“Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.” Carrie Fisher
Scotland and alcohol are uncomfortable bedfellows; whisky is romanticised,
and the drunken man stoaterin (staggering) home from the pub after a few
bevvies (drinks) is oft a figure of fun. These days, city centres on weekend
evenings are testimony to how alcohol and other mind-altering substances
are used in many conscious ways – to get "bladdered", to pull, to end up
in hospital, to escape the tedium of the week that’s been.
Of course, that description does not fit all, and for many, alcohol doesn’t
feature in their lives.
Growing up, I only ever saw alcohol in our house at New Year and even
then it was ginger beer and the proverbial yellow snowball! I first tasted
alcohol on my 21st birthday and consumed so much that the hangover
the next day made me vow never to taste it again! But three years later, I
moved to work in Germany, based in Dortmund, home of Dortmunder
Union lager type beer, and living in a military environment, I was almost
conditioned into enjoying the occasional, refreshing, golden nectar.
Officer’s Mess protocol, you see old chap!!
Many years later, working in the health field, I saw first-hand what alcohol could do to people and why some would turn to it to cope with life, to deal with terminal diagnosis such as HIV or cancer, to turn to a form of spirit when the Divine Universal Spirit seemed to have let them down, had rejected them for their sexuality, and so, to drown sorrows, alcohol in excess was deemed the answer for some, and the aid to suicide for others.
And boy, how we as an allegedly still primarily Christian nation, in some measure, loved to judge. Good Samaritans were in short supply.
How I grew to dislike alcohol charities and doctors that took the line to moralise, preach and tell someone “just” to give up or badger them with the "Why do you do it?" question. Often the why is so deeply buried it may never be found.
So I want to start this article with a more metaphysical, a more spiritual look at addiction in general, alcohol included, and begin by looking at some descriptions of those who are addicted in some way or another. When we see the addiction in a different light, by looking at its causation, perhaps we can stop moralising and judging and be free-er to have a healthy relationship to whatever addiction we are drawn. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!
Which is why I now use the word “we” for we all are addicted in some way – to some it may be John Barleycorn – alcoholic liqueur personified in British folklore and music, to drugs and food, and we can be addicted to work, to negativity, to sex, to criticising others, to self-hate, self-harm, to the need to be right or superior, to dysfunctional relationships…the list is endless. We all have an addiction of some kind we mostly keep secret. And there’s the biggest addiction of all – to secrecy and lies.
So I invite you to radically open your eyes to addiction.
Metaphysics, alcohol and other addictions
Metaphysics means “beyond the physical” – and when we look at the alcoholic or the problem drinker we often see just the physical – the person and the drink, and our judgements pour down scornfully on both. When we look at a drug addict, do we look with eyes of compassion and understanding, or a state of judgement and condemnation? We sometimes see only the physical effects of eg alcohol or drugs on the brain and believe there is nothing can be done. Or take the simplistic view, “Why don’t they just stop?”
Notwithstanding the physical, from a metaphysical perspective, I offer the following characteristics of the person who becomes addicted in some way. In these descriptions you may see yourself, or a friend, colleague or relative. Through these you may see that the solution to addiction lies not in treating the person or removing the substance, but in the causes…and above all seeing the individual who is afflicted as the same child of God we all are. IF, as my dad used to say, “we are all a chip off the old block,” ie, a part of the same Universal source, then who is any of us to say we are any different to anyone else. Perhaps the best we can do is be grateful and say, “There but for the grace of God go I!”
So what characteristics do we all have yet for some, it leads to an addiction?
Creativity – we all have capacities to be creative. My parents blessed me by encouraging
me to learn piano and to write music, my elder sister was a gifted painter and artist, and
my younger sister expressed her creativity in many ways through healing arts and crafts.
But what often triggers an addictive behaviour is that that creativity is often stamped
down upon as a child, the child is punished in childhood for even daring to express its
raw, natural, childhood tendencies and spontaneity.
Without creative expression in adulthood, people who become addicts live in an environment which to them is devoid of energy and life force, it is colourless. It is through creativity that we express emotions and feelings so when our creative life force is squashed or denied, we also lose touch with our feelings, we seldom talk about them as a youngster, and so we never learn the language of emotions or the skills through which to express them.
