I disagree with some of the statement above - often we bypass the pleasure phase and head straight for avoidance of the pain, only not in relation to the substance, more in relation to the issue at hand that we may not be wanting to feel in the first place. However many substances or actions can indeed be pleasurable in their repetition, at least until (or if) they begin to create chaos, hurt or pain for us, and others around us. That doesn't have to be just drugs, it can be work, sex, alcohol, or specific behaviours we can't break free from that create legacies of pain and suffering in our lives.
CONFESSION TIME! As a former heroin addict I spent many years locked in extremely destructive and painful cycles of addiction, withdrawal, and re-addiction. I spent money, time, and heartfelt reservoirs of faith and hope trying one way or another to cure myself of my opiate dependency, always unsuccessfully, until one day I hit rock bottom and found the dregs of some tattered life belt beckoning me to an untrusted shore, that of sobriety. I didn't at this point want to be clean on some levels though, because in the stark reality of 'clean and serene' lived the demons I had been avoiding, and they were clearly not going to want to be scrutinised too hard, otherwise I would have done so long before hitting desperation. And so for a while, the following was true….
I saw friends die from overdoses on shit drugs or because they had tried to get clean, failed and then given themselves too much of what they could cope with when in the full flow of their dependency. It was tragic; good souls striving to get well, more often striving to get drugs, dying in trying. I lost money, family, friends, homes, belongings and self respect. I gained remarkable resilience, resourcefulness and wisdom, but only once clean was I able to access most of those gifts. Anyhow, this is just the story, it was a long time ago now and it does not define me, but it certainly makes me think! And why does it make me think? Well, because eighteen months ago I began another quest of exploration using psychotropic plants to enter the deeper levels of my psyche that still remained locked in old pains and patterns. Although no longer being anaesthetised by opiates, these patterns still somehow limited me, and I was ready to break free. Enter the frame Ayahuasca, San Pedro and Iboga. (*inclusion of these sites is not necessarily an endorsement of their content - please trust your own information finding resources)
These teacher plants as I refer to them, hold truly remarkable abilities to transform consciousness and open gateways to new ways of seeing what are in principle old ways of being. Working with them intensively over the last phase of my life has unlocked so many gifts, blessings and teachings. I can never express how much gratitude I have for the fact they called loud enough and long enough for me to pay attention.
By some freakishly synchronistic series of events, starting with a random book written by the wonderful Rebekah Shaman, which was left on a table beside me at a festival (nobody knew how it got there), a flier for an 'Eagle Condor' ceremony left in my healing centre (nobody knew how it got there), and a chance meeting, I found myself suddenly tuned into a very different matrix. They say when she calls, she calls, and when the time is right, you just know. Fearful (actually make that a little bit terrified!) and curious at the same time, I certainly knew on some deep embodied level that I was about to embark on some serious soul searching, and that Mama Ayahuasca was the doorway through which I would access these lessons. I'm not going to lie, I was afraid that my demons would consume me, that they were far bigger than I and that they would simply annihilate me and undo all of the good work I'd put into place in getting well and staying well, but I also knew on a deeper level that this couldn't be true for those demons could only ever be a part of me and never the totality of me.
I can honestly say that this journey has been the most liberating of my life in terms of my soul evolution, life lessons and life-purpose focus. That said, I see as many opportunities for 'addiction' within the sacred and spiritual plant based explorations as I do with those used less mindfully; it's not something to take lightly or be cavalier about. Ayahuasca, a South American vine, has taken me to some truly painful, dark places. It's torn down my ego and left me in tatters, and it's slapped me hard around the head when I've been a little less respectful of her potency. Through all of this she has also brought me deep healing. San Pedro, a South American cactus, has been a cruel teacher; hard and unforgiving at times, he has also shone light on that which is lurking in the dark, and for me, going to meet what is often referred to as the 'Grandfather' is never something I will take lightly or make assumptions about beforehand. Iboga, an African root, has changed me deeply. That's all I can say about that for now.
But what of these distinctions? What of those who maintain those addictions we would normally refer to as 'drug addictions' without them causing too much chaos over the years? I know people who do so to some level, although I admit they are rare, at least in my experience that is. And what of those who are addicted to these beautiful plant teacher spirits and who approach them in the same manner of questing for an altered state that just further avoids their own ability to just be with themselves? Does this medicine then become a drug? And what of those people using some drugs as medicines and creating stability and real health for themselves with them. Is that even possible? Personally I'm not a fan of synthesised 'drugs' and medications, whether prescribed by the doctor or sold by the dealer, I just don't trust them!
These days I'm as clean as I've ever been and I'm not talking about clean from medicines, drugs or anything else here, I'm talking about food, nutrition, attitude, lifestyle, mindfulness, love, self love and more. At the risk of sounding self righteous, I haven't drunk alcohol for almost a year, not because I'm trying to, but because I don't want to and because my body can't process it any more! I gave up sugar and wheat at the same time, and I'm currently on Raw till 4 (a raw vegan foodie concept of eating only fresh, uncooked and unprocessed foods until 4pm every day to give the body and digestive system a rest). To some this will sound like I'm whipping myself with the denial of pleasure but to me, the pleasure is now well and truly rooted in the sense of health, energy and vitality I feel increasing in me with every single day.
I very recently discovered on my shamanic training, that it is equally possible to enter cathartic and transformative states without the use of any psychotropics at all! This powerful understanding further deepens my commitment to the power of intention and the conscious development of the human spirit and soul. And what is this all for? Not to create further separation but to remember the oneness of life, the absolute truth that everything is connected and everything grows through love and self actualisation and never through fear, ignorance and denial. To discover where true freedom lies and to take root there, to stake my flag on the summit of joy that I know is there, ever accessible, ever present. All I have to do is open my eyes and remember.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin! (For All Our Relations)