Approximately ten years of my life is condensed into this story, and while it is essentially linear there are a lot of gaps of time, and I’m sure specifics regarding the time frame have been confused.
Regardless, this is my story, my truth. To be frank, I have never sat with my addictions, my addictive personality in this way before. However, it was a common thread of my youth into young adulthood, and it has led me to where I am right now.
It’s scary to share, to own part of myself that may make others uncomfortable. But we must honor our truth to fully integrate it, assimilate it, and transmute it to experience and the wisdom experience brings. I hope this encourages others to look at their patterns not with shame, but with curiosity. I hope this reminds everyone that all we must do for redemption is accept it.
Because we couldn’t afford gas or electricity at our trailer, our only resource was cold water. Luckily it was north Texas so it never got so unbearable I couldn’t just suck it up. I was 18 and living with my best friend at the time. Every night, truly every single night, was a party – alcohol, lean, pills, weed, and our favorite at the time (MY favorite at the time), meth. It was the standard. That was how we partied in Wichita Falls on a Tuesday night.
I know it was unhealthy, it was deadly, but at that time I loved my life and my friends. My fun was not innocent but it was still the fun of my youth. We were reckless, we were crazy, we knew better than everyone, and the only way to get through the days was to be as fucked up as possible.
After one particular party session with an eight ball of the powdery death (an eighth of an ounce of meth), I finally came down and crashed. When I woke, I saw my friend Jeremy passed out on the other couch like I had never seen him before. OLD. He was in his thirties. Our friendship was honest and sincere, he was a hard worker at the Taco Bell/KFC where we worked, but he was old (to me at 18), and still living life that exact same way, living to forget in a haze of anything available.
It struck me with absolute clarity that such would be my life if I didn’t DO something. Anything.
I’ve always had this ability. Many moments in my life I’ve simply known what I must do, without worrying too much about the details, even if it’s completely foreign to what I am familiar with. As I’m getting older I notice I struggle to find that faith in myself, and part of my journey now is to remember, rekindle it. But I digress…
After a two-year addiction to meth I quit cold turkey. I had only one relapse, and I stayed up all night playing Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo and hated my life the next day when I felt like straight ass. Not even a perfect score. The problem I faced at this time was commitment to what I knew deep down. Partying is really appealing, especially at the age of a desperate need to belong. The alcohol, the pills, the codeine, and weed were really hard to quit when my roommates and my friends were all still in the thick of it. So I kept with it all, and flirted with the idea of “going back to school.” I was in college for approximately 10 minutes when I was 17. I graduated high school early by taking night classes in order to work full-time, as I was living on random people’s couches and in my car, and that shit gets old, particularly when everyone around me acted like the lunch room was the most important facet of the day. This process granted me a lot of scholarships, but ultimately college didn’t last because it meant nothing to me at the time. So I dropped out and worked three full-time jobs, and partied every second in-between.
Two years later, when I knew better but wanted to dawdle, I said, “I’m planning on figuring out going to college,” when deep down I knew I never would. I knew that college in the same town with the same people wound not be the thing to change my life.
Months down the road I got real. I decided, finally, the military would be the only way to go. It would be a guaranteed paycheck, stable living quarters, it would get me out of town, and it would pay for college later on. It was such a drastic change from my life as it was. I didn’t really want that change but all the while I knew I couldn’t stay. Once we get a glimpse beyond the veil, once she whispers into our ears we cannot un-see or un-hear. I signed up for the Delayed Entry Program, which meant I was contracted, legally obligated, but wouldn’t leave for boot camp for four months or so. I was bound to this future of absolute unknown.
My first trial was to get clean. Seriously, absolutely, ALL THE WAY clean. Even pot. This was so difficult. I couldn’t stop seeing my friends, especially considering that I was leaving soon, and potentially forever. When we hung out I would get particularly drunk and try my best not to do anything else. Sometimes, more often than I want to admit, I failed. In fact, I failed my drug test the day before I left for boot camp! My recruiter told me to go to a specific store in San Antonio, get Palo Azul tea, and drink a gallon of it. I did, and I got on the 6am plane for Chicago shitting bricks. Everything would be for nothing, I would be trapped in Texas forever, and I would have no one to blame but myself. I still think to myself at times, though I believe my self-discipline is well-practiced at this point, why can’t I just get it the fuck together? I guess I like to roll the dice with life-afflicting drama.
I never got that call into the “principal’s office” though, and boot camp was honestly a breeze. They yelled constantly and made us work out a lot, but it was not the hardest time of my life.
When in the military, in many different ways, I came into a deeper relationship with my addiction(s) – yes, your problems follow you everywhere you go, even to Guam. I found out anything can be addicting, and now I see that I was looking for absolutely any way to be and stay distracted from my feelings, because I didn’t have a clue what to do with them.
I got in trouble during training for underage drinking. My supervisor (Petty-Officer-in-charge) should have court martialed me. I should have been kicked out of the military, but for some reason AO1 Adams believed in me enough to tell me to get my fucking shit together and even gave me a leadership role within the command. My eyes water even now with the realization that I never said thank you.
Up-leveling my responsibilities did give me a bit of perspective, I started to step in line more, but I was still drinking a lot. This didn’t change when I was stationed in Guam, where the drinking age was 18 at the time, so as a 20 year old I didn’t have to go to a house party or find someone to buy booze for me.
I hadn’t been healthy for a long while, but all the drinking and a lack of exercise outside of boot camp caused me to gain a lot of weight. I was put on probation in the Navy, I was just over 200 pounds and for my height – according to the arbitrary table of acceptable body weights – I needed to lose 30 to 40 pounds to be in range (I don’t honestly remember the details). Then, quickly, everything changed because I was going to the desert.
