How I Got to Know the Gods and the Demons so Well.


For me, recovery did not happen sitting quietly in rooms of people confessing their sins. Mine is a tale of neither purity nor piety. It’s a story of reclamation.

Of recapturing that which was stolen. It is both dark and light, because it is the whole truth. It is a tale of individuation.

My recovery from drug addiction and complex-PTSD began in those rooms. But it quickly and slyly seduced me into crawling on hands and knees in solitary desert locales to howl with coyotes and dance under the moon and stars. It called me face to face with the Devil to finally ask him what the fuck he wanted from me, for god’s sake.

We had serious beef, he and I, and I had come (admittedly, trembling) to settle the score. Or die trying. It was neither the first nor the last time I’d be dragged down to the underworld to meet my maker. To learn how to be in conscious relationship with my shadow.

I’d already been working to repay my debts (both literal and karmic) for quite some time. Money I had borrowed, drugs I’d sold, people I used, energy I stole. It’s safe to say that, out of a state of utter desperation and deprivation (mixed with a fair amount of naïveté), I had been consuming more than my fair share for a while there and the gods had finally come to collect.

Well, I was neither willing nor ready to repay them. Turns out, you don’t really argue with the underworld. Lesson learned.

There is no formula to apply when attempting to extricate oneself from the shackles of an addiction. It’s literally a matter of life and death, and so you just do what needs to be done. Learn as you go. Right and wrong cease to exist when survival is at stake.

There were many along my path, insisting they had The map, urging me in this direction or that. And then there were those who silently lit up the night and walked beside me for a while. I was so very grateful. But there would inevitably come a time when the wind would stop, everything would suddenly turn black, and I’d realize I was all alone again.

That’s how I got to know the gods and the demons so well. They were my company.  Once my real journey began, I was incessantly tested, asked how badly I wanted this whole liberation thing. How attached was I still to my own suffering? How much was I willing to sacrifice?

If you keep going, eventually you are granted the eyes to see just how to live a human life in harmony with this planet. And so it was for me.

I believe that recovery from all addictions must be primal. Anything less is mere symptom management. By that, I mean, the journey must include a way back to embodiment as well as shadow work, i.e., making peace with everything that was disowned and split off because of trauma and shame.

For me, this meant reclaiming not only my body but my lost ancestral stories. My emotions. Permission to be messy, flawed, less than perfect. It was about my most base instincts and animal urges. Reconnecting with the earth. With my desires. With my sexuality. And, of course, with my unapologetic No.

Recovery is about cultivating the ability to experience organic states of ecstasy, without guilt. And without the use of chemical or plant aids. It’s about deep recall and healing and learning how to actually exist in this state of reality more often than not. It’s about wholeness. And simultaneous specificity.

It’s about growing the capacity to be here on this planet. Both feet on the ground. For the highs and the lows. And everything in between.

In this very young society bereft of culture and hell-bent on glorifying illusion, exploitation, purity, lies, magical thinking and the superficial, the reclamation of depth and truth is not for everyone. It is a warrior path. You must come in earnest in your quest for emancipation. It’s about owning the messes you have made. And putting down others’ burdens, which you were holding on to because of survivor guilt.

It’s about tying up loose ends and tending to unfinished business that you ran from because you didn’t know what else to do at the time. Not for them. For you. It’s about real connection and claiming the kind of sovereignty that can never be stolen because it exists inside. It becomes your essence. Magnetic and powerful.

Today, I can clearly see my addictions for what they truly were: ancient sages in dark robes, and shamans dressed in demonic costumes. Trying like hell to wake me the fuck up. By whatever means necessary. Initiation is not for the faint of heart. It is for those daring enough to learn their true names.

I am the one who dances between worlds… carried by the wind and made of fire.


Nikki Coffelt, PhD, is a two-spirited inspiratrix, savage soul, and visionary artist. She currently lives in Oakland, CA, where she divides her time equally between her consulting practice, art studio, and time with beloveds. She is passionate about inspiring personal and collective empowerment, illuminating the dark, and transmuting primordial suffering into life-sustaining, creative fuel. To learn more about her art, visit her website. For inquiries on her one-on-one work as a soul catalyst and/or to schedule a consultation, please visit here.


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