Nearly everybody is addicted to something. We might think that those who are addicted to substances like alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, gambling or pharmaceuticals, as being more trapped than we are, but is this really the case? I am a ‘recovered’ alcoholic and for many years I have pondered what is the root cause of addiction. While there have been many answers given I have never been satisfied with them. However, I feel I am getting closer to discovering the root cause of addiction, and with the answer I realize how widespread a problem it truly is, although not very obvious to see.
I have sat on a high throne and lectured to a person who was addicted to heroin. I must admit that at the time, I felt above that person, more in control than this hopeless junkie. When I was speaking to them about it, they retorted that this was simply ‘their drug of choice’ and that everybody is addicted to something. I realize now that this defense of their own addiction has a strong element of truth within. I also see that I was acting like a hypocrite to point out their addiction when I hadn’t resolved my own. I see that to talk this way to others gives a feeling of superiority over them and the talk itself can be a form of addiction. I’m reminded of a phrase from the bible:
Matthew 7:5 “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
I see a more subtle level of addiction and realize that most people through their lifetimes have accumulated multiple addictions. Besides the addictive chemical substances, we are addicted to love/hate relationships, to reliving the past, to our food choices, to sex, to our daily habits, to how we look, to our belief system, to our intellect, to our perceived roles, to our outbursts of anger, to our being sick, to taking pills, to diversions, to the Internet, to television, to belittling others, to reading news, to talking, to what we’ve accomplished, to what we could accomplish, to our careers, to our status, to our possessions, only to name a few…
One could visualize our life process as a series of steps to cure ourselves of our multiple addictions. We get rid of one only to discover another more deeply buried one, until finally we are confronted with the root cause, which stems from our intense feeling of being alone. To smother our feelings of being alone, we use our addiction to temporarily ease our pain. Addictions trap us in unconscious behavior in a cyclical pattern. The use of the item causes a temporary high, but then what always follows is the low, which then needs to be counteracted, etc. Addictions work different than you might think, in that we never blame the substance or method we’re using as the item which is contributing to our pain, we see it instead as the treat or the thing that is relieving our pain. This is why it is so hard for us to drop them or let them go, because we truly believe these things are helping us to ‘survive’.
As long as we stay in our pity party of being alone and misunderstood, then we will remain in the world of form and endless striving to drown out our loneliness. I don’t think that we can heal ourselves of this old wound overnight, that more it is a process, gradually acknowledging one’s pain and then questioning oneself to find out what is the root of that pain. If one is relating to one’s pain in a creative way, observing and questioning the ‘reaction’ to find out about oneself, then slowly one can drop those things we are addicted to. There comes a new kind of feedback in this process. When something that one was clinging to is dropped, there is less disappointment (pain) experienced and so one feels better. Also, one reaches higher levels of feeling satisfied the further one goes on this path, with the result that many stop before completion being happy with the serenity that they’ve gained, never discovering the root cause of their addiction.
If we want to know about it, we can easily discover what we are addicted to – those things which we know at heart are causing us misery or pain – and we should stop doing them or stop taking them. The reason why we continue with our addictions are because we don’t want to stop them. We feel that we ‘have to have something’, we ‘have to treat ourselves in someway’, and what use is living life if you can’t have some fun (what we are used to), something we like even if it’s not good for us…Look carefully – it’s not that our addiction gives us pleasure – which is what it seems, in fact mostly our addiction is inflicting pain and is threatening our survival in the physical realm. If we like to be angry (expressed or not) we unconsciously provoke latent anger in others to attack us. If we can’t let go of a past relationship, we are immersed in our mental and emotional misery missing the lost love, hardly capable to see what we have in the present, probably feeling suicidal, not taking care of oneself, etc. If we are taking harmful substances into our bodies, then often we have physical symptoms warning of life threatening diseases.
You could see one’s life from birth as the process of accumulating addictions, until one reaches the point of enough pain to start to question what could be the reason for one’s pain. With the questions the answers start to come and one gradually starts to wean oneself from one’s addictions. Often, if we stop one, then we adopt another to take its place – hardly anybody lets go of all of them. This is a core reason why people who stop alcohol have a hard time giving up the often-dual addiction of coffee and cigarettes. Or why people change their diet, but continue to keep items in it that they know they shouldn’t take. It’s rare indeed that somebody stops all their addictions simply because to do so they would have to go beyond themselves and surrender the core need to get their feeling of existence out of feeling themselves as the emotional pain that they are identified with.
The item in question is addictive if we are using it to drown out our unwanted feeling of being alone, using it gives us a momentary ‘lift’. The ‘lift’ we get always has an opposite reaction and this is the painful symptom we experience after taking our dose. What we are actually addicted to is not the substance or activity itself, but rather feeling ourselves in this way. If someone has manifested serious physical or mental symptoms of disease, then it would seem likely that they are very lonely and strongly identified with their emotional pain.
Another way to state this is that we are addicted to pain. In reality nearly everybody feels lonely and misunderstood by everybody on this planet. We are nearly all searching for somebody or some entity that can relieve us of this pain. How many of us are clinging to a past relationship that we felt dissolved our loneliness and/or are longing to unite with our ‘well-deserved’ soul mate? I think that it’s time that we face the truth and this is that no relationship, no thing or any attained or imagined goal is ever going to dissolve our feeling of being alone, and by clinging to the belief that it did or will, we will continue on with our addiction to pain. Don’t we all at times, feel like aliens that have landed in a world of another time, where nobody exists who could ever hope to understand us? We want to be understood! We want to be loved! We want to be ‘not lonely’! Of course we are in pain and will continue to be in pain as long as we cling to the belief that finding the ‘perfect’ outside form will complete us and fulfill the innate desire of our personality.
While this might be depressing to read, it doesn’t have to be seen that way. We can realize that our pain is there to show us that we are being resistant to reality. If we can take the first step to acknowledge our pain and realize it has a reason, then we might next become aware of what this reason is and realize the futility of looking for satisfaction in the world of things.