“I started drinking when I was 14. I did that for about 10 years. I would definitely identify myself as an addict during that time. I grew up in San Francisco in the middle of the city in the Lower Haight, had super beautiful hippy parents, and yet I was never home.
As soon as I grew up and was able to be out of the house and do my own thing I was out all the time. I very quickly found drugs and alcohol as a way to numb my very intensely psychic and emotional experience. I didn’t have words to describe that at the time, but as I look back I can tell that’s exactly what I was doing. I was trying to escape really, really scary emotions that I was afraid of feeling. I felt such depths of anxiety. I felt everything. I wrote a book called “The Empath Experience: What To Do When You Feel Everything” because that was my life. I felt everything and I was terrified. I felt so overwhelmed.
I was having this memory recently, imagine 14-year-old Sydney hanging out in Dolores Park, or DP as we called it, with all these friends who were smoking a blunt. At one point I hit the blunt and it felt different and I asked my friend what was up and she said she sprinkled a little crack in it. It’s not often that I remember these times because I’m so far removed from that space, but at that time I was also going around on drug deals, and having friends shot and killed, shot and killed for selling ecstasy, which I was doing all the time…whenever I could get my hands on it.
I was around a lot of really dangerous situations that I frankly kinda sought out. Part of my experience of life at that time was that I was really disconnected from myself. Having learned at a young age to really focus my energy on what I thought other people needed to feel good so that if they felt good, I could feel good.
I was really disconnected from my own emotional experience and my own identity. High school was one of the most difficult times in my life. I sought out all these different identities and a lot of extreme expressions to try them on. I see that time in my life as really seeking the depths of extremism and danger.
In hindsight, I can see that I was just seeking. Just trying to find out who I was. Drugs and alcohol were a means for me to explore that even if they were also used for escapism.”
“Did you feel like there were any rock-bottom moments that served as inflections points in you changing your trajectory to where you are now?”
“One of my first awakening moments was when I was 17 and a dear sister told me she couldn’t be around me when I was drinking. That really woke me up because she was the first person I really loved that told me that type of thing. At that point, I was already being arrested and things like that. I went to an AA meeting when I was 17 for the first time, but thought, ‘Wait a minute, I’m really young, I don’t think it’s that bad, I need to go to college and have fun’. At that moment I felt like I was breaking my own heart because I was choosing to let go of my best friend at that moment, and instead choosing this identity that felt safe. There was no way I could picture my life without drinking or partying because I didn’t know who I was without it.”
“There were many rock-bottom moments because I’m stubborn. Another big awakening moment was when I was in therapy when I was 24 years old, and this’ll give you an idea of the double life I was leading…I was living in New York City and from the outside, it looked like I was living the life. I thought if everyone else thought I looked good, maybe I could feel good. But I was deeply suffering inside. I have no idea what my purpose was, I had no idea what I was doing on this planet, I had no idea why I was alive. I was having panic attacks on the street because I was doing so much cocaine and drinking all the time.
I had a full-time job, but at night a couple days a week I was stripping and escorting. Eventually, I went to the therapist because my parents were getting calls from me freaking out. I was in such denial I thought I was going to therapy to get someone to help me with my career. I was so addicted and committed to upholding this front. Long story short and I had a God moment and finally told her the truth, I had never told anybody the truth, and in that moment I saw her eyes looking back at me and I just felt such a piercing energy, unlike anything I had ever felt, which I feel was the presence of grace, and I saw myself looking back at me in the mirror.
I saw my soul screaming at me saying, ‘You’re gonna die if you keep doing this’. Soon after I got sober, I started taking care of myself, and that’s really where my journey began.”
“The stuff that I’ve learned that are the most effective practices and tools that help me love myself and feel more liberated are so simple, but they require commitment to really integrate.
If you’re feeling anxiety, feeling lost, or disconnected from your purpose, just wanting to feel more aligned, wanting to feel more at peace the most powerful practice I can suggest it something called ‘connect to self’. It’s so simple but it requires commitment and a sense of urgency.
All it is to set a timer on your phone, every 20 minutes have that timer go off and take a deep, deep breath into your heart. Connect with yourself, connect with your own energy, connect with your spirit, your soul, your higher self, your inner child, whatever you connect with that helps you plug into your essence. Take a couple deep breaths, and then just ask yourself ‘What is it that I need right now to feel my best? What is it that I need right now to feel supported? How can I support myself? How can I give myself what I need to thrive right now?’
And really listen, and become aware of how your higher self communicates with you. That voice may communicate through words, through pictures, through feelings. Make this a practice. This is your intuition speaking to you. As you receive that guidance it is essential that you take action immediately. Don’t delay. Don’t wait. The more you practice this you will feel more alignment, more synchronicity, and you’ll deepen into so much self-love and gratitude.
This is such an esteem-building practice. At the beginning when I started this practice it wasn’t easy for me. It can bring up a lot. Worthiness issues, shame, guilt, but I encourage you to stay with it. If you stay committed this becomes your default way of being. Imagine what life could be like when you’re listening. You become an invitation for others to heal just by your presence.”
Sydney Campos is an author, coach, and public speaker
You can connect with her at https://sydneycampos.com/