My Recovery Has Delivered Everything My Addiction Had Promised

By Megan Christensen

Introduce yourself! Who are you?

Hey there! I’m Megan. I spent years in the harrowing clutches of alcohol addiction and battled an eating disorder during a time in my life that I refer to as my dark night of the soul. I’ve been in recovery for over three years and I integrate adventure and nature into my recovery practice, as I find both to be incredibly healing and influential. I live in Colorado with my husband, who is also in recovery, and our animals. I LOVE spending time outdoors in nature and pursuing adventure. The wilderness has always been my first home. In my free time I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and camping. I work for a wonderful organization called Being True To You. We help individuals achieve natural maturation out of addiction, integrate transformational experiences, and awaken to their true selves. I’m currently enrolled in a 30-level coach certification training with Being True To You to become a transformational coach and work in the field of addiction recovery coaching and psychedelic integration coaching. I’m very passionate about helping people navigate through their own dark night of the soul and step into their power in order to live an integral and joyful life.

What do you love most about yourself?
What I love most about myself is my courage, strength, and resilience in the face of adversity. What I’ve learned is that things don’t happen to me, they happen for me. I overcame an eating disorder and alcohol addiction. I fought off a bear coming into my camp one night. I fought off a strange man who broke into my home and attacked me last December. I’ve fought for my life more times than I can count and what I’ve learned is that what doesn’t kill me truly does make me stronger. Challenges are always opportunities to better ourselves. It all begins with a shift in perspective and believing in ourselves and our abilities. I believe that while not everything happens for a reason, if we look hard enough we can find a reason within everything. I realized that with the right perception, I can take on almost anything life hands me. As author Viktor Frankl wrote, “The last of the great human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s own attitude in any circumstance.” My experiences have shaped me. Just as the relentless pressure of waters and winds shape the desert canyons, my hardships and trials shape me. My hardships erode my weaker characteristics and strengthen my strong ones. I become more resilient in the face of adversity, and more seasoned and wise with every trial I weather. The good and the bad have allowed me to become who I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am were it not for where I’ve been. I’ve found the challenging experiences to be the most valuable, for they have the greatest wealth of wisdom and teachings to offer. These experiences propel us into becoming who we’re meant to be. For us to appreciate where we’re going, we must appreciate where we’ve been. And in the words of Andrea Dykstra, “In order for you to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.”

When and how did you decide that you wanted to quit?
I knew I needed to quit drinking long before I actually did. My big red flag was when I continued to drink despite the consequences. Unfortunately, this pattern began when I was fifteen years old. The first time I got drunk was also the first time I blacked out. I didn’t know this wasn’t normal because it became a normal occurrence for me. I had never cared to learn my limits and I never set boundaries. Over the years my drinking progressed, as did my consequences. Despite blackouts, terrible hangovers, guilt, shame, and regret, I continued to drink. Despite getting expelled from high school, kicked out of the house, suspended in college, and losing a job, I continued to drink. Even after receiving a DUI, jail time, and probation, I continued to drink. I continued drinking although I jeopardized relationships and lost friendships. I continued drinking despite panic attacks, insomnia, delirium tremers, pancreatitis, sexual abuse, and trauma. Regardless of my addiction leading me to isolate myself and live out of a tent, I continued to drink. Even after losing my sister to alcohol addiction, I continued drinking. And regardless of the fact that I was slowly killing myself, I continued to drink. The need to feed my addiction had far surpassed the consequences of doing so. Over time, my addiction overcame me entirely and I was either under the influence or constantly thinking about how to get alcohol. I began to rationalize and justify any reason to continue drinking. I put my addiction before everything else in my life, including my loved ones and my responsibilities. My addiction perpetuated negative emotions, actions, and decisions, and lured me away from a lifestyle of integrity. Even when I didn’t think my rock bottom could get any deeper, it always could. The thing is, until you put down the shovel, you never truly stop digging. And I always had a shovel in hand.

