Naturally Drunk on Lush

I am a 30-year-old working mom that has developed sensitivities to some of the most common and unavoidable things in our culture: CHEMICALS! Not all chemicals, of course. I’m not one to jump on bandwagons or chase down big companies with my pitchfork, but I’d like to be able to get through a meal without my heart jumping out of my chest or my face breaking out in a rash.

The biggest culprit? MSG, flavor additives, and salts derived from other sources. Ugh. I had no idea that I had issues with these additives because I already eat mostly natural, whole foods anyway, so I don’t normally encounter these types of ingredients in my food (which may be the problem). I don’t eat a lot of prepackaged foods (and if I do, they come from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or other natural food stores), but one night, I decided to make some grilled chicken with zucchini, homemade gnocchi and a sauce. On a whim, I purchased a packet of sauce that my mom used to make when we were younger, and I felt a little nostalgic and decided to make it for my family. I made it with my own “health” spin on it, with a non-fat, organic, lactose-free milk. Wow, did it taste good. Everyone was excited that I made something a little “normal”.

I’m so grateful I did, because it was one of the worst experiences of my life! Within about 30 minutes of eating, my face became bright red, I had these bright, red splotches all over my face, my head was killing me and my heart rate skyrocketed. I had no idea what was going on. I went to the hospital, who checked me over head to toe to make sure that I wasn’t having any cardiovascular issues, which, thankfully, I wasn’t. I was fit as a fiddle. What was wrong with me?!

I went to the doctor the next day and gave the doctor my symptoms. He let me know that this was a common occurrence in people that have sensitivities to some food additives and ran some tests. I started listening more to my body and anytime I would eat something a little “off” if I had any reactions I would notate them in a diary. It’s made it almost impossible to eat at a lot of low-quality restaurants, and I get to be the obnoxious person and ask at every place I go, “Hi, do you use MSG? Please don’t spit in my food.”

This happened about 5 years ago, and ever since then, I have made it a point to read every single thing on the ingredients list. There is widespread panic about MSG – it’s become a buzzword around natural food lovers, and I wanted to learn more about my body, the effects of MSG and food additives, and what it meant for me as an individual.

I think it’s important to remember that each individual person is different. Your body will react differently to things than mine will. There are common allergens, like dander, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, etc. that all have similar and consequential reactions to ingesting them. It’s much different with people and sensitivities. There are myths that sensitivities do not exist and that people simply jump on bandwagons. In my opinion, I don’t feel that individual reactions should be up for public discussion and think that people should mind their own business. The last time I had a reaction to an additive in a food, I was hooked up to monitors for 5 hours and being injected with medication to slow my heart rate down, all while vomiting violently and convulsing. Yes, it’s all in my head. How did you know?!

I’ve really decided to take a big step backward and understand my body more. I have decided to listen to my body. How does my body react to certain things? What makes me happy? Are there certain smells that put me in a good mood? Why are we putting things in and on our body that make our bodies unhappy?

This occurred to me last week when I was reading the ingredients in my shampoo. I have been using the same shampoo for seven years. If I don’t use it, my head breaks out in this terrible rash, my head is itchy, and my hair feels a mess. My scalp, essentially, falls apart. I use high-end products on my hair because I’m afraid to use anything else. I’ve also noticed that if I don’t wash my hair within 24 hours, my hair is greasy – but my head is not oily! I don’t produce a lot of oil on my scalp, or on my skin, so this struck me as odd. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my scalp had become dependent on this shampoo.

Last year, I discovered the amazing store that is Lush Cosmetics. I had been using the same essential oil mixture for the past 12 years as a perfume and a “mood booster”, and finally found an all natural lotion that I was able to use with it. However, I realized that my skin had become really sensitive and easily dried out and wasn’t responding well to my normal skin regimen, and my mind was in desperate need of rejuvenation and relaxation, so I stumbled into Lush and purchased a few of their infamous bath bombs and fell in love. There was nothing more relaxing than a soothing, scentful bath bomb and a glass of organic Cabernet Sauvignon, listening to music in the background while the rest of my house slept soundly.

Ever since then, I have been obsessed. I recently tried my luck with their handmade shampoos. I have been very hesitant to try natural shampoos because of the issues with my hair. For full disclosure, I have extremely curly, frizzy, and textured hair. My hair is usually the victim of the almighty hair straightener with tons of product and a lot of manipulation. On a recent trip to Lush, I spoke with one of the sales representatives about the different types of hair products they offer. She quickly showed me the two types that would be most beneficial for my hair and gave me free samples to try. I am currently on day 5 of the shampoo and conditioner combination and am in absolute love. My hair has not looked this good in a while. I was very hesitant about the quality of the product because my hair felt stringy and harsh when I was rinsing it out, and I realized that it felt this way because it was actually clean. We add so many things to our hair when we are washing it. We wash out all the natural oils and put all of these chemicals and silicones and man-made product into our hair and we associate it with clean. I was able to pull my hair back into a pony tail and use a side bang and it has maintained its shape and has been manageable since this morning. I couldn’t say that with my regular shampoo and conditioner. I have been playing with my hair and sniffing it all day because I’m absolutely convinced that it looks awful and is going to smell bad, but each time I’m intoxicated by the refreshing scent of rose oil and neroli oil and I’m completely obsessed. I’m hooked! I went back and bought them by the bottle yesterday, and also picked up a sample of their Olive Branch Shower Gel. I will let you know how that works!

