02/04/2013 01:16 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2013

Getting 'High' in the 21st Century

This blog is for all human beings, because all human beings love to get "high." Part of the joy of being alive includes our ability to change our consciousness, to explore new ways of seeing things and to rise above what can sometimes feel like a mundane, day-to-day struggle. When we get "high," we "clean out the pipes." We walk new, fresh pathways. We connect more deeply with ourselves, with our fellows and with the universe.

If we get right down to it, we get high because we like it. If we didn't like it, we wouldn't do it. It just so happens that our methods are poor, hurtful and destructive.

Being in recovery from drug addiction now for 21 years, it might seem confusing to you that I be speaking so unabashedly about getting high. This is true especially if you are on a path of recovery from addiction, but I assure you that my definition of getting high is different than most.

My definition of getting high is "to engage in an activity of any kind that brings about a shift in consciousness, which is to the benefit of a person both in the short term and the long term." If your form of getting high brings you short-term gain and long-term loss, then it does not fit my definition of getting high.

Consider the folks who enjoy drinking alcohol. They enjoy the feeling of ease that it brings. It makes them more relaxed, less insecure. It takes the edge off. However, there is no denying that alcohol can be toxic to the human body on many levels and can have negative effects that weaken the system far beyond the feeling it produces. Alcohol drastically affects our blood sugar levels and dehydrates us. It is a depressant, so contrary to what most people think, it is the worst thing to do if you are not feeling well in your life.

Usually, we feel the negative effects of alcohol in the form of a hangover the next day. Hangovers can range in their severity from subtle (dry mouth, slight headache, etc.) to extreme (crushing headache, depleted of energy, etc.) There are other, more severe effects to drinking alcohol in excess. These include being violent, blacking out, driving while drunk and generally behaving like an asshole. And that is without even mentioning the additional nightmares that come with being an alcoholic. Surely, drinking alcohol cannot bring about a true "high," at least not according to my definition.

How about marijuana, that beloved and terribly misunderstood weed that has been a crowd-pleaser for quite some time? I smoked pot for 10 years. It was a big part of my life. You might say I was a marijuana scholar for a period of time. I grew it, sold it, bought it, smoked it and lived a lifestyle that revolved around it. In my final analysis, marijuana can bring about some positive short-term effects, but over time it weakens the human body and dims the human spirit. It, therefore, does not fit my definition of getting high. For those people who fight for their right to party with marijuana, I believe you should have your freedom to do so, but if you are looking to overcome challenges, move through issues and lift your spirit in a more steady way without negative long-term effects, marijuana will not ultimately be the vehicle to get you there.

I believe there are medicinal purposes for marijuana use. I have no personal experience with treating a physical ailment with marijuana, so cannot speak directly to it. For those people who feel it helps them to cope better with cancers/chemotherapy or other serious diseases, I hope they always have access to it. In their case, we are not so much talking about getting high as "getting through."

So, how do we get high according to my definition? Where is this drug that brings elation, euphoria, comfort and ease in the short term while also strengthening our system in the long term? What is the substance we use? Where can we find it? How much does it cost?

Once you understand this, and once you experience what I am talking about, you will truly have the keys to the kingdom, for you will realize that you have the power to change your own consciousness. You do not need a drug or alcohol or a person or sex or shopping or anything. It is so simple that we have overlooked it. The secret is to use our own body as a vehicle for the very transformation we are looking for. We do it through movement and through breath. It is called yoga and meditation.

You have surely noticed how big a deal yoga has become lately. It is not a fad. It is not a trending topic on Twitter here today and gone tomorrow. Yoga (and meditation) are here to stay because people have gotten a hit of what it means to get high in a manner that brings an astounding sense of well-being in the short-term and has progressively positive effects in the long-term.

Kundalini Yoga, for example, works to balance the endocrine system and nervous system while strengthening the physical body and calming the mind. The high that I feel from it is powerful but very different from a chemical high that leaves my system out of balance. You just have to experience it for yourself.

Are there other ways of getting high? So many! How about connecting from the heart with another human being? Eating well. Working out. Journaling. Going to a meeting. Being in nature. Praying. Being of service to others.

We all love to get high. The trick is to do it in a way that helps you to get to the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter is you. I strongly encourage you to explore your natural ability to change your own consciousness and to gain mastery over your mind and body. This is your birthright. Though we did not get this information growing up, it is here now. Let's go after it.

Tommy Rosen is the co-producer and host of The Recovery 2.0 Online Conference, taking place from March 17-21, 2013. The free online conference features 30 top professionals speaking about all addictions and recovery from diverse perspectives, including 12-step recovery, Buddhism, yoga, diet and optimal health. Sign up today at

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

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