Help me stop chasing this dragon.
November 10, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Ex-Junkies of Metafilter: Help me join your ranks. Please tell me how you learned to live without it after it got a hold of you.

I've been an on-again off-again user (by smoking, never shooting) for several years. I can go long periods without using (like 6 months or longer), and currently have been using for approximately 6 months. I guess I'm what you'd call a high-functioning junkie -- I have a full-time, high paying position at an upscale fashion boutique, I like what I do and I'm good at it, and I don't let my use get in the way of my work. Typically I'll use daily for approximately a week at a time, then take from a few days to a week off to make sure that I'm not getting so physically dependent that the withdrawal symptoms are more than merely bothersome.

I recognize that I do of course have at least some physical dependency, but up to this point I've managed to control myself to the extent that my physical withdrawal symptoms last only a day or two, and are never debilitating -- very mild flu-like symptoms. No biggie at all, and while uncomfortable, of course, I never have a problem going without when I need/want to.... But there's the rub, of course: I DON'T WANT TO STOP.

The depression that kicks in when I stop using nearly crushes me emotionally (usually gets to its worst on the second and third days, and continues until I use again). On those days, sometimes I can barely speak I'm so depressed, and people think I'm ill (and I frequently say that I am -- it's true after all, in a way. They think I have some sort of ambiguous long-term illness that I have to deal with, like lupus or something maybe... I'm purposefully vague, of course.)

I'm currently in therapy and on SSRIs, but I have no idea if the meds are working (just started a new one in the past few weeks, so too soon to tell). I know I've got issues up the wazoo, and hopefully therapy will help me out with some of that, though I'm not betting on it because I've tried therapy in the past and it hasn't done much for me.

So the real question for you, wise mefites who have managed to walk this path through the forest of darkness and emerge on the other side, is this: how did you learn to live without it? How did you learn to feel joy again, REAL joy, not the insidious apathy masquerading as euphoria that comes from the dragon? How did you learn to accept that you would never again feel that rush, that expansion of beautiful warmth inside, that... bliss? Whenever I contemplate quitting for good, the thought sends shivers down my spine. I know I have to stop -- the potential consequences are far too great, legal, financial, emotional... For example, my boyfriend is definitely going to jettison me if I can't stop. He's been saying that he doesn't want to be with a girl who loves a drug more than him... and at this point I think his characterization of things may be true, Sometimes I think maybe I do care more about the smack than I do about him, even though I love him and really see a future together. So I know I need to stop, intellectually I "want" to stop... But at the same time, I just can't muster up the courage to try to face life without it permanently. It feels like the colors are less vivid, music loses its appeal, all food tastes like ashes... In short, life just isn't the same.

So how can I get the monkey off my back? I can't do NarcAnon, I have absolutely no chance of getting anything out of a program that shrouds itself in religiosity and "higher power" talk. I know it works for some people, but it will not work for me. I am firmly atheistic, and find even vague, hand-wavy "spiritual not religious" stuff completely loathsome. (It's a whole other story, but suffice it to say I'm serious; I would not even be able to sit and listen to a NarcAnon meeting.) What other options are there? What helped you? What finally made it so you could face life as a whole, normal, strong person on your own power again? Right now I feel like a balloon filled with smoke, and when it's gone, I'm deflated; I'm nothing. I want to be a real person again. Please help me.

Thanks for any input at all. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you live in an area where you could feel confident talking to a doctor about methadone treatment for physical withdrawal symptoms, along with additional or different therapy to help deal with your depression.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 AM on November 10, 2010

Tough position for sure but at least you know that you have to stop.
The only thing I can think of that would give you a LITTLE bit of that euphoria back is serious exercise. When i stopped my Boozin' and Druggin, I started training hard in Muay Thai (fighting). In many ways it got me through. I know..... this is not enough, but it could help loads if you are inclined to obsess on something healthy and new.
posted by Studiogeek at 10:09 AM on November 10, 2010

