Friday, September 8, 2017

A Portrait of Addiction

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness



Like students analyzing an unsettling piece of artwork, let’s take a moment to examine a portrait of addiction.

Addiction, Defined

Let’s start with a definition of addiction.

Addiction is a self- and/or other-destructive behavior repeatedly used as an attempt to push away present-moment discomforts resonant with repressed, traumatic events, typically from childhood but also potentially from other life crises.

When thinking of addictive behaviors, my sense is that we usually jump to mental imagery of drunks, crackheads, and so on. Such extremes are only the epitome of addiction, for addiction abounds well beyond substance abuse and can be found in unexpected places.

Behaviors such as working ridiculous overtime and frequent complaining to support a victim mentality—this mentality actually being what perhaps all negative dependencies support—are also addictions. So, too, even “minimalist” behaviors such as, say, drinking two beers (but no more) every Friday night because, “I have a stressful job. I need to unwind, to take the edge off.”

In every case the (usually unconscious) rationalization and subsequent behavior is based on an inability to healthily cope with the present moment and the desire to block pain.

Finally, if someone cannot readily walk away from a repeated, if not obsessive, and otherwise unnecessary or perhaps useless behavior, this is addiction.

A Sea of Gray between Love and Hate

Our society is in a love-hate relationship with addiction.

Generally speaking, we’ve abhored the things that “authority” has made illegal, and we’ve glorified what has been made legal. We’ve also loathed having to experience addiction yet have been madly in love with the same.

What do I mean by this?

In terms of legal/illegal, we’ve generally trusted “authority” to permit into our daily lives what is supposedly “healthy” and “safe” and to ban the opposite. This trust has allowed “authority” to condition us into believing them to be providers of a “safe reality,” while the conditioning itself drives us to willingly dive head-first into what is apparently “good”—even if it’s potentially harmful—and forcefully push away what is apparently “bad”—even if it’s potentially helpful.

In terms of both loving and hating the experience of addiction, we hate it because we know it’s destroying us, even if our behavior is legal; we love it, too, however, because it allows us to escape from an existence seemingly void of meaning and worth.

Now, there are a lot of things that are understandable as being illegal, such as methamphetamines. And by conventional logic, this makes a lot of sense: many such substances have immense power to alter consciousness such that a user constantly wants more, even knowing self-destruction is the probable conclusion.

But there are many things we are addicted to that are totally legal even though self-destruction of some form remains the evident conclusion. Even worse is that society graces them with marks of honor. Granted, some of these behaviors cannot be made illegal. For instance, it's reasonably evident to most people when someone is buying and hoarding obsessively, but no one has the right to draw a clear legal-illegal line. There are other legal behaviors, though, for which we often know we’re self-destructing yet continue on anyway as if there’s no better way; as if someone “out there” is going to save us or, “Well, everyone else does it, so it must be okay. It wouldn’t be legal if it we're that bad.”

Let’s take drinking alcohol as an example of a frequently addictive behavior that we hate for its high destructiveness yet which we’re madly in love with for both its legality and escapist effects.

Societal Praise

Consider some of the following ways our society holds drinking in high regard:

Mostly in earlier years but possibly rehashed nostalgically once we “grow up,” we share our stories of alcohol-induced loss of consciousness, or blacking out, like badges on our sleeve. Only maybe if we get a girl/become pregnant, destroy property, or kill someone do we see there’s a major problem with our behavior. As if our behavior is totally fine, honorable even, as long as nothing “severe” takes place.

Perhaps after a night of drunken escapades (i.e.: “escape-aids”): “Oh, man. I’ve got such a case of the beer shits this morning!” and everyone laughs. And in many cases, statements like this and worse may even be said in front of parents only for the parents, if not giving flat-out endorsement, to tell the kids something like, “Oh, c’mon. You’ve gotta start being more careful. You’re going to hurt yourself,” wearing an approval-type smile the whole time.

We stumble all around and slur our words, overexcited and unable to concentrate, and we’ve labeled this “acceptable.” Normally we’d diagnose people like this as having had a stroke or with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and then, one would hope, treat them with the utmost care. Yet all the while so many of us deliberately choose to drop into a temporary state of physical, mental, and emotional retardation.

People are respected for having fridges loaded with beer, alcohol carts packed with liquor, and racks filled with wine. Bars, liquor stores, breweries, and the like are bountiful.

We drink heavily to wake up with raging headaches and a driving need to vomit at least once, or maybe all day long and unable to keep food down… Only to proudly share our story with friends and go back and get bombed the next day or week or month.

We drink an alcoholic beverage or three just before bed. Instead of calling it something so course as “addiction” or “alcoholism,” however, we smile and say, “I’d like a night cap.”

Fitting hand-in-glove with all this are businesses such as the film industry. How many movies have praised drunken antics and their consequences and raked in mega millions of dollars and spurred on multiple sequels and spin-offs? The subliminal messages placed in alcohol advertisements are no better. Society—i.e.: you and I—feed on them, and they feed off society; they tell us “what’s hot and what’s not,” and we buy it.