Currently using:
Lush’s Cynthia Sylvia Stout Shampoo – another reason to love beer! It smells so different and leaves the hair feeling extremely clean and manageable.
Lush’s Happy Happy Joy Joy Conditioner – delicious! This conditioner is on the thin side, but is great for every day conditioning and management of curly, unruly hair. Did I mention that it smells amazing? Lawd, does it smell amazing.
Visit for more information on their incredible, handmade, natural products!


Finding Peace in Addiction

A friend of mine texted me and said something remarkably haunting and familiar. She had recently gone through the loss of an ex-lover who had succumbed to his drug addiction, and was baffled by the fact that, though she spent several years loving him and crying over him, she wasn’t terribly upset by the news of his death.  In fact, it bothered her to not be bothered by it.

“I really want to know why it doesn’t make me sadder that he died.”

Without hesitation, I responded:

“Because the one you loved died a long time ago.”

It was something so simple and familiar that it was upsetting to not be shocked by it. What a terrible and true statement.

It’s something that isn’t talked about. We talk about drug addiction and the stigma that envelops it. We talk about all the things that surround it, but we never talk about the death that happens while people are still with us, while they are still flesh and bone, while they are still warm and next to us. We talk about the people that are actively using, but we don’t talk about the victims that are left in their wake.

In a lot of my writing, I refer to the loves of my life that I’ve lost that are still very much alive. I lost two of my best friends, two people that I loved more than the air that I breathed, to alcohol and drug abuse. They had different poisons and different paths, but both mirrored each other in ways that it still breaks my heart to this day. In all honesty, it will likely break my heart for the rest of my life.

As I’ve gotten older, the hurt and the anger turned into understanding and empathy. One of them has since gotten sober and really turned their life around, but our relationship will never be the same, no matter how much we may want it to at times. We were two peas in a pod, two people who understood each other in ways that nobody else really did. We referred to each other as platonic soulmates. We loved one another without hesitation or reservation, and it was one of the truest friendships I’ve ever had. But love that deep can’t save someone from something like heroin, and as a self-preservationist, I wasn’t willing to try, and I ran away faster than the speed of light. It breaks my heart. Losing her hurt more than any man I’ve ever loved and lost in my lifetime. That is a pain that I will take to my grave and I will never have a friendship like that again. There are days that I feel like a failure because I wasn’t able to be there for her when she needed me the most. Before it happened, we hung out with these people who we thought were absolutely amazing. Older. Sophisticated. These two guys who we dated, who we thought were just the most awesome people ever. We were young and stupid. Hers would be the one who introduced her to heroin. Mine would be the one who wined and dined me, then drugged and raped me. She was 17. I was 19. I never went back. She stayed. I wish she hadn’t.

There are days where I am baffled that someone as brilliant and as beautiful could be sucked in by such an awful disease. Addiction knows no limits nor does it discriminate. It’s something that I will never understand, and while she may never know this, the more I learn about her sobriety and how she has changed her life, the more proud I become of her. I almost feel like it added something extra to her story. I root for her. I want her life to be something meaningful and brilliant, and I’m hoping she does everything in her power to accomplish that, and I hope she knows that I loved her even during her darkest days, even if I wasn’t there to tell her that.

The other was one of the most tumultuous relationships I’ve ever been in that spanned the better part of ten years. I watched him choose other women, drugs, and a shady lifestyle over being the human being that I had fallen in love with. He was the first person I ever loved and I let him destroy every part of me. He constantly cheated on his girlfriends (including me, I have no doubt) and would try any drug that you put in front of him. I was his backburner girl. I was always there to pick up the pieces of every stupid thing he did and every other girl that he broke, until he would get bored and find something else to do. He got his first DUI before his 21st birthday, got engaged to a girl that enabled him and did equally horrendous things, and bounced from relationship to relationship, from house to house, until he had seemingly gotten his life together.

Our paths crossed later in life, and it seemed like fate. When we got back together, I felt like I won the lottery. Here I was, early twenties, still completely smitten – if not moreso – by the boy I grew up with that I desperately wanted to finally love me back. I had just gotten out of a relationship with someone else who loved booze just about as much as he did and had made my life a living hell for a year straight. (Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?) He drank once in a while, but I finally felt like I didn’t need to worry about him, or handle him, or watch his every move.