Are you honest with your therapist about using? S/he could some resources to recommend to you. I'm sorry if you've already taken that step, it just wasn't clear from your post. Additionally, SSRIs and narcotics together can cancel out the effectiveness of an SSRI, so that might be one reason you haven't had success with medication. Obviously, this is something that needs to be discussed with a doctor. If you aren't comfortable talking about it with your current GP and/or therapist, seek out a clinic that serves people with substance abuse. If you're in the US, you could call 311 and ask about local services. Best of luck to you, and it's wonderful that you're seeking out advice. That takes a lot of courage.
posted by SugarAndSass at 10:12 AM on November 10, 2010

I've replaced a lot of bad things in my life with Yoga. I'm kind of a nut about it and it has become a bit of a crutch that I'm dependent on. This might sound trite, but I experience physical withdrawl symptoms if I don't do an intense practice every few days.

I'm the same kind of athiest as you and the "everything is so amazing" spirituality of some yoga teachers can utterly ruin my day. So I try to find teachers that focus almost entirely on the asana (movement and flow) in advanced level classes, so that I'm always working at my maximum and am exhausted in a puddle of sweaty endorphins by the end of class.

I've achieved actual physical joy and a sense of transcendence that I previously only associated with substances. My practice has genuinely improved my life and ability to deal. I recognize that I have replaced one set of behaviour with another set, but that is what it took for me. And I'm in great shape.
posted by dobie at 10:21 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

If I were you (and I don't have a drug problem, but I have some bystander experience) I would treat this like any other psychological or physical illness: seek out expert, evidence-based medical support, and spend hours online doing research about it. Then I would consider checking myself into the best rehab that money could buy.

I can't do NarcAnon.

try AA instead of NA. I have heard that AA meetings tend to be better organized than NA, and that it's open to addicts of any type. It's worked for a lot of people -- and if you read the AA threads here on askme, you'll find how plenty of atheists have dealt with the "higher power" thing. And speaking of research, this paper suggests that participation in self-help groups like AA and NA helps in recovery. So the only question is whether your loathing of hearing people talk about spirituality is stronger than your desire to get clean. You could at least try it, right? What could hurt about trying it?
posted by yarly at 10:21 AM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

There are explicitly Agnostic AA meetings worldwide. That site also has materials on conducting a secular Meeting and talks about the non-dogmatic approach that has worked for them.

(I cut a bunch of crap in this comment that was based solely on my having read Infinite Jest twice and really feeling that I grokked AA culture based on that. That book might give you a good idea of the varieties of AA experiences and how you can succeed even if you're repelled by god talk: and how that repellence itself [one that I share, BTW] is partly the addiction talking).
posted by xueexueg at 10:30 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just an FYI: NarcOnon is a Scientology-related addiction "cure." Narcotics Anonymous is the 12-step program and is referred to as NA.

I know plenty of atheists who are clean and sober NA members.
posted by something something at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2010

AA and NA are essentially the same thing. And as long as she has requirements for her recovery (can't do this, won't do that), it doesn't matter if they worship satan - she's not going to take them seriously and they're not going to work for her.

I hope you don't have to hit rock-bottom but that's what it took for me. I didn't quit because I wanted to kill myself every weekend or because I'd drained my bank and brokerage accounts or because my then boyfriend threatened to break up with me at least once a week. I quit because I OD'd and had a boss who cared more about me than I cared about myself and required I go to rehab or lose my (white-shoe law firm) job.

You need to stop kidding yourself about being a high-functioning user. You're a junkie and the only thing separating you from the guy on the 4 train who vomited in his lap this morning is a few years.

Depression will not kill you - heroin will. I had to get comfortable with the depression, with sitting with it and being a shell of myself for a while. Colors will not be as vivid and all food will taste like ash for a while but not forever. I had to remove all triggers (drinking, certain music, many friends) and find a hobby that I could obsess over. Lot's of people mention exercise and that's what worked for me. I started running and I didn't stop.

