This ar­ti­cle is the fourth of a se­ries of ar­ti­cles ex­cerpted with per­mis­sion from The Rebel’s Guide to Re­cov­ery by Jost Sauer and pub­lished by Cen­tre of Dao, Maleny, Aus­tralia. Jost addresses the is­sues in­volved in over­com­ing ad­dic­tion and gives prac­ti­cal

Living Now - - Health & Heal­ing - By Jost Sauer

The aim of most re­cov­ery pro­grams is to take away the sub­stance you abuse and get you back to nor­mal. But tak­ing things away is never the so­lu­tion. Drugs and al­co­hol of­ten pro­vide real sup­port for peo­ple and this needs to be re­placed. As for ‘go­ing back to nor­mal’, once you’ve had the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing ex­traor­di­nary, ‘nor­mal’ is set­ting the bar way too low.

The Daoists would con­sider go­ing back to nor­mal as re­turn­ing to what they call the ‘ac­quired self’. This is the part of your iden­tity that has been con­structed by your up­bring­ing, so­cial­i­sa­tion and the in­put of peers; it is the self formed by so­ci­ety. It is called ‘ac­quired’ be­cause it is some­thing you pick up over time. It is not the real you. The ac­quired self wants to fit in and be like every­one else. The ac­quired self feels wounded by the words or ac­tions of oth­ers; it seeks re­venge; it has judg­men­tal opin­ions; it crit­i­cises politi­cians; it fights with your part­ner or kids; and it wants se­cu­rity – oh so badly.

Your cos­mic self is the real you. It is ac­cept­ing of every­thing and every­one, it has no opin­ion, it un­der­stands the big cos­mic pic­ture, it knows that every­thing you need is within you and that we are all souls on a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery. The cos­mic self knows that we don’t come from so­ci­ety, we come from Dao. Be­ing in touch with your cos­mic self makes you happy.

We are all des­tined to ex­pe­ri­ence this and, as drugs give you a sam­ple of this, it’s no won­der we like drugs so much, no won­der that re­cre­ational drugs are one of the big­gest busi­nesses in the world, and no won­der that be­ing high feels so right. It’s also no won­der that if you quit drugs and just re­turn to nor­mal (to your ac­quired self) you’ll crave drugs.

De­vel­op­ing an ac­quired self is some­thing that hap­pens to every­one and partly be­cause we believe that the ‘ac­quired world’ or or­di­nary re­al­ity is all there is. But it isn’t. Un­der­stand­ing this is crit­i­cal, be­cause you will lose your place in the ac­quired world sooner or later. You might be evicted through your drug use, or by the loss of your job, your pos­ses­sions, your rep­u­ta­tion, your health, your re­la­tion­ships or your so­cial sta­tus. Or when you join the ranks of the el­derly aban­doned in re­tire­ment homes, or other so­cial out­casts. If you don’t know that you have a cos­mic op­tion, life can quickly be­come de­press­ing.

By the time I was 21, I’d been thrown out of col­lege for tak­ing drugs and was liv­ing in the un­der­ground to avoid the mil­i­tary po­lice who were af­ter me for de­ser­tion (Ger­man na­tional ser­vice) and the lo­cal po­lice for, um, other mat­ters. It was only a mat­ter of time un­til I got hauled off to prison. The speed was no longer de­liv­er­ing ex­traor­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ences and, as I thought go­ing back to nor­mal was the only op­tion, I couldn’t see a fu­ture for my­self. I had no idea that I could es­cape mun­dane re­al­ity, have a pur­pose­ful life and con­tinue my cos­mic ad­ven­tures with­out drugs. Never give up your de­sire for cos­mic ad­ven­tures

to nor­mal’. No one ques­tions this goal, but want­ing to go back to nor­mal is like vol­un­tar­ily re­turn­ing to cap­tiv­ity af­ter be­ing set free. Imag­ine the great­est es­cape movie you’ve ever seen where, af­ter the wrongly ac­cused and falsely im­pris­oned hero, who has bat­tled ev­ery in­jus­tice and ob­sta­cle and fi­nally es­caped, sud­denly de­cides to get the bus back to prison. It goes against the nat­u­ral or­der.

Try­ing to re­turn to nor­mal af­ter hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced your true po­ten­tial is equally un­nat­u­ral and it will im­pact neg­a­tively on your spirit. It will lead to a sep­a­ra­tion of yin and yang. If you want to be nor­mal you have to hide your past, be­cause nor­mal peo­ple just don’t do the sort of stuff you did. Not just the ex­ces­sive sex and drugs and il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties, there’s the out­right weird too. Dur­ing the peak of my drug­in­duced delu­sion, for ex­am­ple, I took to dress­ing in robes (which I made my­self) and, ac­com­pa­nied by my trusty goat, Schroeder, (yes, re­ally) went on a very pub­lic mis­sion to save the world.

I’d like to say Schroeder and I did some good, but I don’t think that was the case. Schroeder ended up re­lo­cated to a farm. Think­ing back, if any­one needed the ru­ral re­lo­ca­tion it was me. Schroeder hadn’t even done any drugs, he was just slightly con­fused about his role. I was com­pletely con­fused about mine.

