Everything you do has a purpose, and drugs are here for a purpose.
This article is part of a series of articles excerpted with permission from The Rebel’s Guide to Recovery by Jost Sauer and published by Centre of Dao, Maleny, Australia. Jost addresses the issues involved in overcoming addiction and gives practical, life-changing advice based on his own experience and that of his many clients.
Rebel against normal expectations by planning to replace one addiction with another. As soon as you quit, cravings will arise. They might manifest as a needle fixation, an insatiable desire for a particular taste in your mouth or the feel of a substance in your bloodstream or just a desperate want for something to take you over. If you direct this longing towards something connected to finding your cosmic self, it can become an asset. The strategy is to ‘evolve’ your addiction. Otherwise you’ll create a liability by turning to non-beneficial replacements such as alcohol, sugar, caffeine or nicotine.
As my speed years came crashing to a halt, emptiness and depression overwhelmed me, so I started drinking. Compared to shooting up speed, drinking was socially acceptable and the hangovers were good for disguising my depression. But, as it turns out, drinking myself unconscious every night proved pretty much as unacceptable as being addicted to drugs. Plus I’d often wake up with no idea where I was or what I’d done.
Once I found myself on a yacht out to sea. I thought I’d been kidnapped (although in retrospect I can’t imagine why anyone would want to kidnap a highly inebriated six-foot-four German), but it turns out I’d volunteered myself as crew the night before in some bar.I had no memory of this. What I do still remember though, is that being on a yacht in a large swell is not a good idea when savagely hungover.
Most of my boozy tales weren’t so entertaining. I reached the point where I couldn’t get through a day without drinking. Eventually I was drinking in parks with other outcasts. Everyone told me I was an alcoholic and had a problem (another one). So I’d buy a full carton of beer but only drink twenty-three cans, leaving one untouched to prove that I could stop if I wanted. Once I realised that the alcohol was just adding to my imbalances, I moved down to the more socially acceptable end of the replacement scale, which meant chain-smoking and endless cups of instant coffee (it was the 1980s).
Prescription medications can become a non-beneficial replacement too. I regularly treat clients who think that medications are ‘better for you’ than recreational drugs. But from a Chinese medicine perspective all drugs work the same way: they draw upon your inner resources, your chi, to alleviate pain or change your mood.Your organs can’t tell the difference between what we’ve labelled recreational or pharmaceutical. Medications can further undermine your health and happiness by depleting your chi, and this is why some antidepressants can make you feel even more depressed or even suicidal. Additionally, withdrawal from prescription drugs can be so painful.I’ve seen people get back on recreational drugs just to get off the medications (if you are quitting pharmaceuticals seek professional medical management).
I’m not on an anti-medication rant here. That would be a bit hypocritical coming from someone who enjoyed a wide range of chemical pleasures, including medicinal drugs, for fun. Medications have their place, but becoming addicted to or dependent on them after the recreational drugs is not evolution. You are still on drugs –not to liberate your spirit and feel ecstatic freedom, but rather to dampen urges or suppress pain. This puts you back in mundane acquired territory, and this is not what you signed up for.
Do replace one addiction with another
Sex, drugs and porn
Shifting from drug addiction to sex addiction is very common. This can be detrimental to health and happiness, especially for men, as excessive sex drains chi. Sex and drugs go really well together –except for drugs like heroin, which draw chi from your testicles and kidneys to get you high, leaving no energy available for sex –and I treat lots of men who would regularly do three days of non-stop sex and drugs. As both drugs and excessive sex deplete chi, this can create organ imbalances and yang or heat patterns which, in turn, generate conditions such as insatiable desire.
With this type of imbalance you feel an urgent need to have sex but, after ejaculation, instead of the post-sex glow, you feel empty, separated or may even find yourself wanting to cry. This prepares the ground for sex addiction because you crave the stimulation of being engaged over and over, to counter the emptiness, but each time you climax, you feel more disconnected.What you are actually seeking here is fulfilment, chi and connection. You’re not addicted to sex; you’re addicted to chi and connection (we are supposed to be addicted to this).
Internet porn can easily become addictive in a post-drug, chi-depleted situation too. If you are feeling stuck and lethargic, the instant sexual stimulus offered by internet porn (which can set chi in motion) creates the impression of change or movement. But it can also launch a cycle of an increasing need to engage, which simultaneously decreases your inner resources, making the need to engage again more urgent.
I treat sex addiction and internet porn addiction (in clients of both genders) with the same substance I use for drug addiction –chi, because sex and drugs are all about chi.The upside of this is that if you learn to work with chi, you can create states that are like sex and drugs combined. Sex can get better all the time, which improves the quality of life and helps with relationships too.
Use chi to have awesome sex without drugs
On the topic of post-drug relationships, it’s best to avoid immediately leaping into new relationship after you quit. Because you’re feeling lost or empty, it’s natural to seek support from others, but in the post-drug weakened state, you are likely to attract an equally emotionally imbalanced person, someone who might be needy, erratic and moody. Everything they say or do will seem wrong and will trigger your anger, grief, or other emotional pain. It’s going to be hard to resist expressing this, and endlessly analysing and obsessively finding fault in others. It can quickly trigger major reactive cycles and negativity and cynicism can become a kind of drug replacement.
Or you might be drawn to someone with a really strong character who will be on a mission to change you and get you back to normal. Either way, it will add to your emotional load. So plan for some time on your own, if possible. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that self-worth comes from being in a relationship, because it doesn’t. Self-worth comes from healthy organs and strong chi. Remember that it is your job to fill your own emotional needs, and to evolve.
