About five years ago, I packed up the person I was into a few boxes and a bag. All my Goth clothes, my skirts, my piercings, my lingerie, my hair dye, my drug paraphernalia, my beauty products, my photography, everything. I gave most of it away. I burned the rest.
At the time, this was an act of self-liberation. I thought I was becoming someone else—a different person. I thought I had to clean out who I had been to make space for who I was becoming.
But I went too far.
Into those boxes of things that no longer served me, I shoved more than I should have. I was so hell bent on throwing out everything that didn’t belong that I threw out the parts that did.
It was hard to tell the difference. But to be honest, I didn’t try very hard.
Once upon a time, three or four days a week, I used to have the same ritual. Wake up. Smoke. Obsess about what I’d wear, say, and do when I went out. Exercise. Smoke. Spend three hours doing makeup and picking out clothes. Get high. Get drunk. Smoke. Lose myself in the crowds and the darkness. Dance the night away. Overdo it. Wake up with shame. Smoke. Repeat.
When I watch this video, I writhe with feeling. It was just like that.
Yet the rest of the time, I was either working, going to school, or churning my experiences into art. I loved singing, poetry, playing guitar. My lyrics and words were tortured, broken, and desperate, but they flowed out of me like blood out of a cut, especially on the days following a big drug binge.
In my life overhaul, I got rid of it all. All of it. The clothes. The makeup. The drugs. The obsessions. The overdoing it. The wake-up shame. The cigarettes. But also the poetry. The singing. The guitar. The dancing. The creativity. Everything. Gone.
To be honest, I sensed right away that something was wrong. Seeing my guitar collect dust in the corner of my bedroom gnawed at me. I tried to pick it up. Nothing came. So I had what I thought was an epiphany: my relationship to music was inextricably woven into my past identity. I’d have to craft a new relationship with it.
I’ve tried. I’ve been trying. And it’s been flat. Lifeless. And often off key. That’s my response to performance anxiety: clench up, get nervous, perform poorly, tell myself I’ll do better next time.
It’s been the same with dancing. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to dance in recent years, I’ve felt distant, frozen, nervous. In my mind, dancing was intermingled with self-destruction. I’m not sure what I was afraid of more: relapse or failure.
Eventually, I stopped trying. Every time people would dance, I’d sit it out. Every time karaoke popped up, I’d watch. Every time someone pulled out a guitar, I’d listen.
And in all that time, I’ve felt a dull ache. A hunger. An emptiness.
At first, I thought this hunger was for drugs. That seemed like a reasonable conclusion. I wrote a post during my purge, a eulogy to the girl I used to be. I thought I was being haunted by desires to re-immerse myself into the darkness. Yes, I honoured my “past self” in that post. But I still dubbed her dead. Gone. Erased from existence.
But the truth is that once I stopped relating those desires to drugs, they didn’t stop. I just stopped paying attention to them. I became so accustomed to feeling a certain kind of emptiness that I appropriated it as a part of myself.
I lobotomized my life. Then, I wondered why everything felt empty.
But the repressed pieces of myself have slowly remerged.
The first thing to return was the poetry. In a moment of frustration a few years ago, I grabbed my pen and wrote my pain onto paper. I felt something release within me.
I realized, in that moment, how foolish it was of me to think I had to formulate a “positive” relationship with poetry and music. I wasn’t always positive! Regardless of how hard I work on self-awareness and self-love, I have bad days. I have pain. I feel sorrow. We all do. Even compassion can be incredibly painful. If my relationship to certain art forms flows easier out of “negative” emotions, why should I judge that?
Maybe this all seems obvious to you, but to me, it was mind-blowing. I started writing more, singing more, playing more. I started honouring my entire emotional spectrum—not just the light. The darkness too. All of it.
Like this, my relationship to music started to thrive again. I started singing in the shower and listening to songs again (instead of always filling my iPod with educational podcasts).
But still, something has been missing. In the past few months, I’ve finally discovered it. I’ve started dancing again. That was the big one. I never realized how important it was to me.
In April, I rented a little room in downtown Toronto and took a walk through my past. I went dancing in many of the places I used to go (at least, the ones that are still open). And each step along the way, I’ve found pieces of myself. I’ve found forgiveness for my past. I’ve found a deeper acceptance of the parts of the past that are still with me.
I’ve finally accepted that Vironika Wilde was not someone else. She was me. I am her—just more balanced, more healthy, more real.
Sure, I was addicted, self-destructive, and anxious. But I was also wild, passionate, and creative. I was already doing half the job. I never needed to kill Vironika Wilde. I needed to heal her. To let her be a part of me.
I thought I changed so much, but I didn’t. I simply cut out some unhelpful behaviours; but with them, I took the helpful ones too. Addiction and self-loathing had woven their tentacles around every part of my life. To unravel them required gentleness, patience, diligence. But I didn’t want to wait. I wanted change. I wanted freedom. I wanted liberation. I wanted it right then and there.
Now, I am slowly reassembling the pieces of myself I broke off to match some external idea of what it means to be spiritual, to be healthy, to be self-loving. I picked the scabs around my heart too early and, now, they are healing longer, later, and more painfully. There will be scars. I am paying the price for my impatience.
I suppose the biggest lesson has been to trust myself. To trust that I can enjoy the same things that once brought me joy without falling into the same holes. To trust that my authentic desires are leading me to a place of deeper self-understanding. To trust that, as long as I have self-awareness on my side, I can trust myself in any situation.
A few weeks ago, I went dancing with an old friend who ended up spending most of the night outside smoking. I didn’t like the song that came on, so I sat down. I looked around. All around me were people rushing either to the smoke pit or the bathroom. That’s how I used to be. Unable to handle to ebbs and flows, the ups and downs. Seeking always to go higher and higher, harder and harder.
I guess, in some ways, that’s still me. I want to reach higher and higher for my potential. I suppose the difference is that I can ride the waves, enjoy the moment, and lose myself in whatever comes my way. I don’t need to control how each night unfolds. I don’t need to always control how I feel.
Maybe I was afraid to return to dancing, to art, to the places where I once destroyed myself. Maybe I was afraid of relapsing. But I know now that my problems with addiction originated largely from within. I spent my days anxious, paranoid, and terrified. I had no other way to escape but to purchase liberation. But now, I am already free. My desires are different. Whether it’s food, wine, or coffee, I don’t have to fight with myself about not having too much. Enough is enough. I just listen to my body when it tells me so. And my body already knows.
A well-fed person is hard to seduce.
I think some of the things I shed still don’t belong in my life. I can’t imagine making space for makeup, ecstasy, or hair dye. But I’m not forcing myself to feel that way. It’s just how I feel. I want what I want. I don’t want what I don’t want. I think that’s what happiness is: when the things you want are the things that nourish you.
Somehow, writing this post to you has been the last puzzle piece of this discovery. It’s all out in the open now. Throughout this journey, I’ve placed so many strange limitations on myself because that’s who I thought I needed to be. Because that’s who I thought you needed me to be. But now I know that if you love me and support me, all you need me to be is happy.
And I am. I really am.