One of the things parents most want to understand is why we go down the path to addiction. I’ve often said that there are no specific reasons, especially none that are external, as ultimately nothing outside of ourselves actually MAKES us drink or use. Moreover, you have to understand that addicts love to use drugs and alcoholics love to drink alcohol despite whatever BS we sell you in a quiet moment just before we ask for more money.
That said, it is useful to understand what lies beneath all addiction and other maladies of this nature.
Before we begin, let’s briefly look at the two more surface or symptomatic components of addiction: physical and mental. Physically, through repeated use we develop a compulsion. At some point we step over that line, break our bodies (so to speak) and develop an “allergy” to drugs and alcohol, though we’re not talking about your typical allergy. Yes, using and drinking when allergic will certainly kill you, but ironically, we do not repel the substance we are allergic to but rather ingest more and more. Why? Because instead of breaking out into hives, fever or anaphylactic shock, we break out into ease and comfort. Whereas non-addicts generally detest being jammed to the point of catatonia or spinning out of control on a daily basis, we addicts feel more calm and comfortable that way. So we break out into more.
Mentally, we have also broken our minds, so to speak, and have developed what we call the mental obsession. The mental obsession is a form of insanity. It involves recurring and sometimes completely random thoughts to drink or use that fail to respond to ration or reason. Trust me, the addict has gone insane. No normal person processes (or fails to process altogether) thoughts to use like the addict. We can literally crash our car going 90 and the next day when the thought to drink again hits us, we mitigate what happened the night before or forget about it altogether, easily dismissing it as no big deal. We truly think it wasn’t that bad and that it won’t happen this time around. And as noted, sometimes the action that follows a thought isn’t processed at all. Nothing at all can happen and then we see some Percodan in your medicine cabinet and the hand just reflexively reaches out to grab them. No thought at all. No analysis. No reason.
Now… what lies underneath? Why do we take this path, an unholy path that leads to destruction?
Part of my own catharsis many years ago was coupled with the sudden certainty that the core of any malady of this nature is profound spiritual illness. This was well confirmed for me in a variety of ways. For one, because it was a spiritual solution that worked so comprehensively, it was easy to deduce that my problem was also spiritual in nature. Since it was the fact that I dug deep and reached out with everything I had to somehow access the power of God, it was therefore God that I lacked. Finally, given the very sudden shift and flow of Power that moved through me briefly the night I read my inventory and then went to my knees to pray to my Creator, there was no doubt that what I was missing for the first 28 years of my life was a knowledge, faith, relationship and “conscious contact” with the Lord. I believe this to be true for all addicts.
I was reborn that night. The rest is history.
We can translate this practically to be a lack of purpose or meaning. Without a spiritual life and a connection to God, there is nothing but self-will to guide us – a vulnerable and precarious position to say the least. Without God and without purpose, it is easy to choose a toxic path, and even without drugs and alcohol, it is easy to fall into a path we were never meant to be on.
In “Anybody Can Take Steps,” I wrote about the fact that I don’t buy into the psychological model of finding external reasons for self-created problems, but I tried to explain a more universal problem of a lack of purpose.
“Finally, all of this begs the question of why we lose power to begin with? Sure anyone can let some habit eventually get the best of them, but is there something deeper? My personal belief is that addiction, depression, anger, boredom, anxiety and all of the rest are but symptoms of a LIFE problem, and I don’t just mean the addict’s refusal to live life on life’s term. The truth is that many of us begin to feel frustrated when we are not on our proper life path, when we have no meaning or purpose. When we fail to be who we are and do what we love or need to do, whatever that may be, we begin to suffer.
So while we have the immediate problem of dealing with the loss of power, as we begin to change and grow, we must nourish our longer term well-being by engaging in things that fulfill and nourish who we are. For some, this is athletics. For others, it is music, art or acting. Some love science, invention or astronomy. Others love literature, history or philosophy. Some love food, restaurants, business or finance, while others love nature, hiking or sailing on the ocean. Whatever the case, whether it is just some hobby or our entire life path, we must honor ourselves and be true to who we are.
If we do this work but something still nags at us, there may yet be something missing. Being on a life path that we resonate with might be one of the most important criteria for personal healing, growth and happiness.” – Anybody Can Take Steps, pp. 30-1
Furthermore, some do not react well to hearing the vague and often meaningless self-help slogan of “just be spiritual, man,” and I couldn’t agree more. Spiritual talk and words on a page are just that, dormant seeds – devoid of power and actual results until cultivated and grown through rigorous and repeated action. Therefore, on a practical level, to grow or evolve spiritually dictates that we harness the strength and the courage to act spiritually, to strengthen and respond to our conscience. These actions include service to others, prayer, meditation, written inventory, self-care, care of our families, abiding by the truth, avoiding sin and again, listening to and acting on our conscience. Spiritual action is moral action, not new age, self-help, secular fluff designed to look spiritual.
As well, to evolve and grow spiritually, we are called on to adopt an attitude or foundation of honesty, accountability, hard work, adult responsibility, emotional maturity and hard work.
Granted, trying to assume accountability today is made all the more difficult when we have a culture that now feeds and promotes the darkness within, a status quo where we punish, shame, criticize and demonize success and faith while rationalizing victimhood and even glorifying it. More frightening is that when we become disconnected from our true selves and our own souls, when we become disconnected from truth and God, we blindly follow and accept tyranny disguised as righteousness, equality and social justice.
Lastly, I hope by now you have deduced that our path of addiction has nothing to do with you – the parent, spouse, sibling or friend. It also has nothing to do with our town, our job, the minimum wage, micro-aggressions, or some asshole on the playground years ago. A spiritual malady develops from choices we ourselves make, and if there is no spiritual life in your home, then go and find one and ignore the criticism you may invite. Ignore those who will shame you for finding and choosing God. Just because your friends and family don’t believe or follow the principles of our Creator, that doesn’t mean that you have to follow them or be led astray by some other external force, of which I know there are many.
Do what is in your heart. Do what you feel and know deep down is right. When you do, I think you will find that all along God was part of your fundamental make-up. There is nothing wrong with rejecting evil, regardless of how evil is disguised.