Alexander Technique Helped Me Get Off My Meds

I don’t think Alexander Technique has anything to say about medication.

It’s a way of learning to move the way the body likes to move.

Still, it has profound effects on your whole being.

Here’s my story on how the Technique helped me get off medication. Your mileage may vary. I’m not a doctor and I’m not telling you what to do.

In 2001, a psychiatrist started me on the medications of clonidine and clonazepam.

According to Wikipedia: “Clonidine is a sympatholytic medication used to treat medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, ADHD and anxiety/panic disorder.”

According to Wikipedia: “Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine drug having anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, and anxiolytic properties. …Clonazepam is also used for the treatment of panic disorder.”

Since I started blogging for a living in 1997, I’ve had a largely solitary life during the week so on Shabbat I often get high on socializing and end up acting and speaking inappropriately because I feel so giddy about the opportunity to mix, particularly with young women.

At a shul singles lunch in 2002, I said some inappropriate things to women and people complained. When I told this to my shrink, he suggested a low dose of lithium.

According to Wikipedia: “A number of chemical salts of lithium are used medically as a mood stabilizing drug, primarily in the treatment of bipolar disorder, where they have a role in the treatment of depression and particularly of mania, both acutely and in the long term. As a mood stabilizer, lithium is probably more effective in preventing mania than depression, and may reduce the risk of suicide in certain bipolar patients.”

While my shrink did not say I was bipolar, he said I had some tendencies in that direction. I agreed with him. I was eager to try anything that would enhance my life.

Over the next eight years, I came to love lithium. It evened me out. I no longer had the giddy highs (where I would act and speak as though there were no consequences for my choices) and crushing lows (where I felt there was no hope for my life).

On the down side, lithium bloated me. I gained about 20 pounds and my face became puffy. My girlfriends could smell it in my pores.

Lithium slowed my reactions. I noticed myself drooling at times. My speech was slower and less distinct. My thinking was slower. Life in general slowed down for me and in most ways this seemed like a good thing.

I was making my living as a blogger and constantly launching and reacting to attacks.

I’ve largely lived my life in reaction — in reaction to my upbringing and to people who had power over me and to my insecurities and fears.

Living in reaction sucks. Living in response is just fine. Living in response means that you’ve considered the stimulus and chosen how to respond. Reaction, by contrast, is unthinking. Automatic. And a form of slavery.

In 2007, I started getting acupuncture (at first for sore elbows but soon I came to embrace oriental wisdom for many of my ills). As my life improved, I noticed my acupuncturist started asking me regularly if I was still taking my medication. I could tell she wanted me to quit but felt legally constrained from saying so.

I didn’t quit my meds.

In March of 2009, after a couple of months in a daily Alexander Technique teacher training course, I slowly quit my meds one by one.

I did some consulting with my doctors on this (and with one Alexander teacher) but did not run the whole thing by them as in “With Alexander Technique, I don’t need these meds anymore.”

I felt fine about my choices because a new prescription was just a phone call away and I told myself that if I ever went back to the rollercoaster highs and lows that ruled my life prior to Alexander Technique teacher training, I would go back on my meds.

Many of my Alexander Technique teachers would be appalled by this post. They would not want me saying anything that could cause people to think that practicing Alexander Technique means that you can go off your medication.

I think a minority of Alexander teachers would applaud my post. While believing that some people must stay on their medication, they would agree that if you can live a good life without meds, then do it.

In my experience, few people in Alexander teacher training courses are on psychotropic meds. The Alexander training clears up your responses and you become a more sane person.

Meds like the ones I was on slow your reactions so that your thinking and kinesthetic responses are more fuzzy.

With Alexander Technique, I learned to slow my own reactions so I could make better choices (in everything from how I moved to how I spoke).

Alexander Technique is all about your response to fear and how to let go of the unnecessary compression that inevitably accompanies the fight-or-flight feeling. With the Technique, you learn to inhibit your habitual reactions so that you can choose a more beneficial response to stimuli.

I don’t know of any Alexander teachers who are on mood stabilizers and/or anti-depressants. There probably are such teachers. I just don’t know of them.

As I move around the world, I get to know people on multiple medications for depression and mood disorders. All of them have a messed up head-neck-back relationship and could greatly benefit from Alexander Technique. I suspect that immersion in an Alexander Technique teacher training course would help most of them reduce or eliminate their psychotropic medication and that as a result, they’ll feel better and think more clearly.

I had a girlfriend who was on about five of these medications at once. She claimed that all sorts of places gave her panic attacks — hospitals, law courts, etc.

“You don’t need to have these panic attacks,” I told her one evening. “If you learned to free your neck and think up, they would most likely go away.”

She got mad and replied, “If Alexander Technique is so great, how come you lose your my erection when I’m on top?”

Even with the blessed Technique, I still have highs and lows, as you can tell by my blogging. Now, however, my highs and lows have a more tranquil quality. These habitual tendencies are thinner and lighter. And when I choose to self-destruct on the internet, I feel like I am making a choice rather than reacting by habit to some threat to my freedom.

Here’s a video from July of 2007 where I talk about my medication:

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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