I do drink now. I haven't touched drugs in a dozen years. I am married and have two children. I am fulfilled, I am happy. Sometimes I'm sad, but mostly I'm happy. The highs aren't as high but neither are the lows as low. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Memail me if you'd like more info on rehab. As with most things, it's not going to work unless you're ready for it to work.
posted by omarlittle at 10:44 AM on November 10, 2010 [36 favorites]

omarlittle's got it dead-on right. Stop bullshitting yourself and others.

You've told your therapist about your illegal drug use, right? Oh, not yet? Why not?

There are hundreds of different AA and NA groups in any major city. Try different ones. Find one that fits you. Not all of them are the same. Some AA groups are more understanding of illegal drug use than others. Just as some NA groups are far too hung up on the substances and not the steps. But each group's focus has things that work for it's members. They're not all alike. Call your city's local hotline for both AA and NA. Work with them to find groups to try.

The 12-step programs basically shift "control" from the substance abuser to the notion of a benevolent religious figure. "God" in other words. This is not the same as religion. All too often the abuser has gotten so twisted up trying to rationalize their way around their addictions that "God" is actually a lot easier to accept. Not as a "tell you what to do" figure, but as a "help you help yourself" concept. It's about being able to step back from your over-rationalized house-of-cards set of excuses and lay the hope of progress at the feet of a "higher power".

The progression of the steps is designed to help you untangle the mess you've made of your life and rebuild it. Not try and fix it all at once. Step, by, step. Some folks take years to work their way through them. All the while asking their "higher power" to help them stick to the path.

Unless you're prepared to actually stop your behaviors and actively seek change you're not going to escape. You've got to stop lying to yourself, your therapist and others. Otherwise you're just going to keep repeating the cycle, likely making it worse and worse.
posted by wkearney99 at 10:59 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check out Rational Recovery. This is the main alternative to AA/NA for atheists and others who don't want to be told that their long-held beliefs about religion are "the addiction talking", and that they can just "shift 'control' from the substance abuser to the notion of a benevolent religious figure" which "is not the same as religion".

CBT is a science-based form of therapy which may also help you quit. If you're serious about quitting, you might look for a therapist who specializes in CBT for addiction. At the very least, talking about this may help...
posted by vorfeed at 11:39 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am firmly atheistic, and find even vague, hand-wavy "spiritual not religious" stuff completely loathsome. (It's a whole other story, but suffice it to say I'm serious; I would not even be able to sit and listen to a NarcAnon meeting.)

Agree with those who say to give a 12-step program a try (er, a regular one, maybe not the Scientology one).

I don't know about heroin, but I know about 12-step programs, and this is a common objection. The thing is, being "firmly atheistic" for an addict can essentially function as a handy defense mechanism, a comfortable rationalization why 12 steps can't possible ever work for you, the special atheist snowflake, or otherwise you would TOTALLY go. The programs are full of people who can't tolerate religious BS and who follow the adage "take what you need, leave the rest." The Agnostic AA programs are identical to the regular AA programs with the exception that anyone who might identify their higher power as a traditional God figure is quieter about it. It's not some higher power that makes the program work, it's you. You can be another one of those people, and it's probably the most incisive direct action you can take to get healthier.

Don't let this sense that you've got it all figured out keep you from getting the tremendous help these programs can offer.
posted by Miko at 12:26 PM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

God, I hear you. I wish I could give you a pat answer, but unfortunately, those don't work for me. But I've also quit everything I've been addicted to without counseling or NA/AA.

So there's that advice -- there is no pat answer but you don't need one. People who love me may tell me I'm an awesome guy, and I may feel like it on my good days, but I'm also nothing special. If I can do it by finding my own path, so can you. That's one of the benefits of being a high-functioning addict. If you can make the addiction work for you in a non-traditional way, you can do the same thing with quitting. In fact, as scary as it might be, once you do it, you'll realize how much fucking time you were spending making that addiction work and that you weren't nearly as high-functioning as you thought you were.

