“Is there a story? Always.’
I want to be radically transparent right now while writing this to you. I know this may not be ‘the norm’ or the way most of these start off, but the story I am about to invite you into is the story that has kept the little girl, Little Cass, alive inside all these years. The one I have spent so many moments creating in my heart and my soul to keep me safe so I could show up today and write this to you, in hopes that it may keep your ‘little selves’ understood and going in this world.
When I was three, one of the first memories I have is watching my mother run past my brother Blake and I, yank the phone off the wall, fall to her knees crying while screaming to our Rabbi on the other end begging him to save us. At the same time I was hearing this intense banging at the door. Moments later, 8 police officers broke the door down, grabbed my mother by the hair, threw her face down, and beat her while my 6-year-old brother Blake jumped on their back biting them while they threw him off. They dragged her out of the house by her hair and threw her into a cop car, leaving my brother and I alone on the front lawn. I can still remember the neighbors outside watching us. I can still remember looking at my brother and us holding hands for dear life. That moment was the first moment I remember ‘fear’ being programmed into my consciousness. It was the first moment I was truly scared to be in this world, to exist.
As life went on, things weren’t very bright. There was so much abuse – mentally, physically, emotionally. There was so much addiction, so much suffering all around me, it was dark. But, I would always create this world inside of me – inside my heart, my soul, my mind – Full of hope, color, MAGIC and LOVE, and I would stay there.
When I was nine, my mom got remarried and we moved to a very new and different atmosphere than I was used to. My mother was in this new relationship, Jason was sent away, my grandmother was towns away, and my brother Blake who was my best friend growing up was getting older and developing his own friends. It was just me now, trying to figure it all out. As time went on, I remember I was this very outgoing, life-of-the-party human because I truthfully just wanted to be seen and loved since I didn’t feel I was getting that at home. Well, when I was about 10, I was asked to go see a doctor and was told I had a learning disability. They diagnosed me with ADD and ADHD. I can sit here and tell you right now that wasn’t the case. I was struggling to be acknowledged and now I was being put on adderall, the drug that stole my soul.
When I entered high school I can remember this specific moment that shifted EVERYTHING for me. The cafeteria would have restaurants cater once a week and this day was sushi. I had this thought to myself, ‘I would really like to eat today so I am not going to take my adderall,’ because that drug suppressed my appetite. As I was sitting in my biology class, I was laughing with my friend Manny when the teacher yelled for me to come outside. When I walked into the hallway I was met with both Deans, my counselor, and my teacher. I was so confused. My counselor started to speak and said, ‘Cass your teacher thinks you are on drugs.’
I remember my stomach dropping, because in all honesty, at this point in my life, I had never even smoked pot and I was SUCH a good kid. My eyes welled up with tears and I muttered back, ‘I am not on drugs, I promise, what are you talking about?’ My teacher turned to me and said, ‘You are very ‘loud’ today and talking way more than normal. You seem…different.’ As she finished her sentence, my counselor instantly asked, ‘Cass, did you take your adderall today?’ I looked up at all eight eyes staring back at me and said, ‘No, I really wanted to eat lunch and I didn’t want to take it.’ I remember them ALL rolling their eyes like, ‘OHHH THAT EXPLAINS IT.’ My teacher said, ‘you have to go down to the nurse’s office now and take your adderall or you cannot come back into my class.’ I remember feeling like I was in jail. I was walked to the nurse’s office and I asked to call my mom. My mom was pretty pissed off and ended up coming to the school and pulling me out for the day.
That day, I went up to my room and just cried for hours. I remember thinking to myself, ‘well, no one wants me to be ME, not my family, not people at school, no where I look am I allowed to just be ME.’
That day everything changed because that day I CHOSE to go so deeply inside of myself, into that world I spoke of earlier that I was creating since I was a little girl. The one filled with color, hope, and magic, and I didn’t come out for another 15 years.
From that point on my addiction grew. I was going to three different doctors to get different prescriptions of adderall. I was taking about 180mg a day and for anyone who understands this, I like to say, if we have 86,400 moments in a day, I was speeding through them, not present for my own life anymore. In addition to this, I was taking other pills like Norco, Vicodin, Percocet, anything I could get my hands on I’d take. I had many moments I thought of doing heroin, but because of Jason, something always kept me away from it.
I chose very toxic relationships and unconscious friendships because, truthfully, looking back now there was still a deep part of me that, while I was living in this internal magical world, the one thing I was still missing was LOVE. I still just wanted someone to see me, to hear me, to acknowledge me, to LOVE ME.
It was a Sunday afternoon on April 7th, 2013. I was working at a Bar/Restaurant/Night Club in downtown Chicago when I got a call from my brother Blake. I went to the bathroom and I was standing in front of the stalls looking in the mirror, when my brother asked, ‘Hey Cass, are you alone?’
I said, ‘yeah Blake, whats up?’ He responded with, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but mom just called….Jason died….he overdosed.’ That moment everything just STOPPED. Something happened to me when I fell to my knees that day – I FELT for the first time in 15 years. I felt so deeply, and I felt my heart break. For so long I had been running and numbing from my life that the universe just decided to stop me completely, almost saying, ‘Well, you HAVE to look now Cass. You HAVE TO FEEL NOW.
