Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ask Parvati 27: Addiction - Part 3: Hitting Bottom


(Continued from What Is Addiction?)

Pot smoking and drinking are just things people do. Most people my age don’t question them. They are often at parties. We can smell pot walking down the street. The fragrance wafts from the windows of my neighbours’ house. Many people partake, in some form or another. We often don’t question what is really going on when someone is drunk or high. We accept that they are doing that as a way to blow off steam and loosen up. But is it?

Though I have never been into it, I have been around many drugs and alcohol for most of my adult life. Growing up in the art scene and being in the music industry, I have seen how often what we praise as radical or brilliant behavior, is often creativity induced by drugs and fed by addiction.

I think most recently of the tragic death of the talented British singer Amy Winehouse who struggled with the power of addiction. What would her life have been like with different choices? If people around her understood more about the nature of addiction, would she have died so young? As was the case with Elvis, were there social, fan and business pressures that fed her addiction?

In the creative arts, it is easy for people to turn to alcohol and drugs for inspiration, as the alternative reality provides temporary fresh insight into their creative works. In a recent 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, Lady Gaga is quoted as saying, "I still smoke a lot of pot when I write music. So I'm not gonna, like, sugar coat it for '60 Minutes' that I'm some, like, sober human being, 'cause I'm not.” But soon, users find themselves trapped into dependency and in need of new means to escape the escape. The cycle continues. Drugs and alcohol are not the solution or even a stopgap.

I am fond of the work of award-winning poet, playwright, and filmmaker Julia Cameron whose groundbreaking book The Artist’s Way opened the door to help many find an authentic creative voice, free from drugs and alcohol. The book was the result of her sobriety as she faced her addiction, which had fueled her creative works.

Addictive patterns develop in those with certain tendencies as a means to avoid pain. Part of sobriety is developing the humility to understand that we are powerless over the force of addiction. In accepting powerlessness, we come face to face with the pull of the addiction and begin to let go of the seduction of its power. We begin to find space between the addiction and ourselves.

It is common for addicts to think they are the addiction, but in fact they are not. That is part of the problem. The habit has become their identity. They cannot see the forest for the trees, so to speak. They cannot see their light because they are so focused on their darkness. They cannot see that it is just a habit that has become an identity, but is not in essence who they are.

If you are an addict, it is a lifelong path to maintain sobriety. It is not something that just goes away. Once an alcoholic, one is always an alcoholic, even if that person has not touched a drink for 30 years. The tendency towards addiction remains.

When addicts begin to admit they are powerless over their addiction, they begin to let go of its power. They begin to step backwards, away from the edge of a black hole that can only consume, and move towards personal choice and the ability to manage destructive habits.

There is only one way to face addiction, and that is to have the humility to admit that you have a problem.  Addiction has a gravitational pull that will draw to it other energies in an effort to consume. Addiction is selfish, because the nature of addiction is to consume, to pull, to feed, to take.

The need to consume comes from the identification with lack, with emptiness. Only when the addict has consumed so much that the pain gets too great, will he stop and realize that there is a problem, that his way of avoiding pain is only causing more pain. Then, the desire to change begins.


1) Everyone has problems. Everyone has habits. Addicts have made habits into an identity. Ask yourself, if you struggle with addiction, what is your personal bottom? How far are you willing to go before you realize that you have a problem and are willing to get help?

(Continued tomorrow with Getting Help)


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