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Thank you to City of Boulder Youth Opportunities Board (YOAB) for sponsoring Natural Highs!

OUR STORIES

 (please note all of these are anonymous and photos do not correspond with the author of the text)

"I started Natural Highs 2 years ago and got inspired to begin to quit smoking weed. I quit not because my parents wanted me to or because i was being forced to but because i wanted to. Natural highs has showed me how to live life to the fullest while holding my sobriety. It has showed me alternatives to getting high or using drugs with other methods that give me the same feeling without harming my body. It has truly opened my eyes to something new, everything i see is different, beautiful. The world and life is brighter then i could have ever imagined. I love natural highs and through it hope to inspire other of the wonders of the world. Thank you natural highs you are my hero."

~ anonymous submission

"Being a part of Natural Highs over the last few years has changed my life in a big way. This program saved my at the perfect time in my life, when I was about to go down the wrong road. Having been surrounded by drugs and alcohol since I can remember, I was next in line to follow the path of addiction. One day my friend brought me to a Natural Highs class, and from that moment my life completely turned around. I started making my own decisions, and thinking for myself. As I learned more about brain chemistry and my body, I couldn't believe what teenagers my age weren't being taught.

The alternative methods of getting naturally high became my new favorite hobbies, such as meditation, art, herbalism, movement therapy, acupuncture, reiki, and so much more. I developed an incredible sense of self-awareness from all this, and an on-going inspiration to never stop learning and expanding my mind. Now, 2 years later, I am a peer mentor for the Natural Highs classes, so I can teach teens my age all about living a natural and healthy lifestyle. I take all the knowledge I have learned from this program with me everywhere I go and use it every day of my life without question. I feel so grateful to have been exposed to Natural Highs and the amazing impact it has made in my life." ~ Natural Highs Peer Mentor

"I started going to Natural Highs classes 2 years ago and it has had a profound effect on my life. Natural Highs is a group of young people where I feel comfortable and respected for who I am. Natural Highs has been a constant inspiration for me to continue doing the things that I love, like art. Natural highs has completely redirected my life path, it has gotten me off of drugs and alcohol and has given me perspective on life. Through Natural Highs I have gained more information on the effect drugs have on my brain and the way i think and has given me the information I need to decide for myself to stay clean and sober."

~ anonymous submission 

How would I describe Natural Highs? Two words: Life changing.

I know it sounds cliche but the transformation that I have gone through because of this program is unbelievable. It has not only helped me to stop using drugs but has also helped me develop a better understanding of myself. I have learned how to cope wit tragedy, manage stress, search for answers within myself and develop healthy relationships. One thing that Natural Highs has really taught me is that through out our lives we can develop addictions to things other than drugs. Whether its habits, video games, relationship patterns or an unhealthy activity we need to learn how to keep our bodies and lives in balance. Natural Highs has taught this to me.

The summer after graduating for middle school- a milestone in many peoples' lives- was when I had my first experimentation with drugs: smoking my first bowl. Within two months of trying out weed for the first time, I was smoking at least once a day, every single day. Along with weed came the want to explore more, to try other drugs. By the end of the year, I was using not only weed every day, but mushrooms around once or twice a week. When mushrooms weren't enough any more, I discovered acid. Acid quickly became my go-to drug, or drug of choice and I was using it in addition to my existing habits as much as I could. By this point, I accepted myself as a drug user, and experimented with countless other substances including mescaline, dmt, ecstasy, 2c-b, 2c-i, alcohol, ghb, sassafras, ayahuasca, salvia, nitrous oxide, pcp, dxm, dramamine, diphenhydramine, cocaine, oxycontin, ritalin, ridiculous doses of caffeine, lsa, as well as dozens of experimental hallucinogens and cannabinoids, and that's just what I can remember of the top of my head. That's a lot of drugs to experiment with over the course of one school semester.

I will forever be impacted by the things I have learned and I would like thank Avani and the action group for the incredible work they have put into this program.

~ Anonymous submission

"I first joined Natural Highs my freshman year of high school, I was getting high ever since 7th grade until I joined this program. later that year, I became a member of the Natural Highs Action Group supporting other people in my age group with their sobriety. Now don't get me wrong,the Natural Highs program isn't a quick fix for drug abuse, you have to want to pursue you sobriety, and Natural Highs Made that possible for me. I don't know where I would be in my life right now if it wasn't for Natural Highs. I made the commitment to be sober about two weeks after I started going to Natural Highs classes and have fulfilled that commitment to this day. Thank you Natural Highs."

~ anonymous submission

Prior to Natural Highs, every single bit of my money along with money I managed to steal, was going to hallucinogens, opiates, dissociatives, as well as research chemicals and honestly whatever else I could find. I was in a place where I never imagined quitting drugs. My drug use escalated to using three to four different substances, multiple times every day. I was experimenting with whatever I could get my hands on, and it was getting way out of hand not to mention dangerous as hell.