Also, definitely check out methadone. Even if you're not serious about quitting, methadone will help you so you don't feel sick when you do. It is not something you should fuck around with (using and also taking methadone) but it's been done, probably more than it hasn't. And any good clinic will understand this. (Seriously... sad to say, most clinics are all about getting their $, so even if they discover you've used, if you pay your bills, you can get away with anything.)

Get better about your SSRI treatment. Trust me, if you think your using has something to do with your depression, it does. But you aren't going to feel better until you get both chemical imbalances fixed.

Also... and this is going to go against what pretty much every addiction expert will ever tell you... for some people, it's easier to actually quit if you don't say "I'm never going to use again." Right now, I have no intention of ever using again. But I can't say to myself honestly that I never will. And somehow, realizing that, made giving it up a lot easier.

Feel free to email me via my account from your anon account if there's anything more direct you might want to know, and I'll send you something if I can think of anything better.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:39 PM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

For an alternative to 12 step programs (which have a dismal success rate) try SMART recovery.
"SMART is not a twelve step program. It is based on modern cognitive/behavioral methods, particularly Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). We think a persons religious or spiritual convictions are a personal matter that can be helpful, but are not a part of the SMART program. SMART teaches people practical, proven self-management and recovery skills. "

Or lifering. This is an informative and interesting video from lifering which describes how it works.
" The main thing to remember is that the LifeRing process is strength-based; it works by positive reinforcement of qualities that you already have.
posted by smartypantz at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

how did you learn to live without it? How did you learn to feel joy again, REAL joy, not the insidious apathy masquerading as euphoria that comes from the dragon? How did you learn to accept that you would never again feel that rush, that expansion of beautiful warmth inside, that... bliss?

I always thought life was easier for all of you. I had friends, but I couldn't deal with problems, with stress, with being hurt, or situations that I might get hurt in, emotionally more over than physically. It hurt. Life hurt. I cried myself raw, couldn't sleep. Nothing worked. Until I got wasted. That made it better. Than I got wasted day after day after day. I "cheated" on every love nightly with a substance. I Loved that substance more than myself, than you, than my job, than my family. I lost myself in that substance. I fought to maintain my life. I tried to alter amounts and types. I abstained. I was miserable. I could not live without my solution, so I immersed myself in it. When I was wasted was the only time I wanted to stop. When I was stopped I wanted to be wasted. I did enough where I found nightly oblivion. Only I started to die, slowly, my body failing. Betrayed by my love, I did not care, as long as she would have me, I would have her. My loved ones begged me, pleaded with me. I did not care. I felt ashamed, but they were not my solution. I would have my solution, and then I would die, and then I would no longer care. But I did, I am was a good person, and I didn't want to die. I wanted to live, to love, but I did not want to live and love when I was sober, my solution allowed me to want to live and love. As it killed me. I tried to make my solution work. I saw it did not work. I tried anyway. It stopped working. I could no longer get wasted enough, no matter the amount. I was betrayed. There was not enough money, or enough of it to solve my problem. I wished I was dead. I prayed for death. It did not come. I met some people. I did what I was told. I stopped thinking I knew everything. I accepted that my problem was not with a substance, but in my thinking and perception. I accepted that this problem will never, ever go away. I admitted I was powerless over my old solution to my problem, and that it was making my life a complete hell. I came to believe that since I no longer had a solution, I would have to find another. They told me they had a solution. I listened to their solution. I balked. I did not want to do what they wanted me to. I thought it silly, immature, foolish. I fell. I went back to my old solution. I felt the same things again. I lost what little I had. I returned. I became more open. I found fullness. The void closed. Without my old solution.. for the very first time. I keep doing what works. I am full. I am what I thought all of you were so very long ago. I am whole.
posted by Debaser626 at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2010 [11 favorites]

