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Aug 14, 2015
Addiction. Now, I can get in lots of trouble for talking about this but this has been a part of my journey and I think it has helped me on my road to wisdom. This is a very dangerous thing to say especially in my home country of the US where drugs are demonized and even soft drugs like marijuana are seen as the devil incarnate. However, through my travels around the world I have made it a point to not say no to anything and to experience all that I can.
I think that drugs can be used as a tool for gaining wisdom or perspective, the same way travel can. By using some drugs you are removed from your present state of thinking which allows you to see that there is more than what you perceive. Just like travel, it can also be done in such a way that no beneficial thing comes out of it. It can be abused and the learning opportunities ignored.
I had remained extremely clean for the first 18 years of my life. Possibly living with my family deep in the suburbs prevented me from making any contacts with people who could tarnish me. But as soon as I moved out on my own I felt independent to make my own friends and to live my own life. Part of this was experimenting all sorts of things that I wanted to try so that then I could judge for myself if it was good or not. An old friend used to say “you cant knock it until you try it.” The same way you couldn't talk about how horrible it is to live in Australia for example, if you've never even been there, you can't speak of the horrors of a drug and shun the people who use it if you've never tried it. That is why I went on a journey of exploration to see all that I could see and to try as much as I could. Partway down the path I got hooked on some but now I feel I am back to where I should be.
Let me explain what I define as a drug. Anything that changes your body or brain chemistry to me is a drug. Even food and especially sugar does this. I have had some bites of sweets when I was hungry and my first reaction was to grab all of it and stuff it in my mouth. That is why I was always a bit surprised when the Mormons in my home city of Salt Lake City had very strict rules on what a drug was. They said they didn't want to alter the mind not knowing that Indonesian sailors who don't drink regularly get 'high' on sugary drinks. In Europe many centuries ago, sugar offered another way to get high. So chances are if you have had some sweet coffee, you have already had at least two drugs, caffeine and sugar.
The reason I am talking about this is because my travels directly led to my drug use. Whether it be getting drunk for the first time in Russia, or smoking weed for the first time in Netherlands, it was the place that opened the door for me. However, I was actually seeking out that this door would be opened and I was happy that it was. Experiencing all that there is and knowing more about life was something going back early in my life. I remember as a 16 year old talking to the druggy work colleagues on the pros and cons of each drug and the route one should go on in trying them. This was research for my later years. Looking back on it now, it feels like a research project that I had intentionally set out on in order to learn more about the world.
Essentially, what I learned is that any drug can be useful, beneficial, or harmful depending on the mode of use and the frequency. Even though I have never tried it, I think even a drug like Heroin might not be so bad if done in a safe setting maybe once a year. I think the addiction is the most damaging part and it can sneak up on your. Even I thought I wasn't addicted even though hardly a week would go by if I didn't smoke weed or drink.
The main question I learned from overcoming addiction, or at least getting it under control, is to ask why are you doing this. What is the purpose of doing what you are doing and what do you hope to accomplish. Who do you want to be like, and if you continue down this road where are you likely going to end up? Is this a place you want to be? This is what I asked myself and my answers weren't shocking like I'll end up dead on the streets but it was actually much worse. I will end up in the same place as I am now in the next 5 years and nothing will have changed. This is what I noticed when a friend would always come over with some nice weed to smoke, nothing ever got done even though there was much to be done. I would complain about all the homework I would have to do for school even though I would waste 30 hours a week getting high.
Even realizing this, its hard to stop the cycle unless you change your environment. In my case I got a girlfriend and as things tend to happen, I did not meet as often with my friends. This definitely helped but probably the biggest thing was my allergic reaction to weed that developed. Possibly after getting into some really bad stuff, I became extremely paranoid and couldn't function after smoking. It was so bad that I had to stop. A few times I forgot the power of this and how bad it feels and smoke again but then realize that I cannot ever do it again.
I have realized this with drinking as well. I realized that the combination of drinking, smoking, and staying up late absolutely killed my body during any weekend I did this. Those weekends I didn't, I realized there was so much time in the day that could be better spent by going on a hike, learning something new, or exploring your city. I realized that it was a time suck without any real benefits being built up.
This is a key with all addiction. Actually this morning I decided to kick the habit of going on a website called 9gag which was also introduced to me while travelling. It has user generated content where people post cartoons and funny stuff and I would spend about an hour a day on this. After coming back from a week long trip without it and feeling fine, I came home and got sucked back into it. I realized it doesn't lead anywhere and the possibly 10 hours per week could be better used either reading or learning Hindi as I should be doing. I believe that by kicking this habit I can also be more productive in the mornings when I can be very lazy. I already had the urges to just go on it for a few minutes but I had to fight it and give myself something else to do. By changing your environment you can change your outcomes.
I have found that there can be certain tricks to make your mind think differently. Instead of doing something that you would usually do, you can instead do a much healthier option. Earlier I talked about how sugar is a drug and actually it is extremely unhealthy as well. Some new science is emerging showing that sugar and carbohydrates is one of the main things that ages you and damages your body. That is why possibly skipping desert could be extremely healthy for your life and your physique.
But what do you do if you still crave something? I have learned that one piece of very dark chocolate of over 70% cacao usually does the trick. My mind is satisfied with it and I know that I hadn't eaten much sugar at all. There are many tricks that you can do that are similar to this in order to change your environment to change your outcomes. Instead of drinking on the weekend, simply get out of the city during the weekend to completely avoid any temptations. I would do this in Germany to get myself to study instead of lounging around in my apartment all day. I would go to the library with all the hardworking people instead of watching YouTube, taking a nap, and cooking food. This was a huge improvement and I was able to get about 3x more work done.
I started out wanting to write about drugs and their benefits but ended up writing about the downsides of drugs and what they do to your time. I guess this was more on my mind and I want to tell people about what I learned. What I learned is that travel introduced me to many of my addictions and I am grateful for that. I had seeked out many of these experiences in the past but then got sucked into some of them. But I am grateful for this because it gave me perspective on addiction and I can better understand those dealing with it. I also believe it has made me stronger, so when the next addictive thing comes around I can stop it or at least recognize what is happening.
What I also learned was that travel can be the solution to many of your addictions. By changing your environment so drastically, sometimes you can't have the thing you once used every day. This can be good in realizing how you can live without it and can be much easier than trying to simply not use it while you can still see it. Whether it be not being able to drink in the Middle East, not smoking weed in former Soviet Georgia, or not having internet to go on 9gag, it can force you to quit. When you get back you can judge whether or not it was beneficial and what you got out of it. Your circle of friends will also heavily determine what you do. Being around alcoholic students who party all the time will probably cause you to become one just by hanging around them. Sometimes it is easier to see if reversed. If I told you someone was best friends 5 partyers what would you think that person was? What if I told you someone was best friends with 5 bodybuilders, what kind of person do you think they are?
So in the end, addiction is bad but mostly because it is a time suck. Whether having a hangover the whole weekend, spending your evening being high, getting sucked into the uselessness of the internet, or even getting fat one sugar, it causes you to have to undo the wrong direction you went in. But maybe if you can catch yourself early enough it can still be a learning experience and you can teach others how to get out of it.
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