You are here to resolve yourself, not others
The addictive personality
Many recovery publications and programs propose that there is an addictive personality type, who is likely to replace one addiction with another. Chinese medicine doesn’t use this terminology, but if there is such a thing as an addictive personality, you can certainly make it work for you. People often tell me that I have an addictive personality, because I was addicted to drugs, booze, cigarettes, coffee (I became obsessed with tea for a while too) and later, exercise.
There is this theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to 60 become brilliant at something. I reckon I did way more than 10,000 hours on drugs, so theoretically I’m really good at being totally out of it.The 10,000 hour theory is usually applied in the context of great musicians, athletes or artists, but you need an addictive, obsessive or driven element in your nature to do 10,000 hours of anything. In the martial arts, they say repetition is ‘the mother of skill’. In yoga it is said ‘do your practice and all is coming’.
The point I’m making here is that your ability to keep repeating something can be used to your advantage. Of course there are differences between a drug addict and a genius pianist. It is assumed that an addict has lost control, and is no longer making choices, that they haveto keep repeating their actions, whereas the pianist is disciplined enough to choose to practice for hours every day. That may be true, but in my opinion you can see these as different sides of the same coin. Both are chasing something elusive and something that is connected to an experience of the cosmic self (creativity is another means of experiencing your cosmic self).
Make your ‘addictive personality’ work for you
Defusing the dangerous attraction
If you direct the obsessive aspect of your nature towards repeating beneficial chi practices, the ‘dangerous attraction’ of drugs or alcohol disappears. I treat a lot of people who tell me that they have successfully given up drugs or alcohol, are ‘clean’, and have been for years. However, in the next breath, they’re telling me how they have to avoid mood- or mind-altering substances, and anywhere these might be available as they are only a step away from falling off the wagon. This is suppression of desire and it leads to a daily battle against powerful urges, a battle which might last you the rest of your life. This is not the front we are supposed to be fighting on.
If you evolve your addiction, the dangerous attraction disappears. You could offer me some of the nicest drugs in town now (and clients regularly do –as a test) and the only thing I would feel is disinterest. I haven’t used drugs or smoked cigarettes for decades. Coffee is off the menu too, but only because my overindulgence in that substance once contributed to a seizure. I do like a glass of red wine in the evening, but after one, I’m done; I lose interest in it. Hard to imagine, since I was supposed to be an alcoholic, and never able to drink again.But my chi practices deliver better highs than anything I ever got from drugs (and in my day the drugs were very good indeed). Anything more than one drink interferes with the quality of the experiences I’m chasing now; so I naturally reject it. I’m not suppressing my desire; I’m fulfilling it elsewhere. I’ve taken things up a level, evolving from drugs and booze to chi-based altered states. And these I need every day.
Evolve your cravings instead of suppressing them
Plan to evolve
Thinking about evolving an addiction –like every aspect of figuring out what you got right on drugs –doesn’t come naturally. You will need a recovery plan that factors evolution in. Otherwise, you quit while secretly dreading your drugless, aimless, dull future. Then you find yourself sitting in the boring suburbs with no friends –as they are probably drug users and won’t want to be with you if you have no drugs –with nothing to do and nothing to look forward to and nothing to think about except how fucking awful you feel, and how much you want drugs. Relapse is inevitable. A plan for quitting and for what comes after that will help to avoid this.
It is generally agreed that there are two recovery stages: acute withdrawal symptoms, for four days to one week, followed by post-acute symptoms, which last from six months to two years. Everyone dreads the acute stage, which is why you tend to quit without thinking the entire process through.
Medical professionals often describe the acute stage as being no worse than the ‘flu, but I’d beg to differ. I’ve had the ‘flu lots of times and I’ve quit drugs lots of times too.I ended up repeating the acute stage of withdrawal over and over again. It was like that movie, Groundhog Day, but with physical and emotional pain instead of comedy and romance. It was definitely worse than the ‘flu. Additionally, you don’t get over the ‘flu and then find you no longer fit in with normal reality.
Then there is the post-acute stage. This is characterised by an inability to concentrate, emotional vulnerability and poor sleep. Somewhere around the two-year mark you are expected to have achieved stability, but insomnia and emotional reactivity were the least of my post-acute stage problems; I wanted to die. It was only the hope that the next day would be different –that I’d wake up and finally be ‘back to normal’–that kept me going. I made the mistake of expecting drug recovery to follow the model of normal illnesses or accidents, in which you regain health and wellness and everything goes back to normal. As it became more and more obvious that this was never going to happen, I edged ever nearer to pulling the pin.
Suicidal thoughts are common for a lot of people after they quit, but this is just depleted chi, which means depleted life-force, and it can change. There’s really no point bailing out of life early just because you don’t know how to quit drugs or, more to the point, how to live after drugs. Plus, pulling the pin while you are operating from your ‘acquired self’ mode is not a good state to depart in. Dying is a serious business and one that, ideally, we spend our lives preparing for. Making a grand cosmic exit is the plan. Meanwhile we’ve all got things we are supposed to be getting on with here. So arm yourself with some strategies to build chi and evolve your addiction, and you can avoid a lot of unnecessary physical, emotional and metaphysical pain.
The next chapter will be published in the next LivingNow. If you want to fast forward your life, the entire book is available for download from Amazon.
Share this post