Here's the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator, helpful for everything from detoxification to ongoing dual diagnosis (addiction & mental health) care. This is an enormously helpful tool. Plug in your info and make a few calls.
posted by item at 2:12 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do not believe in a higher power. I take the concept of a higher power very seriously: I believe that if someone has faith in a higher power, it is more disrespectful for me to parrot that framework insincerely than it is for me to disagree strongly with the existence of higher powers. I am glad that there are people here have found 12-step programs effective and helpful, but I find it dismissive to use terms like 'special atheist snowflake' with regards to qualms about embracing a faith-based program. I would have to undergo a radical shift in how I view religious faith and experience--effectively, I would be converting, had I continued with the programs. In addition to the disrespect I would have to have for people with faith to treat religion/spiritual aspects of the program as disposable or something that could be imitated or taken on as a veneer, I found the twelve-steps reinforced my internalized pattern and narrative of 'learned helplessness.' As 'learned helplessness' is part of my pattern of response to distress that led (along with ADHD and family history) to the avoidance and impulse-control problems, the Anonymous programs simply failed for me.

Like all problems that occur on the bio-psycho-social axis, there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to addiction and impulse-control disorders. When it comes right down to it, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to the best-understood completely biological diseases. There are some biological diseases where there are solutions that work the overwhelming majority of the time, but there will always be people for whom the solution doesn't work.

For the sake of argument, let us take the OP at her word, with the caveat that 12-step programs are always an option and there may be meetings that will suit her. CBT and Motivational Enhancement Therapy are two other approaches that I've found helpful personally. I can't guarantee they will be what works for you. CBT has been extremely helpful with a lot of day-to-day thinking and functioning. MET seems to be very helpful for me when it comes to choosing the long-term gains over short-term solutions.

For me, I realized MET was a helpful therapeutic adjunct to CBT when a friend went through a rough patch. I could either handle being a support person for him, or I could be chaotic and careless and keep making short-term choices. It turns out I love my friend more than I feared the work it took to break the habit, or feared failure or enjoyed-in-the-moment the gains of avoidant or impulsive behaviors or other self-undermining choices. I love him more than I fear facing any part of my life. I love my friend more than I've ever hated myself. In this case, for this particular subset of management issues, my desire to support my friend was the motivation I needed. I just had to find it and remember it the many times it was easy to forget.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 2:30 PM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I feel the need to defend 12-Step programs, or at least Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous (as they are the meetings I attended for the first 5 years of my recovery). I realize that statistically they aren't stellar, but I'd at least like to clear up some mis-understandings and point out some positives . . .

The higher power stuff is really dependent upon which meetings you go to. I really have to agree with the people who say that some addicts use their atheism as a way to avoidance. I would say that 99% of meetings/conventions/dances/camping trips, etc I attended daily for years and years were entirely secular. It's just a bunch of people, sitting around and relating their experiences and what they're doing to change.

You go to meetings because it's safe activity to engage in. You go daily because seeing the same people regularly is how you make friends. Making sober friends provides you with more safe activities and fulfilling interactions. You get a sponsor to make sure you are connecting with someone before the friendships take hold, a special someone who promises to give a sh*t about you while you are detoxing and foggy and not showing your best side. They do this because someone did it for them, and giving back makes a person feel better. This sponsor also helps you with the steps. The steps are guidelines to help you grow -- there are many ways to grow, but having a plan is good; the steps happen to be a plan already plotted out and one that lots of other people (who could be sober friends!) are familiar with. The steps teach some basic street smarts for those who missed them: doing the same thing over and over again gives the same results every time; take the time to know yourself, good, bad, happy, sad; keeping secrets can make shame grow; acknowledge when you screw up; apologize unless it will cause more pain; helping other people is good.

Some meetings will contain people who want to talk about Jesus. Some meetings will contain snobby dry-cleaned jerks with shiny cars. They say "we're here 'cause we're not all there" so you should expect some quirks. Some meetings will never utter sentences above a 3rd grade level. Some will be too hot, too cold -- but some will be just right.

