There are many ideas and images we hold in our minds when it comes to addiction. Some of them are more Hollywood, simple, and basic and some are more comprehensive and complex. There are a lot of caricatures of “addicts” that portray a very negative and misleading idea on what addiction is and isn’t. Very seldom do those caricatures do any justice to what addiction entails. So sometimes a deeper dive into the mysterious nature of addiction is helpful. That’s what I’m doing in this post.
Even though addiction seems to be a hotly debated topic, most people would agree that it’s a formidable force that’s cunning and shrewd. And in its wake; kills, steals, and destroys one’s quality of life, relationships, and even one’s very own sense of Selfhood. This is often done in secrecy and isolation, until it cannot be contained there any longer. This can often be an invitation out of hell, albeit an abrupt and harsh one, that can at first feel like total defeat.
I’ve found that most people don’t want to be labeled by another as an addict. That’s tantamount to name-calling. If they identify themselves as an addict, that’s different. And sometimes identifying what addiction is, who has it and who doesn’t, can be chanted to a sneering beat of: “I know you are, but what am I”.
I believe that addiction is fundamentally a spiritual condition of disconnection; from one’s very own self, others, and to the ever-increasing uneasy parts of reality we would rather just make disappear. Its symptoms are deception (first to self, then others), discord, and disruption from receiving life-giving force or energy. This is why I believe addiction is fundamentally spiritual in nature: it’s initially invisible to merely physical metrics but will manifest its occupancy in the physical domain in only a matter of time. Just wait. Once it’s successfully enticed you and occupies your mind, body, and soul it won’t just stop there. It’s far too ravenous. Addiction is characterized by a spiritual energy which has an unsatiable hunger that doesn’t discriminate. It’s often been said that addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Addiction is far more inclusive than any of the most inclusive anti-bigot activists out there. Truly, all are welcome. It doesn’t give a shit about how smart, stupid, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, conservative, liberal, socially privileged, marginalized, religious, non-religious, gay, straight, one gendered or non-binary gendered, physically or mentally abled, disabled, single, divorced, married, remarried, polyamorous, vaccinated, non-vaccinated, Black, White, Yellow, Red, Brown, Multi-racial, Bi-racial, young, or old, etc. etc. etc., you are. If you’re alive, it will accept you with open arms. It will take you in and devotedly take you down and not only that, but it will want to take down your loved ones as well. The more you love them and the more they love you, the more it will want their mind, body, and soul too. Addiction is a family contagion because family is often whom you love and care about the most.
And, when addiction has fraternized and colonized your mind, body, and soul without
a good enough fight and push-back surrender to a Higher Power greater than itself by the one it occupies, you will remain under its control and governance.
This is all so easily disguised and therefore denied until the destruction is far more replete and obvious and stretches beyond the spiritual domain and manifests into the physical domain. Although, it’s admittedly baffling to witness people still denying its presence even when it’s so thoroughly manifest in the relational and physical domain.
This is a very cunning, formidable, and relentless thing. Dis-ease. Call it whatever you want or don’t call it anything other than addiction. It doesn’t matter what you label it or name it. And if you deny it, all the better, for “it”.
What I’m experiencing, little by little, is that the more spiritually perceptive, discerning, keen, awake, and surrendered you are; the sooner addiction can be arrested.
I believe that being human, makes you higher risk and more susceptible to addiction, although there are varying degrees of protection and varying degrees of affliction on an individual basis. Some may disagree because addiction or dependency/withdrawal symptoms can be replicated in lab animals. While I believe that animals are also spiritual beings, for some reason they are naturally less vulnerable to addiction unless they are being manipulated by people. Naturally they seem less susceptible, and I think it’s because they don’t appear to morally judge themselves or others, and therefore don’t struggle with the human affliction of shame and pride. Of course, to argue for or against that theory is insignificant. I can’t talk to rats or get into their consciousness. But I digress…
The point is: to win this battle and live in the solution is found in something that is pretty counter-intuitive to human survival. It’s quite the uncomfortable human paradox.
The solution is found in surrender.
Not to the addiction of course, but to a Power greater than it, and greater than you, whatever you name or call that Power doesn’t matter. I once heard someone refer to this Power as “Not Me“. What matters most is that you can see or even slightly believe, that this Power could truly set you free and do for you what you cannot do for yourself, but which you believe you “should” be able to do. And by all means, if you can do this for yourself and you truly do not need a Higher Power than yourself to do this, then I reckon you are not dealing with addiction. Not everything that’s hard to quit is an addiction, that could merely be a bad habit. There’s a difference.
The way I’m finding it works is this: This Higher Power will not go against my minimally cooperative, ideally enthusiastically given, consent. That is how surrender differs from compliance. Surrender to a Higher Power, not comply. This involves trust and desire, even if it’s very very small at first. It can grow, but you can’t grow something out of nothing. You need something to start with. This is the parable of the mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31-32). This is the solution. It is simple, but not easy. Not at all. But like most things, surrendering becomes easier with practice, one day at a time, and not always in a row.
With this concept of addiction, it doesn’t matter what the chains are tied to. It could be to a substance, a behavior, a person, or a belief system. It’s usually to something impermanent, and what isn’t impermanent?
I’ve also observed that the more abstract in nature that the chains are tied to is, the more disguised its occupancy can be, and often more socially acceptable because it’s simply more common by that very disguisable fact. But do not be deceived. The proof is in the pudding, and that pudding often is spiritual in nature and in how much or how little you’re surrendered to a Higher Power that gives you freedom and not chains. Surrendering to addiction as your higher power gives you shame upon shame, or even harder to detect; pride upon pride, until you are leveled with reality.
As human beings, we are vulnerable, meaning we are surrendered beings. We are not the most Powerful beings or forces of nature in the universe or even on earth. It’s hard to remember especially when we’re so far removed from being intimately connected with nature. But the fact remains: there are powers and forces greater than us, so know your place and that surrender is unavoidable.
So, what are you surrendered to, and how is that working out for you?
If you scoff at the idea that you are addicted to anything, consider this before your dismissal: The addiction you might have may be revealed with a confrontation of losing something specific, against your will, that others live without and are OK without it. If you had to give this up and learn to be better off with its absence or at minimum, its non-guaranteed presence in your life, would you be, OK? Just something to consider.
Nonetheless…for all of us it’s good to reflect on and choose your surrender, wisely.