My mes­sianic vi­sions even­tu­ally faded, I put my robes away and may have ap­peared more nor­mal, but there was no way I’d be dis­cussing my mis­sion with Schroeder at sub­ur­ban bar­be­cues. It was ab­nor­mal be­hav­iour by any stan­dards, as was pretty much every­thing I’d done since I was a teenager. So I faked nor­malcy while mak­ing sure no one ever found out the truth about me. Don’t re­turn to cap­tiv­ity af­ter be­ing free adapt­ing an­cient Chi­nese se­crets to health and hap­pi­ness to con­tem­po­rary life. This led to pub­lic lec­tures and book­shop talks. As heavy drug use ac­cel­er­ates the path to ill health and un­hap­pi­ness, I started us­ing my crazy drug ex­pe­ri­ences to il­lus­trate what not to do, and how not to live. It proved an en­ter­tain­ing way to get the mes­sage across and I’d of­ten have au­di­ences laugh­ing up­roar­i­ously. I can con­firm that there’s noth­ing quite as lib­er­at­ing or em­pow­er­ing as let­ting every­one know the truth (as long are you are gen­uinely okay with the truth). It was then that the empti­ness in­side me fi­nally started to fill.

By this time I was run­ning my own health cen­tre; so us­ing my past in this way worked for me per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. If I’d been a bank teller, how­ever, it would have been dif­fer­ent. So I’m not sug­gest­ing you place ads in the lo­cal pa­per re­veal­ing all your deep­est dark­est se­crets and risk freak­ing out your em­ploy­ers or your granny. It is nor­mal to hide things about your­self that you don’t like or think oth­ers won’t like, but ac­cord­ing to the Daoists, we are des­tined to rebel against so­cial norms that en­cour­age fal­sity. All ex-users have an op­por­tu­nity to do this by be­ing true to our­selves, ac­cept­ing every­thing we have done and pur­su­ing the cos­mic self. Use your past to change your fu­ture

don’t know what this means. What most peo­ple con­sider ab­nor­mal has been your nor­mal.

Scoff­ing down my par­ents’ Val­ium when I was 12 felt nor­mal to me. And every­thing I did af­ter that – in­clud­ing mush­rooms, LSD, mesca­line, pey­ote, heroin, am­phet­a­mines, pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions, co­caine, mar­i­juana, hashish, opium and var­i­ous other con­coc­tions – also felt nor­mal. Liv­ing in the un­der­ground was nor­mal, as was smug­gling drugs into jail, and deal­ing drugs. A mo­hawk and mas­cara was nor­mal; sleep­ing dur­ing the day and par­ty­ing all night was nor­mal; tak­ing to the streets with a ten­nis rac­quet to hit smoke bombs back at the cops was nor­mal, and driv­ing around with a goat in the pas­sen­ger seat was nor­mal.

I treat a cross-sec­tion of peo­ple, but I’ve yet to see some­one who was, say, liv­ing a nor­mal life with a spouse and kids in the sub­urbs, who took up a reck­less drug-fu­elled party life­style dur­ing mid­dle age. There prob­a­bly are drug users like this, be­cause there is ev­ery kind of drug user imag­in­able these days. Any­way, some­one like that could have a goal of go­ing back to nor­mal be­cause they know ex­actly what that means. But for the rest of us, say­ing you want to be nor­mal is more likely about you no longer want­ing to be where you are, phys­i­cally or emo­tion­ally.

Life on drugs might be fun to start with, but at some point it tips into be­com­ing stress­ful and then gets more so by the day. The side ef­fects creep up on you, and you’re al­ways watch­ing out for some­one to rip you off or ar­rest you. You’re un­der fi­nan­cial pres­sure, as you need much more money than peo­ple who don’t do drugs, and your phys­i­cal and emo­tional pain con­stantly in­creases. The stress be­comes so un­bear­able you can end up in the truly ab­nor­mal sit­u­a­tion where you take drugs to fan­ta­sise about be­ing nor­mal.

This is based on a mis­taken be­lief that non-drug-us­ing peo­ple live peace­ful, pain-free lives (news flash – they don’t). This be­comes glar­ingly ob­vi­ous when you quit, at­tempt to re­turn to nor­mal and, in­stead of peace and hap­pi­ness, you feel empti­ness and de­pres­sion. In our cul­ture this is con­sid­ered a nor­mal post-drug con­di­tion. But it doesn’t have to be. Rebel against nor­mal ex­pec­ta­tions. Don’t go back to nor­mal, go for­ward into new ter­ri­tory I’ve prob­a­bly not met them be­cause they’re func­tion­ing well. The peo­ple I treat can’t make sense of the nor­mal world, or feel that they don’t be­long there. Just think­ing about an­other day of or­di­nary re­al­ity makes them want to cry.

If you want to go back to nor­mal, give your­self a cou­ple of months af­ter quit­ting to re­bal­ance your sys­tem and you should be there. But if in­ces­sant crav­ings for drugs and a long­ing for in­ten­sity plague you, and if the only time you feel en­gaged and in­spired is re­mem­ber­ing your drug highs, just keep in mind that you can take up the ‘ex­traor­di­nary af­ter drugs’ op­tion at any time. Rebel against all nor­mal ex­pec­ta­tions Born in Ger­many in 1958, and liv­ing in Aus­tralia since 1981, Jost is an ex speed ad­dict, dealer and de­serter, turned drug and al­co­hol coun­sel­lor who then be­came an acupunc­tur­ist. Af­ter lec­tur­ing in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine for a decade and run­ning nu­mer­ous health cen­tres, he de­vel­oped his rev­o­lu­tion­ary re­cov­ery pro­grams and his re­hab pro­gram is now avail­able on the Sun­shine Coast, Aus­tralia.

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