What has the high of drugs got to do with Spiritual practice?
An old friend of mine who is also a patient is seriously addicted to Heroin. He owns a successful restaurant in town and to all intents and purposes he lives a ‘normal’ life. Of course his life is not ordinary, he is intensely addicted. He is a slave and he knows it. Every time he injects and goes into dodgy neighborhoods he hates himself. Occasionally when he gets completely disgusted he takes himself off to India for a detox. I prescribe him diazepam to help him in the process.
A couple of years ago he told me about his first time chasing the dragon. He said he knew from the moment that the substance entered his system he was hooked, he knew that he would keep taking it no matter what – this was at least 20 years ago.
What happened in those first moments I think bears close examination because it reveals some important dynamics of how addiction comes about and, more importantly, methods to dismantle the addictive mechanism.
I am completely indebted to Dr. David Hawkins MD www.veritaspub.com for the following model of addiction. His book ‘Power vs Force’ is a must read.
When you get “high” either from drugs or alcohol how does that happen? Where does the “high” come from?
Imagine you are listening to an orchestra and a filter suddenly screened out all the lower tones so that you could only hear the higher ones. The suppression of the low notes does not create the high ones; it merely reveals them.
This is a great metaphor for what ensues when you take a mind altering substance.
What happened with my friend in those moments was that his inherently painful routine, every day negative emotions such as anger, hatred, guilt, resentment, worry and the like, were suppressed when he took his substance. He was thereby allowed an exclusive experience of the much more intensely pleasurable euphoric emotions of love, joy and ecstasy. His “high” consisted of him experiencing himself at his ‘highest’ – connected with himself as a Spiritual being whose identity is pure positive emotion.
Rarely does the average person experience love, joy or ecstasy as pure states because they are masked by the painful states of anxiety, anger, resentment and so on.
The important point here is these higher states are extremely powerful – that once they have been experienced they are never forgotten, and therefore, are sought ever after. The more intense the high, the greater the power to reprogram one’s life will be.
In just one instance in his morphia induced state my friends’ life was completely changed, his whole orientation to life, as well as his goals and values, shifted. In one way the person who was there before that first dose was no more, and a new person was born out of the experience.
Watch this movie
A good illustration of this dynamic is presented in the classic movie, Lost Horizon. As a concept Shangri – La is the movies metaphor for unconditional love and beauty. Once experienced, it reprograms the person so that he is never content with ordinary consciousness again.
The hero of the movie discovers this when, after returning from Shangri – La he is unable to find happiness in the ordinary world again. He then gives up everything in order to seek out and return to that state of consciousness, (spending years in the struggle, which almost costs him his life), in order to find Shangri – La again.
This same reprogramming process that occurred with my friend and with the hero of the movie, occurs in people who have reached high states of consciousness, such as near death experiences, or experiencing Samadhi or through intense meditation.
Such individuals are frequently noted to be changed forever. It is not uncommon for them to leave all that the material world represents and become seekers of truth; many who had transcendental experiences with LSD in the 1960s did the same thing.
Such higher states are also attained through the experience of love and religion, classical music or art, or through the practice of spiritual disciplines. The high state that people seek, by whatever means, is in fact the experience field of their own consciousness (Self).
The next big mistake is to confuse what it is you are addicted to
My friend being spiritually unsophisticated and lacking a context with which to comprehend his experience, believed, that his high was created by something “out there” – the drug. The same thing happens when someone has a big experience with a guru, music, lovers, and so forth. But all that actually happened is that, under special circumstances he experienced what is, in reality “in here.”
I don’t want you to miss this point, so I really want of spell it out -
• It’s a dangerous illusion to think that your drug of choice has in itself the power to create the “high” state of euphoria. The substance is the means.
• You are not addicted to your drug of choice, you think you are, in reality you are addicted to the higher state of consciousness which is always there and is merely revealed and unmasked by the drug.
• Your task in recovery is to find a way to create those higher states by your own efforts. Such states are the natural unfolding of spiritual discipline.
If you want to recover you will have to get into spiritual practice. It will be hard won progress on a dedicated spiritual path that will give you what you have previously sought from drugs.