I kept paying the price for my past mistake because I couldn’t bear to own what I’d done. I had no idea that the simple decision to forgive and love myself for what happened that night would set me free.
The wild side
So much of my past remains a blur, but I remember those days living in Bondi vividly. Waking up in my 3rd floor apartment, slipping into that figure-hugging size 8 suit. Glancing up and down at myself in the mirror approvingly and deciding yes, I look the part. Running down the stairs into the fresh beachside breeze. Grabbing a coffee at the usual hole in the wall before making the mad dash into work where I was absolutely crushing up on the 11th floor as an executive recruiter, pulling my regular 50-hour weeks.
However, Friday nights, things took on a different flavour. The suits and heels were gladly tossed aside and the wild side came out to play, with the anticipation of a bender that would hopefully last the whole weekend. Perhaps it was the need to release the intensity of my corporate life, the weight of the responsibilities of my grown-up job? Or was it just the only way I knew I could truly let go? Was it my way and maintain a sense of fun and aliveness?
Whatever it was, it almost always included a concoction of loud, banging bass, wine, and ciggies. Then progressing to ecstasy or MDMA, and maybe later on some harder drugs like a line of cocaine or speed with some pot to ‘come down’. And later, maybe a lot later, I’d hopefully get at least a little sleep. Monday mornings seemed to come around much too fast!
There was no shortage of party people to share the extreme love I had for electro music. The way it would make my body move. The getting high and living life on the edge. My friends were a mixed bag of professionals, students, creatives, and schoolmates. They would agree; I liked to go hard. I would sometimes close my eyes and dance for hours on end with my whole soul until the morning and do it all over again, sometimes back to back. Exhausted, happy, messy. Always, eventually crashing safely in my own Bondi bed… until I didn’t.
How things can turn so quickly
It was a different kind of a night with a different crew. I was curious and seeking new experiences with new people. That night I knew no one except for this one friend whom I trusted. He had been through some rough times with drugs, but he was the loveliest guy, a DJ, and I loved his music and his company. I remember feeling like things were not going to go well, but I was also practising going with the flow and trusting the good intentions of others. I don’t remember the exact order of the events that happened that night but I do remember saying yes when I knew I should have said no.
This time I didn’t wake up at home. I was afraid. Cold. I opened my eyes to unfamiliar surroundings. The hotel room was dirty or maybe that was me? There were pizza crusts and boxes. An empty bag of chips. Rubber tubes. Spoons,. Cigarette butts everywhere. The stale smell of sweat. And the horror of needles scattered around.
I immediately felt sick; so I leaned over and I threw up on the floor
The worst had happened, I had shared a needle with a mix of heroin and cocaine. I immediately lost consciousness for I don’t know how long, but thankfully I did wake up. I woke up with my arms punctured up and messy as hell. Looking every bit the junkie that I felt inside.
The only thought I remember having is that I had to get out of there. I had to get home. I don’t remember the walk of shame that got me home that morning, but I am sure it wasn’t pretty.
There was no time to process the horror of how far I had strayed from my usual weekend escapades. I felt sick, alone, and confused. I knew this wasn’t something that would ever happen again, nor would it be something I would ever forget, but for now, I had to be at work. Somehow I had to hold it together like I always do. I had to pull it off. Hours later, there I was again, pushing through the mess in my head.
I don’t know how I managed to show up to that mandatory Monday morning meeting, but I must have looked ridiculous all covered up in a long-sleeved shirt in the middle of summer!! Those shirts did not come off for six weeks until the bruising on my arms completely faded. I got some strange looks over those weeks in the office and dodged some difficult questions, but somehow I managed to keep my job and my secret too.
Wishing the Earth would just swallow me up
Have you ever had to hide your mistakes, regrets, secrets, or even a secret life to avoid the shame and judgement of anyone finding out?
So much of our energy goes into keeping up ‘appearances’ and maintaining an identity of who we think we should be or who others expect us to be that it’s all too easy to lose touch with who we really are and what is really going on.
After that night, I stopped feeling safe and I wouldn’t dare ask for help. I couldn’t share this. Anything but this!
Instead I spoke up less at my meetings, my results plummeted in a series of self-sabotaging behaviours.
