Heroin, exposure and sensitivity

​The first time you take heroin it feels good. It’s what comes after that’s the problem. But why is that? The double-sided answer is illustrated by the following graph:
The first hit shatters your mind. You feel ascendant, and after it subsides you’re desperate to recreate it. But the second hit isn’t as intoxicating. It feels diminished, curbed somehow. So you seek another, sooner, just to try and recapture that initial state. It doesn’t work, but you continue to believe that it will, so after each failed attempt to ascend to that original feeling of bliss you chase another. Without realising it, you’ve become an addict, someone who spends their life obsessed with the pursuit of a never-again-attainable moment of satisfaction. 

This progression from first hit to full-blown addiction indicates the following: indulgence leads to insensitivity. The more you’re exposed to X, the less sensitive to X you become. The reverse is true as well: deprivation leads to sensitivity. The most extreme example of the latter is the suffering induced by forcing a heroin addict to go cold turkey. Their mind and body reels and rebels, revolting against itself, inflicting an excruciating torture because it cannot have what it so desperately thinks it needs.

Heroin is a fringe example of this relationship between exposure and sensitivity. There are more mild ones. I’ll provide three. One: I don’t consume carbonated drinks. And because I don’t, when I do I know about it immediately; my stomach responds by grumbling, by giving me the digestive system’s version of a middle finger. Two: one day a week I try to disconnect. No phone, no laptop, no screens. Also, when I wake up I sit and drink a coffee. No music, no connection, no activity besides sitting and being where I am. So when I come back online it’s easy to notice the effect screens and connection have on my thoughts and mood. Three: I’m an active guy. My job is physical, I cycle a fair amount, I practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu and I strength train. Which means that when I don’t move and train I can feel it in my body, in my joints and my tissue. I feel less loose, less supple, less relaxed and less energetic.

The link between exposure and sensitivity is a universal constant. So how can you use it, how can you turn it to your advantage? Firstly, if you take drugs the obvious approach is to not take them very often. The less often you take them, the more sensitive you’ll be and the more intoxicating the effect. Some other uses: 

Spend time away from loved ones. Absence makes the heart grow fonder because deprivation makes it realise what it’s missing.
Cut narratives out of your life. Don’t watch the news, turn off the radio, shut off the music. In essence, try to eliminate audio and visual stimulation from your environment. Then, when you let it back in, you’ll see how pervasive it is and what constant exposure does to you.
–  Don’t eat. Most of us are in a constant state of response to food intake. Our bodies are rarely given a chance to digest because we’re always ingesting. So don’t eat for twenty-four hours. Then you’ll see what it feels like to not be burdened with food and know again how it feels to be hungry. 
Take a cold shower, or a scolding bath. Your nervous system is acclimatised to moderate swings between moderate temperatures. Go from hot to cold and from cold to hot rapidly. It’ll awaken your nervous system and compel you to realise how nice it is to be just the right temperature.

Essentially, if you’re aware of the relationship between exposure and sensitivity you can manipulate it. Those things you don’t wish to feel can be dampened. And those things you wish to experience in all their rawness and intensity? Easily done; simply deprive, then expose.