation in being given the possession of drugs that could result in overdose, he scoffed and told me they would balance me out enough so that wouldn’t be an issue on my mind. For the record it did very much continue as an issue on my mind.

“Don’t worry” he said “I am on effexor, and it works fantastically. I feel great”

Desperate and bamboozled I agreed. What he neglected to tell me is that Ativan should never be mixed with alcohol, and effexor’s withdrawal has been described as more intense than trying to quit a heroin habit. But thats a whole other story. So the next year was a whirl of fog and self medication, and as it was utterly endorsed by my doctor I still had no idea I had a substance problem. I knew my life was a mess, but for a variant of other reasons.
I couldn’t have a substance problem. Not me, I was wild, sensual, silly and fun – unless of course I was behind closed doors being a total venomous bitch or feeling inconsolably hollow.

2011, I go to burning man, the Temple breaks me open in every way I need to be broken open, I soon after leave Effexor, Ativan and Quetiapine behind me and never touch them again.
“I’m cured! I no longer have a dependance for anything. But, you know. I get these headaches still…..”
Post Burning Man I start to get my life in order yet I am still fluctuating between elation with life and crippling depression, but at least I can feel again. And when I don’t feel like feeling, I have the pain killers.

“I don’t NEED them though”

2012 I am off to Burning Man again, two days before-hand I get another abscess in my tooth, stubbornly refusing to cancel my trip I go to my doctor. He prescribes me 80 (eighty!) Tylenol 3s. I feel the joyful glee of one hell of a time in the cards. It was a hell of a time, probably one of the best times of my life. Even though I can’t really remember much of it, I’m pretty sure it was fun. Right.

The years pass and while my life has balanced out significantly I am still battling depression and frantic bouts of rage/suicidal thoughts – mostly in the privacy of my own solitude. Where was this coming from? Or was I just broken by nature?
In 2014 my Partner at the time and I were having a heated argument, he went to the bathroom and while he was gone I popped a handful of pain killers and washed them down with whiskey. He returned and I was subdued, my eyes glazed over, a perfect apathy washed over my face and I motioned him to continue. He looked at me with a bewildered pain in his eyes and asked

“Where did you go?”
“I’m right here” I smiled
“No Mya, no you are not” he said.

He was right, I was gone. That was the end of the conversation. He later told me he had never felt so abandoned by me. Abandoned? How could I ever do that? What was I running from? The next few days were a blur of emotions, me alone at home by myself, feeling irritable, heart broken, suicidal, erratic, physically worn out; the intensity of it all didn’t hold any logic to me and suddenly I had a thought.
“Is this withdrawal?”

I hopped on my laptop and consulted Dr. Internet on symptoms of codeine addiction. “loss of appetite, depression, irritability, anxiety, stomach pain, psychosis, mania”

Cue life bomb in 3….2….1….boom.
Holy shit. I was addicted to pain killers. And I had been for a very long time. Life happens fast, and sometimes you pick up some crazy demons along the way, never even noticing they have latched on to you. So I stopped, I admitted it all, I quit. It was far beyond anything I would call easy but I quit, cold turkey. Catalyzed by stigma, shame, and guilt I haven’t touched pain killers since, even though gods know I wanted to. This addiction was like biting the proverbial apple, when you are always well aware that there is a magical little pill that can make your intense emotions stop dead in their tracks. Not just the negative ones, all of them, even the amazing emotions are a lot to deal with. The seduction of that knowledge is always there, whispering its pillow talk into the back of your mind.

That was July 14th, 2014, in addition a few years later I would also quit hard alcohol because of the triggering connection I still held between the two substances. I never gave a shit about craft liquors, what year they were, what their history was. I just wanted to stop my heart from expanding so rapidly, I wanted to douse my fires with an apathetic “nothing”. It’s been nearly 3 years (if you round up) and it’s taken me this long to even begin to tell people that I had a problem. It started in my shadows, and that’s where it ended. There is something very sad about that.

It’s true, I am a very real person, and much of the world is very fake. Much of this is because of the same reasons I fell into addiction. We are lonely, we have lost our village mindedness, many of have no sense of home, family, and beyond the mask of ego we are constantly fearful of losing love, or that we at our core are ultimately worthless. This isn’t true, but it sure is easy to believe.

The world isn’t fake, the thick veil of worthlessness that most of us are smothered with, THAT is what is fake. On a micro scale I am a recovered addict, on a much larger scale I am in the process of recovering from a very shattered culture.
It’s when I am alone that my cravings are by far the strongest. There really is something to be noted about that. So I am taking the time along with others to peal back those voices of disesteem and go deeper. This can’t be done without emotions, without love, anger, grief, and without each other. It’s hard, but baby it hurts so fucking good.

So yeah, theres a little piece of my story, heres lies my little tale, still in the midst of being written. Each day I step more and more into me, although sometimes it’s hard – I wouldn’t wish to be anyone else, or to have become as such any other way.

‘I assure you, I am not put together at all. Nor am I broken. I’m recovering – finding the beautiful in the ugly and stitching it into my life’

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Alexander-Milov-Burning-Man

Most of us in the inner workings of the scene know there are some festivals and events that are child friendly and some that are not. Any Burner Parent knows the scorching blaze of judgement -hotter than any day on the playa- that comes when someone out of the know hears you are contemplating taking your child to Burning Man – OR even have a child and perpetuate that “lifestyle”.

“Oh we’ve heard of what goes on THERE” They scoff, absolutely unaware of the magic waiting there for anyone, of any age.

