A Messy, Magnificent Journey

I’m 21 years old in my 5th year of college. I’ve been heavily medicated for ADHD since I was 10 and I’m completely useless without my pills (my med of choice is Adderall because it makes me skinny.) I drink every night. Smoke lots of weed. I’m fully addicted to Xanax. I have a twisted relationship with food and exercise. I binge and starve and binge and starve. Every weekend I take lots of drugs and party ruthlessly. I’ve failed 4 classes throughout my college career and I am still barely getting by. What a mess.

Yet this all seemed so normal to me. This type of lifestyle was not only the complete norm but it was approved of and pretty much encouraged by everyone around me.

When I look back now it all seems like complete chaos. Did I breathe? Slow down? Did I ever meditate and check in with my body and asked her if she was okay? Why did it all need to be so loud and fast? Why did I love it all so much? What was the source of the love & appeal?

I’ve spent a decade unpacking all of this. If you are relating to this at all I encourage and invite you to look in the same places. I started asking:

What is my relationship to drugs/alcohol/partying?

How does it make me feel?

What does a drink mean to me?

When did I start drinking and why?

Why do I take my ADHD meds?

Who said I needed them?

What’s my relationship to food?

Why do I exercise?

What I came up with was this: I grew up in a very loving yet dysfunctional home. Don’t get me wrong- I have so many beautiful memories from my childhood, and I know deep in my heart my parents did the best they could with the tools they had at the time. With that said, I would not go back to my childhood. It was tense, scary, and filled with a lot of rage and uncertainty. I starting drinking when I was 11. Drinking to me was a place I went. It was an escape. The second I took a sip of alcohol I walked through a door. A safe door, a very fun door. All the tension and fear would melt away because I was drinking and drinking was fun. And if you were having fun you weren’t hurting, you weren’t bored, you weren’t alone. I started taking ADHD meds in the 3rd grade because my teacher told my parents I had to. By the time I got to college I had developed a fiercely dependent relationship with my meds. I couldn’t work, clean my room, exercise, study, learn, or be productive without them. I truly hated the way they made me feel. I was a complete mental vegetable when I took Adderall. I couldn’t laugh, play, connect, relax, relate or be with people. When I didn’t take it, I was relieved because I had my personality back but I didn’t have the motivation to do anything but party and over-eat. 14 years of taking a drug and no one ever thought to ask: what is the impact of this? How does this med effect a growing kid? Is there an alternative option?

I want to emphasize here that the majority of the drugs I was taking were prescribed, signed off by teachers, seen as healthy and acceptable by our society and encouraged by the school system. These drugs destroyed my body, my sense of self, my relationship to my intelligence + productivity, and my body image.

It was all a vicious cycle. The drinking, the drugs, the toxic relationship I had with myself. Thankfully, I had some personal growth work under my belt and I knew that there was a better way to live. When I was 21 I did a course called The Advanced Course, an extraordinary program through a company I cherish called Landmark Worldwide. I realized for the first time that my life was completely unmanageable and I’d been operating at such an uninspiring wave length for a very long time. I wanted more. I didn’t want to fucking live like this. I wanted an extraordinary life. One that my soul loved and thrived from. I wanted an extraordinary relationship with productivity and work. I wanted a nourishing relationship with food. I wanted an inspiring relationship to exercise & body image. I wanted growth-filled friendships, ones that challenged me and expanded me. I wanted expansive communication skills, the ability to say how I feel, when I feel it, clearly, without fluffing, dodging or people pleasing (no matter how hard that is.)

So I dove into courses, retreats and programs. I found coaches and mentors who showed me a better way. I feel like I have only scratched the surface. But I must say my life is a lot more manageable and extraordinary now. I’m sharing this because I want you to know there is a better way. You don’t have to be stuck relying on alcohol to have fun and relax. You don’t have to keep waking up hungover, feeling anxious, puffy, and exhausted. You don’t have to be stuck relying on meds to be productive in life. You don’t have to hate your body, pick it apart, mistreat it, and wish it was smaller, tighter or different in any way. You don’t have to be so addicted to exercise, sweating, pushing, working your body to the bone. You don’t have to be obsessed with food, managing, controlling, planning and restricting what you eat everyday. You don’t have to have uninspiring relationships filled with gossip, comparison and drama.

We are raised in a culture obsessed with drinking, partying, being skinny and looking good. You will always find evidence for why you desperately need these things in your life.

But there is a softer way. A more loving way. A far more fulfilling and uplifting way.

You have to be willing to ask the hard questions, to go there, to want more, to invest in yourself, to dissect your past no matter how hard it may seem. There is so much gold in there, so start digging.



© 2018 by Julia Shepley.