Soon you’ll be able to hallucinate without going to jail.
In October, state and federal legislators are holding hearings at the Capitol to deal with growing concerns about mental health support for people with psychotropic drugs in their medicine cabinets. At the same time, there’s a growing number of wellness retreats where attendees are encouraged to leave the drug demons at the door.
These trips — in the nature of happy-and-sad meditations, distance-learning yoga vacations and performance-enhancing sweat lodges — tend to support those with chronic conditions like bipolar disorder and anxiety. They’re opportunities for self-care and growth, where participants may seek balance or renewal. For many, however, it’s an escape from “the shitty life you’ve got yourself into” or from worries about relationships, according to Barbara van Dahlen, author of The Expired Woman: A Personal Journey through Anxiety and the Search for Rediscovered Hope.
Some retreats, like LAMYR in the Black Hills, offer support for drug abuse in the form of long-acting and highly addictive pain meds, or other tools to help combat relapse. LAMYR’s founder, Lisa Black, describes these tools as more holistic and informed than traditional addiction recovery, which uses a group setting and physical activity as the universal to help participants realize that they don’t need a high. Black believes there’s power in physical presence, creativity and connection — both for health and just getting high. “If someone has a good attitude, a bad mood or a desire to throw things at the wall, if they surround themselves with people who support them and they align, they’ll actually get high,” Black said. “If you don’t have a big supportive circle around you, you won’t get high, you won’t smoke pot, or you won’t try anything. You’ll just sit there, because it’s a miserable way to live.”
People on meds who take meds, though, risk dependence, especially for the addictive ones, van Dahlen warns. And they risk difficulty receiving treatment for other issues that often occur in a similar lifestyle, like working jobs that they don’t thrive in. But, she adds, it doesn’t always lead to more problems, like abusiveness or crises in sexual relationships.
“Most of the [people] who come to an experience like this that I think of that are up to code have a history of trouble at home or in their relationship. So when they come to a different program where they have all this safe, safe space — they can sit with me or someone else who’s training them to be social — they can talk with someone about what happened, about their relationship, and then move on. …The long-term solution is helping them to connect with real people and to be conscious of what they’re doing,” van Dahlen said.
For those who are interested in exploring a more holistic, healing approach to recovery, there’s a full spectrum of retreats from which to choose, for whatever recreational or spiritual outlet one may choose. The Canadian resort Muscogeeam, for example, offers wellness retreats to help those with addiction issues and who are fed up with life’s ups and downs. A 12-step, sweat lodge, retreat places them in a hidden location away from the world, surrounded by sacred earth. The retreats are centered around meditation, relaxation and reconnecting with divine beings. While the underground sweat lodge is the main attraction, participants have the option to volunteer their time helping with nature or different plants in any other way that feels appropriate. “A lot of times, addicts leave with a positive feeling of connectedness and understanding that they can take with them everywhere they go,” said Gavin Johnston, founder of Muscogeeam.