Addiction. It is probably the most horrific word I can think of in the English language. It is the thing that altered my entire life and almost rendered a further life impossible for me. I went from a successful writer and editor to a convicted felon within a very short space of time, 24 hours to be exact. That's all it takes, after all, one day, just 24 hours to turn from whatever you once were to someone you no longer know. The addiction itself of course grew and evolved over the course of a few years, but the cataclysm of change took only one day.
Officially, I call myself "Lady Lazarus," although the descriptor is not mine. I owe Sylvia Plath for that name because she wrote an awe-inspiring poem of the same title. But, I use that name because technically, I am a woman who came back from the dead, much like Lazarus in the Bible. I was a respected, well-liked, quiet, and by all accounts decent woman when I started ingesting large quantities of Xanax for my anxiety problems. (I had no idea that I had a lot more than "anxiety." In fact, I had a full-blown and undiagnosed bi-polar disorder, but that comes in later.)
Anyway, over the course of time, what began as a harmless little appetite for those pink pills turned to a horrendous lust for the addictive substance that became the absolute alpha and omega of my existence. I could not fathom a world without them. So, the day finally came when my prescription refills ran out, and on that day, I literally cracked up. My bi-polar madness reached a fever pitch. I went into a complete state of disassociative mania and walked into a drugstore and asked for Xanax while I had a knife in my hand.
Shortly thereafter, I was on the ground with a Sherrif's deputy's Glock aimed at the back of my head, and from there, I was thrown in the county jail. Thanks to God and the love of my family, I was bailed out, but soon afterwards, the case went before a judge, who showed no mercy to me, despite the pleas of my doctors, psychiatrists and forensic psychologists to convince him of my mental problems. I was given the sternest sentence imaginable for my crime – 10 years in prison.
I spent three months in jail (thinking it would soon lead to 10 years in prison, at least that was my sentence). I died, at least, the woman I was died. Divine intervention stepped in though, and like Lazarus, I was reborn. The judge reconsidered my sentence. I was released and was given 10 years probation. I came back from the dead, so to speak. And since that time, I have spent my days working to change my life, my mind, and most of all, my heart.
If you're looking for a way to help you through the hard times of recovery, I recommend several things, some of which have a Zen slant, some of which just come from my own personal experience.
1. Get into a good rehab clinic for a minimum 29-day stay. This is indispensable in helping you understand your problem and begin to detox.
2. Join an NA or AA program and stick with it. Go to a meeting every day. Without the help and support of my NA friends, I would have never come this far in recovery. Every day is a struggle, but with others in the same boat, it's easier.
3. Meditate. There are so many awe-inspiring books on meditation. I recommend the books of Swami Sivananda Radha and also her teacher Swami Sivananda himself. They both wrote extensively about yoga and meditation. Without their words and my practice of yoga, I would be lost.
4. Simplify your life and purify your mind. The only way out of addiction is to cleanse the mind. The Zen philosophy attempts to help us understand the need to focus on the empty space inside our own hearts. We practice meditation and walking zen, for example, to help us clear our thoughts. By focusing on nothing, we become open to healing.
5. Be loving to yourself. It is so easy to fall into bad relationships, bad friendships, bad habits after addiction. You need to surround yourself with people who really love you, and above everything, you need to be kind to yourself. Accept the wounded self you are and try to build strength through love.
6. Focus on what is true. Break down your illusions. Try not to hold onto what you once were or who you thought you were. Try to build on each day. Focus on the present moment. We are not guaranteed a tomorrow, and yesterday is gone. Right now is beautiful. Celebrate right now all the time.