From shit to shiny...

In an earlier post, I glossed over my addiction experience, as I briefly wrote about hitting rock bottom and finding my feet again to create a healthier, happier expression of me.


Laying in bed last night, some memories formed and came into my head space and I began remembering like it was yesterday…Hiding in high school, feeling so different than my peers, and yet desperately wanting to belong (like most of us at that age). Not really speaking to anyone about how I was feeling… so lost coming into my final year of high school when grades became a strong focus and the pressure to have a plan for our future was all around me.

The options that I felt around me were 1) go out into the workforce and learn a trade or 2) get into a great university and study your way into a great job…my heart felt so heavy with those options.

Lets be honest…I spent the previous 4 years of high school focused on how I looked and what boys I wanted to date. Homework on school nights left untouched as I pranced and primped in front of my mirror deciding what outfit to wear the next day. I was lucky enough to scrape my way through school with zero study habits until the final year when it dawned on me that perhaps I had WASTED my four years. And I felt hopeless and helpless to do anything about it. I felt so ashamed to have focused on my social life instead of my studies. I remember thinking, “Leanna you have really fucked this one up.”

I considered going to my guidance counselor and asking for help but I was too ashamed. I felt scared and isolated as I watched my peers talk excitedly about what they were doing after graduation. All I felt was dread. I remember that feeling so clearly….a sense of dizziness and overwhelm so great. And not able to tell anyone!!! Frozen in a sense of failure & shame!

Core shame has the ability to destroy us from the inside out.
— L.M.

So I watched my friends head off into their passionate future possibilities, the next stage of their journey into adulthood, heads held high and hearts open wide. I didn’t even have enough credits to graduate. I missed out on the ritualized ceremonies of graduation and celebration; the moments that marked the transition into the future. That time is still so hazy for me and painful…I am not sure exactly when I attended my first party and took my first chemicals. Whether it was mid year or in the summer following my last year…all I know for sure is that I needed to escape myself and my pain…I needed to feel I mattered, that I belonged. I needed to get away from the sense of failure and turn my back on a painful sense of loss and regret.

And that, my friends, is when my story got ugly…it began innocently enough…an invitation by my best friend to attend a warehouse party in the city. How very adventurous and exciting and brand new! I’d only ever gone to bars, clubs, pubs, house and field parties so a warehouse party was cool stuff. I had no idea what to wear! (old habits die hard)

That first party I watched the strangers around me, dancing to music I’d never heard before, strong and intense beats I couldn’t get my body to follow. Kids wearing bright, wild clothes and styled in ways I’d never seen before. A dirty, deserted warehouse down by Toronto waterfront became the birthing ground for my next three years of parties, drugs and dance.

That night I found myself decidedly choosing this community as my next adventure…my transition into whatever was next for me. Wild, strange, adventurous, sexy…it had me fully and completely. I was hooked.

Until years passed & I fell deeper and deeper into a pit of no mans land & knew that I had to get out. I imagine that many of us have found ourselves surrounded by people & situations that we knew in our hearts did not support or align with our true personal value system. We know big changes need to be made. But the changes we know we need to make can feel insurmountable & terrifying.

It took many tries as I realised that I’d officially hit rock bottom & had to find a way to quit the scene. Each weekend I’d tell myself this was it, no more drugs, no more parties & then I’d get pulled in again. By my own need.

Alas, fate was on my side & I will be forever grateful that I am one of the lucky ones. I got out. On that fateful day, I bumped into an old friend from our scene that I hadn’t seen for awhile. He was happy & healthy & he handed me a book, would you believe it? That simple act of fate & kindness (he told me- read this & it will change your life) was all it took to give me the inspiration I needed to turn my life around. It sounds cheesy & so simplified but it really was that moment & the words in the book that hit my insides like a hammer. The biggest realisation I took from that book was that if I wanted to be loved I had to create a place for that love to land inside of me. I had to create an anchor for love that could only come from practicing self love.

So I did. I dumped everyone I knew in the scene, moved back home with my folks, slept for a month then started afresh. I’ve been clean ever since & have truly discovered that you don’t need drugs or alcohol to fly- you can be high on life. Ask my friends- they’ll tell you who the last one is dancing into the morning at a special celebration…hint hint, it’s me! Stone cold sober & having the time of my life.

If you can’t imagine your life without substances & you wish you could…let’s talk. I think we just may be able to support an incredible change together. I know you’re worth it!

At the root of it all, we are INNOCENT.
— L.M.

Ps.This book that triggered the start of purpose & meaning in my life was The Celestine Prophecy, proof that books & words can be lifechanging.

Leanna xxx

Leanna McNeil