A holistic approach to drug recovery


From my first puff on a hash-laced joint, I said ‘yes’ to drugs. I couldn’t get enough of the wild adventures, from tripping in the forest on LSD, to shooting-up speed and performing with my band. I loved drugs, the intensity, the exhilaration the magic.

I never wanted it to end, never imagined it would either, but as the side-effects spiraled out of control the whole thing backfired leaving behind emptiness, delusion and depression. Life after drugs sucked and, like most drug users, I went along with the general consensus that everything I’d done was a big irresponsible mistake. Ashamed and guilt-ridden, with no prospect of ever enjoying myself again, I was the poster boy for life after drugs – as we knew it in the eighties.

Burying my past and resigning myself to living unhappily ever after was the only option. I knew this because, towards the end of that decade, I’d also become a drug- and alcohol counselor and was on the production line that spat out miserable and soon-to-relapse drug users. During the week I’d try to get my clients off drugs using the standard ‘repent and reform’ approach of the time and, as this never worked, my sense of failure increased and my weekends all-too-often became 48 hour drug- or alcohol binges. This was after I quit too. There was definitely something wrong with that picture. For a long time I thought it was me. Well, the binges were, but not the fact that none of my clients got off drugs. I didn’t realize that until later though and I left the profession disillusioned and convinced that everyone was right, I was a loser and a failure.

When I discovered  Chinese medicine, everything changed. Its origins are interwoven with Daoism, an ancient and rebellious philosophy celebrating individualism. The Daoists sought a life in harmony with nature, and one dedicated to finding your ‘cosmic self’. Altered states and the desire to get higher played a key role in this process. Daoism is all about where you are going, not where you have been. And where you are going is, ultimately, transforming into an unlimited original version of yourself – exactly what every drug user wants from drugs. The primary purpose of traditional Chinese medicine is to support you on this journey.

So, combining some contemporary interpretations of Daoist philosophy, and the non-judgmental therapeutic modality of Chinese medicine, creates the perfect recovery framework. Within this model, my own journey from nice German boy, to pill-popper, dope-smoker, tripper, speed-addict (via paranoid dope-smoker), delusional nutter, alcoholic, and finally a depressed chain-smoking suicidal outcast, became a logical sequence of events rather than a series of stuff-ups. If you don’t get caught up in thinking that taking drugs is wrong, the desire for drugs is wrong and, by default, drug users are wrong, you can engage with what is really going on. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some significant factors underlying recreational drug use, its never just about recreation.