Evolution only goes one way –so get addicted to chi.
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.
Evolving an addiction is an experiential process; so you will need to use your body, not your mind. In fact, the Daoists don’t ever recommend trying to resolve anything with your mind.We love our minds in the West. Mainstream recovery is based on using our minds to talk ourselves out of taking drugs (‘no drugs today, no drugs today’), and then talking endlessly through the post-drug symptoms: the relationship dramas, sexual dysfunction, depression, psychosis, panic and anxiety.
However, the mind-based therapeutic techniques were developed by people who didn’t spend their time messing with their heads for fun. Once you’ve done that, your mind is no longer reliable.In Chinese medicine, it’s understood that drug use creates a separation of body (yin) and mind (yang); so when you quit, your mind is not anchored, until you think about taking drugs again, that is, when your mind suddenly focuses on great ideas like ‘maybe do drugs one more time, and then you can quit’, or it starts hammering on about what a loser you are, or setting off endless debates about right and wrong.
Clients regularly tell me that they hate their thoughts but can’t escape them. This is the situation in which your mind can be described as ‘the enemy of Dao’, because it is sabotaging your health and happiness. Once it enters this enemy territory, you will automatically be putting a value on your own or others’ actions. You become opinionated and judgmental and you move further from your cosmic self. From this perspective, the old approach to recovery – in which you consciously focus on wrongdoing, and are expected to make value judgments on your past – can be counterproductive.
Don’t try to resolve the past, evolve it into an amazing future
Drug use does take you into pretty dark territory and activities that are considered shocking by normal standards. When you talk to anyone about these, it immediately engages their senses. If their senses then direct their thoughts, they will feel disturbed or disgusted and they will put a value on your actions based on socially accepted ideas of right and wrong. Then the probing begins; they need to know why you did it or what went wrong to make you do it. This can go in circles for years without resolution. It’s a mind trap.
The Daoist alternative is to learn how to direct your mind to chi instead of to senses. Chi is always empty; so the moment you turn to chi you are empty. In emptiness, whatever is, is. The universal truths are revealed. Being able to direct your mind to chi creates a state called ‘choiceless awareness’. A therapist who can access this state won’t be sitting behind their desk looking carefully expressionless while secretly thinking, ‘Oh my, this person has really screwed up, really done some bad things; tut tut’. A drug user won’t be forever judging their past actions in light of what they got wrong, and then getting mired in shame and guilt.
However,you can’t experience choiceless awareness without a dedicated chi practice. I do four hours’ chi practice each day; so that when treating a client, I can instinctively go into a state of chi. Then I don’t see an addict, a depressive, a psychotic, an obsessive; I see another soul. Imagine what the world would be like if we all could all see each other like this all the time.
This is not to say that there is no place for talk therapy; your mind definitely does have a role to play in recovery. I always start my treatments with my signature shock tactic consultation, where I get the person to rethink their substance use. Seeing the positive in your past makes chi flow. I follow the consultation with a specific acupuncture treatment, which creates an altered state and brings the body into the equation as well. So you see things differently in your mind – chi flows – and then you feel things differently in your body – chi flows. This is an approach to therapy that keeps you on the cosmic path.
The more positive you are, the more your chi will flow
Bring your mind back home
In Chinese medicine, psychology is in the body; not the mind. So your recovery strategy is to ‘lose the mind’ and turn to the body. This will naturally bring your mind back home. Now, when I say ‘body’, I’m actually talking about your organs. They house your mind. This might sound outlandish, but if you were happy with ordinary explanations about life, you wouldn’t have repeated drugs.
The mind and mental activities – intention, will and thought – are governed by your organs (your spleen plays a major role in this). The spiritual gurus consider the mental functions to be a divine gift. High on a drug like ice you can see why because, as that drug really enhances spleen function, you temporarily experience intention, will and thought perfectly harmonised. There is no gap between planning and action. Whatever you decide to do happens immediately and effortlessly. Ultimately, this is how we want to be operating all of the time and, given that this is reliant on building organ function and chi, we can.
If you’ve done a lot of speedy drugs though, it can be a long way back to this place. Those drugs take a toll on your organs, particularly your spleen, and the relationship between intention, will and thought fractures. This is how you ‘lose the mind’, in the negative sense. Instead of providing focus and clarity, your spleen – which is also the drama queen of the organs – freaks out, and you feel scattered and consumed by jealousy, yearning, resentment, procrastination and worry. You are confused about who you are and what you are doing here. Paranoid scenarios loop in your head about who said or did what to you. Your actions no longer make sense.
