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Recently I read a post where a Buddhist teacher said that addiction is curable, like any other disease. To see the fallacy of that logic one need look no further than the end of one’s nose–if we can see that far. It is there we may find once or twice per year some dripping snot and a red, swollen tip. Point: not all diseases are curable. In my experience as an addict, the best we can hope for is to arrest the symptom – albeit use of the drug of choice, while we treat the underlying cause. But the practice of 12-Step Buddhism takes the treatment to a whole new level. In the 12-Step world, this underlying cause is a spiritual malady–the main problem centers in the mind, rather than in the body. The difference between the treatment I recommend for addiction and the common cold is that as 12-Step Buddhists we don’t just treat the symptoms.
Attachment is a symptom as addiction is a symptom. The spiritual solution of Buddhism treats the root cause of addiction, namely attachment. But there is a difference between attachment and addiction. Although aspects of addiction may be rooted in attachment, the former is an extreme case. I call it attachment gone wild. While the seeds of addiction are rooted in attachment, to say they’re the same thing is an exaggeration. For example, we can say that we share the same DNA as our 57th cousin, but we can still marry them and probably not have overly mutant children. Point: the relationship between two things may be distant. Addiction may be curable in the sense that samsara is curable. But let’s be realistic. My teacher advises us to work with our conditions. My condition is that as an addict, by definition I have the brain disease of addiction. I don’t want to hear anyone, especially spiritual teachers, advising addicts that their disease is curable. At least not without an explanation such as the one I give in my book, the 12-Step Buddhist. But I understand the tendency to oversimplify. As an addict, I do it all day long.
I think the tendency to overgeneralize, compartmentalize and oversimplify is a normal part of non-addict thinking. We addicts just take it further–to the point of a coping mechanism. I have a theory that addicts are intensely sensitive people–on every level. We’re overly emotional, our systems take in information on physical and energy levels. We may even be deeply intuitive or psychic. A single moment of existence is overwhelming. We don’t need a crisis, what we feel at any given point can be enough to make us want to use. When we wind up in the inevitable maelstroms which are our addicted lives, we really tear it up in response.
But our culture doesn’t support us in this regard. We feel everything, deeply. It’s overwhelming. Our coping strategy may include trying to stuff our experience into the proverbial pigeon hole, regressing to over simplified black and white thinking.
- It’s not like this, so it must be like that.
- You don’t love me so you hate me.
- You’re not with me, so you must be against me.
- You’re not one of us, so you’re one of them.
The universe is complex–too much so for us to deal with. So we try to numb it out. For example, if we try to explain the causes and conditions for any single event or even a situation wherein we are surrounded by an infinite number of objects and phenomena which all carry an infinite number of causative circumstances in their histories…well it’s time for system overload. Science can’t do it. Although we’re making progress, such as setting up of linear accelerators that attempt to isolate fragments of matter and trace their paths to prove theories of physics, we’re still a ways off from total understanding. No one argues this point. But Buddhism gives us tools to do just that. If we use the 12 Steps to get clean and stay clean, and the practices of Buddhism to contemplate at profound levels the condition of our existence, we can reach a state of total realization or Buddhahood. Don’t that beat all?
The 12 Steps and Buddhism, wisely integrated and interwoven into a comprehensive, life long addiction treatment program, treat the symptoms and the root causes both of attachment and it’s distant cousin, addiction. If we understand the magnitude and potential that a 12-Step Buddhist program has to offer, we can, eventually, cure the problem of samsara for ourselves, and all suffering beings. For the whole story, please read my book. Available now on Amazon, Powell’s, Snow Lion and very soon in bookstores everywhere. Look inside at Google Books.
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