I've been watching Oprah's series with Eckhart Tolle on his book, A New Earth. In one of the segments, a woman skypes in and talks about an illness that has overtaken her life, that has defined it to a point that she no longer wishes to live. She asks how to move away from being her illness. Eckhart's response to her is to stop feeding the energy (my words), not talk about the illness except with her doctors and begin to place more attention on all the areas in which she has well-being in her life.
In a way, that's what I've been doing with this blog and my own definition of myself as "alcoholic." But I'm realizing that even when I'm sober, I'm still feeding that energy - that very energy that I no longer wish to live.
In the book, Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May describes addiction thusly:
Addiction exists wherever persons are internally compelled to give energy to things that are not their true desires. To define it directly, addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation that enslaves a person's will and desire. Addiction sidetracks and eclipses the energy of our deepest, truest desire for love and goodness. We succumb because the energy of our desire becomes attached, nailed, to specific behaviors, objects or people. Attachment, then, is the process that enslaves desire and creates the state of addiction.
Addiction attacks every part of what Freud called our "mental apparatus." Subjectively, however, the attacks seem focused on two primary areas: the will, which is our capacity to choose and direct our behavior, and self-esteem, which is the respect and value with which we view ourselves. Addiction splits the will in two, one part desiring freedom and the other only desiring to continue the addictive behavior. This internal inconsistency begins to erode self-esteem. How much can I respect myself if I do not even know what I really want?
The greatest damage to self-esteem, however, comes from repeated failures at trying to change the addictive behavior. Even if I do feel clear about what I really want, I cannot make myself behave accordingly. I seem to be honestly out of control; yet in all truth, I have only myself to blame. This failure can decimate my self-respect. In some other culture, in a society that reveres the mystery of human nature more than ours does, such failure at self-mastery might not be so devastating. They might even be seen as affirmations of one's essential connectedness with the rest of creation and of one's essential dependency upon the Creator. But in modern Western society, we have come to see ourselves as objects of our own creation. When we fail at managing ourselves, we feel defective.
As usual, I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but I think some important things are coming to my attention. Things I wish to share. There was a time when alcohol and drugs were my primary addictions. The substance that I'm currently physically addicted to, that I can hardly even consider giving up, is nicotine. Caffeine, preferably in the form of really good coffee, is a distant second. Among the non-physical addictions I've become aware of are attention and acceptance from certain people, struggle, seeking, and self-improvement. By focusing on my past problems with alcohol and drugs, I conveniently provide a way to avoid dealing with these other addictions, which in actual fact, cause me more trouble in the present.
I wish I could say I am now ready to tackle them all, but if there's one thing I've come to realize, it's the futility of approaching an addiction in that way. So I will state my awareness of them here and my slight willingness to begin opening myself to the possibility of grace in all areas of my life. I think one way to do this is to use Eckhart's advice and to slowly begin to not feed the energy of my addictions.