After working in the area of holistic health (specialising in drug-related conditions) for many years now I have realised that, in order for most ex-heavy drug users to feel really good again, the journey that the drugs started needs to continue but via beneficial methods. This is because drug-users crave not the drugs, but the exhilarating, euphoric or blissful states that some drugs can generate and these states need to be recaptured to counter the inevitable post-drug low-level depression and sense of emptiness. Through my own twenty-year commitment to the path of self-realisation and spiritual seeking, I have been able to not only recapture the euphoria and excitement of my initial forays into the world of altered states, but to have had much more profound experiences than anything drugs could generate.
Recreational drugs do create organ imbalances and distortions in the human energy field (HEF) and to recover you need to acknowledge the damage and then undertake a repair program that aims at continuing the journey. If you simply stop after years of recreational drug use, and don’t undertake some kind of repair program or don’t continue that journey, there are physical, emotional and spiritual ramifications. Physically, from the perspective of TCM, your organ system has been depleted and needs to be rebuilt, but you have also have had experiences that non-drug users could never imagine and it can be hard to fit back in to normal life. On acid I heard colours, saw people’s thoughts and spoke without using a single word. I looked through walls and handled solid objects that turned to liquid in my hands. Even gravity became multi-dimensional, floors, ceilings and walls were no longer structural but colourful gateways to other worlds. On some trips I felt like I had been to the end of the galaxy and back – all in eight hours. Other drugs like speed or cocaine made me feel super-human and the more experiences I had like this the harder it became to integrate back into the normal world.
After stopping drugs, following years of heavy use, I ended up feeling stuck in some kind of twilight zone. As an ex-user I no longer had a drug peer group that could relate to what I had been through and I found myself having to live by the very different rules of the straight world. I cut my hair, wore conservative clothes and went to work each day, but I felt as if I had been living on Mars and was now surrounded by people who had no concept of where I had been and what I had seen. Nothing felt quite right in my life and I envied the ease at which the people around me could operate and live in the normal world. Drugs would have masked my feelings, but they had taken me to the brink of death and there was no way I was going back there. Then severe post-drug depression hit. I was offered antidepressants but by then I knew that taking more drugs wasn’t the solution. I was lucky enough to discover that exercise and Tai-chi could keep my symptoms at bay and then, when I studied Traditional Chinese medicine, I understood the damage I had done, how the depression was physiologically based and how to repair, but most people don’t have this experience.
I have had many patients who gave up drugs willingly or unwillingly and then tried to get on with life but after a time they too felt that that something wasn’t quite right anymore. Some experienced physical symptoms such as sore neck or lower back, others had insomnia, frustration, depression, fatigue, cravings or a sense of emptiness. Most, prior to coming to see me, had made no connection between the way they felt and their previous drug use. Accordingly they looked for external reasons and blamed their relationships, economics, politics or family members. At this point some turned back to drugs to counter the symptoms and then went on to mainstream drug recovery programs. In these, which tend to focus on stopping a particular substance on a day-to-day basis, all there is to look forward to is another day ‘without’ something. Given that that ‘something’ is linked to a desire for excitement, exhilaration or intense experiences, post-drug life can appear grim, and rightly so as life is supposed to be a journey of discovery and excitement. Some patients had sought help in mainstream medicine to counter their feelings of low-level depression, anxiety or of ‘not belonging’, and were administered the licit mood-and mind-altering drugs (antidepressants), but treating ex-drug users with more drugs is not really a long-term solution either.
The ex-users who had made a connection with their symptoms and their prior drug use often embraced alternative lifestyles and the spiritual path. I will focus on this option in more detail as it seems to be the ‘right thing’ to do yet paradoxically many people who take this path end up feeling even worse than before. I have treated scores of patients who, after years of recreational drug use, felt that they had somehow polluted their bodies and they looked to Eastern purification practices. They started raw food diets or juice fasts to cleanse their systems, became vegetarian to lift their vibrations, took up high- powered meditative practices and even changed their name into something more spiritual. To their surprise they didn’t feel better but felt fatigued, confused, irritable and depressed. They then fasted and meditated even more and ultimately ended up in a state of constant exhaustion and depression. They would present these symptoms to me asking why, when they were doing all the ‘right things’, they felt so bad. They felt bad because, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese medicine, your organs are responsible for physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Drug use exploits your organ system in order to get you high and afterwards you are seriously depleted. It’s a bit like going on a first- class luxury holiday on credit cards and then coming home with a massive bill you can’t pay.
The first step in recovery and ‘debt repayment’ should be physical repair achieved through regular meals (of high-quality food with sufficient protein), regular sleep, regular treatments of therapeutic massage or acupuncture or some form of therapy that reduces blockages in the HEF. Then I recommend adding exercise and chi-building practices and only after that, taking up meditative practices. The latter can be extremely powerful, they can unleash and ‘channel’ high frequency energies. To process these you need a relatively unobstructed energy field and strong organ system otherwise the energies that work through you can create havoc and highlight toxic chi stored in the HEF. This is why you can end up feeling worse than before instead of free and liberated. I made this mistake and so have thousands of others.
The traditional acolyte of Eastern spiritual or purifying practices lived a totally different life to us – they didn’t take acid trips, drop ecstasy at raves or frequently merge their energy fields with those of others via multiple sexual encounters. Nor like most Westerners, were they born into a spiritually and nutritionally deprived society. We however, having routinely depleted our organ system with highly processed foods throughout our childhood (a problem which is becoming much more serious now) tried to combat our resultant spiritual emptiness with drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine or LSD. Initially this does seem to work. For me, drugs created states that I loved and thought were sacred but now that I see how they simultaneously led to spiritual defeat, I don’t believe drugs can be spiritual (spiritual meaning a direct experience of the sacred). They can however, instigate states which can mistakenly be perceived as being sacred as they replace the harsh, cold and painful physical reality with something warm, supportive and loving. For those who had this experience with drugs it is doubly important to seek to continue that spiritual journey. But to do so as an ex-drug user, you need to repair a very specific aspect of the Yin that drug-use destroys. Yin is solid and it is about grounding and about preserving. Yin provides the structure for the abstract, the formless and the nameless. Yin is the root for the ascension so that we don’t fly away, unable to direct our journey (as happens on hallucinogenic drugs). A specific post-drug lifestyle is required in order to build this Yin and once you have this in place you can then engage with spiritual practices and continue the journey that the drugs initiated but now you can journey beyond your wildest imaginings. You can again have those experiences of feeling invincible, euphorically happy and of being an integral part of the grand cosmological plan – truly a child of the universe – but this time there will be no coming down.