Want to Be Drug Free? 
It’s Time to Live More Simply

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Something is taking shape in our communities today.  Creeping from the shadows, emerging from the glen, is a cry for an existence much better than the one we’re living in.  It is clear that drugs are becoming our crutch, an excuse to avoid experiencing the trials and tribulations as such.  So below is an entreaty to return to simplicity, one in which much of what we need is available so readily.

Treat your body like the natural wonder it is:  As we have become more enamored with the convenience and cheapness of processed foods, it is clear that nutrition (or lack thereof) is becoming one of the biggest enemies to our health and well-being.  We are seeing this in the prohibitive rates of pediatric obesity, and in the ways that our daily consumption of sodas and junk food are increasingly being tied to all kinds of problems.  Although fat and calories are often blamed for our issues, there is little doubt that one of the biggest culprits is that we have moved away from eating natural foods the way humans did for millennia before. 

Create little narratives of your everyday life: Is there any wonder that some of the greatest, and most well-known writings, were created during the most horrific times human beings have ever known?  Writing has long been an inlet of hope, of sorrow, of petition, and of making sense of life.  It has created tolerable narratives from circumstances that were anything but tolerable.  So, we shouldn’t be surprised that a huge body of research finds that expressive writing improves anything from anxiety to absenteeism to lung functioning to recovery from trauma. 

Never stop moving:  You want something that can reduce depression and anxiety without the marketing hype, and the side effect low? When it comes to exercise, it seems this is just the beginning.  Whether a buffer against dementia or a prescription for almost every physical recovery plan, exercise remains as good of a stress reliever as we have ever had.  The best part—it comes freely (with insertion of effort) and in an infinite number of forms, in all climates and all seasons.  It appears that we really were born to run, or at least move, after all. 

Doing for others as thy self:  The research on helping others has consistently shown that the helper often receives as much as those who are helping, in the form of improved well-being, decrease risk taking, and greater social integration.  When we realize that we matter to others, our focus begins to shift from a life of hedonics to one of eudaimonia.  As Emerson once said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no person can sincerely help another without helping himself.”

Time to head back to the woods:  Seeping from the four walls of our children’s confine is an emerging truth.  There was something more about the outdoors than just the branches and streams near where we once played.  Evidence increasingly suggests that there is a life-giving presence that we cannot find indoors, one that requires us to return to a more primal existence with soil beneath our feet.  Deep in the forest, a presence beckons us to consider that we were made from dust, and to dust we must return. 

Free the bedroom and our sleep:  There was a time not long ago when our sleep was controlled by the setting sun and our tired bones.  But as this century has seen us cut our sleep by one-fifth, and turn our bedrooms (and that of our kids) into entertainment zones, the message we are sending is clear:  sleep be gone.  There is one problem.  Our bodies are revolting and our minds are organizing a coup d’état, and it is only a matter of time before the great sleep recession will leave us in our wake unless we reclaim the value it once had. 

Pursue the path of silence:  In our silence, we perceive ourselves honestly, whether in sheer horror or unbridled jubilation or simple mundanity.  As Khalil Gibran once said, “Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you sing.”  Whether silence occurs in the promise of mindfulness or in the contemplation of daily Mass, or in the pitch black backyard at the end of an otherwise dreary week, we must harken to the message that silence sends, and not shy from its admonitions and its praise.  In a world where media and technology cause us stress, there comes a time each day when the ear buds must be removed, the television is shut off, and the noise becomes a memory gone past. 

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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17 COMMENTS

    • Hi B, thanks as always for your interest and kind words. I think you bring up an interesting line of discussion in regards to potential solutions and SES issues. Certain challenges, like the limited presence of grocery stores in inner city areas – and the reduced amount of produce in grocery stores that exist in these areas – are definitely a concern. I know that green spaces are not as readily available, although even in our city (which I would not consider progressive in this area), there are increasing numbers of trails and parks that are close to all areas. As far as exercise and silence, I know worries about safety and noise pollution/neighborhood environment can cause challenges and deter some.