Concurrently, consider how this plays out in other addictive areas. The government operates the lottery system and creates advertising persuading people not just with financial gain but even stress reduction and helping the elderly. Cable TV providers air ads that say: “With data speeds and prices like these, you’ve gotta be crazy not to binge watch your favorite shows—ALL! DAY! LONG! No, neither government, cable providers, nor anyone else should have a say in people’s free will choice to do as they please (if it’s not inherently harmful), but to essentially brainwash people into self-destruction is a whole different story.

And how often do we as average people completely turn away from labeling this behavior for what it is—addiction—and thus effectively, if not overtly, give it our approval? “Eh. College kids will be college kids.” “She’ll grow out of it eventually.” “Everything in moderation.” “As long as it’s not hurting anyone.”

Folks, these thoughts are so ill-justified. And they do nothing but provide us a buffer to prevent our egos from hurting as we continue to slowly dump our lives down the drain and enable others to do the same.

Legality Schmegality

Speaking of alcohol, “It’s legal if you’re 21 or older,” is another rationalization, and a crappy one at that. Yes, in the US, one can legally drink if 21 years of age or older. But for something to be legal does not imply that it must be good or sane or healthy.

Compare alcohol to marijuana. People go bonkers over the plant because we’ve been conditioned to believe that marijuana is dangerous and sometimes even deadly. Otherwise innocent people are put in prison, from decades to life, for carrying so very little of it. And yet, all the while, so few people (until recently, at least) are fact-checking to see that marijuana is maintained as illegal by corrupt, profit-driven justice and prison systems and “Father Government.” There is zero accurate science to show that it’s as deathly harmful as claimed—because it’s simply not. Instead, between hemp and marijuana, had we decided to grow both like we grow corn and wheat, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Plastic, and probably about twenty other Big’s would collapse so fast there’d be a sonic boom. If people want to “go green,” they really ought to begin doing their research into the suppression of the uses and benefits of hemp and marijuana and learn of the endless, clean possibilities the cannabis plant varieties can offer naturally or through processing.

And when was the last time you’d heard of someone overdosing on marijuana? Or maybe committing involuntary manslaughter while driving high?

Maybe never. Right? But I bet there’s probably not a day, week, or month of your life that goes by (at least if you still pay attention to the mainstream media) that you don’t hear about drunken vehicular manslaughter or maybe a guy coming home from the bar intoxicated and beating the life out of his family—things for which the offenders all too frequently get only a few years or decades of life behind bars.

Legality is garbage, folks. “Maintaining ignorance and profit at the highest expense to others,” is the law of those who enforce it.

But be this what it may, truth is, the politicians and business owners who are making a killing on the dis-ease and addiction of the common man are, themselves, actually no different from the common man: both have been thoroughly abused in childhood and seek to avoid that hurt by both repressing and inflicting more hurt—the common man taking it out on himself, and the rich and powerful taking it out on the poor and weak. Each enables the other.

The Cause of Addiction Is Not What You’ve Been Told

How can this happen? you might wonder. I will tell you:

Excluding untoward circumstances such as needing to save someone from a burning house, any sane and healthy person will choose joy, peace, freedom, and their kin over pain and suffering any day.

But as you may or may not have noticed, although there are few people saving others from burning houses on a moment to moment basis, there are a lot of people very regularly choosing to be put through and put themselves through a lot of pain and suffering.

The indication, here, is that these people—which constitute the majority, by the way—have serious internal discomforts they are unwilling to face.

Via intense negative religious and cultural conditioning, abusive childrearing practices, and so forth, people, as kids, must shut down their uniqueness, spontaneity, and ability to feel and emote for the sake of their survival (which may not always be true, but appears as such to a helpless, powerless, ignorant child).

As children “grow up,” emotional processing remains inhibited at childhood levels. People thus get older but, even if they don’t realize it because they don’t recall a troubled childhood or are now “successful,” they dramatically lack any true personal orientation of meaning, connection, peace, etc. Said differently, they’re unable to feel the natural high, the natural sense of love, safety, and goodness that life offers simply by existing.

You see, aside from, say, a rare case of chronic depression as caused by genetics, no one is ever inherently and chronically depressed—they have to be “made” that way; there has to be some psycho-emotional imbalance within them that causes it.

Then upon “growing up,” difficulties are compounded by the stigma society has placed on people who openly admit they aren’t “perfect,” as well as, of course, the ever-present onslaught of addictive “sanctuary” almost everywhere one looks.

This all leads to ever-battling states of a natural want to release and be whole versus an unnatural, but highly enticing, want to avoid the hurt and continue repressing. This internal war is the foundation of addiction because addiction—drinking, gambling, smartphoning, smoking, binge-watching TV, shooting up, overeating, abusing children, complaining, or whatever—allows us to get “high,” to feel something, anything, if only for a few seconds, in spite of the otherwise numb experience we live in.

But of course, as all false methods must always reveal themselves as false. Addiction leaves its mark with an ever-expanding internal void, typically leading to deeper addictions and more profound emptiness.

