now blogging at Black Dog Barking

Hello dear reader,

I have set up another blog where i’ll be making updates from now on: i decided (somewhat on a whim) to ride a bicycle around Australia to raise awareness of depression, anxiety and addiction. You can follow the adventure at Black Dog Barking, and i would really love to see you there: the more the merrier, and the louder the din we make about this epidemic of psychological (and spiritual) ill-being, the better.

Much love,

Ryan Bodhi Abhijan (Bodhi)

love is the cure for addiction

I came across this Huffington Post article about addiction the other day, shared on Facebook by Australia 21, which appears to be a progressive think-tank.

Whatever they are is irrelevant — they shared this article about addiction and it was a real game-changer for me, an addict.

It is a game-changer for me because the author, Johann Hari, puts forward a theory that explains in words a feeling i have long had (as an addict) about addiction being a symptom of our culture, rather than drugs being a cause of addiction. I mean addiction causes problems, sure, but ignoring the causes of addiction is a problem in itself.

Common sense, no?

This article gives me much hope that we are moving toward greater understanding — of ourselves, and of what Western so-called civilisation is missing to such an extent we are all addicted to something.

What we are missing is access to spiritual succour, to love — connection to each other, and to nature. We can change this, because we are becoming aware of it. So there is much hope for much love. Yes yes yes!

Below are some exceprts from the article that really resonated with me.

This new theory is such a radical assault on what we have been told that it felt like it could not be true. But the more scientists I interviewed, and the more I looked at their studies, the more I discovered things that don’t seem to make sense — unless you take account of this new approach.

In the article he describes how rats left alone in a cage with only heroin for company will consume the heroin until they die. Because they are lonely and heroin is their only friend. Put rats in cage with heroin among other things to play with, including each other, and the heroin loses its persuasive power.

They actually did this. The heroin-laced playground was called Rat Park, and Johann Hari makes a good analogy between the isolated rats in a cage and the way many of us conduct our lives in the West — alone, isolated from one another and nature, driven by the lie we’ve been told about the invisible hand of self-interest:

Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.

By identifying that our lack of connection is a major cause of addiction, we can see:

we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

We are addicts because we are lonely, and sometimes it seems that drugs are our only friend. We need something like Rat Park — the Garden City movement is an interesting place to look if you’re interested in how we might recreate a human-size version.

Detractors of this theory will pull out the chemical-addiction card, saying shit like “It’s not our/society’s fault — these junkies chose to inject chemicals and now they’re hooked.” Like i suspected, this argument is probably Bullshit:

Are these scientists saying chemical hooks make no difference? It was explained to me — you can become addicted to gambling, and nobody thinks you inject a pack of cards into your veins. You can have all the addiction, and none of the chemical hooks.

I like a good, open-minded qualifier in an argument, so i was heartened to read on:

the story we have been taught about The Cause of Addiction lying with chemical hooks is, in fact, real, but only a minor part of a much bigger picture.

After describing a decriminalistion case in Portugal, he says:

They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them — to their own feelings, and to the wider society.

At this point i’m thinking, Der. Demonise drug addicts by arresting them and throwing them into cells with each other, where they will learn to be yet-more-ruthless drug criminals because they are isolated from a loving society: nice one, the West.

Instead,

we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live — constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander — the creator of Rat Park — told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery — how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

And finally, as if that were not profound enough, the conclusion of this article is so beautiful. But have a look — i don’t want to spoil it for you.

 

dawn-time dawnings: i’m writing a memoir!

I think I really am actually writing a coming-of-age memoir. I’m coming of age, I know that much. And I’m writing about it. Bloody oath I’m writing about – I can’t friggen stop writing about it. Some friends are telling me I need to get out of my mind, away from the computer – and what?, into their car!? No way Jose. I’m on my own trip, and today I’m fucking thrilled about it. Yesterday and the days before that? Not so much. Tomorrow? Who knows. But today I’m really actually writing a memoir. I wrote down a summary as a potential pitch recently, when i got excited about an unsolicited email from an agent. But now i can’t find it, which is good – it’s the sort of thing that should be written and re-written from scratch, even as an exercise for writing the actual damn thing. It was something like:

High-school suburban stoner makes it good in publishing before growing disillusioned with the industry and the whole entire industrialised West, heads to Thailand in pursuit of peace, returns an alcoholic, has a nervous breakdown, finds God, travels to Turkey thinking he’s got this peace thing under control, does a lot of hardcore meditation but returns to alcoholism nonetheless, returns to Australia, has another breakdown, catches up with God again and decides to share his story.

Something like that. If i rewrite it every day as i approach the idea of thinking about maybe extracting these Adventures in Sobriety posts and developing them into a manuscript, maybe in ten years i’ll have the concept distilled enough to fit it on a blurb that people might actually care to understand.

The summary i wrote for the agent was a lot more succinct and far less sarcastic and it sounded like a cliché, but whatever.

I have long maintained that clichés are clichés for a bloody good reason – when enough people can relate to an idea easily expressed by some phrase, story or experience, it can become cliché. Cliché gets a bad wrap among the over-educated arts elite, because there is this obessesion with originality – as though using cliché is somehow shamefully derivative. Not necessarily – it’s not the nature of the boat, it’s how you use it. I’m not sure if that really works, but you get the idea.