Security – we all seek security and belonging but to the addicted personality, there will always be a feeling of “life doesn’t work for me, the world isn’t safe and secure, there is no one to be trusted, I don’t fit in” and so they develop a negative, punishing mind-set, one in which they blame others rather than see that with a measure of self-responsibility and help things can be turned around (albeit with time yet seldom without difficulty.)
Connection – we each have a drive not just to belong, but to feel connected.
The addict will develop a characteristic of feeling isolated. Isolation, not just in
the physical sense. You may have heard the expression, “as above, so below.”
Well here on earth the addict finds themselves socially isolated and this is a mirror
of the concept they have been taught that heaven is above, true Divine Love is out
of reach and so in their experience there is no heaven, there is no loving God, else
why would they be in the state they are? Heavens, we put them up in prison
where they are treated as "lesser than."
They have to do this life on earth on their own whilst being subjected to
societal and institutional abuse.
So isolation is as much about spiritual isolation, disconnected from a
ny beneficent Higher Power, Higher Source, God, Universe, call it what
you will. And so they seek for solace in the earthly, bottled variety of
Spirit or any substance that will give them the “higher” connection.
I am convinced this lies at the route of addiction – the further away from
a spiritual life we go, the more addicted we are likely to become.
We use one “spirit” to fill the void of that left empty by the other.
And we are all addicted - to technology, abusive relationships,
to numerous "isms", to sex, pornography, TV, certain foods.
What are yours?
Comfort vs Pain. When life is moving along comfortably and nicely, we
can cope, we can enjoy. But that is no test of living life and certainly not of
living life spiritually. Spirituality is easy when all is going well! But it is when
we are up against it, when life is full of challenge and pain, our tests kick in
and we are obliged to show what we are really made of.
Pain repeated – pain can be mental, emotional and physical and children
who repeatedly experience pain become overwhelmed, so overwhelmed that
they seldom learn the skills needed to cope with life. Is it any wonder that
some, therefore, find it easier to develop the skill of addiction?
Decisiveness vs procrastination – through their lens of negativity, blame,
and insecurity, the addicted behaviour will find it difficult to make major
decisions and so create procrastination, a state of putting things off, because
after all, who can be trusted in a world that is not secure, how can one fit in
when life’s message is “you don’t belong!”? So they develop a further
mind-set of a struggle to survive. But Divine Life was never meant to be a struggle.
Socially connected vs socially disconnected – we all have a need to be connected to others, “no man is an island” and many of us take social connection for granted. But, as they wander through life, people with an addiction find it increasingly difficult to connect to and be accepted by others and to develop healthy relationships. They withdraw and instead they go where life may be hard but at least it is familiar, it may not be easy but at one level it isn’t difficult, they connect to “kindred spirit” communities where the ease of expression is through the addiction.
Spiritual make up –I have met Christians who are selective in their application of forgiveness, Hindus who judge, and Buddhists who are so narcissistic they do not embody compassion. It’s not the spiritual label you give yourself that is important, it is whether you walk your spiritual path, not just talk it.
Some of the most spiritual people I have met at heart, have been the most troubled by addiction. Deep down, they care deeply, deep within they are highly sensitive, and very intuitive. But, in a world they deem insecure and which showers them with toxic, psychic pain, from noise to environmental pollution, from our disrespect of humanity, the loss of heart and soul in people and businesses, they seek to numb themselves, to hide away their true nature, to wear the mask of the hermit, live the archetype of the Beggar, the imagined down and out person, alcoholic, homeless or illegal alien and what we end up judging is their outer facade – the person who abuses and suffers from an addiction. But that is not the person’s true nature. Do you ever wonder what their story is that led them to this point? And what is your story that kept you from it? The story that prevents you being the good Samaritan.
So next time you see someone, or hear about someone, who is “misbehaving” or acting “illegally” due to a substance addiction, could you look beyond the person to deep inside them, could you see beyond their behaviour to imagining the possible story that lies behind it, could you refuse to buy-in to or give a label (when we label we limit!) and instead ask some questions, even in prayer : -
What would it take for this person to express their true nature? How can we make it safe for them to do so?
