Age of Addiction

For those who consider themselves free of addictions……don’t be so sure. Addiction is another term for habitual behavior which we adopt in order to relieve anxiety and frustration.  Certainly our society labels certain addictions more dangerous/damaging/unacceptable than others.  To demonstrate the truth that we are defined by our society and times–think back [assuming you are old enough] ten or twenty years ago. Smoking may have been recognized as potentially dangerous to the smoker but they were hardly vilified or considered outcasts. I recall when people were allowed to smoke at the back of an airplane.

Addictive behavior is often viewed as the path of the emotionally and intellectually weak.  Yet certain chemicals are known to be particularly ‘addictive’, creating extremely uncomfortable symptoms upon attempts at withdrawal.

Still, addictions tend to be a mixture of physical and emotional dependency.   The addicts that seem particularly difficult to ‘treat’ are those with a long history of abuse of a variety of substances over many years. Their habit is to reach for something, a substance, food, alcohol, even sexual experience which will substitute their ‘bad’ feeling for a ‘good feeling’.  For the moment they can lose themselves in the pleasurable experience. 

Ironically, this may be one example in which ‘living in the moment’ is not helpful whatsoever.  It is truly an escape from the future, of consequences, of facing being discovered, of having to come to terms with that which is being avoided.

The lesson for healing is clear.  Avoidance, repression of painful feelings is not the path to wholeness. Such temporary episodes require the use of external substances in order to go on.   However, acceptance of these painful experiences ‘face on’ is extremely difficult if not traumatic as well.

The path of mindfulness meditation offers a healing alternative.  Miriam Greenspan in HEALING THROUGH THE DARK EMOTIONS as well as Jon Kabat-Zinn,and other Buddhist writers such as Pema Chodron in WHEN THINGS FALL APART, Mark Epstein MD in GOING TO PIECES WITHOUT FALLING APART, Sharon Salzberg and others promote this method as extremely useful.

As noted in prior postings, this meditation technique centers on an awareness of the breath, the flow in and out, while allowing thoughts and emotions to flow in and out of our attention.  We remain ‘present’ and aware of these thoughts and feelings but do not ‘attach’ to them. 

We assume a position as witness to these thoughts and feelings.  By not denying or repressing them, they lose their power over us, our need to escape them through potentially addictive behavior. By witnessing them, we can stand aside and not be overwhelmed by them.  It is a healing modality which we could all benefit from.

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