Erin was a young and beautiful student at a university in Saskatchewan. She had a job, a boyfriend, best friends and a daily crystal meth habit. A blessing in disguise started to wean her off her chemical addictions and yoga teacher trainings put a final stop to all of it.
Here is a bit of her story.
At what point did you know you were addicted to meth?
I don’t know if I ever admitted I was addicted until after. Meth was part of my day to day life. It was how I woke up. It was how I performed my daily activities. It was how I connected to people.
I was working. I was going to university and I was smoking meth. When I was doing it I don’t ever remember thinking I was addicted. It was only after when I came down and went through all of the withdrawals that I ever admitted I was addicted. I think I’m still working through the layers of that period today, four years later.
Why crystal meth?
I’m from a small town and growing up I was very focused on school and sports. I had never experienced drugs of any kind. In high school I went through an injury that devastated my athletic future and I think I was a little lost and looking for a new identity. At first, I moved to a bigger center and I started going to raves. I started doing ectasy and was connecting with more edgy kinds of people in what I felt was a very loving heightened way. Then at one of the raves a girl died and they shut down all the parties and there was really nothing to do anymore.
I think we started experimenting with harder drugs because we were bored. We were confined and lost without that means of expression. Meth kind of landed in my lap. The people I was hanging out with were dealers, which was kind of a recurrent theme with me and my drug use. Meth was dirt cheap. It was always there. Getting into meth was really situational. It wasn’t like, ‘Meth sounds cool.’ It was just, ‘Here Erin we are doing meth, would you like some?’ It went onward from there.
How long have you been drug free?
I still smoke pot, as a lifestyle choice. I don’t use drugs to hide or disassociate from myself anymore. I haven’t done any harsh chemicals since 2007.
Was there anyone that tried to help you during the time you were addicted to meth?
My parents didn’t know. I can’t really remember anyone trying to help. I definitely did not take any help. I remember my brother worrying about me. I mentioned to him that I was doing meth and he was not happy about that, but he didn’t interfere. I think if anybody would have tried to help I would have just blown it off.
Is there anything anyone could have done in your situation to help you or to change your mind?
Honestly I think the best thing anybody could have done would have been to take me to a counselor. I am sure somebody reached out to me and I didn’t accept it or avoided it. I did have some friends who were definitely concerned, but I had distanced myself from them enough that I just kind of avoided them. They weren’t saying anything I wanted to hear. In retrospect, the drugs were really masking a deep self loathing. I was depressed and angry and I didn’t know how to deal with those emotions. I think that is pretty common with people who are addicted. If you can get them to a counselor that knows what to say and how to listen that is the best action.
How did you stop doing meth?
Without sounding flakey I think the universe put a stop to it. I believe that every experience we are given in life is a lesson to help you grow into the next more beautiful manifestation of yourself. At the time, I ran with my boyfriend and two best friends and all we did was meth. Then, out of the blue, and probably drug induced, my boyfriend broke up with me. Who knows why. I don’t know why to this day.
Afterwards I went over to my best friends place and they wouldn’t talk to me. Suddenly I was cut off. My whole life shifted. I had to go through withdrawal, the loss of a boyfriend, my best friends and find a new place to live at the same time.
I remember finally calling my parents and asking for help. To this day I don’t know if my mom knows how much she helped save me or the extent of my sickness. We’ve never talked about it, but I am so thankful. I did not know what a blessing it was at the time, but now I’m an entirely different person and a lot of the people in that group are still struggling.
Was that the end of drugs for you?
I still dabbled with coke a lot after that. Again, it was situational. I moved in with a roommate who’s boyfriend dealt, and cocaine was always around and available. I was a lot more in control with cocaine though.
Addictions are hard to break. We are creatures of habit and something as small as giving up your daily coffee can be a huge shift. The point is to bring awareness to the addiction, because when you are conscious you are in control of the choice. Temptations are always there. Patterns are hard to break, but the more awareness we bring to our actions and ‘why’ we do the things we do, then the more positive, compassionate and loving we can be towards ourselves and others.
How many years were you doing coke or meth?
From when I was about 19 or 20 years old to about 27 or 28 years old.
Is it at all a struggle to stay away from it now?
No, I don’t put myself in those situations anymore. I’m just not interested. I guess I have grown up. I am not really a club go-er. Cocaine will still make me have this little voice inside that says, ‘Oooh…maybe?’ But I don’t put myself in those situations very often. Not very many of my friends do it and it is ok if they do. When I get the, ‘Oooh…maybe that would be fun,’ thought the rational inner wisdom part of me says, ‘No, Erin that is not what you are looking for.’
With cocaine it is never as good as it was the first time. You are always trying to get back to that very first time and that is why coke use continues because you do a line and think, ‘That was good. Now I need more.’ Then you do another line and think, ‘I am not high enough yet.’ To me drugs were about searching for excitement or to feel something better than the way I felt. At this point, I am very happy in my life as I choose to create it. I know that the best is already inside of me and inside of all of us. I would rather look to that brightness than outside for stimulation.