Deeper in to the knowing most of us Burners are well aware that Burning Man it’s self is not your typical music festival – in fact most would push to say it’s not a festival at all; but an artistic exhibit personified in a small transient city – a tangible archetype of what could be.
For Adults, elders and Children alike.

I have traveled for a handful of years across the white streets of the playa and I have imagined those roads from many different eyes; there truly is something for everyone.

In the summer of 2012 I ventured to ” Kidsville” – a large camp catering for Children & Families at Burning Man – out of my own curiosity and inquiry. After having been at BM for a couple years at that point my daughter started asking to attend with me.

“Is Burning Man for Kids?” I thought

Sure one could find it easy to discredit a place apparently soaking with debauchery as a strictly adult playground; but per-capita is it really so much different than a city? I have never felt safer or more at home than I do on the Playa, I would wager to so many children feel the same.
So many have found solace and release in expressing their childlike self at BM so why not have us all be able to express that together? Learn to love the Childlike self from the masters of being silly themselves!

I wandered in to Kidsville and saw a plethora of giddy delights, a lavish peanut butter & jelly station, tiny geodesic domes, puppet shows and more than anything I saw absolutely elated children – I saw families working together cultivating community outside of the stagnant and tired story of the Nuclear home.

I prodded them with playful inquiry, I spoke to parents, children, extended family and a few imaginary friends/stuffed animals.
What I heard was a collective exhale, expressions of joy, tired but grateful parents – relieved they could gather in a place where they could be Humans together with their Kids.

Imagine a world where Children don’t grow up on a pedestal feeling like a burden later as teens; but rather are treated as members of a thriving community: a tribe even.

I don’t have to imagine it because I have seen it.

So BM & the Temple saved my life, anyone who knows me knows that.

It restored a sense of worthiness and purpose to which I lost – perhaps before I even inhabited this body – It returned me to myself, my artistry and my love.
Part of this restoration was learning to understand that my Child self, my sensual self and my sage self were not adversaries – and it was when I learned to weave them together as Kin that I truly felt joy and self acceptance for the first time.

That being said as a whole Burning Man did not create anything that wasn’t already there but nourished and united the child the elder and the guardian creature inside of me. It merely calmed the ire of their war-grounds and planted seeds for me to sow.

Gods know what a world we could have if our children could be taught such embark from Childhood to Adulthood.

I wonder.

Moments of fomo with AppleCat 2015

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I remember –

Every Temple is destined to fall.
-architectural grace

– She: the prettiest hellfire I have ever been in. I didn’t mind the burning one bit.

back turned; I felt her scorn

And when the blazing truth spills from your vein
I wonder
Does this severance give way to newness?
or sweet seared oblivion?

Yet I digress; ramble as I do –

Heavens bells and hells song – how could such a love be wrong?

Within their watchful embrace.

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“They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that tree. He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a sparrow ate the tree’s fruit, his father flew with the birds. He said… death was his father’s road to awe.”

My first year and second day at Burning Man, by fluke on a solitary walk, I came across Dissølv begining their set at the Opulent Temple. I looked at them in awe, whilst others danced and I watched a DJ, Live PA, Violinist and a guitarist perform live psydub, psybreaks against a pyramid backdrop illuminated by the last of the deserts sun.

I sat for at least an hour; engrossed by the magic, magic which was fuelled by the message. Then again; just as the sun rising behind the Temple of Transition that morning had shifted my consciousness and awareness for the first time in my life; the setting sun against a revolutionaries electronic/organic lament further altered my perspective and priorities. The Playa had fused; and birthed, Mya(maya), Fable, AppleCat, and Ceilidh(kali) in to one entity; harmonious and powerful; quiet and unignorable. A route to absolute self. Although I wasn’t aware of the right of passage at that moment.

Upon returning to my camp, all attempts to express what had just happened to me fell short, my time and experience was my own to hold; and my words were futile to explain them. The music, the moment, the experience; it was mine alone.

In peace I resigned myself to sleep; with thoughts of the moon against the sun; and my own duality blossoming in their in between.

Burning Man: Part 1

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In my early teens I heard inklings of Burning Man, my mother was the first to awaken me to the events existence. She spoke of magic, art and culture; of freedom and beauty. She spoke if it as if it were the farthest away place, and she spoke of it with longing.

This is how I find many people who have not visited Burning Man describe the playa, like is it in the farthest regions of the world, accessible only by boat, through treacherous waters.
Which is true I suppose, but it’s not the landscape that is treacherous it’s the inward journey it’s self; the bravery of dancing in to the unknown. A faceless waltz partner and a promenade unlearned.

These thoughts of this bewitching place left my minds surface rather quickly; as I was 14 and had many dynamic dramatic seemingly important things to focus my attention on. What where they? Who knows, they meant nothing indefinitely. That being said this magic idea of a place was left tattooed in the depths of my psyche.

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Thoughts on being a Temple Guardian

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I have spoke in person and in text on regular occasion the magnitude of effect the Temple has had on me since 2011. The variant in levels of change on a personal, social, cultural level that it has sparked in me.
Although that being said the Temple never forced anything to happen, nothing magically changed upon my entrance through her doors; she showed the path towards what was already inside of me; begging to be released, social empathy, artistic integrity, and a path away from stagnant self detestation and mental crucifixion.For years I had been enduring my broken heart; for years I had been on the front lines shattering my own existence so no one else could. At the very least I refused to give anyone else the chance; if it were to break it would be by my own hand.
In her I saw a what I had been holding back, a reflection of myself and my communities deep humanity. I saw a love I never understood before; a love I gave to others but never turned inward, in her I started to comprehend unconditional self adoration.

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