After Jason’s death I was out to dinner with my mom and my hand just stopped working. I was sitting there staring at it and it just wouldn’t move. The fork dropped out of my hand and I had this internal moment of, ‘if I am 25 now and my body is already breaking down, I am going to end up like my brother very soon.’
Shortly after I decided to try and get sober on my own which was honestly not a very smart idea.
I remember when it all started I sat on my floor and put all my pills in front of me and I just cried for hours sitting there visualizing a timeline of all the moments I was on them and all the unconscious things I had done. It was like I was in the middle of this horrible tornado of memories and I couldn’t get out. I sat there realizing I was constantly CHOOSING a space of ‘feeling alone’ because it’s how my internal narrative had been since I was a kid, since I was born.
I would take my bras and tie them to the sink pipes and try and choke myself. I would take my pills and throw them into the toilet and tie my hands to the pipes and pray not to take them out. I would sit on the floor staring out of my balcony thinking about all the ways I could hang myself but not wanting to do it for the sake of everyone outside.
After about three and a half weeks I started to hear something deep inside of me changing, it was my inner narrative shifting. I started hearing echoes of little Cass saying, ‘you can do this, I love you, I am still here.’ And since I couldn’t drown her out anymore because I wasn’t taking a substance to do so, I started to LISTEN. I noticed the intrusive thoughts started to subside. I had found something, and the truth is I was starting to find myself and the LOVE I had been searching for my whole life.
After those few weeks the time had come to ‘get back in the game’ and this was scary for me. I realized I was throwing myself back into the game without knowing the ‘player’ I was just yet. I was just starting to hear a glimpse of me again after 15 years and now it was being drowned out by, ‘hey, can I have a whiskey coke?’ The truth is, I wasn’t strong enough in myself to go back into a place that had so much temptation, so much opportunity for me to compromise myself again.
A few days in I was asked to go out and grab some drinks with some people from work. Well, those couple beers led to a couple shots and the shots led to acting out of my own integrity with other unconscious beings. I did a lot of things I wasn’t very proud of that night, one being getting behind the wheel of a car.
On November 11th, 2013, just six months after Jason died, I was driving down Chicago’s I-94 listening to Eminem’s ‘Not Afraid’ while going about 100 mph when a car that was in the middle lane decided to turn into my lane.
I didn’t want to hit them so I turned the wheel to the right, but instead of slowing down, I accelerated. The last thing I remember was my hands holding the steering wheel and my subconscious saying, ‘this is all just a game.’ I missed a metal railing by a few inches and went straight into a ditch. I flipped seven times, hit a tree and went airborne over a five foot fence and landed in a near by parking lot.
The next thing I knew I was saying, ‘Jason? Jason, please don’t leave me.’ I was in a full blown conversation with him. It was the clearest thing, he was in the same white gown that I said goodbye to him at his funeral and he said, ‘Cass, you are not alone but you need to go back, you need to go back and create a channel to allow everyone to know that they are not alone. But please remember YOU are NOT alone.’
When I got out of the hospital I had realized I tipped over to the other side, I was no longer in the same reality but I was now this bridge between two worlds. Jason and Spirit started to guide me into a new life I could have never imagined. It was the external reality of the world I had been creating for so many years internally.
I woke up to the understanding that ONLY I HAD THE ABILITY to create that world full of hope, peace, magic and LOVE. I just needed to give myself the RADICAL PERMISSION to do it and OWN my NEW story.
I moved three thousand miles away from a story that I had been living in for 25 years and finally found that little voice inside, the one I had glimpses of in my moments of sobriety.
My story did not get ‘easier’ when I moved, which I want to point out. I have dealt with A LOT of pain and tragedy since, but the difference NOW is I give myself enough space to hear my own voice, thoughts, emotions, and FEELINGS, and I find my own strength to deal with it and not check out with drugs or run from it in fear.
NOWLEVELUP is the full circle of this story because since I realized that I was capable of creating this WORLD for myself now, I knew I wanted to share it with others and not just share it, but empower others to fully dive into their own and create their own fairy tales. I knew I wanted to help others CHOOSE differently in their moments because I didn’t want anyone to have to go to the extent that I had gone to in order to wake up to the magic this world has to offer.
NOWLEVELUP was birthed from my own darkness to help others find their own light. It started off as a positive affirmation clothing company using Jason’s handwriting, and as the years went on I started to be guided deeper into forming a teaching method for living a more intentional life full of freedom, peace, permission, faith, magic, and self LOVE which led to me creating a private healing practice.
NOWLEVELUP has become a home for anyone who may feel ALONE in this world. Which is not just an addict or someone struggling with mental illness or someone struggling with loss. It’s someone who struggles with the ‘simple’ concept of waking up everyday and saying ‘yes’ to this game. Which means it is a world for ALL OF US.
NOWLEVELUP is a way of life for us to live into our TRUTH and the entirety of our stories, and NOT be ashamed of them, but rather be empowered by them. It’s a deep understanding that WE are the creators of these stories and we do have the the Choice and the POWER to re-write the way WE want to now. We just have to give ourselves permission to say YES to a new life full of magic and full of LOVE.
I love you, I see you, I acknowledge you, I hear you…keep going.
Please REMEMBER… you are NOT alone.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cassandra Mary Bauer of Los Angeles, California. You can follow Cassandra on Instagram and on her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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