The problem with the addicted state and our fixation on it is that we refuse to accept that it is not real, not permanent and not what we have convinced ourselves that it is. However, as anyone who has lived through teenage heartbreak knows, this too does indeed pass. But there’s knowing it on a mental level, where we tell ourselves that we understand the concept of impermanence, and there’s a deep, experiential knowing of this Buddhist principle, where we feel it at the core, at the root, at inception. That’s where delusion dissolves and we begin to break free. My Zen teacher used to say, “A little crack opens up..and the light comes in. That’s the beginning.” But the beginning of what?
I embrace the teaching of mindfulness; I abstain from substances and actions that lead to intoxication and heedlessness. This precept counsels us to cultivate mindful consumption and sobriety and to abstain not only from drugs, alcohol, and other intoxicating substances, but also to avoid anything that has toxic effects, such as pornography; certain films, television programs, books, magazines, foods, and activities (like gambling or enabling another person’s addiction); or even some conversations. Keeping this precept benefits our own mental, spiritual, and physical health, and promotes our families’ and communities’ well-being, too.
In the old days of my 12-Step recovery, they used to say that if you were going to make it in sobriety, you had to learn to “get naked.” I mentioned this in a meeting recently and got a strange reaction. What they meant was that we needed to drop our rock, join the parade, and become emotionally vulnerable with another human being in our 5th Step, “We Admitted to God, to Ourselves and to Another Human Being the Exact Nature of Our Wrongs.” In recovery, our sponsors were about the closest thing to a guru that most of us ever had.