Through the use of plant medicine, I was able to awaken to my higher self and begin my healing process. (Disclaimer: I am not recommending plant medicine and this route is not for everyone; I am merely sharing my experience, in which plant medicine played an integral role.) I sat in tipi ceremonies in the Arizona desert and worked with peyote. I ventured down to the jungles of Peru to work with ayahuasca and huachuma (san pedro). In my first ayahuasca ceremony, I experienced my first panic attack. After that first ceremony, every time I put alcohol in my system I would enter a state of panic. It was as if ayahuasca had unlocked the door for my higher self to come through- a door I had locked long ago through my addiction. The panic was my higher self communicating with me that I wasn’t acting with integrity to myself, my purpose, or the world around me. I knew better, but I had allowed myself to become possessed by my addiction. Despite my best interests, I continued to drink and my addiction continued to progress. In my journey, my addiction had to get worse before it could get better. I had to reach a point of desperation so great that I would be willing to quit. I’m grateful that my healing process was accelerated through the use of plant medicine. Had the consequences of my drinking not grown to be so painfully uncomfortable through continuous panic attacks, I may still be out there. Or, I may not be here today. Alcohol became my best friend and my worst enemy. I chose to be homeless and live out of a tent in order to avoid responsibility and afford my addiction. My anxiety levels had peaked and I was in a constant, relentless state of panic. I had a terrible sense of impending doom I just couldn’t shake. My stomach ached in pain because I had developed pancreatitis from drinking too much. I was always shaking from either terror or withdrawals, depending. I couldn’t trust my senses because I began experiencing delirium tremens. I was seeing and hearing things. I thought I would die, and that didn’t seem so bad. I was alone, lost in the fray, and the edges of my reality were fading.

Unfortunately, I had to reach this state, followed by even worse states, to become desperate enough to want to quit. One night I had a dream that served as my wake up call and motivated me into action. I threw myself into recovery, but not without trials. Relapse is also a part of my story. With each relapse I picked up right where I left off with a shovel in hand. It took a great deal of pain and suffering for me to finally stop digging, as I was well on my way to digging my own grave. My rock bottom then became fertile ground in which to plant seeds. My recovery has allowed me to water, grow and nurture those seeds, and it is this growth that sustains me. The growth I have experienced and continue to experience in my own recovery makes all the trials and hardships from my addiction worthwhile. However, not everyone needs to reach rock bottom before they stop digging.

What was the first thing you did after realizing you needed to get sober?
The first thing I did when I realized I needed to get sober was go to a 12-step program. I found solace in the meetings. I was among people who understood me, who understood darkness. These people could laugh at themselves as they looked back on some of the decisions they made and the things they did while in addiction. I wanted that. I wanted to be so at peace with my past and who I was that I could laugh at it all, and laugh at myself. I was very active in the 12-step program, especially during my first year of recovery. I needed the support and accountability more than anything, so I found an amazing sponsor and began working the steps. Often times my husband and I would attend meetings together, and in addition, we developed new friendships with others in recovery. I found that having a social circle that shared the foundation of recovery solidified my new and healthy lifestyle, as well as my ability to have fun without substances. I no longer attend 12-step programs as frequently as I used to, however, I’m still very active in my recovery through being of service, as well as through my work and my way of life.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
Maintaining a routine is what helps me to grow and move forward on a daily basis. I wake up before the sun and I begin each day with proper hydration, followed by a guided morning meditation. Meditation helps to cultivate stillness and is an amazing practice to promote awareness and become more present. In addition, meditation is extremely helpful in reducing anxiety and stress. After meditation, I then go for 14-mile mountain bike ride around the lake we live on in Colorado. Doing so keeps my energy levels up and helps me to clear my head. Exercise releases natural endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body and helps to combat stress and anxiety. Exercising outside further enhances the health benefits of exercise because you’re increasing your oxygen intake, absorbing vitamin D, boosting your mood, and connecting with nature. Spending time in nature alone helps to reduce stress and improve overall feelings of happiness and well-being. Following my bike ride, I take the dogs out so they can get some exercise in as well.