You can take the drugs away but you will find yourself facing all the feelings the drugs were covering, as well as being lonely and bored -- AA/NA, all of these groups are just a bunch of people who've been there and are willing to help you face the feelings, deal with the loneliness, and do exciting things instead of drugs. It may not be your recovery of choice, but it is a valid choice.
posted by MeiraV at 4:45 PM on November 10, 2010

(which have a dismal success rate)

That link is misleading in that it does a lot of percentage math to try to support an argument, but since there's no control group, it's really impossible to state whether the Anonymous groups are more effective than nothing. The site carries advertising and is in itself an advertisement for the work of one practitioner. I'm sure there are benefits to his system, but it's one person's system and the argument he presents doesn't support his conclusion. Alcohol addiction can be chronic and it can be episodic - both those kinds of people are in the pool of meeting attendees as well as people who stop drinking cold turkey and maintain that practice until death. Without a control group, you really can't talk about efficacy. I think it's a terrible shame to dismiss any program out of hand when chances are good that some program will be better than no program at all.

In short, there are a lot of choices for recovery programs if you are in a geographic area where all of them are available, and participating in any one program, I would suspect, ups your chances of maintaining abstinence.
posted by Miko at 6:35 PM on November 10, 2010

...which is all a derail - just find a program, Anon! Even if it's not something you want to stick with, you'll likely meet helpful people and identify other resources. And you'll be able to just be honest and tell the truth about the way things are for you, which should be something of a relief in itself.
posted by Miko at 7:05 PM on November 10, 2010

I'm not what the U.S. medical profession would call an ex-junkie, so if you're only reading responses by folks with prior confirmed problems, pass by. Otherwise, HBO's Addiction Web site is a resource with a ton of links/videos/recommendations to current scientific work and thinking in addiction science, and recovery management. One of the things I learned specifically about opiate addiction from this source was that it causes apparently permanent brain chemistry changes, that mean an opiate addict may never get back to a pre-addiction feeling of "normal" wellness, because their brain ceases to process some of the neurotransmitters in the "pleasure" response loop in the usual way; accordingly, opiate addicts may need permanent methadone or other replacement therapy just to feel "normal." Without replacement therapy, it seems most opiate addicts eventually relapse, to avoid common complaints like chronic joint pain, and depression. I also learned that this kind of seemingly permanent change to brain chemistry can occur within a fairly short exposure to opiates, and that some percentage of medical patients prescribed opiates develop similar long term wellness issues.

I can say that after being on Percocet for several weeks following hip replacement surgery 15 years ago, I think of myself now as far more prone to pain, particular joint pains, than I was before hip surgery, and that there are few days now that are truly pain free for me. I know now that opiates aren't going to help that long term, and I deal, and I hurt, and on the worst of days, I take naprosyn, and cut myself some slack in terms of physical activity.

Good luck staying off opiates, if you can. If you can't, minimize further long term damage by getting into a methadone program, or some other type of opiate replacement therapy.
posted by paulsc at 10:07 PM on November 10, 2010

That link is misleading in that it does a lot of percentage math to try to support an argument, but since there's no control group, it's really impossible to state whether the Anonymous groups are more effective than nothing.

FYI that link was just an quick example to show that there of a wealth of info out there that the effectiveness of AA is unclear . Moreover, 12 step programs often serve to replace an addiction with the program itself (a concept worthy of it's own post). Penn and Teller did a show on this. Whether you like Penn and Teller or not, they do a good job of fleshing out the major points of criticism on 12 step programs.

I hope this will end this derail, I just wanted to clarify my points. I don't want to disparage anyone who has encountered 12 step programs and benefited, I just want to give the "other side" of the coin, as it were.
posted by smartypantz at 11:48 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I dropped out of college. I never got a degree. Conclusion: College doesn't work.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:06 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know someone who kicked heroin (and later kicked nicotine, and I remember him telling me the latter was, oddly, harder. At least largely because, at the time, smoking was still very common and the smell of smoke was everywhere, and he had a lot more emotional support from loved ones urging him to kick heroin; friends were not nearly as supportive of his desire to stop smoking).

