I’m in an Indigenous treatment centre, which is an honour and a blessing. I’ve always had a connection with Indigenous culture, art and traditions and respect First Nations people and all the trauma they’ve lived through. An Elder shared some wisdom to our group today, about how she’d gone to residential school, how she became involved in recovery work in her Okanagan community as she got older and I wrote down some lessons:

  • When you’re ready, the right healers and teachers will come into your life.
  • Surround yourself with people who live healthy lifestyles.
  • Not everyone has the privilege to go into treatment, kindness goes a long way.
  • Religion/AA/and prayer can be turned into your own form of spirituality.
  • You can go into treatment many times and there’s no shame in that.
  • When we use substances again, we often are thinking about it up to 5 days beforehand. Our thoughts are important to watch and we can change our lives by changing our thinking.

We were then asked to introduce ourselves individually and state what tribe we’re from. I am the only person in my therapeutic community who comes from a white, settler/colonial heritage. There’s kind of an inherent guilt and shame I felt when I introduced myself. I was quiet and asked to speak up. Yep – I’m SUPER white.

It’s an odd and sad feeling to feel not only displaced from my own culture and heritage, but also a little ashamed. I don’t have any grandparents to turn to with questions, and that’s ok. I’m trying to wrap my head around why I’m here, why life (in the strangest and most magical way) has brought me into this community. How do I adapt these traditions into my own holistic healing in a respectful way? Do I even belong in this group?

Imposter syndrome, sort of. Like why is the White Elephant here, the one who’s lineage caused so much damage, trauma. In Newfoundland, we literally wiped out the Beothuks. I won’t even get into colonial French history, where my dad’s bloodline comes from, but it’s not pretty either. I know I’m not the only person feeling white shame after the rise of the BLM movement throughout the last couple years. I’m not proud to be white. I see this when my white friends use black and brown people emojis. I feel this when I roll my eyes at yet another white, privileged man making a stupid comment on social media.

I know I just have to continue to believe that there’s a reason Creator brought me here. I also have religious trauma, as a queer kid who went to a private Christian high school where religion was shoved down my throat and I was made to be ashamed of my sexuality. I know in my heart that I don’t want to cause harm like that. I find it difficult to wrap my head around AA’s references to a patriarchal God. I do know though – that a missing element in my life has been a spiritual practice or connection.

I hope these questions start to unravel what my spirituality may be, because at this point in my life, I honestly don’t know. All religions have a shadow – the Buddhists and Hindus and Christians alike. I mean the caste system is fucked, yet I still find meaning behind the stories and lessons in Vedantic scripture, the Dalai Lama. So maybe it’s okay to cherry pick – although I always hated when Christians did that with the Bible. I still have trauma around Biblical scripture. So how dare I cherry pick from multiple religions.

If you can’t tell – I also often lack self-compassion. It’s an ongoing process to love myself, love what I love, allow myself to love. I have this feeling deep down though, that finding beauty in my own spirituality is the way out of this. The reason I adored weed and wine so much was because it put me in an altered state, it helped me feel closer to heaven, to not be of the world, of humanity, but to feel something more profound, more mystical. I think many people who use substances are reaching for that – to feel connected to the spiritual world. They call booze ‘spirits’ for a reason.

That’s what brings me back to defining what’s sacred to me. Why is getting sober a spiritual practice? It’s spiritual to me because it allows me to fully connect with nature, with words and stories. It allows me to choose kindness more often, especially towards myself. I may feel like a white spiritless elephant in the room, but I know that I’m here for a reason. I used to be enamoured with tarot, psychedelics, crystals, Reiki, the metaphysical, Hay House books, and slowly started to realize a lot of this is white privileged bullshit. I’ve been disenfranchised since my mid-20s, since I realized a lot of this is a money grab, another form of capitalism (I’m looking at you Gabby Bernstein, Deepak, Gwenyth….)

My spirit has been tricked into buying so much crap throughout my life. Constantly wanting to reach something higher. Disappointed so many times when spiritual leaders, yogis and gurus turned out to be abusers and rapists. I’m realizing – maybe none of the true spirituality comes from the outside, from influencers, from celebrities (and celebrity gurus) but from within. Sounds super cheesy, but you can go to all the conferences in the world, do the yoga trainings, sing the songs and still be empty inside.

I don’t have the answers as to what “true spirituality” is, but I know everyone has to define that for themselves. I do know that the more I step away from the haze of weed and booze, the more I question how to tap into that altered state, a higher consciousness. I’ll leave you with this clip from The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky, specifically the Pantheon scene at 1 hour 37 minutes. Here’s a link to the movie.

I’ve never found a piece of art or writing so creatively and wonderfully show how using substances tricks us into believing we are having a profound spiritual experience, which is what we all truly crave deep down, right? If you haven’t watched this entire movie, I learn something new from it every time.

“How long til you reach the summit? I can only go through horizontally, and that’s enough.”

(Not enough for me.)

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