By the time I signed up for the Workshop, I had been in multiple situations that were past the level of risky when it came to my health. After the first two classes of my first Natural Highs workshop, I was inspired enough to quit using all substances I was using regularly. I redirected my interest into Herbalism and meditation, and throughout the quarter, learned how to balance myself and clear my mind. I researched many many herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, dietary supplements etc and made the choice to improve my diet and increase exercising, and started paying attention to my health more than I ever had before. After the end of the nine week workshop I decided I would leave the class sober. Thanks to the support and knowledge gained through the Natural Highs community, I was able to complete a month of absolutely no substances, and following that, have remained to stay away from the drugs I used to use multiple times every single day. Looking back at myself nine weeks before the end of that class, I am extremely grateful that I have been able to experience the privilege that is Natural Highs. If I was told that nine weeks from now you'll want to be sober, I wouldn't of believed it in the slightest. In those nine weeks alone, my health greatly increased, my energy and mood went through the roof, my lifestyle choices were greatly revised,and I was shown a direction that I can move towards and I'm thankful for that. A clean mind can expand far past what a fucked up mind can any day, and I'm glad I found that out sooner rather than later. I'm in the best place of my life as of now and with the knowledge I have gained in regard to the effects of drugs on the body and mind, I can decide for myself that I definitely don't need them or even want them anymore. I'd much rather drink some Mate! -Anonymous submission

Why Naturally High / My Journey from Dark to Light. ​When I see somebody on drugs or coming down from drugs, it is very disheartening. Automatically, I get a sinking feeling in stomach that makes me want to be better, and to help that person. The hard thing is telling someone who does drugs that you are worried or that you want to help them, because guaranteed they will say that they are fine and don’t want your help.

Reaching people when they are living in a different world is the most challenging thing, and the only thing more difficult is helping one’s self. Personally, I have been struggling with drug and alcohol addiction for a couple years, but nothing like what I have experienced in the past 6 months. Smoking pot has always been something that I knew I could go without.It is a confidence duller, leads to depression, and makes me lazy. Quitting smoking weed has always been easy, but for some reason I always pick it back up and go through the same repeating patterns. The patterns go something like this. I want to get high, so I do, and then after smoking every day, multiple times a day, it becomes the escape, the relief. When stress arises, smoke a bowl. The thing is smoking a bowl rarely benefits me. Usually I don’t do anything to help my stress reduce. Smoking stresses me out more because I don’t get anything done after I smoke. Self-discipline goes down the drain. I want to quit smoking weed now, so I am raising my left hand and swearing to myself to not smoke, because I want to improve my lifestyle, and I am fully capable of quitting. Next, on another note, Alcohol. Alcohol in recent weeks especially, has been a huge downfall in my life. The scariest moment for me is when I was in a bad mood, stressed, tired, you know the usual, and then I had one sip of beer and then my entire mood switched, and I felt happy. To me that is scary, because well, that seems to me like how I would guess alcoholism starts. Considering that alcoholism runs in my blood, I know what I don’t want to do to myself. Alcoholism was the death of my grandpa and the reason for the 3 DUIs that my father has had, and one of them resulted in a car accident, with me and my brothers and a friend in the car. Sad and scary. I don’t ever want to put anyone, including myself, through anything like that. For the past couple months I have been getting drunk 3 to 4 days out of the week. It has become intertwined into my life style. I am noticing so many side effects, like my stomach is all messed up all the time, I’m tired, short tempered, and gaining weight. Not to mention the stupid regretful decisions that I tend to make from time to time when I am drunk. So why do people seem to be attracted to what is bad for them? Weed, cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine, crack, meth, heroine, opiates, etc. Personally, I believe it is because these are all ways of taking the path of least resistance. Giving into a drug is easier than saying no, and doing something healthy and beneficial to one’s wellbeing. Saying yes to your friends because they are saying yes is easy and it seems to make everybody “happy” in the moment. Versus doing what is good for you, saying no, and having people be like what is up with that and judging you for not “just chillen, getting high, like everybody else.” So……on that note, natural highs is an amazing way to change your life. In my experience I have only had a brief peak at what life is like naturally high. It was amazing, it was effort, but well worth it. If I truly care about myself and what I want then it seems logical that I will do what is healthy. There is no doubt that I have come to this conclusion before, many times, and yet here I am again. This can be frustrating, but I know that the more I try to change, the more likely it will happen, and the less likely I will become an alcoholic. What I want for myself is to be naturally high. To me that means being so present for every moment in life those simple things lift my mood. Whether it is the wind in the trees, or a smile passing by, these little things can give you a boost when you can fully appreciate them. The consumption piece however just makes being naturally high that much more enjoyable. Drinking mate, and other herbs really does make an incredible difference in the way you feel. I remember feeling lighter, like I wasn’t just dragging my body along through life; it was more like floating, gliding, present, enjoying each step, each breathe. That is an amazing feeling that everyday most people don’t even acknowledge. I want to feel more blissful, and not feel as though my happiness comes from a bottle or a bowl. I want to self-create my happiness and take every thought as it comes, versus escaping to ignore the things that stress me out. The best way for me to change my ways, and start down another path is to visualize the journey and the potential outcome. Being naturally high will take discipline, but once the habits are set then it will be easier and I can trust myself enough to try and help others change as well. So this journey that I am soon to embark will be filled with challenges and frustrations, but since I have been living in this dark low world view for a while now, I am ready for a good challenge. I am going to quit drinking, and smoking, and start doing to things that make me appreciate life and myself. Exercising, meditating, eating healthy, working, walking my dog, making music, laughing, and many more enjoyable things are what gets me naturally high. I am ready to move forward, life bring it on.

