Last Wednesday, in a group session, one of my patients described the joy he felt shooting pure cocaine into his veins.
Oy vey, I thought. What am I supposed to do with this?
I had no personal experience with cocaine, of course, and he did; I couldn’t exactly tell him he was wrong.
When someone does indeed have a “miraculous” experience with using something, it’s hard to counter his belief and convince him that the happiness he really should be looking for is of a different nature.
Of course, I believe that happiness is key. It goes hand in hand with hope and enthusiasm. If you are happy, truly happy, the last thing you would ever think of doing is taking risks or turning against yourself.
In my book When Sane People Do Insane Things, when I list the six essentials of wellbeing, the first one is all about happiness. I describe how to create and stockpile things that put a smile on your face. I even mention how to plant the seeds of awe within. This can mean playing with a dog, partaking in physical activity, helping a stranger – whatever does it for you, within certain limits.
Music is a fantastic mechanism to raise the spirit, whether it’s soothing music or a tune with a fun beat. Some people get their jollies from hearing music; others join along in performing: singing, humming, tapping to the rhythm.
I believe that it’s my duty as a psychologist to help patients conjure an arsenal of ways to feel marvelous. After all, consider the alternative: If you’re down, you won’t feel like making an effort. What’s the point? Nothing’s working out; life is horrible. Why bother when pain, bewilderment, loss, and disappointment are inevitable?
This is a dangerous place to be in. We’ve all tasted it at some point in our lives, and we know it is a devil, to be avoided at all costs.
But therein lies the problem. Addiction is quite often a flawed and very temporary vehicle for achieving this. My patient with the cocaine was trying to feel good, just like I recommend, but the method he chose was a poor chemical crutch disguised as a really fun thing to do. On top of that was the danger: He wound up limiting himself to an activity that could eventually lead to heartache, incarceration, or possible death.
I saw a mini investigatory documentary yesterday on a new kind of cocaine being used as a party drug in Israel right now. The drugs are used in order to enhance the music, the dancing, and the spirit. I can only hope that those who indulge are not confusing this elation with true happiness.
Finding something that lifts your spirits—I support that heartily. But it has to be safe; it has to be sane; it has to be legal. And while you’re at it, it should preferably not be fattening.
While it’s great to have something to put you in a positive frame of mind, don’t be duped into thinking this is the same thing as joy. Joy comes from spiritual and emotional equilibrium.
True happiness of the soul is not achieved through any kind of substance. It’s only the mind of addict that thinks it could be.
I am deeply committed to helping my patients find a new, healthy set of experiences to lift their spirits and boost their levels of hope. But on top of that, I want to help them experience the wonder of spiritual expansion. That, I believe, is the path to reliable recovery.