My story as an addict and the events leading up to my years of using are not unusual. My release from the seemingly unrelenting grip and all too deep hook of heroin addiction (as well as a litany of other drugs) is pretty remarkable from the conventional perspective of treatments centers and the 12 step programs. To me, however, it was not totally miraculous, all though the process was powerful enough to be called a miracle. I have been clean now for nearly two years, and have had an accelerated recovery based primarily on my new habits and how they work into the consciousness. I have accelerated my career way passed where it was before, serve a community, have been married now for over 7 months, healed the wounds I inflicted on my family (trust has been earned and continues to be needed to be earned), and most importantly to be able to have all of this, I have found a way to find peace, calmness, happiness, energy, and motivation from within myself unlike previously were I was on a constant search outside of myself.
The story leading to me depending on drugs is a fairly normal one. A difficult and somewhat traumatic childhood of divorced parents, feelings of not belonging based on my parents choice of religion and not being around the same types, single parent raised and the odd adoption of household roles I took on from being raised in a single parent home, and the subsequent search for ways to feel comfortable and at home socially. Late in adolescence I found that drugs and the social groups using them made me feel comfortable and a part of something and the idea that drugs work and buried very deeply and strongly in all the layers of my consciousness. The negative learned behavior parlayed itself into a powerful addiction to narcotics after the death of my mother in 2001 from a painful and long bout of cancer. At this point my past reasons to turning to drugs didn’t matter, the habit had developed and the hook was laid deep. I was a heroin addict. I tried to cope the best I could with a job, a rent to pay, a car to take care of, and that was it; just living it day to day.
On April 17, 2003, I check in to Sierra Tucson (a $1000 a day resort style allopathic medical residential treatment program based on the 12 steps) for what was going to be a 28 day stay. I stayed a little while longer; I guess I was a tough case. There we ate high grade hospital food, received top notch psychological therapy, learned about the ten steps, and wrote aftercare plans. My plan included a three month stay in Florida for aftercare at another similar, but not inpatient treatment center. There we rigorously got into the 12 steps with AA or NA meetings daily, found sponsors, worked the steps, drank lots of coffee, smokes lots of cigarettes and were told that what we needed was a spiritual program. I said, “sure, but I don’t know how to do that, do you?” and the room of the 12 steps unanimously and in unison chimed back, “well, you work the steps.” My cynical mind got worked up and I was in narcotic withdrawal again by New Years Eve 2003.
All the counseling, group therapy, step work, and education on the disease process didn’t mean a thing to me; I never learned any real new habits to find the true me, the true happiness, the real good feelings inside of me that is apart of everything else, too. I subsequently flounder for two and a half years more with periods of state sponsored narcotic maintenance, shooting up, spending my inheritance on living and drugs; just spinning my wheels.
The summer of 2006 I really became ready to stop, but didn’t want what I already did for treatment. I didn’t like the ideas of institutional treatment, I didn’t want the drug heavy mentality of the 12 steps (I’m an addict/alcoholic mantra and constant drug talk). I wanted something a little more real life integrative. I definitely like some of the ideas of conventional treatment like proper nutrition, exercise, the power of a community, etc., but I wanted the next step, too.
I came to the Cleanse on July 24, 2006. I first met with Dr. Kartar and Deva, as well as a group of men with whom I was to stay, on the floor of their Yoga Studio on a Sunday afternoon. They were very open and neutral, but also very confident in their program; I felt supported and challenged at the same time. I started the Cleanse supplement kit, the yoga, the meditations, the diet, exercise program that night and the next day. I entered the program one week off a $80-$100 a day heroin habit and started sleeping soundly the second night, having an appetite again (and really enjoying the healthy food) right away. The acupuncture treatments with Dr. Kartar were more than just needle treatment; he provided the right amount of support and a direct, challenging counseling approach that helped me do it for me. There was so much involved in the program that it is actually hard to recall it all. But it was a true holistic treatment; not in the alternative medicine terminology, but in the fact that I wasn’t given anything. I was provided the opportunity to work hard and the support to make my work fruitful and most importantly the techniques to transport me from hard work to lasting results.
These techniques of healthy diet, exercise, community involvement, and most importantly a daily practice of yoga and meditation changed me on the deepest levels. Instead of being dependent on the outside world and the consumption of things (drugs, food, relationships, etc.) for happiness I found I could feel really good and stable by just going inside myself for awhile. It was nothing weird or foo-foo new-agey junk, but a real set of techniques that provided me with a real ability to change myself and my habits to what I knew best served me.
I now have choice in my attitude everyday. I no longer chase feeling away or try to hold on to them. There is a constant backbone feeling I have of solidity. Sure life happens, there are a lot of stressors and insanity in the world, but I have gained a lot of skills to stay centered. These are the real spiritual principles I have learned. To stay centered, to stay open, to be honest, and to stay connected to the other people in my life and community. Whole Self Recovery taught me how to achieve a lifestyle of habits that keeps these ideals in everyday practice and the results are real, fast, and permanent. There are no holes or gaps to fill on the inside; in fact it is the other way around, there is light and substance pouring into the world from inside of me.
~SNK, Nevada City, CA