My superego gets in the way sometimes, suggesting I can’t tell stories for shit and who would care about my story anyway. But then my ego chips and says, Abhijan, you’re fucking awesome! Write this memoir and share it with whoever will listen. Your story is great – you’re a fucking trooper.

I don’t really care what either of them have to say. I’m going with my gut. I’m going with feeling on this one. And right now, the hours I spend sitting down at my journal getting longhanded with my story – they are the most peaceful hours I get, at a time when my life is in a seemingly constant state of upheavel and change.

So that’s what Adventures in Sobriety is about for now. All of the above.

I worry sometimes about whether putting this all up online is a kind of narcissistic exercise – a cry for help, a plea for attention. But right now I don’t care about that either – in one sense because i actually don’t care, but in another: i bloody do need help. Help!, i’m a drunk and a stoner.

But also it’s a cathartic process for me, and I’m arriving at insights I might never have arrived at if I hadn’t been scribbling away at this. So telling the story is as much for me as it might be for you. Of course I’m keen to hear if it resonates with you – that would be grand. We can learn from each other in sharing our stories. So bring it. Yes, I’m looking at you!

introducing Day Four, The Return of Vision | Adventures in Sobriety

I have published the entry for Day Four in the series Adventures in Sobriety.

Day Four saw me make an oxymoron of myself by applauding “vision” in a post where i “accidentally” conduct a tirade against time. It is one of those long and sprawling posts, written under the weight of what felt like a hangover but was presumably actually withdrawals, which I guess are what hangovers are anyway.

Two months into this adventure I see that some of the inexplicable emotional pain I feel at times is probably the withdrawals from half a life spent on one ‘soft’ drug or another. I’m crying a lot lately – allowing myself to cry. They are old tears, unattached to any event in the present. And the feel good. Highly recommended.

Meanwhile, Day Four.

introducing Adventures in Sobriety

my face - happy, no?

my face – happy, no?

This is my face. In Turkey. It was around this time that i stepped onto the slippery slop that eventually became the spiral that fell into the despair of a three-month long rum and pot binge. I am only now beginning to face up to the fact i have some rather serious addiction issues. See me! Quite the happy chappy, apparently. Well, looks can be deceiving. Please be aware that your friends might not be as happy as they appear, and be gentle. I started this series of posts called Adventures in Sobriety, but then i got high. But then i got clean again.

It is from this place of sobriety + self-love that i begin to share my journey into sobriety and well-being with you, my beloved friends. I have a lot more of this in my journal, which I will type and publish when I feel able to do so. Thank you for all your love and patience over the years. I’m getting better through self-healing, and I love you all.

*weeps with relief*

getting home drunk

Trawling my journal this morning in search of anything approximating coherent, linear, sensical longhand narrative, i came across this, which could be an aphorism:

One of the fundamental things i know about getting home is it’s hard to do so when you’re drunk.

Insightful, no?

It goes on:

It’s fun to zig-zag your way around the streets when you’re 20-something, but as you enter the 30s you realise it’s lonely and cold outside, where you’ll most likely wind up if you don’t sober up and get home.

Day Four, The Return of Vision

Tuesday 27 January
Renmark, South Australian

Day Four of my Adventures in Sobriety series, in which I make an oxymoron of myself by applauding “vision” in a post where i “accidentally” conduct a tirade against time.

the-persistence-of-memory-1931

Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”, which I had hung in my room as a teenager and only just now realised is entirely appropriate for this post. At the time I just thought it was cool because I was a stoner, but maybe it came into my life at that time for a reason.

I can’t sleep. I haven’t tried, but i know. I’m in that state where my body is exhausted but my mind is inexplicably energised.

For the last two days i’ve been wracked by hangover symptoms (headache, nausea, mysterious aches and pains) and i joked with someone about how it doesn’t seem fair that i should suffer thus for not taking drugs.

But obviously i’m detoxing. And these are the consequences of a heavy month-long binge, and actually i’m more interested in seeing this suffering through than i am in seeing (as an experiment, of course) whether a small joint would alleviate the symptoms—thereby confirming that these are withdrawals. Now there’s an addict’s reasoning par excellence.

But it’s not the symptoms alone that are keeping me awake: it’s also the sudden influx of motivation, mental activity, hope, pride, self-respect and vision.  Continue reading

Day Three, The Semiotics of Life and Adventure

Monday 26 January
Renmark, South Australia

Day Three of my Adventures in Sobriety series,
in which i first begin to rediscover the similarities between adventure and life.

So it’s Day Three and i have a wicked headache. I’m sucking a coffee at Macca’s and hoping it’s caffeine withdrawal. The internet here is working at a pace that painfully represents the mush of machinations i might otherwise call my mind. A cold sore has cropped up, and i’m treating it with the wonderous Roseneath Organics Cold Sore Salve, which is mostly bees wax and coconut oil. (Catherine put me on to this article about coconut oil, which concludes “coconut is not a superfood, but it’s not a syphilitic cock either”—the title of the article, ‘Is Coconut Oil Just For Rubbing On Your Titties Or Is It Truly A Superfood?’ Gold.) Continue reading