Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
Because the instinct that drives the compulsion is universal. It is an attempt to solve the problem of disconnection, alienation and tepid despair, because the problem is ultimately ‘being human’ in an environment that is curiously ill-equipped to deal with the challenges that entails. We are all on the addiction scale.
Addiction is when natural biological imperatives, like the need for food, sex, relaxation or status, become prioritized to the point of destructiveness.
The reason I continue to is because they have awakened me to the impossibility of happiness based on my previous world view: that I am the centre of the world and that what I want is important.
My way of coping with the quiet anxiety of uncertainty was to find distractions and pleasures. I was never still. I was seldom reflective. I sustained myself with distraction.
5-point guide to the cycle of addiction 1 Pain 2 Using an addictive agent, like alcohol, food, sex, work, dependent relationships to soothe and distract 3 Temporary anaesthesia or distraction 4 Consequences 5 Shame and guilt, leading to pain or low self-esteem
‘You don’t have to not drink for twenty years today. You don’t have to give up white bread for all eternity, right now. This “one day at a time” cliché when taken plainly is no less profound than any “be in the moment” Eastern wisdom I’ve since encountered. Today is all I have.’
As Eckhart Tolle says, ‘addiction starts with pain and ends with pain.’
Step 1 invites us to admit that we are using some external thing, a relationship, a drug or a behaviour as the ‘power’ that makes our life liveable. It asks if this technique is making our life difficult. By admitting we are ‘powerless’ over whatever it is, we are saying we need a new power, that this current source of power is more trouble than it’s worth.
The very act of drinking or using sets me on a course that I am unable to reliably arrest.
If you are a serious alcoholic, you cannot drink.
Where the ‘one day at a time’ homespun, thanks Nan, wisdom kicks in is with the rather Zen and incontrovertible truth that life is experienced in the present, beyond today your projections of life are conceptual. You don’t have to not drink for twenty years today.
The unmanageability at its heart means that there is a beast in me. It is in me still. I live in negotiation with a shadow side that has to be respected. There is a wound. I believe that this is more than a characteristic of addiction. I think it is a part of being human, to carry a wound, a flaw and again, paradoxically, it is only by accepting it that we can progress.
am responsible for all the things I’ve done. It’s just I wasn’t this me while I was doing them.
My life is about preserving the conditions where it is less likely that I will quantum leap into the other guy.
In practical terms, power is the ability to effect change. On our own we didn’t have enough power to change so we need access to a power that exceeds that.
All I must do is engage with this idea: I will become open to the idea that my conceptions, beliefs and experiences are limited. I will become open to new beliefs and new possibilities. I will become open to the idea that I can live a better, more loving and useful life, even if I don’t fully understand how I will do it or what it will be
am not my thoughts. I observe my thoughts.
This form of idolatry can call upon centuries of romantic love for support but the idea that another human can ‘complete’ us is built upon the assumption that we are incomplete, inadequate, flawed.
When addicts meet as a group, no matter what the addiction, we have come together on the basis that we need help and that there is hope. Like a tribe that have a shared wound as their initiation, the people in these movements come together bearing the same scar. We must build more communities like these upon the basis of our mutual need.
With these silent and ubiquitous truths spoken the world is not filled with strangers and grey faces because I cannot help but love people who know the pain I feel. Even if the tune is distinct, when I hear people honestly speak I know the notes they hear in their hearts are the same notes I hear in mine. That beyond the difference of language is the oneness of language’s
An addict friend of mine said the day before, ‘A theist is a person who has seen through the material and mechanical world and doesn’t commit suicide’. I like this quote. To see that it is all bullshit and not to clock off, that requires faith. Only faith will do. Only faith.
For example, my promiscuity prevented me from noticing that I felt lonely, weak, worthless and unattractive.
I have through inventorying and sharing come to see the true cost of these defective behaviours and am now ready for them ‘to be removed’.
The truth is defective behaviours lead to pain. We must be willing to let go of them all. Entirely.
The experience of jealousy, the experience of envy or rage. Can we reach through the fear to the crucible of Self, which is experiencing sensation and thought and ask that we transcend our baser wants?
We crave connection, but so much of the time we are not alive, neutralized. Who are you when you’re listening to the radio in traffic? You are not you, you are on standby. Mostly we are free-floating and disengaged, lost in the spectacle. When I fixate on the object of my addiction in any given moment, it is because I believe it will give me relief from disconnection. Even if it will ultimately make things worse, I will feel the connection. This is why addicts relapse even though they have strong evidence that the action will not be successful. Once they are in the traumatized, cut-off state they revert to the only plan they know to ameliorate the feeling. Through humility this step bypasses our erroneous and illusory methods for temporary self-salvation and connects us to the truth we have always sought: we are, in fact, connected.
When ‘humbly’ asking for our defects to be removed (by God!!) consider what attribute would most usefully replace them. • Self-pity – compassion for others • Selfishness – kindness • Self-centredness – empathy • Intolerance, Dishonesty and Impatience are obvious – their opposites • Lust – love • Greed – generosity • Gluttony – mindfulness • Sloth – diligence • Arrogance – humility • Envy – gratitude • Jealousy – acceptance • Pride – grace
Humility is our acknowledgement of our relative insignificance. We are valuable as part of the whole and we have a right to love and be loved but we can afford to surrender the egoic authorship that has got us into this pickle.
