All Who Wander Are Not Lost
By Kelly Benson
Its always a bit weird for me to speak about “my story”. My life today compared to my life 10 years ago is like black and white and is positively different in every way possible. When I talk about my past and what I’ve been through, especially publicly, it brings up so many different feelings. One feeling that sticks out most is fear. Fear of being judged, of being looked down upon, of not being taken seriously in my work or even in life in general. Fear used to control my life. These days I give a great big “fuck you” to fear.
By sharing my story publicly, I hope to reach even just one woman who is struggling to find her way. The women struggling to live life feeling fulfilled, connected. Most importantly, the women struggling to love themselves.
I have been through hell and back. You see, once I was a lost little girl in search of connection. Connection that I longed for because I never really had it as a child. I experienced much trauma, rejection, and abuse as a child which left me confused and unstable. Rather than learning to process my feelings I was told there was something wrong with me. I was put on a variety of pharmaceutical medications for “depression” and “ADHD”. That cycle lasted for almost 15 years until I found out there was another way (but I’ll come back to that later).
Connection; to other humans, to our natural environment, and mostly, connection to the depths of our own soul is what we all truly long for and need as humans- especially as women! I was uncomfortable in my own skin and very disconnected to my own being and body for as long as I can remember. When I started using substances in high school I finally felt a feeling of being connected. I finally felt OK in my body. I felt less anxious and more connected to my peers. Drugs became my source of connection and it stayed that way for a long time.
After open heart surgery to remove a benign tumor in 2005 when I was 21, my love affair with opiates really took off. My addiction story starts off like most; medical provider prescribes narcotics, those susceptible to addiction get hooked, the narcotic eventually loses its potency, the search for stronger drugs tornadoes into a full-blown heroin addiction. I hear this story all too often. Obviously, not everyone prescribed opiates will become addicted. About 85-90% of those that experience substance use disorder have also experienced significant trauma in their lives. Not everyone who experiences trauma will become addicted either. Being spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically wounded by trauma can surely support getting lost in a deadly cycle of addiction. This is my story.
I ran hard for almost 6 years. I am amazed and ALWAYS grateful I made it out alive – because so many don’t. Some of the young women I used with during those years are not alive. Their story ended. The darkness of this period of my life, trying to stay high 100% of the time is unimaginable (there is no need to go into detail here, you can use your imaginations). I became the walking dead – I lived to get high and I got high to live. I ended up homeless on the streets of Boston experiencing the most horrific circumstances. I absolutely loathed myself and the only thing keeping me going was the thought of that next rush of warmth and numbness that comes with heroin use. Nobody wants to live that way! I did not wake up and choose to be an addict. I was in an immense amount of pain and heartache my whole life and I was doing what I needed to do to survive and endure the pain so deep in my heart.
Eventually that lifestyle became too unbearable. I decided I would either get help and turn things around and rebuild, or I would end it myself. I went in and out of treatments and detoxes more than 20 times in a 3-year period. I wanted to be well so bad but couldn’t grasp the paths that were presented to me. I had my first experience with yoga during my last rehab stay in 2010. This was the start of crawling out of the hole I had gone so deeply into. I had a tiny glimpse of peace that first time on my yoga mat.
Over the next several years I continued to slowly make progress and rebuild – with my yoga practice as my anchor in that early stage. In 2013 I switched out all the pharmaceutical chemicals I was told would help me but never did, for plant medicine. I began learning about plants for depression and anxiety and started experimenting with medical cannabis – not cannabis to get high – but cannabis to support and nourish my bodily systems and help ease my transition from over 15 years of using substances. My fascination and passion for plant medicine bloomed! I am now able to have a successful business and support others with the knowledge I’ve gained.
Life today is different. My yoga practice and the opportunity to participate in a 9 week teacher training was the foundation of my recovery. I also got to share yoga with those in the early stages of recovery through a non-profit I started in my community. My programming was then passed on to another yoga based non-profit and is still reaching the folks that need it most.
While I don’t physically practice much these days, that depth of connection and knowledge never goes away. I learned more about myself through that work than I ever knew possible, and grew to love myself unconditionally. Plants were my second propeller forward. My desire to support others is what keeps me going and lights my fire.
Today, I am a wife, a mother to two incredible little humans, a daughter, a sister, a business owner, a productive member of my community, and so much more. Of course, I still struggle, as my nervous system was in distress for so many years – recovery is ongoing and there is always personal growth work to do (for anyone and everyone). But I am ALIVE – I feel joy, I feel pain, I get to feel it all and not want to numb and run away.
My life’s work is to help others. Through my business, I am working on the details to implement a recovery sponsorship program – where I will offer heavily discounted or donated plant medicines to young women in the early stages of recovery. This is what life’s all about right? Contributing to the growth and empowerment of our fellow humans so we can all work for a better future. Change is possible – we have to start working from within and diving deep into our own pain and suffering in order to get to the brighter side. This is how we change the world and the systems that are keeping us stuck. Start with yourself and help the person next to you.
More About Kelly
Kelly Benson is a budding Maine Herbalist, a Yoga Instructor, and a caregiver in Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program. She is passionate about sharing her story of transformation and sharing her knowledge about how plant medicine can support us in our everyday lives. Her business, Mindful Earth Herbals, offers herbal infused hemp CBD products to support ailments such as anxiety and emotional wellness, chronic pain, addiction, and skin care.