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Title: Cleaning Yourself Up: A Guide to Getting Your Head (& Heart, Body & Soul) Together for People Who Are Becoming Chemically Independent
Author: Jim Parker
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: April 2002
Catalog Number: 135


..Chemical Consciousness and the Upside’s
Downside

What goes up
must come down. It’s a basic law of physics. We call it gravity,
but the principle extends further than simply explaining why
apples fall down.

It also describes
what happens to people when they pump themselves up with chemicals:
Eventually, they come down, too.

It’s the First
Law of Chemical Consciousness — the old rebound principle. And
it holds true no matter what your favorite psychoactive substance
is — or used to be. Coffee or cocaine, alcohol or LSD, sooner
or later you come down.

And when you
do, you’ll notice that the First Law has a corollary: The higher
you go, the further you fall. That means that once you do come
down, you usually end up lower than when you started.

What do you
do about it after the fact? Well, a first impulse may be to use
more of the chemical you started with (or even a different one)
to get back up (or down) to where you started from. That’s one
option.

Of course,
that ultimately leaves you even further down — or further up
(or off) the wall, if you’ve been climbing one lately.

The other option
is to stop the cycle completely. It’s trickier, since it involves
effort and patience on your part and requires putting up with
feeling down long enough to let your body re-center itself. But
it can be done.

That’s where
we come in.

In this pamphlet,
we’ll talk about ways of breaking out of the chemical-dependency
trap and discuss techniques that can make the withdrawal process
easier on your body and mind.

Because even
though time is a factor in freeing yourself from chemicals, a
lot can be done to cut that time to a minimum, and get you back
on your feet again — one day and one step at a time.


..Body | Mind 101

Mind and body
are inseparable parts of the same basic unit; what happens to
one automatically affects the other.

That means
that getting back to where you want to be will require paying
attention to the needs of both.

Once you’ve
gotten over your immediate reliance on drugs and/or alcohol (and
you really do have to begin there), start with a general cleaning-up
program, like the one outlined below.

It’s designed
to give your body what it really needs — exercise, nutrition,
and rest — rather than the chemical substitutes you’ve been
using as your personal gun, whip, and chair.


..Nutrition

Poor nutrition
doesn’t just cause poor physical health. Moodiness, irritability,
restlessness, fatigue, and many other “emotional” problems
are often directly linked to poor nutrition.

So if you’re
not eating well, all you’re eating is calories — and potential
problems.

But what does
“eating well” mean? It means eating the same stuff
that your mom probably tried to get you to eat a long time ago:
Veggies and fresh fruits and grains.

While you’re
at it, you might want to avoid heavily-processed foods and anything
that contains ingredients you can’t pronounce or spell, like
polysorbate-60 or calcium disodium edta (whatever that is).

Also, cut back
on caffeine and sugar, since they’re both almost guaranteed to
kick in cravings for whatever you’re trying to clear out of your
system.

Since chemical
use tends to deplete vitamins and minerals in the body (especially
the B vitamins), supplements are also a great idea.

It’s a tricky
subject, though, since all vitamins aren’t the same. Some —
like vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins — are water-soluble,
so your body only uses what it needs and excretes the rest.

Other vitamins,
though, are fat-soluble (such as A, D and E), and can build up
to harmful levels in the body.

If you want
to know more, contact a nutritionist or ask someone knowledgeable
at a local health-food store.

Remember, though:
Everyone has an opinion about nutrition, and what works for someone
else (alfalfa sprouts on carob-chip Tofuti?) may not work for
you.

So listen to
your body. And if you don’t feel your absolute best (both physically
and mentally), listen some more. There’s still room for improvement.


..Sleep

Good-old, made-in-the-shade
sleep is another key element in any body-cleansing program.

There’s just
no substitute for the rest and revitalization that sleep can
provide. It’ll help you adjust psychologically to the changes
you’re going through and reduce feelings of burnout in the bargain.

So if you really
want to be responsible for yourself — and you’re serious about
staying off whatever you’ve been on — start giving your body
the natural sleep it needs.

If insomnia’s
a problem — and it often is for cleaning-yourself-up people
— check out the section on exercise at left.

Here’s why:
Sleep disturbances become a lot less of a problem for people
who are committed to doing whatever it takes to handle them.
You’ll be surprised, for example, at how easy it is to fall asleep
once you commit yourself to a serious jogging or aerobics program.

And besides,
what self-respecting ex-dope fiend or alcoholic would want to
waste all those free endorphins?


..Body | Mind 201

The second
step in recovery involves “re-centering” the mind and
emotions to break the habits that contributed to your dependency.