Our natural yearnings are running amok and they are being stirred and nourished by a society that uses our desire as its fuel. Consumerism and materialism are creating a culture of addiction. We are all on the scale somewhere because we are kept there by the age we live in.
No point bemoaning what everyone else ‘gets away with’. In this world people seem to be getting away with a lot; a lot of consuming, a lot of gratification, a lot of senseless sensuality, a lot of bilious materialism, wilful indifference to suffering, selfishness and dishonesty but for you and me this is not the way. It can never work for us. We will never wrestle bliss from this world. We settle for pleasure and we never discover bliss.
Now when I am attracted to a woman and my old code jolts with the sudden snap of a stirring crocodile, my new program is fired up. Not with the slick efficiency of an immaculate Apple app. No, like a whirring and whistling Victorian time machine, juddering into clumsy life, blinking and twitching and setting off bells. To do this I must have an inner connection of some kind, an awareness. If I am falling forward through life, some inert berk zombie-ing along, I’ll cling to any branch I come across. If I am aware, I have a throne within me, I have a personal sovereignty from where I can adjudicate. ‘I could stare at this person,’ I think as the scaly and serpentine missile shatters the wall of my sanctum, ‘But then what? Then I will be flooded with desire. The desire will want me to breach my own ideals, which, if I do, will have consequences, inner and outer, and if I don’t do, will disturb my peace. I know this is an illusion. That I can never be contented by carnal pleasure, that I have awakened to the truth of what my life is and is not. It is a chance to be connected to limitless and eternal beauty, it is not a theme park for my dick.’
In moments when we are unchallenged it is helpful to have clearly iterated ideals to which we are willing to work. That way we have immediate access to a checklist, as I keep saying much of the spiritual life as I live it is admin. In my case, I have written in each area of my life, a ‘sound ideal’ that I am committed to attaining.
As our trusted external institutions and social contracts all melt away, it is more important than ever to live by a personal code.
I find this hard. Inventorying, then, is a daily, possibly constant process of instantiation of new ideals. From this emergent place of awareness we observe our fluctuations and leanings.
Step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
When you start to drink, wank, eat, spend, obsess you have lost your connection to the great power within you, the great power in others, the great power around all things. There is something in you speaking to you and you don’t understand it because you’ve never learned its language. So we try to palm it off with porn and consuming but it is your spirit calling and it craves connection. Spend time alone, write, pray, meditate. This is where we learn the language.
Having prayed for gratitude, I pray for courage, a willingness to no longer inhabit my old ways of thinking, not to see the world as a resource for my pleasure but instead the environment in which I can be of use.
I was freely given a technique that induced a psychic change that worked and continues to work. First it somehow got me free of drugs and alcohol then it gave me a way to be a better man.
If your goal is perfect peace, I think that may only be attained when the lights go out. Perhaps in death there is freedom. But if what you want is a way of being in this world with your drives and our culture’s demands then this program will make your life first manageable and then beautiful.
When we recognize this we can take action – attend support groups, contact a mentor, do step work, help others – we have a choice, we don’t have to wait for the agony to arrive before we take action. If we have a good Step 1 we have accepted that we have a problem and that without a program we will continually tend towards discomfort and diseased thinking. If we accept that we need to work a program, rather than inwardly insisting that ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘life should be easier’, we are continually reminded, by this defective thinking, that we need to be active in our program or we will be active in our disease. This aspect of the disease I refer to by many names: ‘ego plus’, ‘the daemon’, ‘the extra bit of madness’, ‘magic’, ‘the edge’ – this additional and destructive component that addicts often have appears to reside exactly adjacent to the ego, and the ego covets it. The problems I encounter are often induced by my egocentric reclamation of this ‘daemon’ magical energy. My experience in Hollywood deteriorated and became painful when I became egocentric. Even though, superficially, it was the fulfilment of a dream. My experience with politics and activism became toxic when the sense of purpose that initially inspired me became, unnoticed by me, appropriated by selfishness, an egocentric drive. This mercurial, impersonal energy has power, and I feel it, in ‘my’ body, I witness it with ‘my’ mind, so it’s easy to individualize, to take individual credit for. But actually, is there anything for which I can legitimately take credit? I didn’t give myself the ability to speak or write. I didn’t invent the English language, or the printing press or the camera, or any of these things upon which any success I’ve enjoyed has been built. This is why I need to be grateful for success, never proud of it, because in short, I have done nothing. It was all just there. When instead of grateful I feel proud, when instead of blessed I feel anointed, it is a sure sign that I am soon to be in mental peril.
This energy, this mercurial and impersonal power, in conjunction with the personal ego somehow conspires to find a destructive outlet. Perhaps because the ‘shadow self’, the unconscious and pre-linguistic mind, recognizes that the ego is a barrier between the individual Self and this greater, impersonal power and has to immolate the barrier, has to burn it, discharge it. Perhaps this destructive drive in essence, which we call addiction, or a suicidal tendency, knows that ‘I’ is not ‘self’; that in fact the self has to go, self has to be destroyed for the Higher Self to be realized and if there is no spiritual protocol through which to achieve it, then we have to find another method, behavioural or chemical, to ameliorate the self to give us connection, to give us liberation.
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