In this heartwarming conversation I talk to Avani Dilger, founder of Natural Highs, about the work she's doing to cultivate health in our community and throughout the world.
Show Notes From our Conversation:
Why Avani dedicated her life to understanding drug use and addiction and to helping treat and prevent it. She wanted to know:
"Why do beautiful people end on a path that can hurt them?” What is the internal thing that drives people to do destructive things?”
How Avani's experiences with altered states through dance fit into her understanding of addiction.
How her experience with dance speak to the experience of craving, seeking, and despair.
Why she chose to study “alternative forms of psychology”?
How the work of Christine Caldwell, a pioneer in somatic psychology - helped Avani reach a body centered approach to working with addiction and helped her understand how addictive dynamics show up long before people ever use drugs and how we can address those issues early on.
What she learned from working at traditional addiction centers:
We explored the relationship between substance abuse and the justice system, the criminalization of substance abuse.
How Natural Highs got started
Avani started listening: When people use substances, what are they actually looking for? What’s underneath the impulse? Avani had conversations with kids and adults and understanding what they were looking for.
“Substance abuse is complicated and complex and we need to come to this topic with humility. The reason we’ve been so successful in connecting with people who are struggling is because we don’t pretend we have all the answers. It’s more about collecting the building blocks that are helpful to people. The program is not a finished thing, it’s a living process."
The Importance of Rituals:
The Yerba Mate Ritual: Avani incorporates the sharing of Yerba Mate as central part of the Natural Highs programs because a big part of addiction is not just the chemical substance, but it's the ritual. People can’t imagine not doing something that’s so tied into their social life.
“It’s not the drug that gets people together, it’s the ritual and we can be more creative with that”
The Rituals in our modern lives are often not healthy. How can we create healthier rituals for ourselves in our lives? Rituals are important because they can provide a sense of safety.
Learning about Brain Chemistry is the #1 most important thing youth and adults want to get out of Natural Highs.
People want to understand how their brain and bodies work and don’t usually have an opportunity to learn. Natural Highs doesn’t tell people whether or not they should take drugs, but rather says “this is what the drugs do to your brain and body, you decide what to do.”
Over 85% of participants say they either decrease their use or stop their use of substances.
What are people looking for when they take substances: altered consciousness and spiritual experiences. Natural Highs acknowledges the intelligence behind the impulse to change our perception and experience of consciousness. Participants learn how to change their state of mind without hurting themselves.
We discuss how sex and love are related to drugs.
We explore the difference between seeking growth and transcendence and the desire to escape and the reality that all of us have both of these impulses within.
“The moment you name something and make it okay a space opens up for you do something with it.”
Natural Highs includes classes around mental health issues like anxiety and depression. What is anxiety and how can you work with it?
Now they have more people coming to the Natural Highs programs who are coming because they’re interested in learning about anxiety and depression.
The next phases for Natural Highs… expansion of the program globally.
To Learn More or Support Natural Highs Please Visit their website.