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Crack is the New Yoga???

Xanax: A Love Story New York Magazine Cover

I don’t know if popular culture is getting more and more idiotic or if I’m just becoming more and more aware of the idiocy that was already there. Maybe it’s a little of both…

If you do nothing else, watch the short video above (less than 5 minutes).

“Xanax is a solution?!?!?!?!”

W…T…F…?!?!?!?!

Pill-Popping Modern Culture…

I have a morbid fascination with an article like “Xanax: A Love Story” in a popular periodical like New York Magazine. I actually thought the article would be funny. Sadly, it was more an “ode to Xanax” and could definitely be used in a promo package for benzo drugs…

Here’s a modern and popular magazine – based in New York City no less (How stressful is living THERE???)  – with an article about how great benzo drugs are written by a self-described skeptic of approaches like “Mindfulness Mediation” for dealing with stress. (BTW, formally called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and championed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others at the UMass School of Medicine, MBSR has tons of successful clinical research to prove it’s effectiveness in improving and treating depression and anxiety.)

Regarding Mindfulness Mediation the author says:

“…I am suspicious of any cure that requires more effort and expense on my part and more hours away from my work…”

Sigh… Personally, I’m suspicious of any approach that DOESN’T require effort on my part and facilitates “getting back to the cubicle, keyboard and computer screen” with nary a thought about long-term health consequences, lifestyle choices or whether the Grande Red-Eye Frappuccino from Starbucks and stress-ridden subway trip to work had anything to do with my symptoms of anxiety…

The Drugging of America and the Taming of the Human Animal…

It seems that, more and more, drugs are being promoted as “solutions.” Worried about your job being outsourced? Take a pill. Stressed about the 6 mortgages on your house? There’s a pill for that. That Value Meal from McDonald’s making your stomach feel bad? There’s a pill for that. Overweight? We have a pill for that too.

House attached to a debt ball and chain

I actually have a VERY positive outlook for our world, our environment, our society, our health and the human race in general. But I don’t think we’ll get there without a fight and a good part of that fight is with this attitude of medicating away our primal drives, instincts and desires.

Obese Ronald McDonald sculpture by Ron English

 

From the excellent book “Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There from Here” by Bruce H. Lipton and Steve Bhaerman:

“In lieu of focusing on the crisis, we are encouraged to addictions and distractions conveniently placed to keep us preoccupied and passive. But reality keeps intervening. Everything in the world seems to be rolling toward some inexorable, beyond-our-control crisis.”

- Bruce H. Lipton and Steve Bhaerman

And, in the outstanding book “The War of Art,” Pressfield says:

“When we drug ourselves to blot out our soul’s call, we are being good Americans and exemplary consumers. We’re doing exactly what TV commercials and pop materialist culture have been brainwashing us to do since birth. Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification and hard work, we simply consume a product.”

That all sums it up well, doesn’t it?

BTW…

Who WOULDN’T be stressed out working here?

 

A sea of cubicles in an office

Especially working with her. (Or, for her)…

 

Lisa Miller from New York Magazine

And with THIS to look forward to every morning as your commute…

 

 

I guess the major thing that gets me fired up here is that complacency is the common denominator. You see that a lot with anything “Old Economy.” It’s a case of “The Establishment” dispensing information that helps us “manage” our feelings about a situation as opposed to taking a fresh look at the situation and seeing what can be changed. It’s the type of thinking that has print journalists screaming and crying about “the death of journalism” when they’re really just confused about what journalism actually is. Much better to take a pill (or a “cocktail” of pills) – prescribed by your doctor and endorsed by the Medical Establishment of course – and spend a few hours in therapy every week lamenting the death of whatever industry you’re in and how bad the economy is as opposed to embracing the emerging technology and opportunity all around us.

Seth Godin said it best in his post, “But who will speak for the trees?

“Defenders of the status quo at newspapers, book publishers and the magazine industry are in a panic. Some are even misguidedly asking for government regulation or a bailout.

All three industries are doomed (if doomed means that they will be unrecognizable in ten–probably three–years). And yet…

And yet there’s no shortage of writing, or things to read. No shortage of news, either. And there doesn’t appear to be one on the horizon. In fact, there’s more news, more images and more writing available to more people more often than ever before in history.

No, just about all of the whining is about protecting paper, the stuff the ideas are printed on, not the ideas themselves.

It’s paper that makes the economics of the newspaper industry work (or not work). It’s paper that creates cost and slows things down and generates scarcity. And scarcity is what they sell.

It’s paper that makes the book industry what it is. As soon as you remove paper from the equation, the costs change, the timing changes, the barriers to entry change, the risk changes. And defenders of the status quo don’t like change.”

