Confessions of a Bad Girl Gone Loud…20-Something Wisdom on Living the Life You Want

Today I am sharing a conversation I recently had with Lindsay Siegel. I first came across Lindsay on MeiMei Fox’s “Life Out Loud” column on The Huffington Post.  This is her “living out loud” advice”

“When you’ve had doctors telling you, ‘You might die next week,’ it makes you say to yourself, ‘If there’s something you want to do, then do it.’ It might not be possible to achieve your dreams, but the adventure that goes along with trying is so amazing that it’ll be worthwhile for that reason alone.”

I have since discovered Lindsay is one hard to ignore life force!  Having just founded her own company, Stoke-Interactive, she continues as an interactive developer at Goodby Silverstein and Partners, executive producer for Jeff Goodby and a partner in the development of Nut-rients™ — a new peanut butter brand dedicated to fighting child hunger in third world countries.  Add to that former bad girl gone loud.  She’s dedicated to sharing her story of heroin addiction and reclaiming her dreams. Her goal? To help others know they are not alone in feeling alone and perhaps find a more positive way to like the person they see in the mirror.


“I looked in the mirror and I realized I didn’t recognize that person. It’s scary. You can either decide that you want to be that person or you don’t. I didn’t. So I changed it. If I can talk to somebody who is in their early twenties and help them understand that your life really is your own life and you can either change it or you cannot change it. If somebody had told me that, I don’t know if I would have listened but I think it would have been great advice to know that the world is in front of you and It doesn’t matter what anybody else says or where you live or what you’re doing. It’s what you do with it.”


I spoke to Lindsay about her journey and what she would like to pass on to 20-something women.


Life Lessons Learned Early
As a 20-something woman, Lindsay quit her addiction cold turkey and moved to San Francisco to follow her dream of becoming an artist only to be faced with a mysterious illness that left her more or less paralyzed, feverish, and with terrible pain in her joints.  At worst it was fatal. At best she risked losing use of her hands…her artists tools. Having faced down predictions of her death two times by age 25, she has a unique perspective on living life without regrets. When you have seen what you can lose, you really do realize there is nothing to lose by living the life you want. As Lindsay has learned, it’s hard to see what you want when it’s overshadowed by someone else’s image of you – be it your family’s expectations, your boyfriend’s desires or your friend’s acceptance. This is her story.

An Act of Rebellion
Lindsay spent years first denying her addiction then indulging it, going from a suburban life in Detroit with job and family to homeless in Florida.  Like many 20-somethings, she believed that was it. Your life is set in stone by age 22. Game over. Her mindset: “I’m an addict. This is my path for life.”

Then one day she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror.  Where was the girl who dreamt of moving to California and becoming an artist?  It was only when all illusions of living the life she was expected to live went completely down the drain that she was able to see what was left.  Her own dreams. Looking in the mirror she knew that she wasn’t living the life that she wanted to live. Then she took control like nobody else’s business.

The initial act of rebellion against the expected path (go to college, get married, settle down, have babies), becoming a drug user, was actually covering up a sense of being alone. Alone in believing that the expected course wasn’t right for her. But turning to drugs was only escaping, making either path impossible. Thus, her real rebellion and courageousness was when the doctors told her that as a young female she only had 8% chance of recovering from her addiction. In her own words:

“The doctor said that there’s only an 8% chance that I would ever recover. I was in my twenties and I was a female and statistically, those are the odds. That just gave me more of a push. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m going to do it.”

Opening Up

Looking back, Lindsay realized that much of her behavior was driven, by what other people thought. Letting go of the need to meet others expectations helped her find her own voice and was the start of her journey to getting in control of her life.  Now she hopes by opening up about her typically “taboo” experience she can help others.

“What others thought of me was so important. I hid my addiction from everybody until it got to a point where it was quite obvious. Meimei’s article was the first time I told the secret that I was a heroin addict. It’s a scary move but I realized that this is who I am and this is what I want to do with it.

I feel like I was given those experiences to help other women. Because I felt so alone at that time, I want to help somebody else who feels that way. I hope that they can learn from me. It’s almost like I’m saying, ‘let me take the drugs and have the bad experiences and I’ll tell you about it so you don’t have to do it yourself.’

Putting it out there can be a powerful resource. While I was going through my own mess, if I was able to go online and say “Is anybody else experiencing something like this?” I wouldn’t have felt so alone. I would have had other resources to reach out to.  I might have realized that while they might not be in my high school, they’re out there. There’s somebody else who has a similar thought pattern. There’s a whole group of friends out there that I could potentially meet one day.”

You Are In Control of Your Life

Lindsay proves that you can find it within yourself to help yourself.  It’s a decision. Take a hard look in the mirror and compare the person you see with the person you want to be.  If you want to change, set some goals to set a new path in motion. The key is to take baby steps.

“Sometimes you think there’s no way you can ever get where you want to be. It seems so far away. You forget that you have to take baby steps to get to your goal. I always had these plans of moving to San Francisco, going to the Academy of Art and working in advertising. So that one day when I looked in the mirror, it reminded me that I wanted those goals and I didn’t want to be living the life I was living. The first step was moving. I picked up and relocated to San Francisco. Having concrete goals for me what the greatest thing I could have ever done.  To be able to live up to those goals is a lesson in itself. After doing that I realized I can do anything.”

There Is A Whole World Out There

Of course it can be scary to pick up and move. But if you want to do it, don’t let anything hold you back.

“Anything that is holding you back, whether it’s your city, your parents, your significant other, your friends or whatever, that’s what needs to change. When you’re young you can get so comfortable. You think, ‘these are my friends, this is where my family is and this is the life I am living.’”

Moving to a place where you don’t know anybody is like starting your whole life over. It’s the best thing I could have ever done. I was just running around in circles back in Detroit. Your life changes completely when you leave your family, your friends, and what you’re used to. You open up a whole new world when you leave. It’s life experience and it changes you.”

It’s exciting once you start realizing how much there is out there. I picture one of those snow globes. That was this city I grew up in.  I felt like that’s all there was until I opened my eyes and realized that there’s a whole world out there.”

Expand Your Circle

Not everyone can pick up and move.  So I asked Lindsey what she would recommend to a 20-something who wants to stop running in circles, relocation notwithstanding. Her answer, like many 40-somethings, was travel.

Even just travelling to a different state and seeing that there are other options out there. You open up your bubble and find things that interest you. I’m lucky to have found something that interests me and to do it for a living. But I would never have known it was an option, if I didn’t move around. The more you travel, talk to strangers and see how other people are living life, the more doors you open. You learn from your surroundings so if you see other surroundings, you learn things you may have never known about.”

I also don’t think it’s good to only have one set group of friends. It limits you. It’s like having one genre of books that you read or one video game that you play or one song that you listen to. If you don’t spice it up and see what else makes you interested then you’ll never learn about yourself.  Ask yourself, what is this person, place or situation going to change in my thoughts and open my eyes to?

Everything you do, you will learn something. If you can find one thing to learn a day that’s awesome, that will open your eyes and open your heart and change you.”

In the end, not only has Lindsey learned that her experience can help others but she has learned the importance of getting to know herself:

“I trust myself so much now and I know what I can handle and what I can’t handle. I wouldn’t advise anybody to go out and be homeless living on the streets as a heroin addict but there are some less drastic ways finding out who you are, figuring out what works for you.”

A big thank you to Lindsay for sharing her story. Lindsay learned the hard way the value of knowing yourself…a lesson it takes many until their 40s and beyond to do. But as one woman said, “it’s a lot easier to do in your 20s than it is in your 40s. Good luck to anyone who is ready for that journey!



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