      However, I would love to hear your thoughts more on this. Despite these challenges, I do still feel that all of these are available in some form for any person who really seeks them, even though something for one may look alot different than the other even though the underlying practice or solution still involves the same pursuit.

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      • They are and yet they aren’t. If you have to survive and feed yourself on something that can either be healthy and have you starving for most of the day or feel yourself up with cheap unhealthy junk – what are you going to do? If you’re working 2-3 jobs in order to afford the most basic necessities (not mentioning, god forbid, you may have dependents you have to provide for) – when is you time to go out to do sports or enjoy nature? There is a reason why poverty is one of the biggest if not THE biggest factors influencing both mental and physical heath. And these are also exactly the people who end up on a chemical fix, which is not really a fix but may either keep them going (and working their a*** off for no pay) for additional few years, or end up on the dump site of society – unemployment money, disability, homeless, etc. where the only “help” they get is the one which only “helps” others to make a buck of their misery.

        In other words: there needs to be a revolution. No justice no peace.

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        • B, tough issues you bring up for sure. No doubt there is a strong connection between mental/physical health and poverty; the question that always looms with me is what are the factors that mediate and moderate this link. As you described, the logistics alone of poverty can make it more challenging to carve out the time, place, or $ to seek out a more healthy existence. And yet, I wonder whether those in poverty today face the same challenges that exists generations before. Ironically, it seems that poverty of a 100 years ago was met with more silence, more required activity (just to make a livelihood), more connections with others (just to stay afloat or alive), simpler diet, etc…For many today, poverty is a more sedentary, disconnected, louder, unhealthy existence – not all, of course, but for some. Although generations have always dealt with the same fundamental problem (i.e., lack of adequate resources), I worry that many of the families I meet today are also struggling with a more fundamental problem — that being, a complete disconnection from their core selves – physically, social, psychologically, and spiritually. This, even more than poverty, seems to be leaving them immobilized.

          Anyway, just musings on the topic, and no easy answers, but without a doubt, every good revolution starts from within.

          Appreciate your interest.

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          • I think one more factor which was not present for a long part of human history was social isolation. This came with the dawn of industrialization and atomisation of societies. Now we live in big cities with many more people but in fact our real communities are small and connection to others weak.

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  1. What a pleasure to read this, James, soothing and calming in and of itself. To me, you hit it out of the park, here, and you describe the most vital shifts which I, personally, made in order to heal as I did, mind/body/spirit integral approach to health and well-being.

    Although, I had to break a lot of thought and reactive habits, and question my beliefs, in order to embody these new practices. Lots of internal shifts happen when we address core lifestyle changes. I think it’s win/win, though, leads to good integral healing and evolution. Everyone around us prospers when we take care of ourselves this way.

    My time crawling through disability was in the heart of San Francisco, for over a decade. I healed a lot there and grew in awareness, but it was a relatively low ceiling in that chaos, staying there meant shrinking into a box by this point, which of course, was unacceptable. By desire, focus, and a few miracles from trusting the process, we had the opportunity to move to a rural Redwoods town in N. Cal, and my backyard is now a Redwood forest. Can’t even describe adequately the impact of this on my life and health. I went from non-stop mind and heart stress to grounding and inner calm, eventually, after I did some self-healing to catch up with myself. It was a quantum leap.

    Sleep is a gift now, among others that continue to grace us, thanks to the ease I experience now. Simple self-care does go a long way. I don’t own a car by choice, I’m addicted to walking, gets me anywhere I want in town. No car issues, gas, insurance, etc, and I stay fit and healthy to boot.

    Keeping it simple is freeing, so much less daily stress, and gives us breathing space as well as creative space. I’m able to create a lot now, because my mind is not tied up with chatter and loops, as it had been almost exclusively for a while.

    I hope I support well your missives! I do believe in them heartily, and can personally attest to their highly fruitful results in how they greatly improve the quality of our lives, under any circumstances.

