If you look at addictive tendencies and behaviours closely enough, you’re probably going to notice that among all the “addicts”, there is a commonality. If you’re a medical doctor working in the medical industry who tends to agree with all of what you’ve been taught then it is possible that you have been trained to overlook or ignore certain things regarding early life trauma and addictive tendencies and chronic disease. At least, this is what Dr Gabor Mate points to in his work. A body of work which I’ve been delving into in recent days.
Although I’m always fairly cautious when it comes to pigeon-holing myself, you could call me an “addict”. I’ve been through a number of addictions in my life, all stemming from the my addictive tendencies which themselves stem from adverse childhood experiences. I’ve been addicted to cannabis, cigarettes, intimate experiences, food, spirituality, the list goes on. And in my personal experience, I can definitely say that there is some merit to what Dr Mate talks about. Over the years, I’ve looked to a number of different substances, behaviours or experiences in an attempt to fill a void which would otherwise be left gaping and hollow. And although most would say that spirituality is the square to fit the square-shaped hole of addiction and pain, the reality is that really that spirituality actually only really began to fill that void. As sad as it is to say that, a lot of my spiritual journey has probably been more of an enabling experience than it has been a healing one. It was just another behaviour, another experience, that I could use to relieve the stress I had grown accustomed to, rather than uproot it and really overcome it. Even techniques that claimed to be the solution to these things were themselves, for me, enabling the very thing they were supposed to fix.
It’s not an easy thing to admit, that. But it’s true. And I dare say that it’s true for other people as well, not just me. Dr Mate defines addiction as something which has negative consequences that we continue to engage in despite the negative consequences. If that’s the case and spirituality has – as it has done for many of us – alienated us from friends and family, made it hard to work and participate in society in a well-rounded, respectful and critical manner, or even caused delusion or depression (which is not uncommon), then it is possible that spirituality in this instance is an addiction.
For me, that was the case. The particular (more cultist) vein of spirituality I landed myself in the midst of about three years ago now led me to severe delusion, damaged relationships with my family and irreparable relationships with friends among other things. It was an insane two years but honestly, it left me better off. I think that’s one thing that we had to admit about our addictions. When we come out of the end of a particular attachment, we have to admit to ourselves the bad consequences it had but we also have admit that there was good things to come of it as well.
Cannabis altered my brain in such a way that I am able to understand things in such a way that most others are not. It also helped me to relearn my relationship with creativity and the creative process. Both things I am incredibly grateful for. It also showed me about the intense capacity for want and denial that we humans are capable of.
My addiction to physical gratification, which has manifested as a seeking for intimate experiences and the pursuit of other physical sensations most frequently throughout my life as a whole but also as an addiction to intimate interactions (to put it eloquently) in my teenage years taught me lots of things about loyalty and its wicked brother betrayal as well as about the mind-body connection. It is because of the betrayal in and untamed roguishness of my teenage years that I am so fiercely ruthlessly loyal, honest and truthful now.
My addiction to food and other escapist behaviours is still on-going, though I am pretty happy to report that I haven’t smoked a single thing for about two years now. I think, I don’t keep count. I once heard it said that if you are counting your days sober then you’re still addicted so I ensured I didn’t fall into that one. And I can say, for those of you that don’t know me personally or are new to my blog here, I am happily married to the love of my life.
Of all the addictions though, the one that is the most confusing, it has to be said, is the addiction to spirituality. Why confusing? Because it’s not all bad. I think of it all, the bad bits are mostly the bits I shed. Things like the exclusive cult mentality, the weird beliefs that set me apart from others rather than helped me to access a deep compassion for them and things like that. The Law of Attraction idea. Pfffff. Imagine that one for an addict. Fuck. Like, seriously. If it actually worked at any point for me, just imagine. Maybe that’s why it never worked. Maybe some iridescent father figure saw my wallowing addictive nature and was like “Nah mate, you probably shouldn’t be one of them powerful creators like the shiny unicorn girls because like, you’ll just get fucked up and do nothing forever.” I joke, of course. That’s totally fantasy.
I feel like when it comes to addictive tendencies and spirituality, the biggest benefit can be gained through facing the biggest challenge – as is usually the case. I think it’s about separating the stuff that is dogma, doctrine or concept from your actual personal experience. For example, I have no actual tangible experience of this Law of Attraction concept. Literally, anything I could put forward as proof would just as easily be torn to pieces by a little bit of logic and a critical eye. I get that other people perhaps have more convincing testimonies and that’s great. For those guys, hats off to you. If it works for you, it works for you. Good. I just don’t wanna be banging my head against a wall for something that doesn’t work for me and never has.
So given that I’ve actually had no experience that I can actually say is proof the Law of Attraction, I would discount it. But then, I’m left with the pieces of what would’ve pointed
to a proof that could not be certified. Namely, the big long list of traits I wanted in a partner that I then later found in their entirety in Rosa. So, it must be explained some other way which is either more convincing than or more certifiable than the previous idea. For me, that can be shown through psychology (emittance of subtle signals), karma (cause and effect), grace (the flow of events and the guiding hand that seems to be moving everything outside of human control) and sheer luck (which although it is denied by some contemporary philosophers masquerading as spiritual seekers, it has to be said that it is at least marginally likely that luck itself plays a hand in the unfolding of events).