I got to the point where drugs didn't need to be for any special occasion, they were just a way to escape reality on a day to day basis. I was using acid almost every week, and on one occasion took more than a thousand hits at once- the high lasting almost 3 weeks. Shrooms were a part of my daily diet, and my weed smoking had escalated to an average of ten to twelve times per day. I remember verbalizing that "I'll never quit drugs, drugs are a part of my life, drugs are the answer." I started stealing money to support my habits, and started selling drugs as well to get money to buy more drugs with. My entire life was centered around finding and maintaining that perfect high. I started getting in lots of trouble at school, distancing myself from my parents, ceasing to participate in playing music and running, let alone doing homework. I had lost twenty pounds in less than two months, and felt like complete total shit whenever I wasn't high. I honestly thought I would never ever cease to do drugs, it had become such a big part of my life, stopping seemed pointless as trying to run away from your broken leg.
One day at school, when I was signing up for new classes, I came across Natural Highs. I read the little, two sentence class description and signed up, interested in what I'd learn. Throughout the nine week course, I became gradually more and more opposed to my own lifestyle. Actually learning the brain chemistry behind many common drugs, gave me a reality check and allowed me to gain a third-person perspective on my own drug use. Using this perspective, I was really curious on how being sober would affect my mind and body. I said "What the hell", and decided to try being sober for a month. Wow! I never thought that'd happen, ever. I noticed my stress threshold skyrocketed, and I was able to convert frustration and being overwhelmed, into direction and motivation. I found myself getting things done, instead of putting them on my mental back shelf and smoking weed instead. I found direction and ways to apply my interests to school. Before I knew it, summer had come- no more Natural Highs class. I started to ease back in to some old habits, and tried even more drugs I hadn't experienced yet. In the back of my mind, everything I had learned was still present, and my views on drug use didn't ease back to what they were- they stayed practical and unbiased and I noticed I felt guilty the more I did drugs.

When the next school year started back up, I immediately signed up to be a part of the Natural Highs Action Group, because I couldn't take the class twice and I had been wanting to bring that resource back into my life ever since it left. I refreshed and rediscovered some of the motivation from the year prior, and ran with it. I additionally started regularly participating in philosophy circles at my school, as well as dream groups. Now I'm able to explore the unknown within myself through dreams or meditation, instead of just tripping acid, shrooms or whatever. Another big interest of mine is pharmacology and brain science, how the brain works and how chemicals change it. Instead of using myself as a subject in an attempt to learn, I took a Anatomy and Physiology of the Brain class, and have become increasingly involved in exploring herbalism. I now know more than ever about these subjects than I ever have come close to quantifying through drug use.

Being able to attain the same levels of consciousness without a drug is something unique, and much more special- not to mention way healthier. Mind expansion is not achieved through any drug as it can be achieved without. Along with the mental aspects, I have experienced a phenomenal change in my physical self. I now run at least twice a week, eat healthier than ever, and don't look like a drugged out skeleton anymore. I wouldn't have believed it if I had seen myself today, half a year ago. Without being exposed to this program, I'd be lost in the unreality of drug use, more than ever. My life has truly changed in so many ways, for the better. I can honestly say that without exaggerating or dramatizing, and knowing that makes me so ecstatic about being involved in a program that I have experienced to be life changing, eye opening, and quite mind expanding. Thank you so much, Natural Highs- for teaching me, supporting me, involving me, and motivating me to pursue in my own education. Now it's my turn to help support Natural Highs.

~ Anonymous submission

Last year I smoked weed. I knew it made me feel good. My friends and I always had a good time.

