So now I want to connect the dots between my history, my healing, my experience of the medicine, and my reasons for writing this book.
I have been drinking this plant medicine, first ayahuasca with the Peruvian shaman and then yagé with my current teacher, for ten years. As lovely songwriter Kirtana puts it,
"How can I express, the changes taking place
The only words I guess, would be amazing grace..." (1)
My experience with the medicine is nothing short of a miracle, in my opinion. I have changed SO deeply in these past ten years. Granted, I am still the person I was in some ways. The difference is that I can SEE and accept my strengths without being egotistical about them or having to try to prove to anyone that they exist and that I am worth something; and I can SEE and accept my faults, without feeling guilty about them (to be honest, still working on this aspect of things - but making progress!). I have been shown - and have let go of - a significant amount of darkness, and yet I trust and have have faith in the light. I have very strong opinions but don't feel the need to prove anything to anyone. I have ideas about how I wish the world was but know better than to take myself or anyone else too seriously, and I have a much better sense of humor than ever before. I have no idea where it (the future of the world, life, etc) is all going but spend a much higher proportion of my time content with being in the present moment. I am more relaxed. I have let go of my addictions, one by one, until now caffeine is the last one I have left. My priorities are to be in alignment with the will of the Spirit, to always work on being a better person, to be kind and compassionate, to be of service, to tell the truth, to appreciate beauty, and to be grateful.
Of course none of this proves that the medicine saved my life, although I feel that it did - or that at least it gave me a second chance at life. People who knew me ten years ago may have thought I was a happy person, because as far as I know, my 'stuff' was not carried around on the surface. This way of being was trained into me. I come from a family that for the most part is much more comfortable not talking about or processing their feelings or dealing with their pain (older sis, you are the one exception to that statement - and, in case I forgot to mention, NO JUDGMENT about that! We all do it the best way we can!). I come from a culture that for the most part takes a pill to cure every ill; and this cultures' main pursuit, besides making and spending money, involves escaping from reality, or 'normal' consciousness, through alcohol and recreational drug use, through watching TV and the products of the entertainment industry, and through the consumption of sugary and processed foods.
In my previous blog about drug use in America, I did not mention these last three things - alcohol/ recreational drugs, television, and sugar - as I was focusing on prescription drug use in our children. I think it is now time to explore this territory.
Alcohol use and abuse
Many of us are familiar with the alarming statistics surrounding alcohol use and abuse in this country. Most teens in Driver's Ed classes have to read endless statistics on this topic, such as that nearly 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes, "...making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States."(2) I don't feel I need to relate a longer laundry list of statistics here. We know people in this country drink - a lot. We know it causes accidents and death. We know it causes health problems and violence and broken families and heartbreak. For more information on this subject and for great fact sheets, go to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, sited in the references.
But why do SO many people drink alcohol if it causes so many problems? There are many reasons: to lower stress, to ease physical or emotional pain, to fit in or be a part of the crowd, because of peer pressure, as a social lubricant or for more social confidence, to reduce social inhibitions so as to have more fun, for a sense of relief, and to get away from or escape from reality. (3) Is it any wonder people want to escape today's world? We have wars, endlessly; social problems from unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness to human trafficking and mass shootings; environmental devastation and ever-increasing numbers of epic natural disasters; the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer... the list of major problems in this world is staggering. The insanity is beyond comprehension. With all this going on, it's no wonder that some reports claim that as many as 18.6% of the population suffer from some sort of mental illness (4). Depression is the most common of these, with almost 7 % of the population suffering from it. (5) One out of every five children has "a seriously debilitating mental disorder," according to the National Institute of Mental Health.(6) This is a serious national health crisis!
And people are so stressed in their lives today! According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 77% of all people surveyed were regularly experiencing physical symptoms of stress; the causes of this stress, in order of frequency, were job pressure and money, followed by health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload, and sleep deprivation.(7) Something is not right, folks, and denial ain't just a river in Egypt...
Obviously, I am neither for nor against the use of alcohol in a person's life. I myself had to quit drinking alcohol due to an addictive personality and my tendency to escalate when using any addictive substance. It is difficult because I can no longer 'fit in' in social situations where everyone is drinking: for example, I do not enjoy going to parties where drinking is a main activity, or going to concerts at wineries. I can't partake in the ceremonial honey whiskey shot before my choir performs at our bi-annual performances. But this is the choice I am making, brought on by my working with the medicine, and my other spiritual work. I no longer choose to escape and avoid - anything. I definitely still want to at times. It would be so much easier! But one of the lessons I have learned from the medicine is that 'the only way out is through." We humans think we can drink or medicate away our pain and suffering, but what many of us are not understanding is that this does not make it go away. This reminds me of the environmentally-minded statement made about throwing garbage 'away" - which is that, in reality, there IS no away. It all has to go somewhere! Often whatever it is we do not want to deal with gets stuffed down, or medicated away from our conscious mind; meanwhile it is just settling deeper and deeper inside, under the surface, getting stored in our physical bodies. Sometimes this can resurface years later as serious disease.
One time I had a healer work on my chronic hip misalignment and back pain. In his opinion, there were serious energetic issues going on with me, in that area of my body, the kind of issues which he said could eventually lead to major illness and even an early death. He recommended, as part of my therapy, that I sit in the sun and journal about my childhood and try to remember everything I could about that time of my life. I did so - and that is a tale for another day. However the experience with this healer was like foreshadowing, the literary device which hints at what is to come later in the story. I don't know what this man saw in me, but I now definitely believe it is important to clear our bodies of stored trauma. Of course, I will never be able to prove that this man was correct - thank goodness - because in order to do so I would have had to do nothing about my state of affairs and then come down with a serious illness! Thankfully, that has not happened. I was led to the medicine path, and much of my 'stuff' has been addressed.
I have now been writing this entry on and off all day, am now noticing the time, and realizing I am not going to be able to finish all that I wanted to write about today. So, the most interesting thing I discovered today is the link between alcohol consumption in children and teens and exposure to positive images of alcohol use in the media. We are basically showing our children through mainstream images that drinking is expected behavior among adults. I am going to get more into the facts about this when I return, but according to the summary written by Joel Grube, "Alcohol portrayals are relatively common on television, in film, and in music
and music videos. These portrayals are largely positive or neutral, often
associating drinking with positive consequences or desirable attributes.
Negative consequences of drinking are rarely portrayed."(8)
(1) Blessed Life by Kirtana, from her album This Embrace. See http://www.kirtana.com/content/blessed-life
(2) "Alcohol Facts and Statistics." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Misuse. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
(3) "Why People Drink." School of Public Health/Alcohol Awareness at West Virginia University. http://publichealth.hsc.wvu.edu/alcohol/effects-on-society/why-people-drink/
(4) "Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults." http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-adults.shtml
(5) "Major Depression Among Adults." http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml
(6) "Any Disorder Among Children." http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml
(7)"Stress Statistics." The Statistic Brain Research Institute. http://www.statisticbrain.com/stress-statistics/
(8) Grube, Joel W. "Alcohol in the Media: Drinking Portrayals, Alcohol Advertising, and
Alcohol Consumption Among Youth." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK37586/