How could they find the Divine connection within and then to the Universal Source of Love which longs to find expression through them but is blocked out by the lower vibrational energy of their addictive substance?
Helping heal addiction
How then might they express their creativity and what could they offer the world?
What can I or what can we do as a society to engender trust for this person even in an i
nsecure world? (Not being another who constantly lets them down!)
How do we encourage and invite them into the body o’ the kirk, as might have been said in the days of bold John Barleycorn. How do we include and not exclude?
What simple coping skills might they need? (Teach a man to fish. Sometimes teaching a first step in self-love and self-care may be a starting point or it may be addressing a practical issue like homelessness.)
What will it take to help them make decisions given that decision making is perhaps not familiar to them?
How do we empathise with their pain, on any level, and then seek to be with them to move through it?
When we look at life through a metaphysical lens, we see more than just what is physically in front of our eyes. And it is the lack of this in our current health - care paradigm that is failing us.
Breaking habits of addiction
If you are struggling to break old habits of addiction, what might you do in addition to looking at your own metaphysical story?
Where and when do you rely on your chosen substance? Could you rely on Spirit (not religion) instead? What is going on or not going on for you at that time?
If cold-turkey is not for you, will moderation work and what support do you need either physically or metaphysically, or both? Remember, an addiction means that in a deep way you have disconnected so connect with others to journey back to move forward. I am not saying this is easy.
Would sharing your story with others help not only you, but them. As you give yourself permission to be honest and express the real you, you give others permission and hope too. Sometimes we need to see our experiences reflected back to us in order to feel comfortable making a change.
How can you help each other release the shame that binds?
Most of what has been covered so far would hardly and sadly register as even a blip on the radar of most physicians, and even therapists. Yet the profundity of what has been covered has a lasting effect on people who choose to rise from their “little me” to their “Higher Me!”
Is it time for you to change?
If any of this resonates with you, consider it may be time to make a change—or support someone in their change but in their way. Here are some signs that it is time.
You’ve ever woken up after a night out and thought “I need to cut back….on drink, or drugs, or sex!”
Don’t be convinced by the ego’s voice of “you’re fine” or that “it’s normal because everyone else does what I do!” Listen to your instincts, that morning wake up call. Inform yourself of the damage you are doing to yourself (and often others.)
If you have that gut knowing of wanting to change something, let that be enough to get you started.
Visualise and feel what it would be like instead to awaken refreshed, energised, positive, and healthy.
You often wake up tired, lethargic or have a hard time getting into gear for the day ahead.
Alcohol and drugs can interrupt your sleep pattern with the result you wake up feeling less than!
You drink alcohol more days of the week than you don't.
If you notice you've started to crave a drink more often than not, you should consider finding alternative non-alcoholic drinks OR ways to spend your time. Deliberately plan to have days each week without drink but don’t store it all up to one big lash at the weekend!
Stress and other triggers
Notice your triggers. When you get stressed or anxious, or have to confront a difficult situation, do you almost without thinking reach for a cigarette, a drink, or some other addictive substance eg food? Is it time to do a stress-reduction course, learn meditation, or mindfulness, or take up Qi-Gong?
You feel shame for the negative behaviour when you’re under the influence of your chosen addiction
Sometimes in this scenario, to cover up how we feel, we indulge even more in the addictive substance.
But, stupid as this may sound, do not rush to palliate the feelings of guilt or shame or whatever. Teach yourself to sit with them and listen to them, feel them, what are they trying to teach you?
Ultimately feeling and moving through pain, shame, and regret is essential to your healing.
Plan abstinence days when you can work through some of this stuff. Drink water.
Alcohol and weight gain go together like a potato on a couch! Whilst we notice the weight gain, we will do all things we can to lose weight. But the clue is – if you are still drinking, and in this case I include fruit juices and fizzy drinks, you will not be finding it easy to consistently lose weight!
Remember an addiction is not just alcoholic drink and drugs. Some friends I know I have six cans of coke a day – that’s a lorra lorra sugar! So don’t wait to lose weight – drink water, and plenty of it!
Denial. Who me? A problem?
If others are asking you if you drink too much, or are concerned at your drug taking, or how, not just what, you eat, then listen to them. They probably find it difficult to see you destroy yourself let alone call you on it.
