Addiction is usually a word connected to the overuse and abuse of recreational drugs, including alcohol. However, there are many types of addictions that go by words with less stigma: sex, overwork, food, sugar, to name a few. These addictions are just as powerful. Different types of addictions trigger different imbalances on Chinese Medicine levels, as well as on energetic levels. But, for this post, I’ll be focusing on the energy that is altered by substance abuse, and how it affects the spirit, and even the organs.
Addiction In Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine, recreational substances create a lot of heat within the body. It creates what Chinese Medicine practitioners call “reckless heat”, which is an excess pattern. Because excess patterns create imbalances within the system, excess heat, created by the abuse of drugs, can effect the Heart, Liver, and depending on the substance, the Lungs and the Kidneys, on a Chinese Medicine level.
The heat harasses the Heart. Because the Heart houses the Shen (spirit), sometimes this excess heat can exhibit symptoms such as mood disturbances, dream disturbed sleep, insomnia, and a red tongue tip. If the heat gets more intense, it can eventually turn into Heart Fire, which can include the above signs, but also mental restlessness, agitation, feeling overly hot in body temperature, and mouth or tongue ulcers.
Because the Heart is linked to the Spirit, and the Heart is central to our connection to our self and others, we feel disconnected from who we are, and from others, when the Heart is harassed.
When the Shen is disturbed, the Heart is not at peace. More often than not, because the Heart is not at peace, the drugs are used to self-medicate, to bring the illusion of peace, but then propagates more Heart and Liver imbalance. It’s a vicious cycle.
When I was performing Acupuncture and Reiki services at St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction in the Bronx, many of my patients, those who were actively using, carried a lot of excess heat. You could see it in their faces and the flushed cheeks. There is also a quality in the eyes when one is actively using, a spectrum of spirit disturbance, or even vacancy. As heat rises, excess heat will accumulate in the head and neck. Especially when the Liver is involved, excess heat can create tension in the neck, shoulders, and head, resulting in headaches, neck pain, and trapezius muscle pain.
Excess heat is held in the blood, and where the blood full of excess heat can find a place to release, it will. Which is why those who are actively using drugs will often bleed on the head points, precisely to release the excess heat. It is no surprise that, besides the fact that acupuncture is effective, releasing the excess heat brings much relief! Bleeding can be a strategic part of an acupuncture treatment, and is more widely practiced in China. But, this is also practiced in many clinics in the U.S.
In Chinese Medicine, the Liver is in charge of the free flow of Qi. And, when the Liver’s flow of Qi is obstructed, this causes what we practitioners call Liver Qi Stagnation, which results in physical and/or emotional pain.
Liver Qi Stagnation can show up as irritability, anger, short temper, anxiety, depression, or feeling stressed.
Most people with body pain are experiencing Liver Qi Stagnation on some level. This is also something I commonly see in my practice, because it is located in the heart of New York City, and New Yorkers are always on the move. Sometimes, so much so, that stress and Liver Qi Stagnation can be quite common. For those who may be suffering from addiction, however, it can be a double whammy of not only feeling some physical pain, but the emotional pain, too.
The Energy Of Addiction
On the energetic level, addiction is when the user has given up ownership of the body. Those who are addicts can identify this as “The Beast”, because it literally feels like there is something attached to you, a darkness that doesn’t want to let go. And, to some extent, the person who is actively using doesn’t want to let go of it, either.
Most of the time, this doesn’t happen randomly.
We give the darkness permission to exist within us. Or in some cases, to take over. We invite the darkness in, and give it a seat.
Darkness feeds on energy. Particularly, light energy. It gets a rise, or a high, off of peoples’ energy. This is why those who are chasing the dragon and in full addiction are exhausted, aside from the fact that certain drugs may make one tired as it leaves the body.
When one is in the depths of darkness, in their own hell, darkness is happy, and has a constant energy supply. The addict’s.
By the way, this darkness feeding is not only active during addiction, but also when one is totally depressed, when there is hatred towards oneself or another human being, or there is an imbalance of power dynamic in a relationship that results in abuse. It may operate differently, in these different situations, but the darkness is being fully fed each time.
When we are depressed, we may say things to the effect of, “I give up on my life”, “I’m so lonely”, “I don’t want to be here anymore”. When we say these kinds of things with full intention and desperation to leave what we know, we leave ourselves energetically open for those spirits or energies that feed off of our desperation, to enter.
And, oftentimes, recreational drugs allows us to check out. The problem is, when we check out, we allow others to check in.
When working with those suffering from addiction, I see the presence of their spirit, or one that clearly wasn’t theirs, in their eyes. Sometimes I could see, in their eyes, how hard they were fighting the darkness. Sometimes, in those who were deep in it, I’d see entities looking back at me, knowing they knew I saw them. I was grateful that I was already cultivating strong energy and boundary work within myself by this time. Because, I could see how it could be challenging for those who aren’t aware of how to energetically protect themselves, or who may not be totally aware yet of what energies they were witnessing.
