I had a client recently, a manager of a chain of hairdressing salons, who had been a heavy recreational speed user for a number of years. He had gone eight weeks without drugs and was working hard and using positive thinking techniques to get him through.
Things had been manageable but then he hit a terrible day. It was a Sunday, his day off. From the moment he woke up everything felt wrong. He had no energy, no motivation to move and felt totally depressed and frustrated. His entire body ached and nothing inspired him.
He had to go to a family lunch and he tried to suppress his negative feelings but after ten minutes he just couldn’t maintain his cheerful façade. Everyone knew he was off drugs and was expecting him to be normal and sociable but he couldn’t. His family felt triggered by his behaviour and kept asking what was wrong with him, this made him worse and he had to go home, but at home he was still overwhelmed by pain. He felt like he didn’t fit in with his family but didn’t belong in his own home either. He felt cheated because he was doing all the right things by giving up drugs but instead of feeling good he was feeling progressively worse. Everything made him cry, by the afternoon he started to have suicidal thoughts.
He couldn’t understand why he felt so bad, but what he was experiencing was a post-speed state. Speed makes you feel high by drawing upon your inner energy or ‘jing’. Ideally, if you do a day on speed you should just sleep and eat well for the next seven days to preserve jing and build your energy again. The more often you do drugs, the further depleted you become. If you use speed daily for three months, for example, you would need to spend the next couple of years just sleeping, eating medicinal food and taking Chinese raw herbs and not doing anything to drain jing – including sex, work or entertainment of any form – to catch up. If you are using intense forms like Ice you would probably have to triple your catch-up time. Of course none of us do this. Even when I was a speed addict and had no job or commitments as such, nobody rested. If we weren’t on drugs we were out looking for drugs. Food and sleep were irrelevant to us.
But eventually hard drug users have to stop, and this is when the body will want to catch up and to heal. Part of this healing process is the surfacing of a lot of deep-seated pain: emotional, physical and spiritual. Without drugs to mask the symptoms, you are so connected to this pain that it can be overwhelming. So, the most important thing to do when giving up drugs is finding a technique to process the inevitable pain. A lot of people including myself (and clients like the hairdresser) try to suppress it by working frantically day and night but then it will rise up on weekends, when the body senses an opportunity to heal, and on those days you can feel so bad you think of death. Just like society hasn’t mapped out the highs of drugs it also hasn’t mapped out the lows, and there is no direction or guidance for what to do in this state or how to deal with this kind of pain. I think that in some ways one of the metaphysical reasons people take drugs is to have an opportunity to deal with their human pain but we have been trained to present a happy face to the world and to feel bad for ‘indulging’ in pain. When I was a drug and alcohol counsellor we were taught to prevent people having negative thoughts, as it was considered that it would make everything worse. Pain of any sort was suppressed with medication.
But my approach now is that pain is part of the post-drug journey and needs to be respected. It is not about indulging in it but acknowledging and processing it appropriately. Expressing pain is as difficult as expressing love, but when you take speed, cocaine or ecstasy it’s easy to express love. Afterwards you have to work with finding ease in expressing or processing pain. On drugs you embrace the highs but after drugs you will have to embrace the pain – there is no way around it. It is thought that our ability to experience joy is directly connected with our ability to experience pain and most people operate within a certain range of emotions, but drug-users have astronomical highs, way outside the norm. After the drug use stops they then experience terrible lows which are also way outside the norm. For the situation to improve, this pain has to be processed and it has to be processed in the body – it cannot be done by the mind alone. After 25 years in the field as drug and alcohol counsellor and then a therapist, I have never seen an ex-drug user become happy and healthy again through mind techniques alone. Highs are processed through the body and lows have to be too. In my experience, the best way to do this is through a daily practice of a combination of weights and tai-chi. This is because to process pain you have to sink into the pain in the presence of freeflow. After giving up drugs it is important to do this practice on a daily basis. Just as you once got up for drugs, you now get up to do your practice and process your pain.
You may not notice anything happening for a while but you will be gaining ground all the time and then, when the bad days hit, you will have a strategy for processing the pain. And those bad days will hit; there is just no way around it. I had countless days when I felt so bad all I could think of was death, but if you have the groundwork for processing in place from your daily practice, bad days become an opportunity to move forward in life towards your true destiny. On my bad days I would avoid socialising. I would spend time with my pain instead. Whereas once I’d take my highs out, I got to know my lows. I’d go to movies about warriors, or ones with ‘overcoming the odds’ themes that allowed me to sink in. No happy or shallow films. Afterwards I would walk around, with headphones on listening to Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. I would sit on a park bench acknowledging that I was not part of anything, that I was an outsider. I let myself go to the point where the pain was so overwhelming I felt that life was no longer an option. My strategy was to unite with the pain, not resisting any more, not trying to override it any more, not fighting it any more, not angry about it any more, until I reached the point where I discovered a tiny spark of life force. I would recognise this feeling from my daily practice, from facing pain in freeflow. I would let the spark grow until it became comfortable to sit with pain, until it actually felt good to be there, until I was looking at the deepest level of my ‘low’ in utter non-resistance, the same as I would experience my highest highs on speed without resistance.
Yin and yang states that within the blackest black lies the seed of light. As soon as you find this, you can find comfort in your pain, but only if you know how to process it and have a technique to do so. On bad days you have to respect the feelings you have and not try and override them through activity, but work with them and be completely yin. The pain is what you are supposed to be participating in and engaging with. The pain is an indicator that it is time to work with the obstructions in the energy field.
- Don’t engage with stimuli
- Become an observer
- Don’t participate
- Become comfortable with your discomfort
After giving up hard drugs (after long term use), many people don’t know what to do on those days and they do reach the point thinking about suicide. This is always one of the major points of discussion with clients. This is a huge taboo though, and most people can barely bring themselves to even tell me of their suicidal thoughts, but I look at it and discuss it practically with them. If you have had highs so high you felt immortal, you will have lows so low you think of your own mortality or death, but you can’t follow up on this because according to the Masters, the soul will not accept it. If you jump off a bridge or take some other irreversible action, at the moment the body can no longer sustain life force the soul will not accept the action. This is because death – which is transformation – didn’t occur, but rather complete destruction of the body occurred. The soul can then become suspended in time with all that anguish and pain looping endlessly for anywhere up to 100 years. This is the real no-man’s-land where you are neither dead nor alive, neither in the physical plane nor the spiritual, but there is no way out. In the material world you do have a way out because you can change things. The whole point of a physical body is that you can process things, and make change, and what you are supposed to process is pain – or obstructed love and light – until you are love and light. Ultimately, processing pain is a hugely rewarding activity.
Post drug therapy is a journey of yin and yang and, amongst the deepest darkness there will always be light. This is the law of yin and yang. If you unite with the shadow side of the drugs and face and process that pain, you can find the completion of your healing. It is here that the transformation and change will occur. It is here that the slate is wiped clean and new life can begin.
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