Destigmatizing Addiction
by Lyle

I was a bonafide starving student. Near the end of my medical training, as I was about to get licensed, I fell into a coma from low blood sugar. After I came out of the coma, my short-term memory was shot, and it was so hard for me to enunciate, I couldn't tell a story. It was quite a plunge from being at the top of my class to barely being able to prepare a bowl of cereal without making a mess, and then getting overwhelmed trying to clean it up.

Over the next ten years, I experienced modest improvement. I started taking drugs to address the sleepiness and inability to function, and I wound up addicted to methamphetamines. After seven years of being an addict, I entered a drug rehab program, which helped me get clean and sober. Once I was functioning again, I used my medical training to start my own drug treatment program. 

While it was a relief to participate in the world again, I was essentially a hungry ghost looking to fill a place that was probably never going to get filled. I tried to get what I needed through intimacy, but I didn't know how to bridge the distance between myself and other people. So I abandoned that desire and applied a tunnel-vision focus to my work. Meanwhile there was a place inside of me crying in desperation for someone to care about me.

Across the alley from my clinic was a yoga studio. My employees included psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health providers, but in that environment, I felt unbalanced. Yet when I crossed the alley to the yoga studio, I felt sane. I was awed by the way the yoga practitioners interacted with people and were able to get clients to open up to them. Eventually they explained to me that they had learned these skills from practicing Orgasmic Meditation.

At first, I was taken aback and stayed away for a couple of months, but finally I tiptoed back across the alleyway and started hanging out again. I sensed that I was going to relapse if I didn't find the same qualities in myself that I was seeing in the OMers, the connection and playfulness and ability to allow myself to be seen and to see other people.

My first OM began with an adolescent sense of excitement because I was going to get to touch a woman's clitoris. The energy I had been missing would be available to me at last. I started to stroke the woman, and apparently repressed emotion was released in her, because she burst into tears. Now I was on a totally different ride from the one I was expecting. It was very disconcerting. But over time, I learned to stay with such shifts. Instead of being disappointed, I could sit in wonderment of the new place our connection was taking us. 

When I had only the clitoris to focus on, sensations in my body came to my attention. I started feeling things that were there all along, but I'd never noticed them. I became familiar with my fear of abandonment. My desire is to change the world by helping people with mental health problems and destigmatizing those issues. My story says change is hard. So I worry, what if I push people too much to change, and they leave me? By tracing my fear, I could examine what I was holding onto. The alchemy for me is to view the change as being fun, instead of being hard. So my personal mission statement was that I would create change by making it fun. 

The listening skills I learned from OM helped me navigate a new style of counseling. In OM, I can discern through my body when I'm connected to the strokee, as opposed to when they're off on one trail and I'm off on another. I learned to use similar sensations to guide me in my work.

Of course, counseling doesn't involve physical touch the way OM does, but I use a similar type of resonance. I can feel when a connection is happening, when the person is with me in the conversation. If they're disconnected from what they're saying, I might feel like I'm floating off the ground. In life, when we happen to notice sensations that are a little off, we shift to making a story about what that feeling was, which cuts us off from further discovery. But the invitation of OM is to keep the feeling open and discover what cavern of information might be hiding beneath it. 

There is a tenet of the profession that says those who have the certification are using their expertise to tell the patient how to think or feel or look at things. But I learned the formula is actually reversed. The patient has all the information. The counselor's job is to tune in to what's happening. OM has given me the ability to listen to a person and know what's true for them. I can help them connect with their own true sense of source, which is their passion in the world.