I was once in a rehab in California where a counselor -- speaking about the tranquility of our surroundings and the friendly people within -- remarked, “If you’re not happy here, I suggest you take a good long look in the mirror because you’re not gonna find a nicer place than this.” Well, great! I was still miserable.
When deciding on a name for our program, we chose “Inscape” because it describes a person’s internality, or “inner landscape.” What we foster at Inscape Recovery is a deep exploration of that landscape aimed at inner transformation. This seems like the essential point because, while healing from addiction and emotional distress can be assisted by things like body therapies, lifestyle changes, nutrition and, yes, a serene and supportive environment, ultimately any groundbreaking change entails an internal shift in feeling and perspective.
Until this takes place, it doesn’t seem to matter where you are, what you’re doing or whom you’re surrounded by -- the same dominant feelings that drive your life, if not scrupulously addressed, will surface with a vengeance again and again.
This is not a new concept, of course. Addiction has long been recognized, by most thoughtful people at least, as merely a symptom of deeper issues. We appear to develop addictions not because we are by nature obsessed with drugs, internet or shopping, but because such things come to seem like the easiest, best (maybe only) way to adjust an internal sense of discontentment or discomfort. At Inscape, we view all emotional healing in this same context: problems such as depression and anxiety, like addiction, are fed by patterns of being that may be temporary coping mechanisms, but which keep us stuck in the same boring states of mind. Creating an internal shift requires uprooting these patterns, little by little, diving at the truth that’s underneath them, and connecting better with who we are when our obsessions aren’t dictating our view of reality.
This is not an easy thing to do, of course. I am a former heroin addict who has been doing this work of self-overhaul for three years, and I still sometimes feel the pull of my addictive impulses like an undertow. Despite this, I’ve created a tapestry of healthy things around my addiction that makes my life enjoyable. I have a good social network, I spend a lot of time outdoors and I have a consistent spiritual practice -- something that has not only helped me feel calmer but also, based on how I’ve developed so far, gives me hope of continued progress around my emotions, thoughts and ability to navigate my life in a sensible way. I also have the privilege of a fun job that involves working with people like myself -- people with drug addictions and other seekers who arrive here because, on some level, they feel inspired to try another way. Finally, I continue to do occasional medicine work, a practice that helps me to clarify areas of uncertainty and get a reset to fundamental internal states of curiosity, intentionality and peace.
At our alternative rehab, we offer a rich menu of activities to help people see a horizon much broader than any single addiction, compulsion or obsession. This involves physical healing (through diet, exercise and supplementation), psychotherapy, medicine work, classes in things like yoga, horticulture, music and exploring addiction, and the presence of a thereapeutic community that includes the Inscape staff, its participants and, frequently, the surrounding community of Malinalco.
By the time participants are halfway through their program, we are accustomed to seeing an inner change where feelings of vitality, hope and inspiration replace the doldrums. Participants come to feel different -- about their own potential, about the world, about the possibilities out there for living a rich and fulfilling life. They feel the possibility of not just getting by, but thriving.
This is a change that the environment at Inscape helps foster, but which ultimately comes to grow inside the individual -- becoming something they can carry with them, regardless of where in the world they might find themselves. Afterall, wherever you go, there you are.