Just before this school year started I was thinking about doing harder drugs (ex, alcohol, and mushrooms). My boyfriend at the time was doing it and I wanted to know how it felt because he always talked about how "awesome" it was.

 

BUT THEN!

I was introduced to Natural Highs! I started taking the class that my school provided for me. There, I learned what sorts of drugs, do what sorts of things to my body and my mind. I was taken aback by what I had been putting into my body, and I was sure glad I didn't do the harder drugs my boyfriend was doing. I was also told what I could do for my body that was healthy. Not just alternatives to drugs, but things as simple as drinking water, sleeping, eating right. I learned how important those things actually are!


I started going to the lunch groups at school (philosophy circle, and dream group) and also started attending the after school classes on Tuesdays. I started action group to spread the word about this class because I think everyone should at least know about it.
I have been completely sober for 4 months! Natural Highs helped me get there!

When I began this journey through high school, I was exposed to lots of drugs, alcohol, and mischievous behavior. My older brother was a senior, so I had to live up to a reputation. There was a lot of unspoken pressure by the older people especially to get high. Marijuana was widely used, so I was inclined to take part. I was curious. As time went on I was being exposed to more and more; Hallucinogens, Pain Killers, Amphetamines, the rave scene, and such. These were what were cool; this is what I looked up to for fun and my future. I began using LSD and Mushrooms as often as possible, every day if I could. I would roll at raves, and occasionally otherwise. Soon enough this became who I was and what I knew. During my junior year, I took the Natural Highs workshop, and it gave me the information, and the facts I needed to be fully educated on what I was taking. After the first day of that class I completely stopped using drugs.

Natural highs felt like a blessing from something, i finally understood what was actually happening to me. Around the same time I began to experience a hindering Anxiety Disorder. Natural Highs gave me the push to not use Pharmaceuticals, or any other drug to ease the pain I was feeling. So I drank the mate, and the other herbs. Now, I don’t have a bad anxiety problem, I overcame it with the help of Natural Highs and the individuals in the Action Group. Without Natural Highs, I don’t know where I’d be, and I don’t really want to know, I love where I am, who I’ve become, and where I went to get there. I know one thing for sure though; Natural Highs is a blessing and the best support group out there. ~ Anonymous Submission 

Natural highs is a place where i can speak and really be listened to. I would describe myself as an introverted learner most of the time, and usually prefer to observe and speak on points which I know are right or valid. But in natural highs there are none of those feelings of holding back, and the sense of trust is mutual. To me, it’s the difference between thinking only of what I can take away from the discussion; and thinking of how i can add not only for the benefit of the group but for my own understanding as well. Sharing this passion for thought and dialogue with other people is why I am a part of Natural Highs. ~ Anonymous Submission 

 

We would love to hear from you!

Please let us know about your experiences: avani@naropa.edu

From a young age, I've talked to plants. I've sung to them, carried out conversations with them and spent hours gardening and working the earth around them. One of the keenest pleasures I have known is spending time with herbs and plants. My mom saw this, and began taking me on herb walks, asking me to identify herbs and their uses.

At the age of 7, my mother's friend helped me unlock other abilities. I learned how to see auras and energy around people. After honing this skill, I slowly learned how to use energy to heal and to calm. My mom has epilepsy, and once I learned how to use energy to heal I began to do reiki on her while she had seizures.

When I was nine, I switched from the school I had gone to for three years. I was thrown into a toxic environment, filled with unhappy children and oblivious teachers. I was the only Jewish kid in the entire school and was bullied for this mercilessly. I was also bullied for my fondness of wearing "boy's clothes", for reading too often, for my glasses ridden face and for my lanky, underweight body type. I was often verbally berated and beaten up. I clung to my connection to plants all through this time for support. Nature was the only thing that seemed to understand what I was going through.

 Unfortunately it wasn't enough, and I tried to commit suicide for the first time about a month before I turned ten. My only friend pulled me out of the street before the car hit me, but no one else noticed.

I started self harming a year later. This slowly turned into an addiction, and I continued self harming all through middle school and into high school. My 9th grade year was a whirlwind of alcoholism and intense self harming. I only realized that I needed more extensive help after I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation.

A month after I got out of the hospital, a girl at my high school committed suicide. She had been part of Natural Highs and, while I was barely even an acquaintance of hers, I felt a strong connection to her. I started to connect with natural highs. I got clean and became a peer mentor 5 months later. I found that this program fulfilled my interests in plants, natural healing, medicine and energy healing- all while supporting a sober lifestyle for those who desired or needed it.

It has been an enormous blessing to be able to teach despite a crippling anxiety disorder as well as intense PTSD and depression. This program has taught me to be comfortable with not knowing and being wrong and to be confident in what I do know. I'm part of a supportive community where I don't have to hide what I'm thinking or how I'm feeling.