The Defenders of the Status Quo Don’t Like Change…

From Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”

Caesar:
Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Any establishment doesn’t like lean, hungry men or women who think too much. Much better to keep them stressed and focused on the “latest and loudest” with a physician-endorsed addiction or two to keep them calm, complacent, fat and cozy…

What Do These Two Images Have in Common?

(This image is from the New York Magazine Xanax article…)

Diagram from New York Magazine Xanax Article

If you said: “Neither situation depicted is anything remotely similar to situations we evolved to handle well during the greater part of our evolution.” you get a gold star! Or, maybe a strip of bacon…

I guess what really got me going on this topic was the positive spin the New York Magazine article put on sedatives like Xanax. It was just another version of the same old thing – modern technology and life causes a problem and we use MORE technology to “fix” the problem. Except, the technology doesn’t fix the problem it just lets us ignore the problem a little longer.

I guess, if you’re living in New York City and writing for a print publication like New York Magazine you’re going to have a bias – by nature or nurture – toward living a life that’s more toward the stressful end of the spectrum. I guess that’s fine if you REALLY like it, but I can’t help wondering what kind of a life you’re living if you need an occasional sedative to deal with it. 

As Lisa said at the end of the article:

“I want tranquility once in a while. But I don’t want a tranquil life.”

-Lisa Miller

That’s her choice. I once felt that way too. It wasn’t until I learned through first hand and painful experience how unhealthy and unsustainable a “busy” and “fast-paced” lifestyle really is. (If you want to know more about the life I used to live and how I ended up writing a Paleo and fitness blog and Paleo books for a living, you can check out my post: “My Personal Journey to Paleo.”)

It’s not how people live that bothers me – it’s the cultural and societal compulsion to live that way and the twisting and obscuring of facts that might make a difference in how people approach their lives that bothers the hell out of me…

Live how you want if you’re going to make an informed choice about it. But if you’re living a stress-ridden and caffeine fueled life because you don’t know any better or think that’s how you’re “supposed to” live because that’s what popular culture is telling you, then THAT’S a problem…

But, I think it’s irresponsible to offer things like Xanax to people as a cure or “solution” to the very natural feelings of anxiety and impending doom a human being would experience under any of the following conditions:

  • Living in New York City
  • Working for a print publication
  • Likely drinking a ton of coffee – most writers and journalists do
  • Working in the mainstream print media industry (the mainstream side of print media is rapidly declining even though journalism has never been healthier or more alive…)
  • Doing silly things like watching network news and reading the skewed stuff that’s getting written in the mainstream printed media
  • Working anywhere that there are cubicles and fluorescent lights

 

Crack is the New Yoga???

Suzon from Season 11 of A&E's Intervention

I’ve written about how much I like the A&E show “Intervention” before. Last week, I was watching the episode with Suzon who’s a Crack addict. At one point, I think they said she spends $1000 A WEEK on crack. There’s one point in the show where she’s talking about how great Crack is and how it makes her feel. She says something to the effect of “It’s like I just finished a Yoga class and am coming out of Shavasana.” My thought when she said that was: “WTF!?!? Why don’t you just do Yoga then???” Personally, I’d do the yoga and stash the $1000 a week…

Yeah, I’d be less stressed with an extra grand a week…

I’m not trying to make light of Suzon’s plight or the trauma she’s been through, but it’s beyond me that you could compare smoking Crack to that “Blissed-Out” after-yoga feeling and not stop and think maybe yoga is a better alternative…

A Head on a Stick Moving from One Computer Terminal to Another…

As Frank Forencich describes in the EXCELLENT video below, modern culture approaches the body as merely a transport mechanism to get the head from one meeting to another and one computer screen to another.

“Bring the body back into modern life…”

- Frank Forencich

 

I think there are two broad categories of reactions to the Frank Forencich video above:

  1. “Right on, man!”
  2. “Yeah, that’s great – unless you live in the real world…”

 

It’s a Matter of Perspective…

Being that I talk to a lot of people about eating and living Paleo, I tend to hear the same things over and over. There are always those people who “have something wrong with them” and have to eat “special” cookies and cake and bread and cereal and milk and whatever else.

The bottom line with these people is a simple assumption – they’re assuming that Standard American Diet “foods” are actually food. Of course, the truth is, this stuff is just highly processed, industrialized garbage. You can make garbage out of buckwheat or amaranth or whatever other grain or pseudo-grain you want, but it’s STILL garbage.

