The Addict Doesn't Live Here Anymore!
Suffering is optional; however, that option is only available to those who have no need for suffering. If we look up the word in the dictionary, we find that suffering is a verb. It is used to describe actions, states or occurrences. Verbs don't identify what is being described. For that we use nouns.
Why the grammar lesson? Think about it. Pain, fear, guilt, joy, passion: all emotional states of our human experience. They're nouns, static conditions. Suffering, however, is a verb that describes the experience of a condition. See where I'm headed? Life offers us a full range of emotions - we don't control that. However, we do get to manage our description of the experience. In other words: suffering changes with our thinking around the emotion.
Sounds simple doesn't it? Most have heard the New Age slogans: "Change your attitude, change your life" or "As in mind, so in experience". Self-help gurus pitch these gems voraciously as the keys to freedom. There is, however, a slight catch that is rarely addressed. That is, our minds have to let us change our thinking. Perhaps you're thinking, "Of course I have the power to change my thinking." But in practice, do we, really?
Most of what we think is compulsive and repetitive self-talk under the radar of our conscious awareness. This self-talk is staunchly defended as it is necessary to generate the continuous affirmation that keeps intact our false attachment to becoming 'someone' - a projected better sense of "who we think we are" over time. Without this ongoing agreement, the attachment would dissolve back into the nothingness from where we thought it up. This is the root cause of all suffering.
Let's look at the 'problem' of addiction. To be addicted is to recognize and admit that patterns are running you, rather than the opposite. Within Twelve Step programs, the first three steps form the foundation for recovery and treatment:
1. We admit we were powerless over addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand God.
In these three steps the necessity for shifting platforms is evident. The addict is in a psychological state of doing (not being). It is the aforementioned we - our sense of our selves in becoming - that we falsely identify with. Through this attachment, we face a problem (seemingly without solution) and the first step confirms this with "we were powerless" and unable to manage "our lives".
However, solution becomes possible in the second step whereby we recognize that there is something beyond our sense of who we are (a Power) that can "restore us to sanity". Sanity, in this case, is the letting go of the insane attachment to compulsivity.
The real possibility of freedom is then activated in the third step through our decision to surrender attachment to compulsivity and expectations over to that Power (God, as we understand God). In practice, this is all of the Twelve Step Program that is really necessary. The remaining nine steps flow naturally from this one decision to trust in a Higher Power.
Many addicts remain frozen in recovery, unable to shed their compulsive urge even while working the steps. Why? Because working the steps has become their new ritual of trying to manage the unmanageable, the mind-formed addict's deviously deceptive attempt to reclaim power from within powerlessness. This was not how the program was understood by those who first envisioned it, as evidenced by the Twelve Promises, which include:
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
These promises, along with the other ten, speak to a life free from striving (especially against addiction). They point to a freedom in living that comes from Being Present - trusting not only day by day, but moment by moment.
One can't remain identified as the addict needing recovery and be free from the ravages of addiction. Impossible. The way out is not only to turn the addiction over to God or Higher Power - it is to turn ourselves (or more clearly, "the addict and all understanding as to who we think we are") over to that Divine Source. And, yes, it is a tremendous leap of faith. However, the alternative is clear: suffering unto death.
Within Being, the whole psychological matrix for suffering as addicts - including those still compelled to attempt management of their recovery - is transcended. It dissolves away. The fight is over.
Now, it is important to note that I am not saying that step-work is not valid. What I am saying is that attachment to step-work as one's Higher Power will not work. Attachment to step-work on addiction is denial of the first step: asserting powerfulness and the ability to manage addiction through step-work. The last nine steps were discovered by observation as the natural outflow of actions from turning over the matter to Higher Power. The steps are an arrow, a pointing direction - not a 'To-Do' list.
To those suffering from addiction, I would encourage a broader view of what is happening in you. Proclaiming "I am an addict" (which can be helpful in confronting denial) also affirms identification as a victim of a disease. One can suffer from addiction, but no one can truly Be an addict anymore than one can Be any role. This may sound like knit picking, but when dealing with the mind it is critical. Thought compulsion thrives on misidentification. That's why the first three steps offer hope. Release from addiction is only possible because we are something more than the roles we habituate.
But even by falsely identifying as the addict, the sufferer is still under Grace. Evolution/Higher Power forces release by bringing greater pressure (suffering) to bear on everyone who continues to identify with the mind and its conceptions. The addict is not real - it is a psychological state of mind. Spirit is unerring in opening us to the truth that makes us free. Sufferers from addiction especially experience this, for the blinders that allow most people to live in relative, dysfunctional normalcy have been ripped away.
The core human addiction is mind identification resulting in compulsive mind chatter about the past and future. All seeming physical, biological, emotional addictions are symptom addictions - imprints formed to medicate the core compulsivity. Remember: nearly all people suffer from this. Like all addictions, however, it isn't a problem until it becomes one.
So, if addiction is a problem for you, this is also the good news. Why? You would not be forced to face the problem and reality of addiction unless you were ready to experience the freedom that follows from letting it go. Suffering is truly optional for those who have no further need of it. Addicts need it. Beings don't.
Dale Blackford is an author, speaker, teacher and Spiritual guide.