My Journey with is an interview series with people who have walked a hard journey and have found the strength to share their story with others. I’m so grateful for the incredible vulnerability that many people have chosen to share on the pages of this website.
Today a former addict recounts her journey to find strength, spirituality and self-love which she has recently shared in a new memoir called ‘The Art of Determination’. In it, author Isla Stone shares her personal, profound journal entries that chronicle her experiences with rehabilitation, empowerment and remarkable spiritual growth.
In her youth, Isla Stone was sexually assaulted by a family member and endured abuse from her stepfather, which created a shaken and battered tone for her life. Trying to escape her internal demons, Stone turned to drugs and alcohol to numb her pain, which also led to toxic relationships with various men, who also struggled with addictions. Seeking treatment for addiction in a rehabilitation center marked the beginning of a huge shift in her life.
Thank you Isla for offering to share your story about your journey with Addiction in this series.
What has been your journey thus far and how has it impacted your life?
I believe addiction played a role in my life before I picked up a drug or had my first drink. It started with escapism through reading excessively, then it moved to overeating. I had this very empty feeling inside that I felt needed to be filled with something. I then moved to men. The first relationship that I got into was the first time a really got a high. I felt good enough, seen and wanted for the first time in my life. I wanted more of this feeling and often ran after men to get a fix.
There was always alcohol in our home and I never really had a need to drink, but I just didn’t know what it could do for me yet, I also didn’t like the taste of it. I remember when I was old enough to drink though, that my drink was vodka and ice so I know my thinking around alcohol was pretty messed up from the start….
After a relationship I had with my first boyfriend had fallen apart due to a depression that I had fallen into, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. When I came out of the hospital, I went back to the boyfriend (who at that time treated me very badly) and told him one night that I didn’t want to have died without trying drugs. I do think that at that time I just wanted to numb myself as I was in so much emotional pain. He called a dealer and we bought drugs. From here onwards I spiralled out of control. We used every weekend.
After about six months I finally broke up with him, thinking in my mind that it was his fault that it got out of control. I cleaned up for a while, but then found another boyfriend to repeat the same cycle with. I spiralled out of control, then blamed him and broke up with him after a couple of years. This relationship was emotionally abusive. I then “cleaned up” using only the softer drugs.
Then I met another man, he was an alcoholic and he spent every afternoon in a bar. After the years of drugging I had also developed a reckless relationship with alcohol and wanted to drink heavily every time there was an opportunity. This man just wanted to have a buzz. I would meet him at the bar after work and every evening ended up being carnage. I would get blackout drunk and be told about the things I did the night before. This continued for a shocking 8 months continuously – almost every night.
One day, after my then boyfriend decided to go to rehab, I decided to test myself. I wanted to see if I could stop at one drink, to my horror I couldn’t. The next morning I woke up from a blackout. I then booked myself into rehab.
Now that you have the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you might have done differently before, during, or after, your tough life experience?
No. Everything happens for a reason. I am the person that I am today because of all the things that transpired before this moment. I love what my life has become and who I am.
Yes, it was challenging and at times so very painful. However, those situations, those stories shaped me and who I have become. I am content with me and this place where I am. I would have changed nothing. The mistakes I made taught me the lessons that I understand today.
What, or who, helped you to overcome or push through this experience? A book, a person, an incident, therapy, medication or was it just simply time?
Many things, people and places helped me through my journey. I built a very strong support group with the halfway house where I stayed in the beginning. I met people that had similar problems, who I could relate to. The fellowships were a touchstone in the beginning years for me too. I had to learn to ask for help.
I then went to intensive therapy for a long period of time for the issues that I faced due to the trauma that I had experienced at home. I found a very good therapist and we developed a wonderful connection. Over time I used whatever tools I could find to grow spiritually and emotionally as it is still important for me personally. Some books found me, some concepts found me. I say this because they resonated with me and I just stumbled across them randomly. These are the concepts or books that I still hold dear today. The one book that I love is ‘You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. I also listen to Esther (Abraham) Hicks. I had close calls with death that shook me to my core and helped me realise that life is to be lived, not feared. I am always changing and evolving. That is what I love about this journey. Time is a part of it, but actively choosing to grow and change aspects of myself that I want to improve on has been a great factor in finding peace within. It’s also not about finding faults, rather aspects of myself that I am able to get to know better and then from there choosing to build on.
Obviously there is not always a reason for going through such hard times in life, but now that you are further along in this journey can you share any insights or personal growth that the experience taught you?
It is never okay if you are being abused by someone. As hard as it is, and as scared as you might be, ask for help. Do not let someone make you feel crazy, the chances are that you are not.
If you grew up in a broken home, were abused, feel broken and hurt. Stop yourself when you say something like ‘I am broken.’ Or ‘I am damaged goods.’ You don’t have to be, and quite simply, you aren’t. I remember saying this to myself quite often.
It took me a long time to understand that I am worthy. That there is worth in me as a human being. Not what I do or what I offer others, my job, or how much money I make. My beingness, my essence as a person is worthy. I do not have to prove myself or my worth to anyone else when I know that I am worthy. Self-love is the biggest lesson I learnt on this journey. To learn to be compassionate and gentle with myself. To allow myself to be in whichever space I am whenever I am in a place that I don’t want to be. To remember that I have an ebb and flow. To acknowledge my emotions, not to suppress them and to acknowledge myself and my needs.
Emotions are the most important piece of information we have about ourselves to gauge where we are and our general awareness. The more aware I am the more focussed I am. The more focussed I am the easier my day gets.
Having expectations of others became a continuous cycle of disappointment. I came to a realisation that despite my fairy tale ideas of how I wanted people to be, they were never going to be how I wanted them to be, or how I thought they should be. Once I accepted them for who they were, my relationships changed drastically, especially the relationship I had with my mother. Once I accepted my mother for who she was rather than for who I wanted her to be, our relationship blossomed.
Initially I never thought that I would ever overcome fear. I just accepted that I was going to live with the torrid monster of fear all my life. I always had a fear, an unknowing scary fear that something terrible might happen, just over the horizon. One day I decided that I didn’t want this fear to hold me in a choke hold anymore. The change happened very subtly, but that fear is gone now. I still get fearful and anxious, but the claustrophobic fear left me. So I just want to say to those who might have that fear, it does leave you if you want it to.
Where do you find yourself now? Please share an update on your current progress or new space to encourage others who find themselves in the midst of the “tough stuff” right now.
Right now I find myself living an adventure everyday. No day is ever the same and I love it. I am running my reiki practice and just completed a wonderful counselling course for which I will soon be registered. I am also working on putting together some workshops for the book, focusing on various aspects of the practices I incorporated in my life changing practices. I encourage those who read my book to try whatever resonates with them as everyone is different. These things worked for me.
Thank you so much for taking time to share your story Isla!
“Life is as amazing as it is difficult. With ‘The Art of Determination,’ I hope to reach people that have reached rock bottom like I did. I have made mistakes and went through heavy thought processes to work through issues that others can learn from.”
Through her book, Stone teaches readers that it takes time for things to improve, but that they are worthy of a beautiful life and they can control how people affect them.
“The Art of Determination”
By Isla Stone
ISBN: 978-1-9822-4483-5 (softcover); 978-1-9822-4484-2 (e-book)
Available at the Balboa Press Online Bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.