Friday, February 22, 2019

1 Year Without Drugs & Alcohol: Reclaim Your Energy, Attune Your Priorities and Manifest New Realities


The concept of this topic alone is enough to raise a vast spectrum of emotional reaction within each and every one of us mere mortals. I can already feel a whole range of responses being projected across the cyber-sphere, as the bold declaration of an entire solar rotation without the use of drugs and alcohol, really settles in. From jealously and disbelief to respect and congratulations, the diverse feelings that surface when someone narrates a landmark of success are all too real and familiar. The digital age has enabled many things, but the oogling observation of our deepest most personal experiences, remains a leading distinction of our time. Have we migrated culturally from the realm of "keep calm and carry on" to a new aeon of the expressed and outspoken? (perhaps). This it seems, is an almost perfect metaphor for my story of 1 year without using drugs and alcohol at all.


We all use distraction tactics to shift our attention. As humans, we crave escapism (in one form or another). We seek transcendence to alleviate our sufferings, no matter how small or trivial they may be. Life is an intense roller coaster of chemical neuro-transmission, so it's not a surprise that substances that alter our bio-chemistry are so appealing and seductive. 

I stopped drinking alcohol, smoking weed (with tobacco), and taking ecstasy 12 months ago, and it's difficult to explain how it has been, mostly because it's been everything and nothing, completely different and yet exactly the same. Because I never really had apparent  or significant problems as a result of my drug use, the changes have been less easy to notice than if had, say, an intravenous heroin addiction or an obsessive fetish for consumption. But no, contrary to the complete-life-changer I had heard about, my experience was a touch more superficial. I have not become spiritually illuminated and still live on hardly any money at all, but if I had to reduce the experience down to one distinctive realisation, it is that I have become increasingly aware of subtlety, both in myself and the outer world. My usual experience has shifted from one of extremes and polarity, to one of detail and relative stability. A shift towards sensitivity and away from ignorance (hopefully!). 

This shift towards a less extreme energetic and emotional routine has allowed me time and afforded attention to re-consider and address my life priorities and where they currently stand. As boring as it sounds to your average party-head, the idea of routine and pattern (especially regularity of sleep!) has become a lot more appealing than the thought of staying up all night at a bangin' techno party. Partly because without the substance, the energy and focus level is very different - at least for myself, with a predominantly introverted temperament. But also because the stability of a structured existence is something I have never really worked upon, therefore never been able to receive reward from such activity, neuro-chemically speaking. As a self-invoked discordian-anarchist-agent of chaos, the appeal of extremes is something that is forever seductive, but these particular, niche and specific habits had become my most dependable direction to happiness; as a consequence, anything "normal" had a distinct aura of pointlessness. These days, I feel more open to experiences outside my ego structure of what is useful, important and enjoyable. I'm not sure I'll ever really love shopping malls, but at least I can handle them for more than 30 seconds without having to quickly skin up a spliff as soon as I get out of that hellhole! Being sober has allowed me to respect my energy, refine my values and maintain integrity to myself.

Another unexpected consequence of 1 year of sobriety is that it seems that now I have to actively inject emotional energy into my daily experience in order to feel happy, content and relaxed. It's a strange feeling to no longer have any quick fix drug to experience happiness; no immediate, external guarantee of the release of dopamine or serotonin. The positive side effect of this is that I have been forced into being an active participant in the pursuit of my own happiness, rather than the victim of circumstance. An activist of my reality. For example, if I am feeling depressed, bored or fatigued, I usually sit with the feeling and experience the un-comfort-ability first, giving my brain enough time to create an alternative method to make me happy, thereby opening the first stages in reprogramming my neuro-circuitry. Sounds easy, but it's a lot more complicated than it seems. When you have relied on substances for so long your nicely paved neural pathways make their use seem like the only way to make things better. According to Loretta Graziano Breuning in Habits Of A Happy Brain, the good news is that you can reprogram your brain, and create new circuits of happiness, but this has to be done through repetition and/or emotion. For me, building new habits, routines and patterns has been integral to my emotional stability and recovery. I suppose to summarise, it has been a year of re-learning how to take personal responsibility for my own mental and emotional health. Becoming more engaged and active in my pursuit of happiness, because I now understand that it never comes for free!

When we become reliant on using substances (or for that matter anything physical and outside of ourselves) to correct or shift our bio-chemical experience, our brain seems to depend on these as the most important or "go to" method of experiencing happiness. I believe this is why the active creation of the new rituals and habits, despite initial insecurities, seem to have been so effective for me in my first year of abstinence. 

If you're interested in going clean to reclaim your energy, attune your priorities and manifest new realities, I can tell you, it's not easy, it's really bloody hard, but what you will be building will hopefully be a more reliable path in the pursuit of your own happiness, that doesn't depend on everything being the way you expect it to be, your bank balance or the notifications in your social media.

-Ryan-

If you can relate to what you've just read, let's continue the conversation! Sharing stories is one of our most powerful tools, so leave a comment below, check out the FREEDOM junkies' facebook page, or join our group.

4 comments:

  1. Nice one. Well written account of what it's like to give up substances. It's not clear whether you still use cannabis without the tobacco? I was an heavy cannabis user for a good ten years and i can confidently say that nothing affected my career and health as negatively as using cannabis. The drug successfully turned a once bright and enthusiastic young man into a lethargic pot-head who only cared about where the next joint came from. I was a huge advocate for the use of illegal drugs and when i was in the thick of it, it took every ounce of strength i had to admit i had a problem. I've thankfully been "clean" for a good 9 years now. I understand that the drug effects different people in different ways - some are able to sustain a 20 year cannabis lifestyle. But for me, well, i'm reminded of lessons in school where we were taught about the dangers of cannabis use and i wish i'd listened more closely.

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  2. Hey! Thanx - I gave up cannabis at the same time yes. For me its hard to imagine if my life would be more positively influenced without using weed at all, because it has shaped my story and experience of the world so much. I'm not saying i'm never ever doing substances again, but for now i'm interested to see how my brain and therefore life experience changes as I adapt to a state where I'm dependable on myself and take responsibly for my reality and experience. Thanks for sharing! - Ryan

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  3. I've been clean for a year and a half now and my holy trinity was the same as yours, alcohol, weed and md. Though you know I didn't often refuse coke or ket. I actually purged addiction in an ayahausca ceremony in the Amazon Rainforest a difficult and liberating ceremony. Staying clean was easy the first few months. Around Christmas of my first year I met someone who knew my shaman and is an experienced alternative healer himself and we talked at length of my experience in the jungle. He offered me a free session and taught me some breathing techniques from kundilini yoga and as a result I built a spiritual practice. Going to bed early getting up at 5 and doing two types of yoga and a meditation.
    Learning to still the mind instead of Jack it has been pretty profound. I can't say I really understand what thoughts or my thoughts are but in terms of breaking patterns and habits it really usage next step. There's something subtly yet profoundly psychedelic about it all. Life is more psychedelic and weird sober than ever it was when using. When I'm on my mountain the elemental connection I feel with the universe,the kind of flow and oneness is something I've never experienced before yet within it is profound joy better than any chemical route. Having lived from 15-40 pretty high I'm up for spending the next 25 clean. Think I'm still ridding my body and mind patterns of then nasty me toxins.
    Thanks for the article great read think I'd like to write a reflective piece about my own sober time. Hail Eris xx xxx

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