Joburg addict's 'hell and back' journey to recovery laid bare in new book
Isla Stone has been to hell and back.
From experiencing sexual, emotional and mental abuse at the hands of her stepfather and losing her mother to suicide, to turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of her troubled childhood, the Joburg-born woman has lived a painful life.
Having kept a memoir of her difficult times, Stone, now a reiki healer, has released a new book The Art of Determination which chronicles her journey from a dark past as a drug and alcohol addict, to a future filled with self-love, determination and spirituality.
The book focuses on Stone’s abuse by her stepfather and how that led to a life of drug and alcohol addiction, as well as her toxic relationships with various men, who also struggled with addictions. It also details her road to recovery and how she used spirituality to gain back her life.
The Saturday Star chatted to Stone about her new book and the painful memories she experienced as a teen and young woman.
What is The Art of Determination about?
“I took journal entries from the year 2012 to 2018 as the basis of my book. The memoir covers all the topics that directly affected my life. I grew up being the archetypal sacrificial lamb in our family unit. The book also addresses the unhealthy coping mechanisms and strategies I implemented to deal with the overwhelming emotions that I could not face. The most damaging of all was numbing myself with drugs and alcohol as well as getting into toxic relationships.
Your book touches on some painful moments in your life. How difficult was it to relive them?
Writing this memoir was very cathartic. It helped me to readjust my perspective on certain aspects of my experiences. It helped me understand that it wasn’t my fault.
You were sexually abused by your stepfather. How difficult was it to deal with it all at such a young age?
When the abuse happened, I felt like there was nothing I could do about it. I was made to believe that it was his way of showing paternal love and that there was nothing wrong with this.
When it happened I froze. I did not move. I blocked it out. I was always afraid. I used to put a towel under my door so I knew when he would come into my room. After it happened, I moved on with my life pretending it didn’t happen. The first time I dealt with it was at the age of 27. This is where the suppressed memories came flooding back in a tsunami. Dealing with that was much harder. I suppose I knew that when I put a name to the act and faced it for what it was my life would never be the same again. It wasn’t.
How did you end up turning to drugs?
I will never forget the first day I decided to use a drug. I told my boyfriend at that time that I did not want to have died without trying drugs.
He called a drug dealer, got acid and Katkhat. From that day it just spiralled out of control. I developed a preference for marijuana and cocaine. I tried desperately not to use cocaine as it made me feel terrible the days after, but I could not stop. I intentionally numbed myself. The marijuana helped me to feel nothing, the cocaine helped me to feel like the person I thought I wanted to be. Gregarious, outspoken, fun, sexy, invincible. I suspect I was more of a nuisance than anything else.
How badly did your drug and alcohol addiction ruin your life?
I did not have a life. I was running away from everything and everyone. I felt so lost and fearful. The drugs and alcohol helped me to forget how terrible my life turned out. My relationships with family and friends were non-existent. I did not know how much my mom worried about me until much later.
She slept with her phone next to her pillow waiting for the call that I was dead, or in jail. My sister worried too, so did my grandmother and aunts. I had a close call when I drove drunk one night, the police officer let me go home. I placed myself in dangerous situations. I went to Hillbrow alone to pick up drugs. I was impulsive and had promiscuous sex. I was so fortunate to not have been in any accidents or hurt anyone else.
What do you consider the lowest moment in your life?
There were two. The first was the morning after my last binge of drinking. I woke up with gashes on my knees. I had flashbacks of the night before. I remember being in a car with someone, a man. I didn’t remember if I had slept with him or not. I was still in a relationship and felt horrible. I was still in my clothes from the day before, my shoes were still on my feet.
My cellphone was placed next to my head on the bed, but it had shattered and looked like it must have fallen. I could not even remember if I had taken any drugs. That morning I decided that I was either going to die or go to rehab. I chose rehab.
The second was when I had the stark realisation that I had been molested by my stepfather throughout my childhood.
How did you manage to rehabilitate yourself?
Leaving drugs was a hard choice to make, but I did it. Before I booked myself into a rehabilitation centre, I threw all my drugs and drug paraphernalia away. I was well and truly done with it. When I sat in the rehab groups and it was explained to me that I had to practice complete abstinence I was torn too. I felt squashed between a rock and a hard place. But this was going to be necessary. I walked into rehab on my 27th birthday.
Do you still get tempted to take drugs?
No. I may have thoughts, a quick flit to an idea but then it disappears. My life is very fulfilling, and I have found so much peace in my experience without drugs and alcohol.
You are a reiki healer now. Has that helped you heal?
It has helped me heal myself in different ways. It has helped me find my purpose. I love the beauty that life offers in this arena.
Growing up did you have any support from elders?
My maternal grandmother was a great support. She taught me many values and how to do things that my mother never had time to teach me. My grandmother really had a huge impact on my life, and for that I am deeply grateful.
What advice can you give to South Africans who are battling with similar drug and alcohol problems?
If you even suspect you have a problem, do some research. Don’t try to do it on your own. Ask for help. There are so many amazing people out there who have dedicated their life’s work to helping people. Try an AA or NA meeting. It is a disease, it’s not your fault but it is your responsibility to do something about it.
About the author:
Joburg resident Isla Stone, a former drug and alcohol addict, has released a new book The Art of Determination which chronicles her journey from a dark past, to a future filled with self-love, determination and spirituality.
The book focuses on Stone’s sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather, her drug and alcohol addiction as well as her toxic relationships with various men, who also struggled with addictions.