After all this, I am in a more positive mindset to begin my work day. Part of my routine is also eating healthy and balanced meals. Eating healthy is crucial, especially in recovery. For example, studies have shown that proper nutrition has a greater positive impact on mental health than prescription medications. My husband and I use organic, whole-food ingredients and prepare our meals at home. We also greatly reduced our sugar intake because sugar has a tendency to cause mood swings and fatigue. Just as exercise and diet improves mental health, so does cultivating a healthy lifestyle. My husband and I sold our TV’s, his PlayStation and Xbox, sound equipment, and all of our DVDs in order to get rid of digital distractions. We kept our computers and phones for our work and personal projects. Our moods have improved, as well as our productivity, motivation, creativity, and inspiration. It’s amazing what magic happens when we rid ourselves of distractions and create the space needed to cultivate our dreams and goals. In my free time I enjoy reading, working on personal projects, and spending time with my husband and our animals. We seek adventure every opportunity we have. I’ve found that creating and maintaining a healthy routine helps me to be better prepared for hardships that come my way, be more productive with my time, uphold a positive state of mind, and remain strong in my recovery. Often times when I’m having a difficult day or week, it’s usually because I’m slacking somewhere in my routine.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My older sister, Trudy, used to tell me, “Always be true to yourself.” She spoke these words to me every time I saw her and she wrote them in every birthday card she gave me. Trudy passed away six years ago. Trudy, too, had struggled with alcohol addiction and she took her life following a relapse. She lives on in my memory and her words continue to echo in my heart today. As long as I remain rooted in who I am and remain true to myself, I’ve found that I can handle life with much more grace and ease. My recovery has provided me with the opportunity to explore who I am and embrace my authenticity. Without the attachment to substances, I’m free to be me. I took off my masks and took on the world. If people don’t approve of my true, authentic self then they are not my tribe. These days I choose to surround myself with people who have my best interests in mind, want me to succeed, and who cheer me on. I choose to surround myself with people who I can be myself with. I choose to honor and accept myself as I am and stand firm in my truth. By remaining true to myself, I am practicing love for myself. And the more love I have for myself, the more I’m reminded that I am worthy of all the great things life has to offer. And I am worthy of my recovery.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned (and still learning) along the way is that I am not my past and I am not the things I did. I was a different person when I drank. I’m not proud of who I was. But I am proud of who I am today. I know my past does not define me. I know I cannot change my past, but I can change my relationship with it. I made the decision to forgive myself and shift my perspective. As long as I see challenges as opportunities and mistakes as lessons, I will continue to grow into a stronger and more resilient individual. If I were to allow hardships to get me down and I chose to stay down, I would continue to struggle. Every obstacle I face is an opportunity for personal growth. My past provided me with an abundance of lessons to learn and grow from. It’s how I choose to handle those lessons that matters. My past is simply a few chapters in my story and I have the power to shift my narrative at any time. If I am too focused on my past, I am not living in the present. And the present is what matters most because it’s all we truly have.

Describe addiction in three words.
Shame. Darkness. Masks.

Describe sobriety in three words.
Love. Light. Truth.

Was there any one piece of wisdom or element of treatment that helped you stay the course?
In my early recovery, someone once said to me, “Just keep doing the next right thing.” Hearing these words and feeling the epiphany that followed brought on a great deal of relief. I realized that I didn’t need to think about the next day, week, or even hour. I just needed to keep choosing the next right thing. That’s what helped me get through those days. And it still does. I just focus on the task right in front of me and choose the one after, and pretty soon it’s the end of the day and I accomplished everything I meant to. Even if my biggest accomplishment of the day was staying sober, it was a good day. I’ve realized that so much can change in so little time, and trying to predict the future is exhausting and overwhelming. As long as I keep doing the next right thing, I can’t go wrong.

