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Army Veteran Samantha Juan on Healing Trauma through Plant Medicine

Army Veteran Samantha Juan on Healing Trauma through Plant Medicine

Artist and US Army veteran Samantha served as a Cultural Support Team leader and deployed with Joint Special Operations Command. She writes here about her experience with healing plant medicines through Heroic Path to Light. 

“I was always a driven overachiever. I now realize that I pursued outside accomplishments to distract myself from dealing with the childhood sexual trauma and combat deployment flashbacks I went through. If I looked good to people on the outside, everything must be fine, right? Far from it. 

I continuously lied to myself about how well I was doing and justified my actions with the new bullets I could put on my resume. In reality, I masked my pain behind my work and then used the cocktail of unhealthy habits to get me through. I found myself drinking and using more often than I care to admit and did so until I hit an extremely low point. I finally asked for help. 

When I shared with the world what happened to me as a child, I received a plethora of support from friends, family, and online connections. One of those messages led me to a friend who introduced me to my first plant medicine journey. Before I went to that incredible experience, I was meeting my traditional talk therapist every week but felt like I needed to make more progress. I struggle to express myself with words and prefer painting pictures or drawing to get my emotions out. So, taking a more holistic approach to healing worked best for me, and I continued exploring this path. Eventually, that path led me to the nonprofit Heroic Path to Light.

For me, part of the beauty of plant medicine is the ability to trust the process and fully surrender. I have no power against what the medicine shows me and no control over how I respond during the journey. It's that vulnerability that I was lacking. Before plant medicine, I didn't allow myself to feel and told myself that it was a sign of weakness when, in actuality, it's those who can be vulnerable that are the strongest.  Plant medicine removes that wall and reveals areas of your life that need your attention and healing.  

When discussing plant medicine's healing power, I'm not only referencing the medicine itself. The medicine's true power involves the holistic ecosystem of tools that influences our daily routine, habits, thoughts, and actions. Integration of the plant medicine experience has shaped who I am and who I am destined to be. For that, I needed community, and the organization gave me a sense of community that the others had not. You can be your most authentic self when you surround yourself with people you respect and trust, like the Heroic Path to Light community. 

I also use art to translate my psychedelic experiences into tangible objects. The canvas allows me to express what the takeaway lessons are and gives me a tool that consistently has me reassess why I went through this journey in the first place. Once each piece is done, I am reminded of my progress from just showing up for myself. It's a truly liberating experience to finish a piece because I understand the culmination of steps I endured to get there. 

My definition of femininity has morphed from when I served in the Army to where it is now. 

The journey has helped me to embrace who I am as a woman physically, mentally, and spiritually. I finally understand why boundaries are so important. I cannot express how grateful I am for what this journey has given me, and I know it can help many other women find and love themselves, too. 

The power of self-love and self-worth that plant medicine has given me is a gift every woman deserves"

To learn more about Heroic Path to Light and make a donation that helps support their vital work, visit