Until once in a while became all the time. A few beers became an entire case. I was young, so it’s not like I didn’t drink when we would go to parties or go out to dinner. I was never quite on his level, and I never really wanted to be, but something about it made me feel really unsettled. I had a good job, hopes for a family, and wanted to make something more out of my life. I would stop by his house randomly – I remember one time in particular, I stopped by to surprise him a little after 7pm, and he was passed out on the couch, about 6-7 beer bottles in the sink, and I knew I could no longer make excuses for him.

The final straw of our relationship was the frantic phone call I received from his mother at 1 in the morning. I had just gotten out of a 12-hour shift at my job, completely exhausted, horribly unnerved – I had spent the better part of my day fighting with him and trying to convince him to stay at a party where he was at because I knew he had been drinking, when my phone rang.

“He’s been in an accident.”

Seeing him covered in blood and reeking of booze on a stretcher, his neck in a brace, and drifting in and out of consciousness was one of the biggest wake up calls I’ve ever had in my life. I could have been in that car. My children could have been in that car. No amount of love I would ever have for another human being could ever excuse this behavior, nor could it ever allow me to jeopardize all that I’ve ever worked for. We parted ways shortly after that. Painfully, dramatically, and not without lots of bitterness and fighting, drunken phone calls, and failed attempts at being friends. It was the worst breaking up of hearts that I’ve ever endured because, for the first time in our dramatic and awful relationship, it had been my choice to stop it. It’s amazing that I can look back on something that happened so many years ago and still derive so much raw emotion out of it when I can guarantee that I am not even a blip on that person’s radar. I’m sure that wherever he is now, he doesn’t think of me or the way that I spent half of my life allowing myself to be broken by his actions. I am not sure that he ever loved me, and it took me a very long time to be okay with that.

I knew that, no matter what I did to try to save him, or what I did to try to convince him that he was better, or whatever magical, ridiculous, fairy-tale ideas that I threw at him, it was his choice. I was never going to convince him otherwise, and he was never going to choose me. He never did before. He certainly wasn’t going to now.

That’s the beauty of addiction and indulgence. It’s a type of self-inflicted ignorance that we as sober people don’t have the luxury of experiencing. However, we are not immune. I think that it’s ignorant for people to say that they would “never fall into that path”. They would “never get that low”. Nobody ever wakes up and intends to be an addict or an alcoholic. I truly don’t believe that it’s anybody’s intention to give up control over their entire life. It’s a means to an end for some people. We are all human.

As “sober” people in these situations, we have two choices: we can stay and enable, and allow the actions of others to be accepted, or we can choose to walk away from the situation, and risk being called heartless, misunderstanding, and cold. We can be guilt-tripped into thinking that we are just the same as them – because we can responsibly carry on our lives and do things like have the occasional drink or two, go to parties and not get hammered, get drunk once every few years and regret every moment of it like other people and be hungover for three days because our bodies aren’t used to it. We can respectfully abstain from things like marijuana and other recreational drug use because, well, we just don’t want to do it. There’s no reason behind it. There’s no excuse behind it. Plain and simple, I don’t want to use drugs. I never have in my thirty years on this planet, and I never will. That’s my choice. Why am I judged for my choice? Why is it okay for you to use marijuana or cocaine, but it’s not okay for me to choose not to? Why does that automatically make me “snobby” or “holier than thou” because I make a different choice? I don’t judge you – why do you judge me?

Addiction affects everyone around the person that is afflicted, and it affects them in different ways. We all react differently to it. Some of us get angry, some of us get even. Some of us get empathetic and want to help, some of us run away. We all heal differently and we all react differently when it’s not our own battle. We have to. We are all survivors. We are all in this together. We are all in pain. We all hurt. We all just choose to fight our battles differently.

You truly never know what the person next to you is going through. Always be kind, but more than that, always be grateful. Always be gracious. Always be humble. We are all fighting some kind of demon. Our demons all have different faces but have the same intentions. Do not allow your demons to destroy you. They will destroy much more than you think. You are loved more than you think you are. There is someone out there that thinks that you are the most incredible human being they’ve ever met. Figure out who you want to be, and be that person on purpose. Get help. Talk to someone. Do something before you pick up that bag or that drink. Someone will want to help you if you want to help yourself. I promise you that. If you are struggling, even if you are in the throes of addiction, if you are in the underbelly of the darkest place you’ve ever been, put your hand up. Pray. Ask. Someone will answer. Someone cares. Do it for you. Do it for the you that you want to be. There is a 7-year-old version of you that wants so much more for you than what you are right now. You can still be that person. Just believe.