You may think to the outer world you’ve got life sussed so what’s the harm if you don’t yet quite have a handle on your addiction. But check in deep inside, with your Higher Self and chances are that’s really n ot how you feel at all. Deep down there possibly resides a source of secret shame for you. But only you can decide and make a commitment to yourself that it is time to make a change. T-Factor time.
In-tu-it "Oh I am not into spiritual stuff and intuition," you protest. Yet we all are intuitive, we have more than just our five physical senses. But if you find yourself agonising and logically working out every issue in life and getting no-where easily, then chances are you could gain more by listening to your hunches, your gut, your intuition. But your inner education system cannot work effectively when it is fogged up with alcohol and sugar and drugs. So consider slowing down on the addictions. A drastic reduction in drinking and drugging will help tap into that inner knowing, and allow you to make clear-headed, heart-connected decisions.
Is this all there is?
If you wake up asking “Is this all there is, what’s the point” take that as a sign too. And no, it doesn’t have to be all there is. When you are lucid you probably tell yourself there is something more to life (if only you could find out what but if you’re addicted then your intuition isn’t going to let you know!) Maybe it’s time to stop feeling shit, dealing with the hangover days, wondering what life is about, or getting yourself so wrecked in ways you wouldn’t were you off the addictions. Maybe it’s time to just feel how heavy that is and ask, “Is this how I want my life to be?” And if not, what choices are you going to make now? It all starts with a thought.
There goes that song again!
If you vow “never again,” but keep indulging past the point of no return, take that as your warning sign to cut back (by a lot) or cut out completely for a while. Get hep if needed. Your ego will play the “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” game with you Telling yourself, “I’m not going to do that again” or “I’ll start tomorrow” won’t work.
The key is, find a new tune, break the habit. Change your rituals. If the first thing you do after work is stop by the pub, stop by the gym, go to the theatre, arrange to meet a friend, anything that disrupts the routine – and do not leave it to chance.
Procrastinate – see the item beforehand. Decide what to do instead of the addiction and DO it – get a buddy to support you. Are there hobbies or passions you have been putting off or you’ve forgotten what it feels like to have a fun night out with friends, then it is time to change.
At a physical health level, consult with your medical practitioner and / or research for services by local voluntary and other organisations.
Break your habits, create seven new priorities and schedule them into your week.
Be honest, be authentic, let the real you shine out
Listen to your intuition
Commit and be decisive
Get your creative juices flowing again
Join a group, start a group, connect with people
Bring your Spirit alive and honour it
If things are severe, work with a good private therapist who can both support and challenge you and work on doubts, fears and insecurities
Find someone who will honour metaphysics / spirituality
Explore stress and find healthier stress management tools
Don’t just be out in nature, breath it in, see it, feel it, hear it, taste it
Change your thoughts, your beliefs - repeat the new ones over and over
Bring colour to your life
Take up mindfulness, meditation, Gi gong, yoga
Share with others – teach them what you are learning, volunteer
Let your heart sing
7 New Thought Affirmations
I am open and receptive to all good
I accept I am good enough
I commit to change
I love myself unconditionally ie no judgements, no conditions
Every day in every way my life gets better and better
I release all that controls me and leaves my spirit unfulfilled
I turn to the Divine as my one true source of Spirit
The above video is a collaboration between the German animation house, Kurzgesagt and Johann Hari, author of the bestselling book, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.
Hari's analysis of addiction is a complete rupture from the way it has been approached by the State.
He says, "Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that's happening all around us...
"The war on drugs we've been fighting for almost a century now has made everything worse instead of helping people heal and getting their lives together. We have cast them out from society, we have made it harder for them to get jobs and become stable. We take benefits and support away from them if we catch them with drugs. We throw them in prison cells, which are literally cages. We put people who are not well in a situation that makes them feel worse and we hate them for not recovering.
"For too long, we've talked only about individual recovery from addiction but we need now to talk about social recovery because something has gone wrong with us as a group. We are going to have to change the unnatural way we live and rediscover each other. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety.
The opposite of addiction is connection."
It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it.
Addiction isn't about substance - you aren't addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean.
It’s perfect when it arrives and
it puts itself in our hands.
It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”
Afore ye go!
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
To your healing, health and well-being.