I’m an all or nothing type of a girl, I used to say. Addictive tendencies and obsessive qualities have been a central part of my life.
I felt its presence, like something was wrong from the age of about 14 – puberty awoke the hungry serpent. I metamorphosed from a quiet, sensitive young girl living in a world of her own to a drug-taking, angry adolescent determined to break free. I thought I was a rebel liberating myself from society’s grasp. I was drawn to the new age movement, believing my anger and I could change the world…this revolting, mean, crazy, unloving, unthoughtful, selfish world. I didn’t realize what I was really fighting was inside me: the craziness, feelings of being unloved and unlovable, the incapacity to think of myself or others, the selfishness of unfeelingness were all coming from inside. But like the virus that it was, the trauma took its strength from a camouflaged viewpoint. Undetectable, it caused chaos along its path.
By the age of 18, I was synergizing ‘A’ level studies with what they call in the trade ‘brown powder.’ I was going for it, I was daring, I was crazy, and you couldn’t catch me. I wanted to live, and I thought that taking whatever I could lay my hands on was living. I didn’t realize at the time that escaping from myself wasn’t being alive but its contrary – accelerated disassociation from my innermost feelings kept me running. Running from what? From society, from my parents, my middle-class upbringing and the expectations that go with it – that and most of all myself!
And so, the incessant fleeing continued. I scraped through university to become a drama teacher. I was quite good but the drama in my own life and the rebel in me that said ‘NO’ to anything with the name tags ‘security or ‘routine’ led me away from that path.
I was pulled magnetically to what was happening under the surface, the world we didn’t see, the conversations we didn’t hear, the magic of the unrecognized. I lived in squats and collected furniture out of London skips. I felt alive, near the edge. Drugs and damaged people, me and my wound were at home. From the heart of that context, I saw him coming towards me along Kilburn High road, tall with blond dreadlocks, he wore a parka jacket with cricket pads attached to the shoulders as his urban warrior uniform. I knew from afar it was him – together we were going to conquer the world. He stopped and asked with a strong French accent if I had any change for some food. Three children later and a police section order, I saw his hospital notes ‘schizophrenia’ and I took a deep breath.
There were fourteen years from the day in Kilburn high road until the day I managed to say ‘No’ and mean it. I had grown up, my sons had, too. We survived beatings, hunger, delusions, homelessness, a stabbing, police interventions and most of all a severe lack of self-esteem. The running, the rebelling had bought me to this, and it still wasn’t over. A wound won’t give up until you love it – I was far from loving it as I still didn’t recognize its existence.
I became a single mum, although in most ways I had always been. A single mum with an attitude and a deep need to get away from myself in every second that passed. I tried all sorts of ways of freeing myself from the constraints of three kids and a sedentary routine. We spent a year in India backpacking (much to the disapproval of my ‘entourage’), a couple of years on the road with a horse, a wagon and a yurt, working at festivals, living in people’s fields – anything to fly away. And yet I still hurt.
The years went by and I managed to pull it together. I created more ‘grown-up’ jobs for myself including English teacher and wine broker. I always had a strong relationship with red wine. I remember the first good bottle I really connected with. I was 19 years old, a drama student in London and dating Ade, a big, sexy actor. Unlike me, Ade grew up in London and was much more cosmopolitan than the provincial girl I was. One evening he took me to a very popular Italian restaurant and ordered a good bottle of Rioja to accompany the meal. We were like grown-ups enjoying wine, good food, each other at our little, candlelit table for two in the corner of the lively Italian restaurant. This was the first time the combination of taste and effect mixed together into a sublime experience that I can remember to this day.
Over the years, wine became a staple in my life. I even worked in wine. First of all as a broker in the Northern Rhone Valley of France, a link between the winemaker and English and American dealers. The local winemakers taught this dizzy but motivated young wannabe business girl everything from growing, harvesting fermenting and finally tasting wine. And these weren’t any old wines. They were some of the most sought after French wines available – Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, Viognier – all produced in tiny vineyards, terraced by the Romans and hanging to the side of the Massif Central mountain range that runs along the river Rhone.
My relationship with wine didn’t stop here. A sudden need to belong somewhere, anywhere led me into marrying not just the son but his father the Mayor, the family and even the small, French village where my husband prided himself in being a seventh-generation winemaker. I transformed myself into the perfect French farmer’s wife. We ran the wine domain together, converting it into organic and natural wines. The growing, harvesting, fermenting, tasting and commercializing became an integral part of my life.
