What are the hallmarks of addiction? How can you tell if you are addicted to something, be it drugs, work or some other compulsion?
Essentially, addiction happens when you rely so much on an external substance or process to fulfill an inner need, that the removal of the substance or process leaves you agitated, uncomfortable and distressed.
In the case of drugs, we have made the choice to be harsh and crass with our internal chemistry. Instead of allowing the body to be the infinitely wise and subtle conductor of an orchestra of neuropeptides, we aggressively stimulate and trigger massive cascades of short-term pleasure-feelings. The more we do this, the more we lose the power to respond with sensitivity to the challenges of our life. We become powerless and ineffective, sometimes quite insane—we become toxic, “dirty” creatures (interestingly, the root meaning of sanity is “clean.”)
Many of us become addicted to our work, finding it increasingly hard to relax, release and enjoy the simple pleasures of life beyond the rollercoaster of our jobs’ demands. And, of course, as a culture, we have become addicted to stress, addicted to thinking, addicted to the high and lows of the “fight or flight” response.
Addiction to anything reduces us spiritually, cripples us emotionally and poisons us physically.
Recovery from addiction requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses every problematic issue simultaneously—the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
So how can qigong help?
Lets take addiction to drugs (including nicotine and alcohol) as the model:
Extensive drug use clogs the body with toxic debris. TCH, for instance, can lodge in the tissues for years. Qigong’s active stimulation of the lymph system speeds up the detox process, helping to remove impurities from the bloodstream. “Dirty” blood is uncomfortable and often translates into “dirty thinking” which in turn can lead to relapse.
Addiction to drugs diminishes our ability to manage stress and tension. For many months, if not years, after stopping drug use, the internal chemistry remains in turmoil, creating all kinds of dangerous cravings and instabilities. Group-therapeutic activities are invaluable as a partial remedy for these ups and downs. But qigong can help speed the process of mastering our relaxation response. Qigong’s breathing style, hand movements and postures actively induce a long-lasting relaxation response and a sense of well-being. If you own your own private toolkit for “switching on” feelings of contentment and internal—almost at will—you are less likely to become victimized by your chemical imbalances.
Spiritually-oriented approaches to drug-addiction emphasize the supreme importance of cultivating the skill of “letting go” in our lives. Qigong, in its more meditative forms, is a superb vehicle for training this skill experientially. Emotionally, qigong encourages us to accept and appreciate every emotion as valid and necessary—even fear and anger. By accepting our emotions more readily, we release from them the more easily (attachment and addiction are very close relatives.)
Self Care and Self Love
Self esteem, self care—and love in general—take a hammering when we get addicted to drugs. Qigong’s whole mindset is to encourage a sense of integrated well-being through daily practice. As we become more genuinely at home in our own bodies, more generally loving of ourselves, we will finally have love and care to share with others.
Most drug use impairs, depletes or rips off our energetic reserves. Qigong’s techniques specifically restore our energy and resilience by creating a fresh, balanced flow in the body.
Balance is actually a dynamic process of constant shifts in response to constant change. Drug use narrows the range of our sensitivities, so we become less responsive and less capable of handling change as it presents to us. Qigong training teaches us to constantly shift from dynamic to tranquil and to master those transitions with increasing ease.
And finally, there’s communion with kindred spirits. Qigong group practice encourages a conspiracy of good humor and gentle friendship. The Chinese rate the healing power of this group “qi field” phenomenon so highly, they invite recovering cancer patients to immerse themselves in the “healing bath” of a group qigong practice.
Drug addiction tends to make us contracted, tight, isolated, self-centered and delusional—“terminally unique.” Qigong helps redress this dis-ease by naturally encouraging us to be expansive, loose, communal and appreciative.
John Du Cane is the author of the workbook The Five Animal Frolics and four qigong videos, Bliss Qigong, Serenity Qigong, Vitality Qigong and Power Qigong. Du Cane teaches qigong locally in Minnesota and nationally. For more information email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-487-3828.