Sometimes you just need to get high.
On life, that is.
Everyone knows that addiction is bad. But should we just accept that feeling euphoric is also bad?
Were we meant to live a humble monk lifestyle, condemning pleasure or self-flagellating, simply because we fell into addiction or were predisposed towards one since birth?
In my humble opinion, HELL NO.
If you think you’ve been cursed into a life of boringness and mediocrity, that’s a shitty mindset choice that you’re making. Unfortunately it’s a very common mindset in recovery. In treatment centers it’s everywhere we look, and it’s the #1 reason that people relapse. Don’t make the same mistake!!
Life isn’t boring when you quit drinking. Allow me to clarify. I’m not saying: “Life isn’t boring because you get to go read the Big Book out loud at meetings and have a conversion experience.”
I am saying: Life can be more exciting, more fun, more of a thrill than it ever was when you got wasted, talked to strangers, thought you were having the best time ever, and then passed out on your drool-stained pillow and forgot at least half of what happened by the next morning.
Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty accurate description of the “best times” of your life as a drunk.
A few years ago, I was waking up and trying to hold down water and googling hair of the dog to find scientific evidence that it cures hangovers. These days, I’m finishing up a morning workout and feeling like a million bucks, ready to tackle whatever the day throws at me.
Life after drinking is more entertaining and it’s also more productive. It’s a win-win. But it’s 100% up to you to make your life worth living and to do it on your own terms.
Truth be told, I’ve felt more euphoria since I quit drinking than I ever did when I relied on alcohol to feel good.
What is Euphoria?
What do I mean by euphoria? I mean a serious rush of dopamine and endorphins. It is possible to feel better than “just hanging in there” in recovery.
One caveat: Early recovery is tough because virtually nothing during this phase will help you to feel euphoric. You don’t get to feel great again until your brain rewires. For some people, this harsh phase lasts a few weeks. For others (like me), it can last for months. In the end, it doesn’t matter – it’s just time. Don’t relapse, wait it out and you have my word it will be worth it!!
If you’re in early recovery, trust me when I say that everything below will feel better than your addiction ever did. It just takes time.
Ok, onto the 10 natural highs.
10 Ways to Achieve Natural Euphoria
1) Drink coffee (and get stuff done!!)
The first thing that my addict brain does in the morning is send a signal to my mouth to make it water in anticipation of freshly made coffee. I don’t beat myself up about this. Coffee is great for a number of reasons – the caffeine makes your mind sharper and the antioxidants protect your cells. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why it causes euphoria, but chances are I don’t have to explain this feeling to you.
After a cup or 3, you’ll be ready for anything – including a morning workout. Coffee is essential to my starting out the day on the right note.
Thanks to coffee, I’ve actually felt euphoric while making calls to car insurance companies.
2) Build something stupendous
Something, anything – you need to stay directed in recovery. If your life is easy and you live near a beach, set out to build the best sandcastle of all time. I always have a series of long-term projects (including this blog) that help me unleash my creative urges.
I feel absolutely ecstatic when I make progress. This is my real motivation for putting out articles – there’s no feeling like that of accomplishment. Incorporate it into your daily grind and you’ll never feel lost or unmotivated. Quite the contrary: you’ll feel euphoric often.
3) Fast for half a day
We live in a weird era. The history of humanity is not filled with periods in which anyone with money can buy food at any time. This is not an abstract point; I’m making the case that a) our bodies were not designed to receive a steady stream of nutrition without effort and b) our brains are frequently missing out on how good food is supposed to taste when we wait for it. The wooly mammoth kill must have provided the best high ever in the caveman days.
Short of living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the solution is to incorporate intermittent fasting into your life. On Sundays, I basically fast until dinner. Not for religious reasons, but because dinner just tastes that much better when I wait for it. Because I need to catch up on calories, there’s no need to hold back at all! I eat like a 600-pound tiger and it’s impossible for me to feel anything but euphoric.
4) Update your life’s soundtrack
Nothing inspires and motivates like music. It’s easy to use Pandora or browse YouTube until you find exactly what you’re looking for. I’ll usually opt for classic rock or hip hop, with a dumb but uplifting pop song thrown in for good measure. My only rule is this: It has to be upbeat – never depressing.
