high-wire anxiety

Finding Balance in a World Addicted to Getting *High*

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We all wanna get high. Just not all the time. And not at the expense of our bodies or careers. AmIRight?

How I Go For the High Each Morning

My drug of choice is caffeine. My delivery system is coffee. My sensitive system says ONE CUP or you launch into a frustrated and impatient dick. Let’s not be a dick. Not today. Let’s go for that second cup and make it a decaf. I’m constantly trying to revise and improve my health, wellbeing, and energy. Without solid energy life feels a bit more like depression. Without proper sleep and nutrition, life can be harsh and cruel. What can I do to keep myself out of the danger zone?

One cup of real, multiple cups of decaf. Sure, I love coffee. I love adding things like ghee, and CBD oil, and cinnamon to my daily cup. If I’m feeling really racy, I’ll add a small sniff of maple syrup. Blend to a frothy deliciousness and consume with abandon. Repeat, but this time with unleaded. It’s a balance.

+++ Listen to Love on the Air +++


Last week, I was feeling a bit more run-down than usual, I hit the second cup of full-strength jet fuel, and I paid for my decision the rest of the day. My girlfriend noticed I was not listening very well. At work, I was a bit more “driven” than usual. Interrupting your boss, even for a *killer joke* is probably not the best long-term career strategy. STFU hyper-John.

Okay, I learned again, why the second cup (or even the third cup: My Third Glass Story) is always a bad idea for me. So, what options do I have if I’m feeling a bit lower than usual?

getting high on life

Finding Alternative *Lifts*

  • cold water plunge
  • anti-depressants
  • illicit substances
  • exercise
  • nap
  • creative juice blast
  • playing a game (Rockband on the PS4 – drums)
  • calling one of my kids

When the coffee isn’t working on a Monday morning, for example, I have several options. 1. More coffee; 2. Something else. I’ve got to keep exploring the alternatives. That second cup last week had me anxious where I’ve got nothing but blue skies ahead. I was sweating profusely most of the morning. Driving was torture as everyone was going the damn speed limit. “What is wrong with you people!” I screamed at myself, windows of the car rolled up.

At the moment, I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit, I’m taking Wellbutrin. It’s an atypical antidepressant also used to help people stop smoking. The first time I took it, I was driving from Austin to Boston for a new job. I woke up that second morning of the trip. I had a nice Denny’s-style breakfast with unknown or counted refills of leaded coffee, and at the end of the meal, I took my first Wellbutrin. ZAP.

I was ignited for about 8 hours. It was like speed to me. It wasn’t a good *high* it was a panicked, racing, high. The kind you get when you’re hoping for cocaine but you get mainly speed and baby laxative. (Sorry for the illicit reference from my college days.)

My knuckles were white on the steering wheel as I pulled on the freeway, 15-minutes after ingesting the anti-depressant. “Whoo-hoo,” I shouted as I pushed the accelerator pedal to the floor. It wasn’t a very dramatic act, I was driving an old Westfalia campervan. Zero pickup. But I was a lit fuse and I was excited about the 14 hours of driving ahead. Too excited.

How It Feels To Be Something On

Wellbutrin today, is my legal accelerant of choice. I have been experimenting with taking half of my normal dose, the lowest strength of 100mg. I cut the pills in half. Then I make sure I’ve eaten. And as the day unfolds I make sure to monitor my energy vs. anxiety levels. I have found that eating is the only way to ballast the rising action. So, I watch my mood, my energy, and my stomach. It is a balancing act. But one that is much more beneficial than that second cup of coffee.

What do you use to lift your heart when you are feeling a bit sluggish? Is coffee one of your countermeasures? Are there other ways you’ve tried to jolt yourself up from a slump?

When I titrate the coffee, food, Wellbutrin correctly I have a super and super productive day. When I don’t pay close attention I can find myself at 1 pm having forgotten to eat lunch, pressing so hard on my laptop’s touchpad that I’m hurting my finger. TIME FOR A BREAK, JOHN.

What We Know About Dopamine Dependence

Are you a thrill-seeker? Does jumping out of an airplane sound like fun or terror? How about driving your car so fast you scare yourself a bit? If you know how much your body LOVES DOPAMINE you can alter your trajectory in a fairly radical way by triggering your dopamine system. It runs our energy. It runs or ruins our attention. It’s what makes us happy. It’s also what gets us too high.

All kinds of things trigger little dopamine deposits in your system. Food. Dessert. Sex. Extreme sport. Normal sport. Ice baths. Saunas and hot tubs. Cuddles and kisses. And of course drugs. In her book Dopamine Nation, doctor Anna Lembke, MD. explains how our dopamine systems form the basis of our internal motivational systems. Inside our bodies, the craving for dopamine is what gets us to check our phones repeatedly. The craving for energy and a high, also dopamine cravings.

How do we make sense of all of these energetic systems? How do we move our fuel needle UP? How do we throttle DOWN our ascension when the climb becomes destructive or painful? How do we stop craving alcohol, Adderall, or sex? How do we self-regulate our dopamine systems? First, we’ve got to understand our bodies. Second, we have to understand our sensitivity to substances and activities. Finally, we have to make a plan to get more effective and efficient at managing our energy and mood levels: AKA our dopamine levels.

Are You Going My Way?

When I’m down I seek an UP. When I’m too UP, I seek a DOWN. When I’m just right, I often still seek an UP so I can be even more UP. This is an addiction cycle. Cravings work on this same network of nerves and chemicals in our bodies. Anxiety triggers certain hormones and “fight, flight, or freeze” response in our brains and then in our bodies.

GOLDEN KEY OF LIFE: Understanding your own body and your own reactions to the HIGHS and LOWS in your life. If you have a good grasp of what makes you happy and what makes you sad, you can manage your own UPS and DOWNS, within a certain range.

Anti-depressants don’t actually make you happy. They offer very little *high* of any kind. For the most part, antidepressants are designed to supplement your bodies chemical system. In my case, my lows are the concern. When my mom died last March, I got back on Wellbutrin by choice, even before the sadness knocked me out of my happy and motivated place. The Wellbutrin is actually like a second cup of coffee. But different, in one essential way.

I do get additional energy from my anti-depressant. When I’m down, this supplement can keep me from collapsing into an ever-deepening hell. The Wellbutrin-on-board is more like an additional layer of flooring that can slow my fall. Unlike the coffee, the Wellbutrin seems to give me a warm shot of energy, without the frustration and anxiety. So, for me, Wellbutrin as my second cup of coffee is a better option.

Talk To Your Care Team

When we are mood challenged, we’ve got to assemble our care team with care and focus. You need professionals on your team. A talky doctor, a meds doctor, and others, who can guide and support you through the challenging journey ahead. If you know you’re moody, maybe begin to observe what things take you higher and what things bum you out. Do more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff.

To my friends and lovers who have suggested my antidepressants are unhealthy or masking my real feelings… Um, yes, I love you, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. Let’s establish some healthy boundaries right upfront. The Al-Anon program will give you a great system for staying focused on your own issues and not the issues of another person.

I alone am responsible for how I navigate each day of my life. My care team comes into play when I have questions or need a fresh perspective on what I’m struggling with. Make sure you’ve got people around you that you can contact when you need them. 24/7.

Always know your team. And when you feel the tickle of trouble, let them know how to support you. I’m here if you need to talk. (30-minute free call, no obligations)


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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