You can only control what you are aware of. What you aren’t aware of controls you.
We often find ourselves being pushed around by such things like old habits that we are unaware of, past programming that is no longer relevant or blockages that we have managed to forget about. The only way we can change these old patterns is by first becoming aware of them. That is why raising awareness is at the very core of handling any change you need to do in your life. It is at the very beginning of the process and nothing can be done without it.
If you need to raise your awareness in order to work with change it therefore goes without saying that you should avoid drugs and medicines that numb you and lower your awareness. Common drugs that should be avoided are alcohol, opiates and pharmaceutical antidepressants. Caffeine, nicotine and cannabis are also numbing when used on a daily or close to daily basis. Junk food and sugar are also really bad for awareness.
Things that will raise your awareness include meditation, exercise, mindful sex, good food cooked from scratch, herbs, hugs and playing. This is of course also why psychedelic medicines are such powerful agents of change, because they drastically raise our awareness.
So do you want a tip for a New Year resolution that will help you immensely and that you can always find new ways of being true to? Promise yourself to be more aware this coming year. Instead of focusing in on one specific, such as exercise, see the bigger picture. It all comes down to awareness and you can become more aware in so many different ways. Give yourself a bigger promise this year, and at the same time make it one that you can keep.
After several blog posts where I have explained how profoundly detrimental today’s drug laws are and how legalization could work, it feels important to write something about addiction treatment after such a paradigm shift.
The question is: what kind of addiction treatment do we want to see in the future? But before I go into that, I first want to say something about addiction and addicts.
What is addiction?
I define addiction as something compulsive where the person despite serious negative consequences is not capable of changing their behaviour. Addiction is often surrounded by a lack of awareness about ones problems, or an unwillingness to face them.
Note that such a definition can be applied to very many things in life, not only substances. It is common for people to abuse relationships, sex, games, television or food, just to name a few. It is especially important to emphasize that addiction is never inherent to what is being abused, but is something in the addict him/herself.
When people talk about substance abuse in the public debate, it is easy to get the idea that the substance is the cause of addiction, because as soon as anyone uses an illegal substance they are seen as addicts. That is a profoundly erroneous notion that hinders a sensible understanding and good care. Anyone who has sex is not a sex addict. Similarly, not everyone who smokes cannabis is a drug addict. If there is no compulsive behaviour and serious negative consequences, they are merely using the substance. Sending a cannabis user to treatment is as stupid as treating someone who has a healthy relationship with food for bulimia.
The addiction is always in the person. We relieve addiction by helping people to heal their problems, not by chasing substances. If we manage to remove the substance without solving the underlying problem, then the addiction will simply jump and start using another substance or any other area of life. Then nothing is won, because the process of freeing oneself starts over.
What makes an addict?
One can probably find many features that characterize addicts, but these are two that I have seen in all addicts I’ve met.
Fleeing. Behind the addiction is a fear of meeting something within oneself or in the surrounding. It can often be such things as old traumas, abuse, problematic upbringing, shame or guilt. There may also be a fear of actually being as good as one can be. In such cases the abuse becomes a self-sabotage, which is also a way to flee, even if it is from a situation that is potentially better than the one the person is in.
Loss of control. This is the compulsive aspect that I talked about earlier. The situation has spiralled out of control. However, I think that it is incorrect to say that the drugs or someone else has taken control. All power in a person’s life originates from that person. If anything or anyone else is in power, it is because the person has given it away, but often that is not the case. Instead the power is still there but is not being used. Regardless of which, the long term solution is to rediscover and exercise power in one’s life; that is to reintroduce control.
But moving on to addiction treatment.
I want as many people as possible get the help they need to recover from addiction. That is not happening today. Instead the support that is being given is often contradictory, since society stigmatizes addicts and prevents or even sabotages the recovery process.
Education. The best prevention* that I can think of is to give young people the tools to deal with difficult situations, resolve trauma and rid themselves of such issues that might make them want to flee. We need to start working on personal development, so that we can identify and deal with the reasons why people want to flee from themselves. When there is no longer a need to flee, the fleeing will stop.
Our society works quite differently today. We learn to avoid that which scares us, rather than to face and deal with it. We prefer to distract or sedate ourselves rather than facing the discomfort. Antidepressant medication is a typical example of this, as it puts the lid on the symptoms instead of curing the cause. I’m not saying that antidepressants are never needed. They can be a very valuable emergency response, but the prolonged mass medication that we see today is a direct result of people not having the tools to deal with the unpleasantness that they encounter in life.