He told me that acupuncture really helped him.

I've been skeptical about acupuncture for a long time, but seeing some double-blind tests in the NIH database has made me much more open-minded.

Here's an article about acupuncture and overcoming heroin addiction from the Guardian.

I might also mention that sometimes our deepest beliefs are mistaken. You are, understandably, afraid of losing that amazing feeling of bliss. However, as debaser626 discovered, it's likely to eventually stop working. What then? ... and: is there amazing bliss that you've never experienced? You can't imagine anything else so good ... but there may well be extraordinary bliss out there that you'll never feel until you make this change.

Good luck. You know there's a whole community of people here rooting for you.
posted by kristi at 9:43 AM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I dropped out of college. I never got a degree. Conclusion: College doesn't work.

Counterpoint -- I dropped out of college. I got a degree from a two-year school. Conclusion: College doesn't work for everyone, nor is it necessarily the only thing which works.
posted by vorfeed at 5:28 PM on November 11, 2010

I've been thinking about this discussion for the past few days, and would like to echo what kristi said: You know on some level that the external world is what it is, and that what the drugs are doing is modulating your experience of it (intense, perfect, lovely or debased, miserable).

Maybe something to keep in mind is that it absolutely IS possible to approach the world in such a way that you can achieve that intense, perfect, lovely feeling, without using drugs. Again, the world is what it is, and you have a lot of control over how you choose to approach it, what you choose to look for, how you choose to regard it.

It is absolutely possible to cultivate a appreciation of the beauty and wonder and connectedness of the world around you--to cultivate an openness to experiencing that fully, which can be very intense, very profound. It can be tough to get there because, I think, humans are wired to be more aware of things that are tough, deficient, painful, but I want you to know that yes, it is possible to feel that intensely, even without chemical assist.

I have never used heroin, so if that disqualifies me, so be it. But I had plenty of mind-altering chemical experiences way back when. Suffice to say that through effort, study, and focus I've had many equally if not more intense experiences since then using nothing more than my brain, heart, eyes, senses, and more often than not, the kindnesses of other people.

Lots of good is waiting for you. Get through the hard parts, start your new life, live in gratitude, and be well.
posted by Sublimity at 11:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Think of your worst breakup/rejection, where it hurt really bad to not have the other person around anymore, but you were powerless to get them back. Remember how it felt when you first got the bad news? How for weeks, maybe even months, it seemed totally inconceivable that you could ever be happy like that again. Never ever again would you feel that rush, of being with that person. (You feels like the colors are less vivid, music loses its appeal, all food tastes like short, life just isn't the same....)

Thing is tho, in a little bit of time -- maybe it takes a few months, or even longer -- but eventually, you stop missing that person. That doesn't mean that you don't recognize that you had good times together. But it doesn't get in your way anymore -- the colors are vivid again, and you are too busy out there in the world experiencing new types of rushes to be too concerned about how you had different types of rushes in the past. You certainly won't be comparing everything to that one old rush.

I've been thru this experience a bunch of times, and so now when i feel that "omg i'm NEVER gonna be happy again cause i can't have this ONE person / substance / whatever in my life" (and i do still feel that way, strongly, nearly every time!), i just remind myself explicitly of this. I tell myself, "I know you feel like this pain is going to last forever, but that's always how you feel at this stage. It doesn't mean anything. In a short time you'll be over it -- just like it's been EVERY SINGLE TIME before." And actually, it does chill me out, just to remember that thought -- even tho it typically *feels* totally false at these times. The little voice that tells me things are gonna suck forever unless i fulfill this one craving (i like to call it "the crackhead") will typically shut up when i remind it that it's been wrong every single time so far. q:

In short: the other rushes are likely more fun than you remember. It's been true every time for me, at least. Just give it some takes a while for your brain to rebalance all its neurotransmitter levels and stuff after you suddenly take away something it's adapted to....

(ps: this song sometimes helps ;)
posted by pfiddy at 6:39 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

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