Who doesn’t like to kick back and get a little hedonistic? Just because we’re more than halfway to 70 doesn’t mean we’re half-dead. Now that we finally heap a little (or better yet, a lot) of attention on ourselves, we’re gonna have some fun, dammit. As much as we love our glass of Pinot (don’t worry, we’re not taking it away!) and other assorted pleasure-enhancing goodies, we are not teens anymore (phew). And more and more, we are finding that we don’t always need a substance to help us feel fantastic. In fact, according to Jodie Gould, author of High: Six Principles for Guilt-Free Pleasure and Escape, you can actually drum up your own natural high pretty easily. Read on. This is some cool stuff that probably hasn’t occurred to you.
JODIE GOULD’S ON GETTING HIGH WITHOUT GETTING HIGH
A recovering addict probably said it best, and I’m paraphrasing here: We get high because it makes us feel better than when we are not. This is why so many of us succumb at some time or another to the siren call for mood-boosting substances. My elixir-of-choice is wine, which I enjoy with dinner or with friends. Some prefer pot to help them relax or flex their creative muscles. Others pop an occasional anti-anxiety pill to take the edge off an uncomfortable situation.
And none of this behaviour necessarily makes us candidates for intervention. It’s important to acknowledge that our never-ending quest of pleasure and escape is a universal drive, much like hunger, thirst and sex. Given this, our occasional walks on the wild side shouldn’t make us hang our heads in shame. We are simply doing what comes naturally.
In fact, research shows that this craving to get high dates back millions of years, from prehistoric times when cave dwellers first discovered fermented beverages, to the meth labs and painkiller pill mills of today. Drugs and alcohol have been, and always will be, a go-to option. That said, people with addictive personalities, full-on addicts, and those in recovery should do everything in their power to stay clean and sober. More than 4 million women in the United States have abused drugs and women make up a third of the estimated 15 million alcoholics in this country, according to stats from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse, Alcoholism and Addiction.
This was the case for a woman we’ll call Anne, who starting popping “downers” in middle school before moving on to the harder stuff. “My father was an abusive alcoholic, so I took barbiturates to calm me down,” recalls the 45-year-old publicist and Animal Shelter volunteer from Long Island, NY. “After I got married, my husband and I started doing cocaine. With pills, I knew when to stop; with coke I just wanted more.” Soon, Anne and her husband turned from users to dealers, supplying a steady stream of “blow” to the wolves of Wall Street. “I slept with a bottle of Afrin under the pillow because I couldn’t breathe at night,” Anne says. “I eventually lost all the cartilage in my nose.” Anne finally managed to quit her coke habit when she was in her twenties through exercise. “I joined a gym and worked with a trainer who turned out to be a former coke addict. It became our mission to get me off the drug. I worked out like crazy doing cardio and weight lifting that gave me the same feeling I got when I was high. I eventually weaned myself off and I haven’t touched the stuff since. I don’t care if I ever see another drug again for the rest of my life. Animal rescue is the most incredible high I ever could have.”
The point here is that physical activity can give us the same results we’re usually seeking when we turn to drugs and alcohol to unwind, have fun, or relieve pain because it produces those feel-good endorphins, which are our body’s natural opiates.
And giving to others helps boost our self-esteem and confidence.
They are just two of the six Pleasure Principles: Move, Restore, Connect, Create, Celebrate, and Give.
Here’s how these principles work: Yes, I drink wine, but I also write (create), restore my mind/body/spirit by practicing yoga, meditate (okay, not as often as I should, but I try), spin three days a week (move), take breaks from endless hours tapping away at the blasted computer to walk in the park or around my neighborhood (restore), sing and dance with abandon in the privacy of our living room (celebrate), make lunch dates with friends for some angst-relieving ranting (connect), and volunteer to help my neighbors as the head of my tenants association (give).
Although my clubbing days are over—and yes, they were fun—I can honestly say that as a middle-aged woman, I am far healthier than I was when I was cigarette-smoking, bar-hopping youth. While my cares have increased exponentially throughout the years (financial concerns, worries about friends and family members), I’m thrilled to have found better ways to cope with life’s inevitable pain and anxiety. By understanding our universal desire to get high, we can acknowledge these urges while pursuing healthier forms of recreation and better ways to relieve pain, depression, or hardship.
Want more guilt-free pleasure in your life (who doesn’t)? Flip through our slideshow to find out how.
Jodie Gould is an award-winning writer and author of nine books, including her newest one, HIGH: Six Principles for Guilt-Free Pleasure and Escape (Hazelden). She has been a contributor to Woman’s Day and Family Circle, and she wrote a monthly column for Showtime.com. Gould has been interviewed on numerous TV and radio shows, including Oprah, CNN, and Extra.