What’s the hardest part about recovery?
The hardest part of my recovery was feeling raw emotions, especially in my early recovery. I had always drowned my emotions with whiskey or wine, or whatever I could get my hands on. I drank to numb. I drank to forget. I drank to suppress. I drank to check out. And I drank to survive, although it was the very thing that was killing me. I didn’t want to feel anything, especially negative emotions. I just wanted to stay numb and bask in a false sense of temporary contentment. When I entered recovery, I had to learn to sit with my emotions. I began allowing myself to feel them, process them, and work through them. And doing so has been one of the greatest gifts of my recovery. I still have difficult days. The beauty is that I get to feel it all without the need to numb. I don’t suppress my emotions nearly as often as I used to in my addiction. In my recovery, I have the amazing opportunity and gift of living a raw and authentic life. My emotions and my responses to life are pure and true. I know that the negative emotions I experience will pass. Emotions are energy-in-motion, meaning they are always shifting and changing. With this in mind, I know better than to become attached to or act on a certain emotion, and I know better than to think that emotion will last forever. This knowing helps me to better handle the difficult days because I know they will pass, for the only constant is change.

What’s the best part of being sober?
For me, the best part of being sober is rediscovering my true self, taking back my power, and creating the life I want to live. Life is better than I could have ever imagined and I owe it all to my recovery, support, and hard work. I came to realize that my alcohol addiction was the symptom of more deep-rooted problems. My addiction and anxiety were the red flags to my core issues. They were there to get my attention so that I could begin to heal myself on core levels. My decision and willingness to become sober became an opportunity to heal myself from within and discover my true self. I came to realize that with sobriety, I was capable of all the things I had dared to dream of before. My recovery has delivered everything my addiction had promised on false premises. My sobriety allowed me to go from limited to limitless. In the words of Brene Brown, “Sobriety is not a limitation- it’s a superpower.” I came to realize that just because I had been powerless in addiction does not mean I am powerless in my life. I have power over my thoughts, attitude, reactions, words, and most importantly, my choices. I have the power to rise above my addiction, heal myself from within, face my problems, become a better person, repair my relationships, and create the life I want. I have the power to start over. I transformed my feelings of powerlessness in addiction to empowerment in recovery. My recovery has been my opportunity to take back my power.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
I would tell 16-year-old Megan that she doesn’t need to drink to have a good time and feel comfortable with herself or other people. I would tell her that it’s okay to not fit in with the crowd, and in fact, it’s wonderful. I would tell her to just focus on the pursuit of her dreams and not worry about what everyone else is doing or what they think. I would tell her that she is beautiful inside and out and she doesn’t need anyone’s approval to develop self-worth. I would tell her that drinking has the potential to destroy her dreams and ruin her life. I would tell her that sacrificing who she is to fit in with the crowd isn’t worth it. I would encourage her to embrace her authenticity and discover who she truly is. I would tell her to remain true to herself and stand firm in her truth.

If there are others who feel the same as you, what would you like to tell them?
You can make the choice to quit right now. The only true obstacle holding you back is yourself. You are in charge of creating the life you want to live and becoming the person you want to be. You are always only one choice away from living a completely different life, and every choice you make either improves or weakens your quality of life, and brings you closer or further away from your true self. Now is your time to make a choice. Every decision you can make to improve yourself and your quality of life is worth making, and you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Do not allow fear of the unknown get in the way of pursuing your dreams, and do not question your self worth in the pursuit of your recovery. You ARE worthy of recovery and you DO deserve to be happy and live an integral and joyful life. There is more than one path to recovery and your recovery should be catered to you. Explore different methods of maintaining recovery and stick to the ones that work for you. Explore new interests and skills. Step out of your comfort zone and venture to new places. Do the things that make you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Recovery is your opportunity to explore who you are and embrace your authenticity. Without the attachment to substances, you are free to be you. You can take off your masks and take on the world. While there are many new adventures to be had in recovery, the greatest adventure is the one within.

What message do you think every woman should hear?
The message I think every woman should hear is: “You Are Enough.” You are strong, you are brave, and you are worthy. No matter what your flaws, insecurities, and characteristics are, you are enough. No matter what your struggles, endeavors, or hardships are, you are enough. Continue to discover your true self and awaken to your true purpose. Cultivate your unique gifts to share with others when you’re ready, for no one else can offer the world what you can. As a wise person once said, “No one is you, and that is your superpower.”

 

Read more of Megan’s story here.

Megan Christensen

Megan is currently training to become a transformational coach and work in the field of addiction recovery coaching and psychedelic integration coaching. She is very passionate about helping people navigate through their own dark night of the soul and step into their power in order to live an integral and joyful life.

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