Regardless, all that is to say that unravelling addiction to spirituality is to understand several things…
1. What is concept and what is personal experience. This is so that we might free ourselves form the majority or not the totality of mind-made illusions/delusions surrounding our faith and/or belief in spirituality and similar.
2. Why the spirituality itself became something addictive. This is so that we might further understand the void that we are trying to fill, the pain we are trying to subdue and the stress we are trying to calm in using spirituality.
3. The negative affect that the detrimental elements of the spirituality is having on life. This is so that we can minimise and in time eliminate the negative repercussions our spirituality practice might have on our lives. This would be done in such a way that it is not preserving detrimental practices and minimising negative consequences but rather in such a way that the detrimental practices are eliminated altogether. A tricky practice if we do not understand the void we feel, the pain we are trying to subdue and the stress we are trying to calm.
The list would go on and differ for each personal experience, I feel. So getting to grips with this on a personal level, for each of us, seems paramount. It should suffice to say that when we have shed the concepts, dogma and doctrine of our spirituality, what remains is only our personal experience. And then it becomes much less a “spiritual” experience and much more of a “life” experience. It becomes less important to take on new information and more important to pay attention to your experience in each moment. Not that taking on new information is bad. It can be good. It can be incredibly useful. But to use that as our sole conduit to spiritual practice is largely without benefit.
I’m saying this because I have noticed that, at least for me, as an addictive person when I take something on in the heat of an addictive episode (from a phase of passion as it comes) then it doesn’t tend to stick. When I’m totally immersed in spirituality, I become a “spiritual person” but it wears off. When I was totally immersed in smoking weed, I became someone who was very interested in particular types of media, conversation, behaviour and so on. But when the addiction ended, the interested ended too. As such, using advice offered because the advice has been offered is never as beneficial as listening fully to the advice, remembering the advice and then – when it feels like the right time – applying the advice in a organic way.
That’s something that comes up a lot for me. Being true to the organic, natural nature of your own personal path. Whether that path is spirituality, magic, personal development or whatever. I’m talking about being true to yourself and your path in such a way that you are allowing yourself the space to organically grow, rather then to be buffeted around by the winds of trauma, anger, willpower and passion. Comparing your path to no other path, making no attempts to quantify your success or gauge it next to that of another. Of course, all this is to say, consider what I am saying, remember it and if it becomes something that makes sense to apply at some point in your life, then apply it then. Don’t just take it on now because you heard it and agree with it.
Addiction is a vast topic and it’s one that I could easily speak on at length. Thanks to my own personal experience, I have plenty to say and plenty to learn. So, over the coming months, I’m going to be sharing some of my experiences, some of the lessons I have learned and some of the insights I have gained as I travel my own journey to understanding the pain and stress that has given rise to my particular void – the void I try to fill with my addictions and a void that you too will know well if you are an addict too.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably have noticed by now (or will notice soon) that your addictive tendencies have caused you all sorts of problems in accessing happiness and success in your life. I know that’s true for me. My addictions have been the reason I’ve self-sabotaged so many times. More time than I can count on my hands. And if I’m totally honest with you, I’m at a point now where I’m pretty fed up with it. I keep looking at my life and thinking, how come I keep coming up against walls in my success and happiness. It’s not as if my life is half as bad as it was three years ago when I was smoking more weed than I could afford in a day and living in a tiny 6×6 utility room with exponentially worsening eczema and asthma. I’m 100 times better off now than I was then. But still, there’s been something in the way of my success and my happiness. What it was was pretty much a mystery to me until the last week where I realised that it is actually my addictive tendencies that are sabotaging me.
And you know me, if I see a lie I have to crush it. That’s the reason I stopped smoking. That’s the reason I gave up being a “Spiritual Teacher”. It’s the reason I started playing music again and taking it more seriously – all things you’ll remember if you’ve been following my blog. So, I’m looking at the fact that my addictive tendencies are severely limiting my access to happiness and success and you know what I’m going to do. I’m going to crush it. Or, at least, I’m going to do everything in my power to find out how. And I’ll be honest, I don’t even know if it can be done. But, I’ll be damned if I don’t make damn sure. If you’re at this point too… If you’re at the point now where you’re fed up of letting your addictive tendencies get in the way of your happiness and success then I’m with you.
Let’s figure this out together. Actually, fuck it, I’d like to formally invite you to join me on this journey. If you’d like to be part of it, click here and join my newsletter and you’ll get all the latest updates straight to your inbox. I’ll make sure that you get notified about all the new blog posts and video I am uploading. And I’ll make sure you’re the first to hear about them too. The second they go live, you’ll know. And, with any luck, we’ll get to the bottom of this thing together and start to live happier more successful lives. I’m talking, shiny unicorn shit my friend.
If that’s what you want, get your name on that mailing list and I’ll be in touch with your sweet face.
Keep it real,
Live, love and play.