Is there another part of your life that you are applying the same intensity which you were applying to your drug use?
I don’t know if there really was transference like when you quit smoking you gain weight. When I stopped doing drugs I definitely started taking better care of my body, but there were still a lot of battles towards acceptance, and we all go through those. There was a transference to clean up in all ways and being more conscious of being healthy. I think yoga kind of snuck into my life when I wasn’t really paying attention. I started going to a class at the YWCA where I was working out. Unintentionally, the mat became a safe place where there was no judgement. It took a couple years before I really recognized the value in that simplicity, but now I find it every day.
How did yoga help you?
Yoga was a foundation as I started to grow out of drug use. I could always come to the mat. Drug use, eating disorders, etc were all masking low self esteem, fear of my own potential and a lot of unhappiness in my own life. That unhappiness translated into drugs. As I got more into yoga I started gaining self acceptance and a real sense of confidence.
With yoga I never felt bad. I used to work out at the gym six days a week and think, ‘Oh I am fat, I need to do sit ups. Oh I am fat, I need to do this.’ Yoga has never been like that. You go to the mat the shape you are and it does amazing things to your physical and emotional being just by being there. Yoga is so accepting that it gives you the space to become who you should become. Everybody struggles with their own self esteem issues and we all have a lot of fears and things that lie latent within us that dictate our patterns of behavior.
I once heard someone say that people do things out of fear or out of love. We create patterns to protect ourselves from the fear of being hurt, when really we all just want to be loved and accepted. When you sit down on that mat or flow through your asana practice or go into meditation and things get really quiet, they also get really clear. It is within that space where you can do work on yourself with loving compassionate acceptance.
As yoga in your life increased did you drug use decrease?
There was definitely a shift in perspective after yoga became a serious part of my life. It was also life situations. I started hanging out with a different crowd and I started dating somebody who was not into the hard drugs as much. It was a process of growing up and removing myself from that situation. When I went and did my yoga teacher training I remember coming back and thinking, ‘I am never doing cocaine again. I just don’t want to. I don’t need to.’
I have been around cocaine since. I don’t judge people who do it, but it is something that I personally stay away from and yoga has made it so. With drug use you are chasing self-worth, you are chasing confidence, you are chasing that feeling that drugs are giving you and I don’t need that feeling anymore.
Did something happen during yoga training that made you decide not to do coke anymore?
Definitely. Everything transformed with one small shift in perspective towards self love. In the yoga community and in that training, it is so welcoming and so non-judgmentally supportive. If you find the right yoga that is how it feels. You do not have to hide. In any yoga class you can go in there and cry and nobody in there is going to question you, nobody is going to look at you like you are crazy. It is a community of loving compassion. When you start to do yoga, you start to look at yourself with compassion. It has always been easy for me to look at others with compassion, but it has always been really difficult for me to look at myself with compassion and to love myself.
Yoga has given me such a community of support and such a confidence that I am not alone. In doing these trainings I see we all have our own stuff we are dealing with and every one of us just wants to be loved, to be happy, to be nourished and supported. When you start to recognize that in yourself and in other people there is a huge perspective shift. That guy that cuts you off on the freeway, you don’t know what his day is like, you don’t know where what life experiences he has had to make him disregard you. Maybe he is having a really bad day and maybe you can look at it that way instead of flipping him the bird. I try to take things less personally.
How would you say your life is different now?
It is a lot quieter. It is a lot more introspective. I love myself more. I am not looking for other people’s acceptance. I want it, but it is not devastating to me if you don’t like me or if you don’t appreciate what I do or if you think that what I do is hoaky. I am less concerned with what other people think of me and doing more of what I know is true in my heart. It is like I am a hedonist now. I just do what I like all the time. ‘Do I want to eat some ice cream? Yeah, I do and I am not going to feel bad about it.’ ‘Do I want to go for a walk? Yes, that is what I want to do.’
I am a lot more in touch with what makes me happy and why it makes me happy and really fostering that sense of nourishment instead of looking for it outside of myself with drugs or partying or other people’s acceptance of me. It is all about me now.
I consciously create my life as I want it to grow as a practice. It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges or that I don’t screw up, but I try to walk with love and gentleness for myself, and from that place I can give and share more fully with others.
Do you think this peace is what you were searching for the whole time?
The way I used drugs was really to connect with other people. It was an easy way to build a commonality. Once you are all high you are all talking about everything all the time and it is like, ‘You are my best friend even though we just met, but we just smoked meth together so now we can talk all night. I love you.’
I was searching outside of myself for acceptance or that community never realizing that it comes from within. Now I am realizing that I am wonderfully whole, vibrant and important without it. Through yoga I can authentically share my passion and my joy while hopefully inspiring others towards their best. We all contain the capacity for greatness. We were born as divine manifestations of light, but many of us have gotten bogged down with everyday life and that has tarnished. We have forgotten our divinity. Yoga helps me remember and I am so grateful to share it.