By 2013 almost 25 million Americans were using illegal drugs habitually, according to the statistics of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Over 5 million of these admit to being addicted to heroin, cocaine or prescription drugs.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that just over 17.6 million people suffer from alcohol abuse. Over 70% of Americans now have food addictions, which has led to the worst obesity problem in history. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states that almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression, and that 30 million people of all ages and genders in the US suffer from an eating disorder.
We have a substance abuse problem in our country that is becoming almost insurmountable. Whatever the addiction, the root cause is anxiety. So why is everyone so anxious? We have more diversions than ever before for our minds and senses, yet nobody seems to be happy or satisfied just being alive. At the end of the day we can cite endless reasons for society driving us to the edge with pressures to become somebody, or the endless quest for money and power.
Everyone’s got their story of what circumstances and events started them down the road to ruin, whether it’s heroin addiction, alcoholism or pharmaceutical drugs. Yet even with other addictions like food there is a systematic breakdown of our inner self worth. We stop respecting ourselves, so we just stop caring. And there lies the greatest danger, as now we have become unhappy just being ourselves.
So we try to fill a void, be it with drugs, alcohol or something else to fill up that chasm of emptiness we feel in our hearts. In the beginning we hide it, but eventually we can’t. Our addictions become so unmanageable that we break down, both physically and mentally. Never mind we are risking an early death by poisoning ourselves, dying from an overdose or risking an incurable communicable disease. We’re out of control. If we wake up to that fact in time, then we try to get some help. There are innumerable drug and alcohol detox clinics and rehabilitation programs in practically every city in this country.
But how do we change that gnawing feeling inside our hearts that caused us to head down that treacherous road in the first place? You know, that feeling of “something’s wrong or missing, but I just can’t put my finger on it?” The world seems so crazy today that practically everyone has had some kind of trauma in life. We can’t just say, “get over it, stand tall or stop being a baby!” to someone that’s hurting inside. Whether that’s occasional anxiety that makes us need a drink or a hit to mellow out, or has grown to a state of depression, eventually we have to address our problems. That is if we want to live some kind of a meaningful life. And most of us do.
No child ever says they want to be a drug addict or alcoholic when they grow up. We imagine our futures, our successes and the possibilities in our youth. But somewhere along the way we got lost. Life somehow lost its meaning, its joy and we ceased to care about anything…except for feeding our addiction, swiftly hurtling us to a certain untimely death.
So we go to rehab, detox and maybe afterwards go to a 12-step program, anything to try to give us a fighting chance of having choices in life! But it’s like a rollercoaster. One day we feel strong and determined, impervious to the previously all-encompassing urge to get stoned in order to feel good again. But the next day we’re dragging, our mind’s screaming at us, “go ahead! Just one. You know you need it!” And as all addicts experience, you relapse. Maybe for a day, a month, a year or maybe you become terminally ill, go to prison or die…before you finally decide, once and for all, that you have to get your life together.
In my life I had finally hit the bottom when I began to wake up. But what I awakened to was a hell worse than I had ever imagined. Shackled in large rusty leg chains and confined to a 4X6X4 foot underground dungeon in a Thailand prison, bleeding from serious head and body wounds after being beaten to a pulp, I awoke to the hell of my own making.
I’d been a spiritual seeker for many years and thought I’d raised myself to a higher level of consciousness. So what happened? How did I go so wrong to end up in this condition? I began to contemplate my life, from my earliest memories, all the way through to where I found myself at that moment. Day after day, month after month, I did nothing but contemplate my life, finally developing a process of meditation that eventually let me see the shocking truth, the reality that had become my existence, but from a third party sense. It was my life, but I was able to look at it from another’s perspective. No good running any longer, cause you will never outrun the addicted mind.
There is a far better way. It begins by simply becoming a bit philosophical about life. Utilizing a process that will integrate our minds and bodies together. One that gently teaches us discipline, determination and inner confidence. The age-old system of yoga does just that. When we are open to finding real spiritual answers, only then might we find our true inner heart. It is said that within the heart resides the soul, which goes with us from one life to the next, retaining the innumerable impressions and memories of uncountable lives lived in this world. These days so many of us bristle at the mention of God, or an alternate spiritual reality, but this is a natural reaction to what we view as fundamentalist fanaticism, or dogmatic guilt-driven religion. But to be a complete and whole human being we cannot deny our inner nature of consciousness. Isn’t that what we really are, units of consciousness as averse to being just a bag of flesh, bones, skin, and blood with a brain delivering electrical impulses? Take a minute and think about it.
Still, if one religion, or another, works for you, actually opens your heart, that’s wonderful. But many of today’s younger generations are not accepting belief, or faith based religion as readily as some of their parents did. We aren’t afraid to ask questions, to stretch the boundaries of spiritual thought, or to express doubts. How else do we seek and ultimately find answers to our dilemma of birth and death in this world, besides whatever crap we have to endure in between? Every religion or spiritual order always has two distinct divisions. One is dogmatic, and threatens great pain and suffering if we don’t adhere to a particular lifestyle, or pledge allegiance to one savior above all others. The other is mystical, offering the means to experience a spiritual transformation within our hearts, something that transcends the illusions of thinking we belong to a particular land or race. On that note, every yoga center should have a daily class and meeting for recovering addicts.
This mystical path, known to seers and mystics of all religions and lands, is what I call the Yoga of Self Discovery. For those of us who have fallen into the hell of substance abuse, it becomes the Yoga of Recovery. First we have to be honest with ourselves…and that takes a lot of courage. We have to stop thinking of ourselves in terms of being an actor, or being a lawyer, or a mechanic, or a doctor, or whatever you do for money, fame, etc. Something was wrong with the way we were living obviously. If I want to change the way my mind works then it only makes sense that I have to do it from the inside out.
We can keep going to rehab, or pretending we can deal with things on our own terms, but for most addicts rehab centers have a revolving door. We keep trying to get our lives back, but what we have to realize is that we need a new life, a new philosophy of living and a mission that motivates us. All of us seek pleasure in life, and we all try to avoid pain and suffering as much as we possibly can. Life is about how we feel. Isn’t it? You can have all the money in the world, but if you’re unhappy, life is tragic. In the cycle of addiction a person tries to get away from them selves, as if they want to become Unconscious.
So if you’re one of the millions of people stuck on this merry-go-round, or you have signs that you’re on the way to being there, you owe it to yourself, to the dreams and aspirations of your youth, to find a better way. It’s time to find and develop the new inner you. That’s what happens when rehab becomes the yoga of recovery, a union of mind, body and spirit. We seek real answers, and in doing so find the most important thing of all… that in the peace and serenity of knowing and loving that bright internal divine light, your inner self, you become who you really are and who you were meant to be all along.
“I bow to the divine in you”.
Author, Spiritual Teacher, Counselor and Motivational Speaker
Howard had authored books in the field of energetic healing and well-being. He draws his knowledge from years spent in India and Asia where happiness is considered to dwell deep within our inner consciousness, once tapped into to, this allows us to resolve stress and conflict within and without.
His newest book Tempting the Devil in the Name of God…The Heavy Hand of Fate shares his difficult journey to find that illusive peace of mind.
First published on LA Story online magazine. December 2015