I’ve been thinking lately about the term “getting high”, as it is so commonly used in our culture today.
As a student of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), I know the real power our language has in influencing our lives.
This leads me to wonder about the relationship between how we define getting high and the epidemic we now face with Substance Use Disorder in our country.
Dictionaries define “getting high” as exhibiting elation or euphoric excitement.
By this definition, it seems this is a feeling we would all strive for and embrace — at least I certainly do. After all, isn’t that why we stretch ourselves as humans by reaching for the stars?
Why else would we jump out of airplanes, climb Mount Everest, or even go on roller coasters?
Getting high is what makes us feel alive.
Referring to the use of harmful substances and behaviors as “getting high” gives drug use an allure that can seem very attractive to a young mind when, in reality, it’s anything but.
I can tell you, as a man who battled substance abuse for several decades, 99.9 percent of the time that I was using substances, I was not “getting high”.
I was numbing the painful feelings and thoughts I had because I was at such a low point in my life. Thoughts that began in early childhood and snowballed from there.
Granted, there may have been a few times in the beginning when I felt elated, but not many. Still, I have to believe that even then there were many healthy alternatives I would have chosen, had I not been so young and naïve.
Turns out, there are a lot of ways to “get high” that do not require substances or behaviors that have a negative effect on your life.
I can’t help but wonder what my life would’ve been like had I understood this at a young age.
In The Psychology of Extreme Sports, author Joachim Vogt Isaksen, HiNT, collected research into the effects of thrill-seeking and adventuring on people’s lives. He writes:
“[E]xtreme sports change people who participate in them. A bungee jumper might, for example, feel a certain rush of immortality. This may lead to psychological effects that have positive effects for life in general.”
The article goes on to explain that the brain has a natural reward system, a neurochemical called Dopamine, that is released when someone experiences a thrill.
Think about the term “runner’s high”. As one New York Times article points out, it’s more than just a theory.
Researchers in Germany used PET scans to track chemical changes in the brains of people before and after exercise, and “[t]he data showed that, indeed, endorphins were produced during running and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, in particular the limbic and prefrontal areas.”
Activity in these areas of the brain is associated with feelings of joy, like being in love, laughing with friends, or even hearing an incredible song. For some, it’s Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.
For me, it’s “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
As a recovery life coach, I listen to the struggles that parents of addicts go through daily. In them, I hear the common stories of guilt and blame that once suffocated me while trying to take that journey with my own kids.
I suspect these are the same feelings my own parents went through with me during my years as a young addict as well.
- Wishing they didn’t work so much and made more time for their kids during those years when their little brains were being bombarded with life’s tough lessons.
- Knowing they saw the red flags but were just too busy doing “life” to pay attention.
- Or, even worse, they don’t have a clue where they went wrong because they did everything they thought they were supposed to do. They followed someone else’s blueprint for success and it blew up in their faces.
These stories lead me to wonder…
At what point, did we begin to define “getting high” as a toxic, irresponsible thing reserved for dope fiends and decide the better option was to work our asses off so we could provide our children with everything under the sun — except the very thing they need most: Us.
I’d like to take a stab at restoring a misused term to its original meaning, by sharing some ways you can get high with your kids, as a family. Who knows, maybe you, too, will discover that you like this meaning better.
And maybe, just maybe, it can save you and your kids from traveling down a much darker road.
Here are five ways parents can reclaim “getting high” and maybe change your kid’s life for the better:
1. “Wake and bake” together.
Sit at the breakfast table each morning and share 10 things that each of you is grateful for. This is the magic bullet for shifting a crappy mindset into a happy, creative one.
Give positive feedback while reflecting them back to your kids.
2. Choose a healthy activity that scares the crap out of one or both of you and JUST DO IT.
There is nothing more exhilarating than busting through your fears together.
Although it isn’t always possible, the buzz is so much better if you choose something that scares both of you and you get to break through it together. This gives you that lifetime bond and builds trust with each other.
It also teaches them the true meaning of courage when they see you walking through your own fear.
3. Take turns spending an entire day in each other’s world.
On the rare occasions I used to take my kids to work with me, they absolutely loved it. They could just step into it and use their powerful imaginations to feel the whole effect of the high.
For me, it was much more challenging at first. I realized that I had to let go of a lot of pre-conditioned crap before I could allow myself to be present in every way. It’s a waste of a good high if you only show up in body.
I don’t know the extent of the impact this will ultimately have on my kids, but learning to play again and think with the mind of a child has been one of the greatest tools to my own recovery.
Even at 57 years old, I’ll take a sand box over a bar room any day.
4. Connect your children with their heroes — not just yours.
Take them to the ball game, rodeo, NASA, or wherever their role models are.
This seems like a no-brainer, but often we only take them to see our heroes, so that we can live vicariously through them. Listen deeply to them and discover the people, places, and things that get them high and plan a trip.
These may vary in cost, so you’ll have to decide whether you can afford it or not.
But I can tell you this: There were many times I thought I couldn’t afford things. Today I would love to take the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve given to rehabs for my children and travel the world with them instead.
When weighing the cost, it’s important to consider the long-term return on the investment.
5. Designate at least one day per month to do something new and different.
I don’t know how many times I suggested something to my kids that they thought was lame, and then they ended up having the time of their lives.
Choose things that are new for you, too. Remember, you have even more limiting biases than they do. Include their friends and get crazy.
As I see our country going through this major transformation where corporate America is being replaced by the lifestyle entrepreneur, I couldn’t be more optimistic.
I believe this will give us the freedom to return to that infinite wisdom in our hearts and reconnect with some long forgotten truths. I’m not going to pretend that I know the meaning of life because I don’t have a clue. Perhaps it was always meant to be a mystery.
I do know that exhibiting elation and euphoric excitement, AKA getting high, feels good to my soul and doesn’t allow room for thoughts of putting harmful substances in my body.
That’s a high worth sharing with my children.
And another thing — regardless of how old your kids are, it’s never too late to be a good parent.
Greg Boudle is a Life Coach, published author, speaker, and entrepreneur. After overcoming 30 years of struggle with addiction, he lives by the mantra that “your greatest struggles in life are the things you were born to teach”. He provides 1:1 and group coaching to folks recovering from addiction and their families. His book and action journal “Life Beyond Clean, 90 days to unf@#king yourself” can be purchased at Amazon.
This article originally appeared on YourTango. For more like this from YourTango, try:
- 9 Things I’d Do Differently If I Had A Parenting Do-Over
- 13 Things About Parenting That Will Take You By Surprise
- 4 Styles Of Parenting And How They’re Affecting Your Family
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