It’s nuts that treatment centers recommend all sorts of lifestyle changes and never mention that sad music tends to make people feel…sad. Don’t you think you’d want to avoid choosing sources of sad energy if you’re trying to avoid relapse?!
I knew a guy who listened to Staind every day while he tried to quit drinking and he didn’t make it past two months before relapsing (the day he got out of treatment). I never listen to sad songs unless I’m stuck in a subpar grocery store, and even then I make the visit quick enough to lose them money. Fair punishment for them after making me wonder how my ex is doing, blargh.
5) Spend time with people who matter
This doesn’t mean lounging around with your fat sourpuss roommate and the TV on in the background. Making deep interpersonal connections after you kick the bottle is absolutely necessary. Family, friends, and significant others provide us with the best natural highs. Our brains evolved this way; unless you’re a sociopath, you’re an inescapably social creature.
Solitude is necessary at times, but inside jokes and stimulating conversations are real sources of euphoria. The same brain chemicals are released as when you were drinking, but no one has ever overdosed on friendship.
6) Read an uplifting book
A good book can give you insights that you might not encounter elsewhere. I look for books that can help me figure out life’s mysteries or help me devise new workout routines. But the possibilities are as endless as your passions.
Making a habit of reading before bed is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Just as I look forward to my coffee in the morning, I look forward to reading a book before bed. It’s more entertaining than a nightcap and even if I stay up reading it, I won’t feel like a sack of dog doo in the morning.
Most importantly, turn off the boob tube and stop browsing around on social media. How many happy people do you know who are obsessed with what random losers in the world or on Facebook are doing?
7) Go for a jog and sweat, then take an Epsom bath while sipping on iced chamomile tea.
This was the highlight of my day. No further explanation needed, except that it was made better because one of my best friends called. There’s no euphoria like taking care of yourself and having great people to talk to any time you want.
8) Join a sports team or group activity
Back to the ancestral theme – the idea that human beings are wired to feel euphoria in certain situations. When our cavemen ancestors brought down that wooly mammoth, they must have felt like they were on top of the world. Sports is a modern offshoot of this human need. If you don’t play a sport or at least go to the gym to work out with your friends, you’re missing out.
I had a great crew of workout buddies when I first got out of rehab. None of them were former addicts – so much for the myth that you have to hang out only with “recovering people” for the rest of your life. Some of my best memories of that period in my life were in the gym with them – or more accurately, right after our lifts, because we were too focused to socialize in there.
Since moving to a different city, I’ve had the good luck to find a friend who shares a passion for mixed martial arts. We spar every few days with boxing gloves and shin guards and it’s always one of the highlights of my week. Euphoria doesn’t begin to describe my mental state after sparring.
9) Start a blog
If you’re a curious person like I am, the universe is itself a source of euphoria. Making sense of life in recovery is my passion now. There’s no better way to embark on this kind of mission than to start a blog.
I’ve always been a somewhat tense person; it’s not easy for me to relax. When I put out a new article, the sense of accomplishment helps me to relax for at least 12 hours.
10) Get in a great lift
This goes without saying. Strong body, strong mind – there’s a ton of euphoria to be had in the short term from lifting heavy weights, and in the long term from maintaining your health.
Naysayers, and sometimes kind souls who don’t know any better, will tell you that you’re going to get addicted to protein powder or “fixated” on looks. Do you want to kick ass in recovery or reconcile yourself with becoming a shriveled mediocrity?
Some of the greatest achievers will tell you that success starts with your energy levels. Caring for your physique is not a social hobby. It’s not shallow, and it’s not a threat to anyone with a bare minimum degree of happiness and security. Shrug off anyone who’s offended, they have problems that have nothing to do with you – and therefore they don’t matter.
Looking 10 times better than I did when I drank is a real source of euphoria for me. I get respect from people who would have eyed me with suspicion a few years ago, with my bloated face and tired demeanor. Is it wrong to take pleasure in how you’re perceived by others? No, because you’re self-assured and you don’t live for their approval.
It’s just a nice bonus on a sunny day when the model walking down the street does a double-take at your arms.
You should probably get her number.