I had a home, my ‘rightful’ place – but at what cost? The price for trying to ‘fit in’ to hide from my aching soul under an umbrella of acceptance from the local community was numbness.
I would have stayed there forever, I had made my bed and now I should lay in it – until one day a teacher came into my life and showed me through her eyes where I was. I wasn’t at home. I was an alien in a forgotten world and I needed to get out.
I spent four years learning kinesiology with Caroline. I peeled away the layers until the choice became clear: live or die. I chose to live. I left the farm and the community that went with it with one kid more than I arrived with. And once again found myself in that all familiar survival mode that I had become an expert in over the years. But this time it was different. I made the decision to stop running and turn to face myself. I gave myself time, healthy aloneness. I became softer, happier, more stable. I was more present for myself and my kids. I was slowly healing. Hermit-like, I studied, wrote, cried, bathed, made altars symbolizing the change I was undergoing, formulated affirmations and most of all went back to the place of childhood. The dwelling place of that little girl was with the flowers and the plants, the trees and animals and it is to that ‘homeliness’ that I turned to once again. A deep connection re-awakened in my cells. In my heart, I felt at one, pure and free. The hurting was calmed by the loving resonance of the trees that became my teachers and the fields and woods my resting places. No need to run, to hide or to search outside myself for they led me inwards. Nature mirrored my connection with the whole, I was no longer alone.
However, one thing came with me, my attachment to red wine and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Even though it is a socially acceptable ‘drug’, I knew it had some form of invisible control over me. There were periods where I pushed it away through will power but it always showed up again. Enticing me with its message that I needed it to feel alive, that I had no choice, that addiction was life, that life without it was dead.
I began to look for the symbolism of this pernicious, controlling substance that disguised itself as a lifeline. Vine roots grow deeply, even breaking the rock strata and red wine is like blood – could this be a replacement for my secret motherline? My mum’s passing from a mixed-race family to being ‘white’ included the denial of who we were. My soul, that eternal energy that comes from the earth resonating in the divine feminine – Since my great-great-grandmother, that spark of embodied aliveness, the divine feminine that existed in every woman that went before me had been stolen by the colonizer within and without. The masculine principle, the internalized colonizer refused to honor her. My soul was desperate for recognition.
Just as I had believed that wounded, violent men would recognize and love my soul so I could feel her, live her, be her – I believed that the spirit of alcohol could do the same.
I used the journaling prompts from C.W. V. Straaten’s Addiction recovery journal. The question, “If my addiction was a person, describe him or her”, was a breakthrough for me. My addiction was the wounded, narcissistic masculine that colonized my motherline. It was the violent relationships that I magnetically called into my life. It was the outer and inner wounded masculine that refused to infuse my feminine matter with its light, however hard I tried and wished for it to do so. Like the men in my past that reflect my wounded animus, my addiction is a liar, a manipulator, someone who doesn’t or can’t love me, but somehow manages to entice me into his arms each time. My addiction doesn’t want to let me go. It doesn’t want me to be free. My addiction tries to make me believe I need it and that its good for me. My addiction wants my energy. It wants to steal and colonize my soul – that part of the divine feminine that needs the spirit of the sacred masculine to ‘see’ her. My addiction tries to trick me into believing it will do the job of the sacred masculine, that it is the spirit I am longing for. Each time I fall into its trap thinking this time will be different – but of course it isn’t. My addiction is the enemy disguised as my lover.
I have learnt that like the inner colonizer, I no longer have to welcome in the addiction. I no longer need to say ‘yes’ to it. I am no longer frightened of it. I don’t believe its threats and insults anymore or its lies about me. I recognize that alcohol is not the spirit that truly honors my feminine. It is a colonizer that like patriarchy steals the sovereignty of the innate, eternal divine feminine. I have learnt that like the wounded masculine, my addiction is terrified of my feminine and that is why it tries so hard to dominate, colonize and manipulate her.
Finally, my eyes are opened to the truth. No need for will power. Now my addiction can no longer hide in the shadows, trying to pretend it is true sacred spirit. Now I see that the intoxication of wine is merely the putrefaction of the fruit – a fermentation of the aborted potential of the vine to reproduce.
He has been exposed, the colonizer and the addiction wrenched from my unconscious, shriveling into nonexistence before my eyes. My ancestral grandmothers, my mother, myself – we gave him all our power for generations. He ruled our souls, our bodies. We couldn’t live without him. But now we are free.
Free to fall in love with the spirit of the sacred inner masculine. Free to feel and allow the spirit of life to penetrate my femaleness, the sacred matter of the mother.