Most of the time, I would just stand in my light, and imbue The Sanctuary (the room I treated out of in the center was called The Sanctuary) with Reiki energy. I found this helpful not only for myself, but for the participants who came in for treatments.
Possession Is Real
When the society at large thinks of possession, most people think of Linda Blair spewing pea soup in “The Exorcist”, in response to a Catholic exorcism. But possession isn’t just a Catholic thing. It’s something that can happen when we are in depths, and we give up residency in our bodies, willingly.
When I was still an intern at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine’s clinic, I had the opportunity to be exposed to many different cases, under the guidance of my Supervisors. I learned so much by being exposed, in real life, to some health issues I’d never seen, or treated, before. Up until that time, everything was conceptual, things I’d studied for, and got tested on.
One day, I treated a new patient who came into the clinic with stress-related symptoms. She never had acupuncture before, but wanted to try it out. I could tell that she wasn’t fully present. When I needled her, she reacted in a way I’d never experienced, before or since.
Her eyes rolled to the back of her head, her head drew back, slowly, her mouth opened and emitted a long groan, her hands drew into fists, her arms drew close to her and became rigid, and her back began to arch. Alarmed that she was possibly having a bad reaction to treatment, or something life threatening, I called in my Supervisor immediately, a Chinese elder who was one of the first acupuncturists to ever register in New York State. He very calmly went over to my patient, who was still locked in the same position as I’d left her, and simply took her pulse. He patted my arm reassuringly and said she was fine, and to just stay in the room with her until the treatment ended, which I did.
When I removed the needles, her body became loose, her mouth closed, and her head and back came back to normal position. Her eyes opened. I asked her how she was feeling. She said, “Was I sleeping? I don’t remember what happened.”
My Supervisor then explained to me, rather matter-of-factly, that she was possessed. He explained to me that she had what was called a gui, or ghost, and that the gui was reacting to being pushed out by the acupuncture treatment.
Gui are the souls of dead persons wandering in the realm of the after-life. It is a very ancient Chinese belief (pre-dating Daoism and Confucianism) that is ingrained in Chinese culture. A belief in ghost and spirits has also always been part of Chinese medicine. Some of the acupuncture points are even called “ghost points”.
Many of the points I used corresponded with chakras, and I don’t think that made the gui too happy. My Supervisor explained to me that her gui was putting up a fight, but that the spirit can be very strong. He said that the gui could’ve prevented her from coming into the clinic to get treated, in the first place, if it knew the kind of treatment the body would be receiving.
That was when I started to learn how to clear rooms of energy that shouldn’t be there. This is why I love having plants around me, because touching nature after an experience like that is cleansing. And, the energetic cleansing power of water is great to have in the room, so any gui that may be present during treatment has a place to go, and then the water can be discarded and energy released.
Why am I sharing this case of possession with you on a post about addiction? To illustrate that possession is not just for horror flicks. It happens in real life. Maybe not Linda Blair spewing pea soup real, but there are various ranges in the spectrum. And, it only happens when we willingly give up ownership of our bodies. Such as when we are deep in addiction.
As much as possession can be real, so, too, can be the proverbial “exorcism”.
Here’s the clincher – if we want to reconnect with our bodies badly enough, and regain ownership, it can be a blood, sweat, and tears struggle, but we have the power to reclaim our bodies.
Surrounded with the right circumstances, access to healing modalities, as well as effective, caring, and knowledgeable case workers, counselors, and support systems, the energy of addiction can dissipate the release of the talons of darkness from your shoulders, and facilitate a transmutation into empowerment. I can say this with conviction, because I have witnessed people embrace recovery full-heartedly. And, even if The Beast may knock on the door, and can be extremely tempting, I’ve seen them choose to shut the door on it, again. And again.
Whether or not you’re struggling with The Beast of addiction, or know/love someone who is, please understand that you are not alone. I send love and light your way, so that you may be surrounded with the support, guidance, and light you need to disempower the darkness, and take ownership of yourself on a whole level – body, mind, and spirit.
Have you experienced a deep struggle with the energy of addiction, or know someone who has?
I’d love to hear what has helped you feel supported, in the comments, below!
Yoga/Acupuncture/Reiki Fall Workshop! Save the date!
Hey all! Me and my friend, Chia-Ti Chu, will be conducting a delicious yoga/acupuncture/reiki healing Fall workshop to help you detox and release what no longer serves you. It will be on Sunday, October 5th, from 2pm-5pm, in a beautiful sanctuary in Alphabet City. Chia-Ti will be leading us through yoga movement, followed by acupuncture and reiki by yours truly. If you’re interested to learn more, email me. More details to come!
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