It is a thing I’ve been avoiding. I haven’t wanted to discuss addiction. But, in all honesty, addiction has been my teacher and I pay infinite respect to my guru.
This is a really personal topic. It is difficult to write about it. So, I just let myself kinda flow along, hopping from peak to peak, ignoring the valleys. Maybe somebody will be able to follow me. And, hopefully, the words are of benefit to someone in the pain of addiction (any kind of addiction).
Buddha’s teaching is the end of addiction– no rejection, no clinging, just peaceful abiding.
Don’t do it!
No. I don’t advocate jumping straight into the hard-drug lifestyle. It is painful. It brings endless sorrow. Your friends will die quickly. You will live as if dead. Clinging and Craving and moments of illusory satisfaction will come to define your daily pursuits.
You know those drugs you got won’t make you feel better,
but its the only little part of your life you’re keeping together.
~Elliott Smith (I named one of my sons after Elliott)
I have indulged in the worst of them. I have traveled to the places they create and have become lost– and in being lost, I have come to know a part of this self that is difficult to meet, difficult to coax up and out– I met the leach and punched it in the face.. It was a Buddha fist of ultimate compassion.
Meth. Amphetamines of all sorts. Heroin. Opiates of all sorts. Benzos. Hallucinogens of all sorts. I was an angry child and I raged against the machine of this mind with full force. Something felt wrong and I wanted to kill the wrong, wrong pain. So painful.. Any other type of mind was better than the mind that had been cultivated by my childhood.
When Buddha speaks of Pleasure, Pain and Neutrality, I understand. When he discusses the dangers of indulgence, I understand– from the inside out. Drug addiction is just an amplified version of the addictive nature we ALL share.
Addiction is not a ‘disease’. It is symptom of some deeper thing– some deeper pain, some deeper question– and that deeper thing walks with us all.. To be addicted is ‘human’. It is our ‘human nature’. Learn about the word: “Dukkha” and you will see what I’m trying to say.
Some people are inclined to seek pleasure from work, some from sex, some from buying things, and some from substances.
Addicted to work, sex, material goods, you’re all good– these are socially acceptable. Become addicted to a substance that directly influences your neurochemistry, you are shunned.
They want you to jump through hoops to get your dopamine and endorphins and serotonin– they want you to achieve success! If you just jump to the substance, you are cheating, they feel it is unfair and think that you are lazy.
You, with your mind-altering substances, are offensive to them because you are bypassing the whole game. Normally, a person works hard, the person achieves some goal, the person feels achievement. Addicted to a substance, you seek the substance, it alters your physical self, and your mental self is relieved for a moment– it is over, that is all..
In both cases– substance addiction and ‘normal’ addiction– the pleasure experienced today will *not* be adequate tomorrow. You will need bigger success. You will need more drugs. You will develop a tolerance to all the pleasures from whatever pursuit you choose. If you cannot find contentedness, you will keep chasing– it will be painful to you and your loved ones. You will chase money. You will chase heroin. Whatever.
This substance-addiction is dangerous because it is easy to very quickly drop out from society. (Which is not always necessarily a bad thing).
The normal things that used to give you pleasure will no longer compare to the pleasure derived from direct chemical manipulation. Your family, friends, loved ones– interactions with them become less important. Drug seeking becomes more important.
This is not a ‘moral’ thing. I’m not condemning myself or any addict. Actually, I point to the bigger system in which we constantly force ourselves to endure stress way beyond what our body/minds were intended to deal with. This life is “unnatural” (whatever that means… I just mean, in the entire history of the evolution of our bodies, we have not lived this way before). Here, in America, where we are encouraged to amplify our greed, hatred, and ignorance, it is easy to get lost in addiction.
We believe we are seeking pleasure, and we do get fleeting moments of pleasure, but what goes up will come down. And it will be suuuuuper painful.
Your brain has come to rely on the substance for either inhibition or excitation or comfort, now the substance is gone and you are without relief. Or, your brain has come to rely on the release of pleasure from work, sex, or acquisition of goods. You lose your ability to be a ‘good worker’ and your source of pleasure is gone. You become ‘unattractive’ and no one wants to have sex with you. You suffer. You are unattractive, have no money, and are unable to acquire goods– you are the same as a sick junkie.
Here, in this mental/spiritual ‘sickness’, there is no relief from anything.
Fear overwhelms. Anger. Confusion. A general lack of all good things. Your body is tense, the tension hurts. The weight of your limbs, standing, sitting or lying down, is unbearable. There is no good place to be. No one to talk to. No good position to lay or sit in. You toss and turn in bed and cannot find rest.
Look at the Sense Minds
The withdrawal is a bitch.
Eyes tend to find sad things to stare at.
Ears listen to the moaning and wailing of the suffering world.
Tongue and Nose just aren’t very sensitive, nothing is very pleasant.
Intellect-mind constantly steers toward the sad, mad, bad and painful.
Coming down from the heights,
coming down from your false-heaven,
you crash hard and it really, really hurts.
The true hedonist comes to abandon this process because she realizes: “this is not pleasure”.
I don’t really have any good answers, well, I do have one suggestion to my friends suffering from substance addiction (or, any of the normal addictions)– practice mindfulness. Just look. Stop passing judgement.
When you are coming-down, recognize:
I feel like shit. I lack the cause for the emotion that I crave.
When you are high, recognize:
I feel pleasure in such a way. Here is the reason I have sought the substance.
The more you learn about why you seek what you seek, the better equipped you will be to navigate Samsara (cycle of suffering). Your self is a little boat. Steer it with wisdom and compassion.