I finally quit my job, and I turned back to those ‘safer’ party drugs and ‘safer’ party friends. But I lost that part of myself that was carefree, trusting and hopeful. I was just lost and trying to keep it together so that no one else could tell I was struggling.
Wow, how is it that this one night managed to hover over me like a dark cloud? It threatened to catch me out at any time for drinking too much, staying out too late, playing too hard. No matter how much goodness flowed into my life, no matter how much success I was seemingly able to achieve, I felt like a fraud. It was like, on some level, I didn’t deserve it. I couldn’t hold it.
The dark cloud reminded me that even though I had a private school education, had graduated with a university degree and secured a great job with incredible people, I was not immune from the dangers and consequences of experimenting and messing around with drugs.
The power of yoga and reflection
A few years after the incident I became a yoga teacher and never had the courage to bring up my past or share my experience with anyone else. I assumed that even my most open-minded friends wouldn’t understand ‘this one thing’, and I was afraid I would be judged harshly behind the understanding words of care and wisdom.
The truth is, it was easier to swallow the shame, sweep it under the rug and get on with things, just like I was taught to do growing up. But I know I paid a price for that silence in my relationship with myself. We were not good. I was dissociated and numbed out about so many things it was only getting harder to connect the dots of my past, my invisible pain, until I finally decided that the strain of holding it all together was more painful than the pain of coming clean. It was time to open up.
The truth is, I had been on a personal development journey all along, even when I had no idea what I was doing. Slowly everything started making sense to me. The more I followed the thread of yoga, healing philosophy, and the journey into self-love that comes with deep energy work and introspection, the more I was able to understand that, above all, I was love itself. I wasn’t a bad person. And I could see that so many of my destructive choices were a very valid attempt to escape the pain of my past.
I decided my past was not going to define my future
With so much love and understanding I made a decision that my past was not going to define who I was. I was certainly not going to let it define my future. Self-mastery became my first love, and with that comes deep humility and self-forgiveness. Over the years I have slipped many times into self-sabotage and bad habits. But nothing like the past, and nowhere near as destructive. The thing that brings me back every time is owning my choices.
The biggest shift I believe happens when you finally own that your life is happening FOR you – not TO you; there is an opportunity in every moment to harvest the lessons that you’re here to learn. The greatest one is that you are not alone; that we are in this thing called life together. Whatever your past has been, it does not need to define who you are today.
When we find safe ways to let our truth be expressed, our fears, our shame, our guilt, our secrets… just like the saying goes – we set ourselves free!
What’s holding you back?
- How long have your past experiences been hijacking your full self- expression?
- How long has the shame kept you at a distance from living your best life?
- For how long has feeling like the fraud kept you hiding? How long has it kept you playing small and stuck in situations long after their expiry date?
- Isn’t it time to collectively let go of the stories, the old beliefs, the past experiences and call your power back?
- Isn’t it time to shine the light on the secrets that we have hidden away, that keep us under-expressed and painfully under-realised so that we can truly unleash our power and start living a more authentic life?
The deeper truth is that our life experiences are happening through us, not to us. We no longer have to define ourselves by our past choices.
Letting it go
It’s time for us to let go of the story we’ve been hanging onto that tells us we are not enough… we should be ashamed… we are a fraud… we are unworthy… we don’t belong…
We all deserve to make mistakes and come clean so that we don’t live with the shame that only goes on to create more pain for ourselves and for others we love and care for.
Breneé Brown says that shame cannot exist where there is radical compassion. We need to lean into this truth and open up our hearts to ourselves, our past mistakes and regrets, and we need to forgive ourselves or we cannot move on.
Hurt people, hurt people
Isn’t it time we heal even the darkest secrets? The ones we think are unspeakable and unforgivable? For the higher purpose to heal the pain in the collective? For until we give ourselves permission to be real we will keep each other stuck in an illusion of having it all together, when we really don’t.
It’s time we liberated ourselves with the power of forgiveness, compassion and unconditional love. It’s time to arrive on the same level – the level of humanity itself – and free each other up to realise our highest potential and become all that we came here to be.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Brooke Shields on an international stage. I asked her about how she has navigated being so in the public eye most of her life. Her response was brilliant. She shared that being authentic is the easiest and hardest thing to do. Because you have to stop being afraid of who you really are.
She added that when you are being honest and true to who you really are, you don’t have to check up on yourself, because you know you are enough – just as you are.
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