Addiction treatment. I want to see addiction treatment that is much more accessible and less stigmatizing than the one we have today. Reaching out for help should be a small step and help should be available to anyone who seeks it. The aim of treatment should primarily be to tackle the root causes of the addiction and since it is a disease it should be financed within the health care system, but should include more methods of treatment than those available today.
* By preventative work I do not mean to discourage people from using substances. I mean to prepare people to face life in such a way that they do not need to use substances to flee from themselves and thereby end up in an addiction.
Main photo: The Help by Marina del Castell on Flickr
This is a four-step model that I have developed for working with personal and spiritual growth. Personally, I feel that it is superior to other models I have found. I feel it is easy to make a more complex model with more steps, in the same way as it is easy to write a long meaningless text. For me the challenge is to find the core and express it as simply as possible. This model is particularly suitable for people who are intuitive and innovative.
All deliberate change begins with us gaining awareness. Without awareness, one cannot begin to work with oneself. As long as you are not aware that you, as an example, have a problem, you can’t make an active choice in how to deal with it. Sometimes awareness comes as a rude awakening. Sometimes you need to work for it. However you achieve it, it is the first stage of any development.
When we become aware that something is in a certain way, we need to accept that it is so. Before we accept that something is a certain way, we can’t start working on it, since we are simultaneously living in denial. Accepting that something is a certain way does not mean we think it’s good or that we want it to be so. It’s only an observation that this is how it is right now.
Some may be tempted to believe that step 1 and 2 are the same thing. They are not. Many who awaken to awareness of past trauma or erroneous behaviours, refuse to accept it when confronted. They go from being aware to trying to repress and/or deny whatever it is. We can’t work on our development from that position, since we are still stuck.
When we are aware and have accepted the situation we can start making changes that will lead us in the direction we want to go. My experience is that when I have managed to do steps 1 and 2, life conspires to show me the way forward. What I need to do is be open and attentive, to receive the tools and challenges that I get.
Some models try to break this step down into detailed points on how to do things. They make a method of it. I rather think that the method is forever changing. In working with personal and spiritual development we often need many different methods, adjusted methods, our own methods, hunches, collapses or divine inspiration. For me it is an intuitive process that requires that I am open to feel what is right for me at this moment.
Many people that forget to be thankful soon forget what they have to be thankful for. So it is good to frequently express gratitude for what we have experienced, and especially the difficult moments. My experience is that I get to a point where all that is left is a memory, a lesson and a thankfulness for what has been. When I have made my way through the entire process, my focus has shifted from what has been lost to what I have found, from what was to what is. In the present and with an understanding of everything I have, I am always thankful.
I think I was 16 at the time. We were having sex when she suddenly told me that she had been unfaithful. I was immediately turned on by the thought that she had been with another and asked her to tell me more, which she did. The details about how she had been to a party, where she followed this older guy to a barn, made me so excited that I had never experienced anything like it.
Then I came.
And then my head turned inside out. Feelings of disgust and shame washed over me. An anger bubbled up in me that led to a fight, but a well-aimed kick to my balls left me curled up on the floor.
After that relationship, I promised myself never again to be the one who loves the most. I promised myself to always put myself first. I built a wall around my emotions, sedated myself with alcohol and even though I had intense loves even after that, there were always parts of myself that were shut down. After a while it all went on autopilot. I had several girlfriends who were unfaithful to me and I ruined relationships by being shut down and egotistical.
I didn’t think much of it all until almost 20 years later, when I came across a particularly tough energy block in the stomach area. At first it was really vague. I went at it with deep meditation, psychedelics, with sex and yoga. It has taken me several years to reach the point where I actually know what it is. It was last year that it really became clear, first in one very important relationship, and then in another. I have clawed at it, massaged, cleared and wished it away. And I have certainly made a lot of progress, but it isn’t completely gone.
It has taken me a long time to get here, but now I know what I need to do to remove it completely.
I need to activate the block, go into the trauma and choose differently. I need to meet up emotionally where 16-year-old Daniel was unable to do so. Enter the trauma and choose differently.
I think I know how it will play out. I need to have a relationship with someone I am deeply in love in. I need to hold her in my arms while she has sex with another. I need to feel turned on and excited, and then I need to come. When I trigger the trauma I need to keep my awareness and set a new reaction pattern to my feelings. I see that I will probably break down and cry, but when I have done so and when I have decided to always be the one who loves the most, I will be free.
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Trauma doesn’t lie in the event itself, but in our reaction to it. Our reaction in the moment of trauma is often unconscious. An extremely effective way to resolve a trauma is to trigger it and then consciously choose another reaction to it.