A LOVING WAY THROUGH ADDICTION
“Craving for alcohol is the equivalent... of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness..."
- Carl Jung
I was talking to a man who was struggling with his lifelong addiction to alcohol. Every approach he had tried - spiritual, psychological - had worked for a while, and then failed. I offered him a slightly different perspective, which seemed to resonate with him.
We were talking about how, in essence, addiction is a search for love. Addiction is spiritual seeking - the seeking I have always spoken about - in a very concentrated form. We are all addicts, in the sense that we all look for love (God, acceptance, the taste of life itself) in all the places we'll never find it - through success, through fame, through wealth, through power, even through enlightenment. We seek love outside of ourselves, and ignore the love we already are. We seek our completeness in the future, through objects, substances, people. We look for love at the bottom of a wine glass, on a bank statement, in the eyes of our guru. But the kind of love we really long for cannot be found in time or space.
We either see addiction as a disease, OR as a giant invitation to discover who we really are, to discover the love we were always seeking. I was exploring with the man how addiction manifested in his life. What did an "urge to drink" feel like? When the urge arose in him, what did he do with it? He told me how several times during the day, he'd get a strange feeling in his chest, very hard to talk about - like an empty, incomplete kind of feeling, like the absence of something. It would come out of the blue sometimes. It felt like something was missing. And he'd find himself automatically reaching out to a bottle of vodka, which seemed to remove the discomfort, if only temporarily. Was vodka really 'missing' from present experience?
I invited him - as an experiment - to STAY with the empty feeling in his chest, to really feel it, to drop all labels and judgements about it, to see it as a valid expression of life itself in the moment. Maybe it didn't mean what he'd thought it meant. As he stayed with that energy, feeling exactly what was there, he suddenly remembered being a child, feeling lonely and isolated and uncared for, and that energy in his chest felt like... yes, a longing for something he couldn't name. A longing for ... love. Well, of course it was. It wasn't a longing for vodka at all, it was a misinterpreted and misunderstood longing for attention, acceptance, love. This was the same energy he'd felt as a child, and he'd spent his life trying to escape, deny, ignore, crush, annihilate it in so many ways. He'd just wanted to numb himself to it. First through work, then through spirituality, and now through alcohol, as a last resort. The mind had been infinitely creative. This energy had never been truly met. It had become a taboo. It had been cast into the darkness. It was a lost child of consciousness.
He had forgotten who he really was - not a separate 'person', not an 'addict', but a vast and unlimited ocean of Being, in which even this little wave was allowed. This energy was not the lack of vodka, it was the longing for love made manifest. And it had never been acknowledged fully. He had been so busy seeking love (money, enlightenment, vodka) outside of himself, that he had ignored the very longing itself! The lonely child had never really been held, validated, loved. Who would truly meet this lonely child? Would he wait his whole life for a love he'd never find? Would he wait forever for the cosmic parent? For the second womb? Could the vodka ever love the child? Of course not. The vodka had no power of its own. It was an emperor with no clothes. It was the Wizard of Oz, unmasked. The love he sought was the deep embrace of this lonely child exactly as it was, not its annihilation. He longed for embrace, not genocide. In other words, he had really been waiting for the deep acceptance of this strange and uncomfortable energy in his chest. Now was a good time to begin giving himself what he had always longed for.
I invited him to stay and stay and stay with the energy, and I stayed with him there. We sat together with this unloved child, bringing stillness, warmth and attention to a previously neglected aspect of experience. This was giving something the vodka could never give, and had never given. Running away from this energy, running towards the vodka, had never really solved the problem. He had simply never been shown by anyone how to stay. How to be with himself. How to meet life, fearlessly. We started again.
In meeting the unmet energy with attention and presence, light flooded the darkness, so to speak. And we saw that there was never any darkness in the first place. This energy was not the lack of love. It was not evil energy, not the devil, not a 'bad' aspect of experience, not the absence of life. It was an invitation to love that which had never been loved before now. It was a call to remember who he really was - the vast, unlimited ocean of consciousness itself, already complete, never needing anything to complete it. Even a sense of 'lack' was swallowed up in love here. Then, it wasn't lack at all.
In just meeting this man exactly where he was, and holding his hand as he met his deepest sense of lack, that primal incompleteness that goes to the root of all human suffering, I was communicating something beyond words to him - that he was deeply okay exactly as he was. Okay in a place he had never felt okay before. Okay in an unspoken and private and even shameful place. He was loveable even without the vodka. What a revelation! His present experience could be exactly as it was. The raw sensation of life. The thought bubbles coming up, telling him, asking him, urging him to drink his way towards love (the primal lie). The technicolor image of the happy drinker, drowning his sorrows in vodka. Go on, just one drink! So tempting! Just a sip, and then you're in heaven! Those thoughts were allowed to be there too. They were all just images. Images, and sensations. And who he really was was vast enough to hold all of it. The vodka dream was just a small ripple in his vastness. Vodka couldn't improve one iota on his present experience. It couldn't give him more LIFE. It contained no magic, no mana. What a disappointment. And what freedom too.
We come to distrust the seeking mechanism, for it cannot deliver what it promises - love. We come to remember that the love we seek is always already here.
Addiction. It was only ever about love. Not very scientific, I know. But experientially, it makes perfect sense.
Of course this man may drink again (he hasn't yet, by the way). The seeking mechanism won't be disabled overnight. It's an ongoing investigation. It's a constant invitation to meet that energy as it arises. To stay present with it. To love that unloved child, so to speak - to meet it as yourself. The aim is not "to stop drinking" - that would set up a new seeking game, a new war. The aim is to discover the truth of this moment. And this moment.
Surely, unless we get right to the root of all our addictions, and begin to shine the love of awareness itself into those unloved places, our addictions will just shift from one object, substance or person, to the next. We stop drinking, we start eating. We stop eating, we start shopping. We stop shopping, we start gambling. We stop gambling, we start checking our text messages fifty times a day. It's all a search for love, as the great mystics and teachers throughout the ages have been reminding us. This is an ancient and timeless message.
Addiction is not there to be 'cured'. It is not a disease, but a misguided search for love. The 'addict' in us is not there to be fixed or manipulated, or even punished. It's there to be loved to death. Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.
~ Jeff Foster (www.lifewithoutacentre.com)
Eileen is always inspired by the voice of Love within her. May our hearts always be joined as ONE in Love and through the words that appear on these pages may you feel the light and Love she has for you.