Ayahuasca helped me overcome my addiction and gave me a new purpose in life. By: Brandee Alessandra
When I was 6 years old my father committed suicide. I remember running to his room after he had shot himself. This was the beginning of what felt like a never ending nightmare, which became normal everyday life for me. I grew up with a meth addicted mother and lived in a meth house most of my childhood. By the time I was eight, I became the mother to my newborn brother. His crib was in my room and he relied on me for everything because my mother wasn’t able to take care of him most of the time. We were kicked out of nine homes and I went to nine different schools by the time I was 11. Mom was often in and out of prison. In fact, to this day my mother is still a meth addict living in a meth house. She only has a few teeth, and spends her time selling copper and other scrap metals stolen from construction sites to buy drugs.
I was removed from my mother’s house at age 11, and my grandparents took me in. They entered me in school, taught me right from wrong, did their best to make me feel safe, loved, and protected, but the demons followed me. It was Oakland, CA, and I still had to deal with gangs and violence around me on a daily basis. When I was 16, I was kidnapped by a thug and was tortured for an evening before she finally passed out and I was able to escape.
It led me down a path of polar opposition and I knew I had to change my life. I found spirituality and meditation, attended numerous self-help workshops, completed life transformation programs, read hundreds of books and worked personally with healers, life coaches and therapists became a self-help junkie.
That catapulted me into an ambitious business life. I launched an advertising agency in my 20s and became very successful. I was driven and relentless to make money, thinking that would solve all my problems. I was also very good at painting a beautiful picture of a life well lived. But eventually that too became a mask, as I spun my wheels in a profession I wasn’t passionate about. Since I was incapable of knowing how to process my deeper agony, much less navigate my healing, I just kept trying to fill a bottomless hole, covering my flawed canvas with yet another seemingly pretty landscape.
How that manifested most prolifically was in the repeated patterns of my romantic relationships. Each time, I fell madly in love and had great passion, but they always ended in the same way. Time and time again, each guy proved to be the same guy as before but with a different face. I was constantly attracting men who were victims needing to be saved and often times they were sociopaths or narcissists with addictions who had no interest in being saved. I would see their higher potential and give all of myself to try to save them and change them into what they could be. This was torture, and I put myself through it again and again.
I was a single mom, desperate to establish a better life and home for my son, and was anxious to find the answers as to why this kept happening to me.
To make matters worse, my soul was dying every day that I spent running my advertising agency. It felt shallow and unfulfilling. I knew I was meant for so much more. I wanted for my work to have a meaningful purpose and an impact on the world, to be transforming for others as well as myself.
It was during this period, the peak of my dysfunction, when a friend invited me to “journey” with plant medicine. He told me about ayahuasca, that it would help me heal my past. My mother’s addiction harbored in me a deep animosity toward any type of “drug,” so I was very fearful of putting anything resembling that into my body. I thought, “No thanks, you’re actually going to get high to try and connect with God? Seriously?!?” wanted nothing to do with it.
Then strangely, over the next two weeks, I was invited to four separate plant medicine ceremonies, by people I knew but who were not connected to one another. I even had a company in Costa Rica try to hire me to help them build their ayahuasca retreat center. What was up? However, it was the fourth friend, an incredibly spiritual and grounded woman whom I respected and, as I came to learn, had worked with plant medicine for nearly three decades, who finally got through to me. She was a client and invited me to attend a ceremony her company takes part in each year to set her company’s visions. I finally agreed to go as she shared with me that this plant medicine was not a drug, but rather a natural substance derived from ancient medicinal plants. She explained it was non-addictive, and that when utilized in the right way and guided by a trained shaman, a plant medicine “journey” is very spiritual and transformative.
After discussing the various plant medicines and their purposes with the shaman, I decided to trust the process and try the mild South African plant called Kana.
Thank God I did, because what happened that night was miraculous and changed my life forever. The shaman asked me to set an intention at the beginning of the journey, so I asked, rather pleaded, “Why do I keep attracting self-destructive men into my life, and why do I try so hard to save them?” Secondly, I really wanted to know my life’s purpose.
And, wow. The plant medicine opened me up in a whole new way, and I was able to see myself through a fresh lens. There was no conflicting mind chatter; I could hear my own inner voice so clearly and strongly. And, it was a voice I hadn’t really heard until then.
There was a woman at the journey who looked so familiar to me, I wondered if I knew her from somewhere. It wasn’t until we were well into the night that I realized she looked exactly like my mother. I mean exactly like her. The woman was crying and I watched as a group of women gathered around her to console her. In that moment, my inner voice said, “Overcompensating mother. You never had a real mother so you had to be the mother to everyone else in your life.” Then, I was shown a vision of every man I ever attracted into my life. They either had no mother figure, or their mother abused them in some terrible way. And, because, so early on in my childhood I had to be the mother, I took on that role to fill the void of not having a mother myself. I was shown, in the most loving way, that my deep desire to save and protect others was because I desperately wished that someone had done this for me.
What I came to see with such clarity is that I was sacrificing my own personal joy and wellbeing by trying to save men who really didn’t want to be saved. I kept running into the same brick wall that was holding me back. And, the biggest aha? It turns out, the men weren’t the ones putting up the brick wall in front of me; I was. I was the one actually standing in my own way.
And, an even brighter light was yet to come. I asked the medicine again about my life’s purpose. Suddenly, my entire consciousness came to life. It was so clear as I was shown how my entire life of playing the role of mother had actually prepared me for my true purpose: to mother and nurture businesses and movements whose missions were to heal the planet. It was so profound and felt so right. From that very moment, I no longer carried the weight of the world and I could see a well-lit pathway in front of me. I left my ad agency and focused all of my energies into my renewed purpose.
About two weeks later I was introduced to a man who had just recently healed his drug and alcohol addiction with plant medicine. In his journey he was shown a vision to open a center in Costa Rica to help others heal with plant medicine. This was the second plant medicine retreat center in Costa Rica offering me to partner in one month! After sharing our like-minded visions, we knew immediately that we had to do this together. After working together for a year we realized we were meant to be together and now we are in the most amazing relationship — something neither of us could have ever imagined.
As our knowledge of the plant medicine community grew, we became aware of too many stories about corrupt shaman taking advantage of women who were under the influence of plant medicine — a time when they are particularly vulnerable and need to feel safe. As the popularity of plant medicine grows, there is also an increasing number of people claiming to be shaman who have not been trained to work with these sacred medicines. Gerard’s first experience was in a tiny house with dirt floors, giant bugs, spiders, and animals in it. It was so filthy he couldn’t sleep on the bed. We knew we had to create a place to heal people with plant medicine that was safe and in a center that was beautiful.
We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying different modalities and ancient healing techniques from all over the world. We took the ones that had the greatest effect on our lives and our center in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. It’s a medically licensed naturopathic, holistic treatment facility, which offers breakthrough modalities for life transformation… The many benefits of our programs include healing of emotional trauma, a greater sense of purpose, genuine and sustained happiness, natural healing of physical ailments, detoxification, elimination of addictive tendencies, inner and outer balance, and improved interpersonal relationships.
Now, two years after the beginning on my own reinvention, my relationship with Gerard remains strong and my purpose is clear. We made it our life’s mission to share the ancient modalities that transformed our lives, and we made it affordable so we can touch as many lives as possible. Gerard and I wake up every single day with a sense of excitement and optimism. Our lives have completely transformed, and each day we live to help others to do the same.