When I got stationed in Kuwait and subsequently Iraq, I wasn’t able to drink. They are dry countries. I was also in a position of needing to lose weight to keep my job, and while I worked 12-hour shifts every single day for over a year, I still had a lot of nothing going on for huge chunks of time. So I started running. At first just the 5k route around the north edge of the base, then eventually the whole perimeter run, then laps, then more laps, then hours at a time on the treadmill. I was motivated, I loved and still love running, but the reality was I was addicted. My tendency to place contentment outside of myself had just transferred elsewhere. I lost about 70 pounds over there.
But running wasn’t the only thing I couldn’t stop. I also started eating. A lot, without any semblance of self-control. So to not gain weight, to stay skinny and in charge of my life, I started puking it all back up.
This was me at my lowest. I had done the work to get away from circumstances that didn’t provide enough space for personal growth, but I hadn’t done the work of looking at myself honestly, assessing what my current condition was and how I could affect change in my life for the better. A new paint of coat on a rusted shed is only a band-aid on a gnarly gash.
Eventually, I started going crazy. My mind couldn’t handle it. Looking back I feel confident that my innermost Self was done, that “I” knew better. I broke down, in the desert, in the middle of a workday. I started crying and screaming in my shop. I was of course sent to the psych (then right back to work!), and prescribed Prozac – you’re just sad and potentially experiencing side effects of PTSD, I was told.
Prozac definitely represented a real problem in my job security, however. They wouldn’t prescribe more than three-month’s worth of pills at a time, so that meant on paperwork I wasn’t deployable, because I would be gone for anywhere between six and 18 months. So in seeking help (rightfully being forced into getting help) I lost my position in the military.
I was medically discharged from the US Navy after three years and three days of service.
I distracted myself for about a year, I bummed around Europe for months, then bummed around the US for months more, but I was very sad and fucked up mentally. My problems didn’t go away. I was drinking more than ever, and without fear of pee tests I was doing whatever was offered and available. I was also feeling a lot of negative side effects from the medication, which I didn’t take with consistency, making it even more stressful on my body. I was still bulimic. Nothing had changed except for a complete lack of direction. In the military some one told me what to prepare for, what was coming next. After I was discharged I saw, though I couldn’t consciously comprehend, that nothing was different because I wasn’t different.
I don’t believe every aspect of me needed to change, but I had to address some very dark issues, and that felt impossible because I could NOT, under any circumstance, be honest with myself. If I did that I would crumble and become dust. I would be responsible to feelings I couldn’t fathom. I was so scared of myself, especially of everything that lay under my shallow surface world.
Eventually, after many lonely nights and terrible, deadly thoughts, I called my dad, who I hadn’t spoken to regularly in a long time. I asked him for help. I knew I was in some critical ways toxic to myself, and I needed someone to lean on.
As per his advice, I moved to Wyoming and finally went to college. The military paid for it, and being a nontraditional student a lot of scholarships were open to me. It wasn’t my first choice for next steps, but I had a plan, a vision, a long-term goal.
While in college my biggest responsibilities were menial. My housing and bills were paid for with the GI Bill, so I worked part-time just to have extra spending money, as a dishwasher, and did my homework. I went to classes on time. Life was a cakewalk compared to what it had ever been before.
I was committed to something that was a bit more structured than I preferred (the irony isn’t lost on me that I was in the military), I had future goals years out, and I was starting to question, in some capacity, for the first time in my life, what made me happy, what I wanted to do. It wasn’t just what I had to do to get by anymore. I had choices, FREEDOM, and that was exciting but also scary.
My addictive personality was certainly not at ease during this great transition. I still struggled with my eating disorder, but it was a lot better than it had ever been – as in I was binging and purging less and less, and I wasn’t drinking nearly as much. In two years I would stop binging and purging completely (and still no relapses!). I went outside instead, to the most beautiful and sacred place in the world to me, Vedauwoo. I focused on being number one in all my classes (because in my pride I love being the best and the smartest). I had reasons not to destroy my body, mind and self-esteem.
Eventually being outside took up nearly all of my time. The forests and the mountains are magical. They put us in touch with what matters most, our own heart. I started hiking, backpacking, trekking, eventually climbing and skiing. To this day I feel as though I can never spend enough time outside.
My health and my fitness eventually came into play. I needed to be my strongest self, both mentally and physically, to play in the mountains the way I imagined in my dreams.
This led, and continues to lead years later, to an exploration of myself. At first it was physically, to be stronger for big days outside, but that revealed portals into realms I never knew existed and now can never stop traveling.
I didn’t realize what I was doing as it was happening, but I was changing my life. I was saving myself. It came from honesty and pursuit that was radical for me at that time. Before I knew it, I had shown myself that one of my constant thoughts wasn’t actually true: that this is just my life and it can never be different, I can never be different.
I had tangible, powerful reasons not to give into my addictive tendencies like I had in the past. I had no reason to distract myself because I was in love with being alive. I learned how to be content, satisfied with my life – I made it worth living, guided by the compass of which my heart is the arrow. Those actions were in direct conflict with everything I was pursuing in this new era of what does Meghan want?
Nothing is perfect, and I still struggle with old thought patterns, but the hold is weak. I know better and have proven better to myself time and time again. I still have trouble knowing when to stop when I drink, which is rare anymore. I still want to eat the entire pint of ice cream (and oftentimes I do, straight up). I still smoke weed. And sometimes I still want to shy away from what I know is the truth. It is the crossfade of my, our, human experience, it is our freedom to deny what we know, explore what we don’t and every possibility in-between.
Always, always, I thank the little voice inside who never gave up, who reminded me of what I needed even when I couldn’t stand to hear it. She is with me now and forever, she is with all of us now and forever. So here is to hearing her whisper, to following her guidance, no matter how long it takes.