Sober Drugs

Sober Drugs

The best kind of drugs are the drugs you train your neurons to make themselves. Then you don’t need a dealer.

My brother said, “If I’m sitting without anything to do, I just look at patterns in things, and I’m content.” The brain has an ability to be fascinated by the world with zero exogenous substances, but you have to train this ability. Drugs are much easier. You swallow a substance and feel a certain way. But doing them a lot makes the brain less self-reliant.

Shel Silverstein said it well in this poem.

One real danger with drugs is that they take up way too much brain real estate. For instance, when I was drinking coffee, I would be thinking about coffee a lot of the time.

A heroin addict patient of mine who is checking into rehab said: I want to get excited about normal life stuff, not thinking about drugs all the time.

To an extent, we are all linked up to addictions: everyone needs food, for example. But it’s nice to clear as many addictions out of the brain as possible. For instance, fasting to prove to yourself that you don’t really need food that much, and you don’t need to be thinking about it all the time, because it won’t be the end of the world if you miss a meal.

Saying no to drugs and other addictions really means cleaning house in the brain.

A quote from a drug-focused episode of This American Life:

My dad was a good dad. He read to us every night, took us on long hikes in search of snakes and salamanders to keep as pets. But his drug use did leave at least one lasting effect on me. I can’t hear any story about a seemingly functional pot-head with anything but a skeptical ear.

From magazine features about rappers who are constantly high but still put out platinum records to casual asides about this friend I know who smokes weed all day but is a great husband and father, some part of me just can’t buy it, can’t help but think, there’s more to that story. There’s always something being run from. And there’s always at least one person wondering, is that something me?

On the flipside, it is cool to experience alternate states of consciousness, because this helps break out of mental patterns. Drugs offer one way to do this, but there are also non-pharmaceutical ways. Here is a running list of my sober drugs:

  • Yoga. Doing a long sequence alone in the living room is hard. Having a buddy or going to a class helps.
  • Trampoline. This is great if I get into a flow, but the first 5 minutes are hard.
  • Running, or any sports involving running.
  • Contact improv. Especially effective with eyes closed.
  • Silent hikes. To do this, team up with a group and walk through the woods for a few hours, without talking. It is also possible to go on a silent hike through a city.
  • Non-doing. Turn off all distractions and let the moment bloom. One specific way to do this is to get up early in the morning and watch the sun rise, or to watch the sun set. It’s very cool and rarely done in our indoor-based world.
  • Realistic drawing. Trying to sketch something realistically activates a different set of mental patterns that emphasize attention and deconstrution of the world (vs. judgement). For more on this, see: Drawing on the right side of the brain.
  • Acroyoga. This requires a lot of concentration and communication and brings me right into the moment.
  • Thai massage. This requires time, and a willingness to not rush and pay attention.
  • Music. Especially when dancing or moving to it.

With so many sober drugs to choose from, who needs psychedelics?

See also: Righteousness programming and Brain and body, going for a nice long walk together. Addictions to drugs, like addictions to anything material, lead to a kind of mental slavery. It’s no wonder 12-step programs are usually religious at heart.

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