As soon as you shift to a Paleo perspective and realize meat, fruit and vegetables are where it’s at, all the issues about “special” foods and label reading go away. It’s the same with lifestyle issues and anxiety. You can live a high stress, screwy lifestyle with minimal exercise and lots of modern electronic stimulation and assume you have an “anxiety disorder” just as easily as you can have coffee and a donut, Eggbeaters and a bagel or an Ensure shake for breakfast every morning and talk about the “digestive disorder” you’ve been inexplicably cursed with.

I’d propose that, just as bagels, cake, cookies and other processed crap isn’t food, rushing from meeting to meeting, sitting all day in a cubicle doing a stressful job, then in a car or on a subway and then on the couch in front of the TV isn’t really a life. If you start with the assumption that Modern Life is “normal” then, yes, you’ll “have stuff wrong with you” that makes living in the modern world difficult and you’ll likely need more “modern wonders” in the form of drugs and other technologies to function. And, an “active” lifestyle doesn’t mean you watch TV on the treadmill at the gym instead of on the couch either, so don’t even go there…

Just as modern “foods” aren’t food, I think much of modern “life” isn’t life. Drugging yourself to help deal with your life – that likely needs a major overhaul – is just as silly in my opinion as drugging yourself so you can tolerate and digest processed modern foods…

What’s the Big Deal with Xanax?

The big deal with Xanax is that the shit is MASSIVELY addictive. If you don’t believe me, google “Xanax addiction” and take a look at a few of the hundreds of thousands of results you get. Be sure and read some of the horror stories of people who got addicted to it and had to battle their way back. When you’re taking a medication for stress it just sort of adds another stress to your life when you have to deal with overcoming an addiction besides…

Why do I care?

About two years ago when I began the long and stressful process of untangling myself from the obligation-filled, stress-ridden mess that my life had become – thanks to my “prestigious corporate career,” big house and position as a “productive member of society” (another definition of “productive member of society” could be “mule hooked up to a debt-cart” or “cubicle prisoner”) – the therapist I was seeing was playing it fast and loose with the prescription pad…

Now, I’m not saying that a little Xanax wasn’t a welcomed help in my life at the time – it definitely helped me get to sleep and got me through some of the massively stressful situations I was dealing with almost daily – but no one told me how addictive or high in side-effects the stuff was – especially at the metric shit-ton dosage I was given. It wasn’t till I was talking to my friend Jodi, a PA, that I found out the 4mg daily dosage I had been prescribed – right out of the gate – was a HUGE dosage that she’d never seen outside of a mental institution setting.

So, while I was popping Xanax like Pez candies (as prescribed I might add…), I was wondering why I was getting more and more depressed, more and more anxious and even starting to experience symptoms of Agoraphobia, my therapist never mentioned that these were ALL side effects of the Xanax. His solution? Add an antidepressant to the Xanax…

The monkey makes it Paleo, right?

And, no, using a gorilla Pez dispenser doesn’t make Xanax Paleo… ;-)

So… Needless to say, I’m no longer addicted to Xanax, no longer taking anti-depressants and no longer seeing that therapist…

Two Rapidly Diverging Cultures…

Something I find really interesting is how quickly “Paleo Culture” is spreading throughout the world and how many of us are diverging from Modern Culture and the stress-driven, quick-fix mindset. To borrow Seth Godin’s term, Modern Culture is in a “race to the bottom.” The bottom of health, the bottom of job stress, the bottom of everything (by “bottom” I mean it’s getting worse and more intense).

It’s racing toward a dead end and more and more people are realizing that and jumping into “alternative” camps – be that Paleo instead of the Standard American Diet, CrossFit instead of weight machines and treadmills, blogging instead of paper-based journalism, holistic healing instead of pills and the Medical Establishment, Mac instead of PC and on and on. It’s not that Modern or Popular Culture is “doomed” it’s just that more and more people are seeing the light – in large part because of the internet and the speed at which information travels – and jumping ship.

So, while the “traditional” and old economy pundits are talking doom and gloom, a terrible job market, blaming everything on the economy and crying “not enough money, not enough jobs, not enough time, not enough sleep, not enough, not enough, not enough…” there are niche publications, movements, ideas and communities springing up EVERYWHERE and THRIVING…

Yes, I guess staying on the Titanic, fighting over deck chairs with fellow passengers as it sinks and taking Xanax to feel better about the whole situation is an option, I just don’t think it’s the only option and promoting it as such gets me a bit cranky…

Speaking of Caffeine…

What’s really interesting to me is that, while New York Magazine is talking about this increase in anxiety within our culture and the increase of anti-anxiety medication prescriptions, there’s another increase happening – just about in direct proportion – a rapid increase in the consumption of coffee and caffeine products. Like the video above says: “Every day is a 5 Hour Energy day!” (BTW, one of the times I watched the YouTube video of the Lisa Miller interview, the advertisement before the video was actually FOR 5 Hour Energy!)