This process
can involve taking up almost anything from meditation to mah-jong,
but it ultimately requires breaking habits of the past that have
kept you from fully enjoying the present without a chemical crutch.

As you’ve realized
by now, chemicals don’t “solve” problems. What they
do is insulate us from problems — which may feel nice for a
while, but which rarely resolves anything. By managing problems
with chemicals we forget other, more effective ways of dealing
with them.

Now, you’re
going to have to teach yourself all over again. And the best
— and possibly the most all-encompassing — place to start is
learning to manage stress.


..Stress

One of the
biggest reasons any of us ever had for self-medicating with drugs
and alcohol is something we all still have to deal with: simple
tension.

It’s usually
one of the biggest pieces of excess baggage that recovering people
carry around, and something each of us needs to unpack in one
way or another, sooner or later.

The big question
for most newly clean-and-sober people is this: How do you start
unstressing when you’re an expert at dis-stressing?

For starters,
you need to learn to identify tension and beat it to the punch.
Then, if you’ve gotten used to clobbering it with something pharmacological
(say, a six-pack or a joint after work), find a new way.

You might try
something as simple as taking a shower, for example, or learn
a meditation technique.

Don’t know
any? Then check out the box below. It describes a stripped-down,
no-frills approach to meditation that answers another age-old
question about the mind: How do you turn the damn thing off?

Just remember
— the ability to cool yourself out psycho-emotionally (whether
through meditation or not) is like everything else: Practice
makes perfect.


..New Directions

If you’re newly
drug-free, we have good news and bad news about your life: It’s
yours again.

Now, all you
have to do is make it worth living.

How? The details
are up to you, but it’s probably going to involve change, and
it might not be fast or easy. But, it is worth it.

Because even
though change can look more threatening than the everyday grind
(no matter how monotonous and frustrating the everyday grind
may seem sometimes), it’s part of life.

And if you
stop and think about it, you may realize that the best,
most exciting, most gratifying fun times in your life involved
the most change — and often, serious change.

So go out and
try something new — aerobics or aikido, web-surfing or white-water
rafting — whatever looks like it may help you connect with the
future you want to live.

If you look
hard enough, you’ll see alternatives to an unhappy, stuck, chemically-dependent
life everywhere.

In case you’d
forgotten, you’re a unique person who’s perfectly designed to
go out into the world and discover what you need — and what
needs doing.

Now all you
have to do is go out there and do it.


..Sidebar 1 | Running from Problems

Along with
proper nutrition, exercise does a lot to tone the body and tune
the spirit.

Because not
only does sustained activity improve physical fitness, it also
triggers a surge in the body’s production of endorphins, the
chemical messengers that act in the brain to increase positive
feelings and reduce stress.

You might have
heard about endorphins as the basis for the so-called “runner’s
high.”

It’s not hype.
Runners do report an expanded sense of well-being after a run.

But increased
endorphin levels have been linked to activities other than running.
In fact, recent research shows that any intense physical exercise
can trigger the same response.

That means
that swimming, walking, or almost anything else that gets the
heart thumping and the muscles pumping can inspire a major uplift
in mood and outlook.

Try it — even
if you don’t really feel like it.

After all,
you’ve been doing what you feel like all along. And look where
it’s got you.


..Sidebar 2 | The 15-Minute Meditator

One of the most up-to-the-minute
methods for beating stress happens to be one of the oldest. It’s
meditation, and in recent years, it’s been dusted off and demystified
and studied in depth by researchers, who consider it one of the
best tools for managing everyday tension and anxiety.

Learning to
meditate has never been easier, either. One researcher, Herbert
W. Benson of the Harvard Medical School, offers an introduction
to the basic elements of meditation in his book, The Relaxation
Response. According to Dr. Benson, all you need to do is follow
these main points:

  • Find a quiet
    place where you won’t be disturbed for 15 minutes or so.
  • Close your
    eyes and relax all the muscles in your body.
  • Focus your
    attention on your breathing, and silently repeat the word “one”
    (or another single-syllable word, such as “calm”) each
    time you exhale.
  • When thoughts
    intrude, simply return your focus to the word “one”
    as you exhale.
  • Don’t push.
    The goal is to temporarily turn off the flood of thoughts, judgments,
    and interpretations that flow through our minds. And while that’s
    the goal, don’t realistically expect to do it for more than a
    few seconds at a time any time soon.

Still, if you try it, stick with
it. Benson recommends a twice-a-day schedule (mornings and early
evenings work best for most people) if you want to get good at
it — and get the full range of physical and psychological benefits
linked to it.


This is one in a series of publications
on drugs, behavior, and health by Do It Now Foundation.
Please call or write for a complete list of available titles,
or check us out online at
www.doitnow.org.


 

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