Addictive Homeostasis, Environment, and Diet

Where addiction concerns substances such as alcohol, I’ve often heard the argument that, “Alcohol isn’t an addictive substance, so you can’t get addicted.” As far as I know, this is true. But it also completely evades the obvious truth that, a great many people are addicted to alcohol.

Here’s the deal:

It doesn’t matter whether it’s excessive alcohol, speed (the tablet or in a car), shopping, masturbation, or complaining and the victim mentality, all such measures are used as self-medication to ward off inner, repressed discomforts. These “medications” work either directly or indirectly in that the body responds by releasing “feel good” chemicals, expressing the ingested/inhaled/injected “feel good” chemicals, and/or dropping or expanding consciousness. (In a case such as working ridiculous overtime, I'd would guess that "feel good" chemicals usually don't play a role. It's more a matter of choosing what is perceived to be the lesser of two stressors; being addicted to a feeling of "safety." [e.g.: subconsciously: I don't love my wife anymore, but I'm afraid to tell her so. Hopefully by never being around she'll become upset and be the first to call for a divorce.])

The body adjusts to every stimulus it meets. When “provocative” stimuli are experienced consistently, our body shifts to a different and unnatural homeostatic set-point. Should the stimuli be removed, withdrawal symptoms must arise since the foreign substance-dependent set-point has become unstable. (Hence, also, why the more addicted someone is, the more it takes to get the high.)

But more important is the mental-emotional game being played—the very thing that’s driving the destructive behavior to begin with. As long as an individual is unwilling to feel his or her way through their discomfort and heal it, addiction of some kind must ensue.

In which case, no, a given “provocative” stimulus is not technically the cause of addiction, but rather the intent to repress mental-emotional instability. Which is, consequently, the most powerful cause of any addiction—it’s rarely if ever the actual substance, no matter what science or hearsay may assert as “truth,” but the unresolved inner turmoil. If this is altered for the positive, addiction, potentially any addiction, will go away with relative ease.

One particular exception to this is the strongly influential factor of environment. For sure, one may want to get clean, but if they live with a group of people still completely lost in similar troubles, making change becomes a mighty difficult task. Conversely, in one example, it has been shown with Vietnam veterans who’d never used drugs prior to deployment that even though they’d used drugs frequently in Vietnam, many of them came home to loved ones, a healthier environment, etc. and had minimal if any trouble dropping their “addiction.”

A second exception is diet. When we're deficient in any given nutrient, the body craves for anything that provides appropriate satiation, if only briefly. For example, if a person is magnesium-deficient, but because we're so ill-informed, numb to our true needs, and junk food is so abundant, we'll be strongly drawn to sugary foods rather than magnesium-replenishing whole foods. Such a diet is very easy to get hooked on and causes countless other woes. Magnesium deficiency is also highly correlated to depression and stress. In these cases, there may indeed be a trauma-diet relationship, but circumstances may change for the better, such as ending depression and a junk food addiction, simply by replenishing lacking nutrients.

The Thoughts an Addict Doesn’t Dare Speak

To Whom It Concerns:

Feel free to read this aloud while using a mirror to look yourself in the eyes…
Yes. I’m addicted. I’m addicted to substances and/or negative behaviors. I’m addicted to my pain and suffering. I’m addicted to [here list your addictions: texting, eating, seeking parental approval, hurting others, etc.]

The truth is upsetting, and I’ve been averse to facing it. So much so, that I am willing to hurt myself, to hurt others directly or indirectly, and to allow others to hurt themselves by denying reality, by denying that my practices are, in fact, addictive, are, in fact, a means of skirting the truth.

How desperate I must be for love and approval, to feel wanted and needed; how powerful must my internal directives be, these directives requiring an equal and opposing force to deny my inner discomforts, that I’m willing to slowly or rapidly self-annihilate rather than face these troubles head-on…?

I cannot do this on my own. I cannot solve my problems through addictions.

I hurt, and I need help.
If you truly want change, if you truly want to be heard and loved and cared for, you must absolutely learn to hear and love and care for yourself. Others can help to some extent, but you must do the work. There is no other way.

Until you step up and take care of your own, ages-repressed needs, you will necessarily create the conditions, internally and externally, that keep you chained to misery and addiction.

I hope you’ll choose better.

You may not yet know anything whatsoever about the how’s or what’s or when’s to move forward, but it doesn’t matter. There will be a way shown to you just as soon as you let life know that you truly want freedom.

How do I know this?

Because I’ve experienced it countless times, and I’ve seen it happen to others. Because it’s the Law of Cause and Effect: “Ask, and you shall receive; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Because your life hardship, addiction, and suffering are screaming at you that it’s time to let go, to change, to heal.

Tell life you’re ready to quit being a religious zealot, working 80-hour weeks, having sex obsessively, drinking like a fish, or whatever it is you’re addicted to, and life will show you a way out, step by step.

Again, I hope you’ll choose better—because you are better.

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