A classic example from my past: one morning at work after a three-day speed bender (while I was working as a drug and alcohol counsellor), I had to photocopy some documents. I decided I needed a coffee before facing the task, but in my scattered state I spooned coffee and sugar onto the photocopier instead of into a cup. I immediately panicked and fumbled around frantically trying to clean it up before anyone realised how mad I was. In hindsight I should have first pressed the ‘copy’ button to get a memento of what happens when you have trashed your spleen and ended up with no connection between intention, will and thought, because that’s what was actually going on there.
At the time I feared for my sanity, and that’s a terrifying feeling. I regularly treat people who have taken so many drugs that they are no longer capable of normal communication. They might think in symbols or speak in jumbled words, or streams of consciousness.Whereas Western medicine identifies this as mental illness, and treats it with more drugs – which further separate body and mind – Chinese medicine addresses the underlying organ imbalances.Your mind comes back home and regains optimum function. It becomes a powerful asset in the search for the cosmic self.
Psychology is in the body; not the mind
Playing the organs
The organ model not only logically explains weird drug-related symptoms and states, but also the much debated ‘gateway cycle’. Although I had progressed from marijuana to hard drugs myself, I never bought into the gateway theory until I studied Chinese medicine.
I turned to speed because marijuana (and hashish) had stopped working for me, but plenty of people around me happily continued smoking dope, thus debunking the gateway cycle myth, or so I thought.
In fact, this was due to the interaction of their constitution and yin and yang, but I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that marijuana might have failed me, but one line of that magic white powder and I was back. I was instantly up, out of the beanbag, making speeches and planning to take over the world. Unbeknown to me, the paranoia and lethargy I felt were the result of marijuana’s yin effect on my liver. The speedy drugs corrected this, as they brought the qualities of the spleen into the picture. But as the amphetamines wreaked havoc on my spleen I began to seriously lose the plot.
The next step in the gateway cycle is heroin, which impacts on your kidneys. These are known as the ‘mother of yin and yang’. They house your willpower and your life force. Powerful kidney energies can temporarily override spleen dysfunction and make the speed-induced emotional pain and confusion disappear. Heroin is the last stop in the gateway cycle though, because it taps into the very source of your power reserves. This is why the side effects are accelerated ageing – obvious in the skin, teeth and organs – but also increasing fear and loss of willpower.
There is a gateway cycle, but it doesn’t end with heroin, you can keep going with chi. This is the ultimate mood- and mind-altering substance.You probably won’t have heard the gateway cycle, or the mind, drugs or recovery for that matter, explained from this perspective before, but it makes sense.
It explains why and how you feel so bad when you quit. If your organs are depleted your lungs generate grief; your liver, frustration; your spleen, confusion; your kidneys, fear; and your heart, depression. No wonder you feel purposeless, disconnected, lost and mad.
However,the organ model also offers a path forward. Evolve your addiction via a chi-building lifestyle that improves the physical and metaphysical function of all your organs, and your lungs will generate spontaneity; your liver, happiness; your spleen, boundaries; your kidneys, power; and your heart, love. No drugs required.
Follow the gateway cycle all the way to chi
Follow your feelings
You became an addict or committed drug user because you followed feelings, not theories. Take an experiential approach to recovery and engage directly with your feelings again. If you are still using drugs, you can get this process underway before you even quit. I regularly develop plans for clients where there is an overlap period in which they might still be engaging with the old drug lifestyle, but at the same getting treatments and making lifestyle changes that establish a new rewarding lifestyle.
This way, right from the start, the emphasis is on replacement and feeling good, and you can avoid wasting time getting bogged down in theories about where everything went wrong. I’ve read a lot of recovery books written by addiction professionals who have never taken drugs. While these may have helped many people, for me, it’s like reading a cookbook written by someone who has never eaten food. The altered states, the magic and the mystery are missing. Chi delivers these and it’s not theoretical. This is why we need to focus on the body.
Even if drugs could keep delivering, the experience eventually becomes ‘so what’; you become cynical about the highs. Do drugs for ten years and I can guarantee you’re going to feel like crap. Do chi practices for ten years, though, and you’re going to feel awesome. You can keep reaching higher and more intense states.
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.
Born in Germany in 1958, and living in Australia since 1981, Jost is an ex speed addict, dealer and deserter, turned drug and alcohol counsellor who then became an acupuncturist. After lecturing in traditional Chinese medicine for a decade and running numerous health centres, he developed his revolutionary recovery programs and his rehab program is now available on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.
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