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    • Hi Alex, what a wonderful illustration of these ideas put into practice. I must admit some envy at the fact that you have a Redwood forest out your back door. Years ago, my brother and I went to Yosemite and first laid eyes on the giant Sequoias – to this day, I can remember (but not articulate well) the unbelievable gratitude and synergy I felt with these thousand year old giants. It warmed my heart beyond belief, and although I already considered myself as someone who wanted to protect the environment for future generations, standing next to those trees just solidified at how important it is that we do this, not just for future generations, but also to maintain a sense of real continuity in our world from times harkened past to who we and our planet will become. Again, really hard to describe, but very easy to feel when you are there.

      Thanks for reminding me.

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      • That is exactly the feeling–“unbelievable gratitude and synergy” says it. I can look up now and see them from my office window, so that is my constant state now (give or take my human moments of anxiety). I call them ‘my healers.’

        What you say about this feeling state is so vital, from what I’ve discovered. When we focus on that which brings us these feelings of intense gratitude and connection with all that is (via nature, especially), this influences our reality exponentially. In energy work, we learn exactly how it is that we actually CREATE (manifest) from this feeling. It is a ‘vibration’ called gratitude, an energy level with specific wavelengths as frequency, and from it, we create and slowly unfold a reality for which we are grateful. That’s the internal change I experienced which led to the rest. Thought I’d throw that in, to finish the story.

        Your work always inspires me, James!

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  2. I completely agree, James. What saved me was:

    1. Treat your body like the natural wonder it is – cooking healthy foods for my family.
    2. Create little narratives of your everyday life – Keeping a journal as I was being weaned from an iatrogenic hell helped me to keep the psychotomimetic voices at bay. And painting was a wonderful outlet for me as I was being sent into that iatrogenic hell, as well as being weaned from it. I’m certain all creative outlets are beneficial.
    3. Never stop moving – I refused to quit my regular hour of biking, despite psychiatric claims this was a “sign of mania.” Even while having “bipolar” symptoms iatrogenically created via massive neuroleptic tranquilization, resulting in the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome.
    4. Doing for others as thy self – I also did not take psychological advise to “eliminate activities,” since volunteering with others to help children also helped me keep the incessant, psychotomimetic voices at bay.
    5. Time to head back to the woods – I thankfully lived in a house on a wooded hill, with a stream flowing down it, and found great solace in untold hours of gardening.
    6. Free the bedroom and our sleep – Thankfully, I never had trouble sleeping, to the contrary, the neuroleptics make one sleep too much. But it was somewhat nice when my husband started sleeping in a different room, since he liked to sleep with the TV on, and I did not.
    7. Pursue the path of silence – Thankfully, since my “psychosis” and “voices” were completely caused by the neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication, once I was finally weaned off them, I was able to achieve peace of mind again. Except, I’m heartbroken that so many children have been turned into bipolar / schizophrenics via the exact same iatrogenic pathway, as was I.
    8. Trust in God – I found trusting in God’s love, goodness, and ability to heal was of paramount importance to me personally. I’m so sorry so many within the psychiatric industry believe belief in the “Holy Spirit” and “God” is proof a person is “delusional” or “psychotic.” Especially since torturing people for belief in God is actually illegal in the US, and denial of the Holy Spirit is actually the one and only unforgivable sin in the entire Holy Bible.

    I hope all within the medical community will some day learn about these common sense ways of healing. And that the antidepressants and ADHD drugs can cause the bipolar symptoms. And the neuroleptics can cause psychosis:

    “neuroleptics … may result in … the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome … Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

    So, treating all psychosis with neuroleptics is stupid.

    Thank God I escaped the iatrogenic insanity of today’s psychiatric system. And perhaps I’ve found the unrepentant hypocrites Dante claimed belonged in the lowest depth of hell? And the reason Jesus claimed he will be coming back for a judgement day, not a free forgiveness day? Who knows? But I hope the medical community wakes up soon and realizes their “dirty little secret” way of covering up easily recognized iatrogenesis and child abuse isn’t so classy, and may not actually be wise or clever, after all.

    Thanks, as always, for you common sense recommendations on healing, James.

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    • What a great list and illustration of how these ideas are put into practice. And, of course, pursuing the path of silence often leads one to God (as do many other pathways), and a deeper level of faith that makes all the difference. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in.

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