The reason this is so interesting to me is that virtually all the classic anxiety symptoms are also primary effects or side effects of medium to high caffeine consumption. Racing thoughts, anxiety, inability to sleep, inability to focus, rapid heart beat and on and on…

The last time I passed through NYC, there were more coffee and caffeine outlets and products being offered than I could count and there only slightly fewer sugar and grain products around. I wonder if that could possibly have something to do with all this…

BTW, if you want a fascinating and very well-documented and well-researched read on the myriad effects of caffeine on all aspects of health, check out “Caffeine Blues” by Stephen Cherniske.

Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske, M.S.

Designing a Life vs. Taking a Pill…

As much as I’m “lucky” in having been able to design a life I wanted to live – one of training, writing about training, eating good food and living as slow as I can as often as I can – I’ve also worked extremely hard for that privilege. I’ve made very difficult decisions and made some pretty big sacrifices. For every excuse, argument or assertion that someone “doesn’t have a choice” about how they live – be it family, financial or work obligations – I can probably make a counter argument that there are still plenty of choices or options if there’s a willingness to change attitudes, behavior patterns and, in some cases, consciousness.

I forget where I first heard it (apologies to the author), but it’s not that we don’t have any choices, it’s that we have HARD choices. There’s a very big difference…

Obviously, there are different ways to live. My personal perspective is that a slower, more spiritual, more “Paleo” and more thoughtful approach is the way to go. I’m sure my approach to life isn’t prefect for everyone.

My issue is more that many people – myself included at one time – don’t know there’s an option or a choice in how they live. It’s one thing to choose to live a fast-paced life in a city like New York, eat grain-based processed food on the run day after day and guzzle caffeine products all day when you know the potential – and pretty much inevitable – side effects.

It’s another thing to live in a way you think is going to lead you to some “enigmatic consumer culture defined bliss” that’s actually a moving target at best and a total myth at worst…

I’ll end with more words of wisdom from Seth Godin…

ttys

Adam

Who will save us?” by Seth Godin…

“Who will save book publishing?

What will save the newspapers?

What means ‘save’?

If by save you mean, “what will keep things just as they are?” then the answer is nothing will. It’s over.

If by save you mean, “who will keep the jobs of the pressmen and the delivery guys and the squadrons of accountants and box makers and transshippers and bookstore buyers and assistant editors and coffee boys,” then the answer is still nothing will. Not the Kindle, not the iPad, not an act of Congress.

We need to get past this idea of saving, because the status quo is leaving the building, and quickly. Not just in print of course, but in your industry too.

If you want to know who will save the joy of reading something funny, or the leverage of acting on fresh news or the importance of allowing yourself to be changed by something in a book, then don’t worry. It doesn’t need saving. In fact, this is the moment when we can figure out how to increase those benefits by a factor of ten, precisely because we don’t have to spend a lot of resources on the saving part.

Every revolution destroys the average middle first and most savagely.”

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About Adam

Adam Farrah has been studying and experimenting with Paleo approaches to health, eating, living and moving since 2005. Connect with Adam on Google+

Comments

  1. Amen. Amen. Amen. Life is a choice!! Choose well!!

  2. “Paleo instead of the Standard American Diet, CrossFit instead of weight machines and treadmills, blogging instead of paper-based journalism, holistic healing instead of pills and the Medical Establishment, Mac instead of PC and on and on.”

    Mac instead of PC!
    It seems odd with the rest of the list. I don’t see the point, here…

    • Mac being counter-culture and anti-establishment as compared to PC. PC and Windows tends to be more corporate and “suit and tie” where as Mac tends to embrace artists and those who create change. Big corporations almost exclusively use PCs whereas artists, entrepreneurs and bloggers tend to use Macs nearly exclusively.

      Adam

Trackbacks

  1. [...] and sites on the web!Crack is the New Yoga??? PracticalPaleolithic.com / Posted on: June 07, 2012PracticalPaleolithic.com – I don’t know if popular culture is getting more and more idiotic or if I’m just [...]

  2. [...] Here’s a rant I wrote a few weeks ago regarding a New York Magazine article talking up Xanax a… [...]

  3. [...] Farrah presents Crack is the New Yoga??? posted at Practical Paleolithic, saying, “Blog post about pop culture idiocy and New York [...]

  4. [...] The message: Our bodies are wrong. Working a high-stress job and living a high-stress life is right. Medicate away the natural reaction of your body and emotions to an artificial modern environment. (I rant long and hard about the article and Xanax here.) [...]

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