February 23, 2012

How to break delusions when overcoming addiction

Posted by Ashley Dane on Feb 23, 2012

In our active addiction, we live a life of complete delusion. Here's what to do about it.

Ashley Dane of the ONE80CENTERAs anyone who has been reading my blog Follow Your Bliss knows, my main areas of interest are the spiritual journey and concerns about remaining as open, awake and aware as possible at all times. That alone will keep anyone busy, as the Ego is a worthy opponent that is constantly trying to undermine any efforts at living in truth and grace. The Ego is like a crafty old wolf, always lurking around trying to find a moment of weakness, telling lies and playing games. Addiction is one of the greatest tools of the Opponent, for the goal of the Ego is to block ourcontact with truth, with the Divine, with our selves — and our addiction covers all the bases quite nicely.
When we are active in our disease, we are in a trance of complete delusion — we are puppets with blinders on. As there are many types of addiction (from the obvious drugs and alcohol to the not so obvious drama addicts and rage-aholics who create strife in their lives and the lives of others in order to obtain a rush) there are many other people incarcerated inside of themselves, cut off and isolated, sleepwalking through life, who are not even aware of their condition. As alcoholics and drug addicts, we are gifted with an alarm clock that others are not. We have a chance at redemption others don’t always get.
When we wake up from the dream of addiction, we are confronted with a new reality—new for us anyway—it’s the same reality many people have been living for a long time. How to navigate without the puppet strings? How do we deal? It’s like the scene in the movie The Matrix when Neo is given the choice between the red pill and the blue and he chooses the pill of truth, and in doing so, the illusions are stripped away. He is plunged into reality—not one that is as attractive as the Matrix, which is a lie, a shared dream. In the real world the clothes are tattered, the food goop, there is no sunlight, no real creature comfort in sight—but when they look each other in the eye, it’s a real eye looking back, and to a seeker of truth, that one fact is more valuable than the entire world of illusion. Connection. Unity. Love. Service. Compassion. The entire Matrix is a trifle compared to the infinite value of these things, even in the smallest doses.
Discarding delusion in overcoming addictionIn Eastern thought, the veils of illusion that are used to bewitch us are called Maya, and the continuous but random drift of passions, desires, emotions and experiences inside the land of illusion is called Samsara. The Matrix is a great metaphor because the Matrix is Maya, and the people in the Matrix are simply dreaming life—Samsara. Once we surrender drugs and alcohol, we are still left with the rest of the illusory world and all its other temptations with which to replace the substance. Putting away the substance is hard enough, but then there is everything else!  If we are lucky, we quickly get to the heart of the matter and discover how false and hollow these promiscuity, ambition, cheap thrills, gossip, gambling, emotional hostage taking, material possessions, power, victimhood, people-pleasing, rage and financial gain are.
We exploit them and find that they work at first. But then they stop working so well, and pretty soon they don’t work at all. Hopefully we discover a new value system at this point, one that doesn’t tolerate the False Idols. Sometimes we lament at the loss of these cheap thrills, but then we gain humility and maturity, we grow up, we stop wanting more and start wanting the Next Level. We begin to seek real experiences that nourish our souls, support intimacy in our relationships and sustain our recovery. We begin to love life just the way it is and stop complaining about the way it isn’t. We look to neutralize conflict or avoid it when possible (and healthy).
And hopefully we learn that when we are stripped down to our most undiluted essence, life also disrobes in a spiritual striptease that leaves only the naked truth, with nothing in between you and Supreme Beingness, the Source, God, whatever you choose to call it. Once you’ve experienced that, you will be loathe to ever let anything stand in between you and the Source ever again.
If you haven’t seen The Matrix in a while, I suggest you do. My favorite part is near the end, when Neo stops running from the Opponent (Agent Smith, who is as devious, cunning, insidious, and shape shifting as our Ego, our Disease), turns around, and dives right into that thing he has been afraid of. His faith became absolute—faith where there is no room for fear or doubt, only absolute certainty. That sort of faith changes lives, when we turn and face what we fear most, when we stop running. This is Contrary Action to the extreme and it is the basis of nearly every spiritual practice and certainly an important tenet in recovery.
There are lots of things we are running from when we are actively drinking or using. It’s one thing to put down the drink or drug, but entirely another to see what was lurking behind the drink that you were hiding from—from trauma and responsibility, from our deep sense of self loathing, feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure or success, rejection, or fear of nearly everything. When we put down the substance, there is all of that waiting for us, and the Opponent knows it. It will play mind games with you, compel you into absurd situations that will place you in the line of fire in order to find that weak spot, and manipulate with you with your own fear. Why not beat it to the punch and get really real with all that you are running from?
A Course in Miracles (one of my favorite books) says anything that is not love is not real. So I made a list of everything I had been running from, all the fears and false idols, and next to each I wrote—“Is this Love?  No. Anything that is not love is not real. This is not love. It isn’t real.” Wouldn’t it be amazing if you came to know that you made it all up, and that you can co-create your own reality with the faith that you are safe, loved, that miracles are on their way and you need to be preparing for an awesome life instead of hiding from an unpleasant one? I think so. If your life isn’t looking like this then you might not be ready to let go of the suffering your mind is telling you is real and that’s okay, too. Most of us are addicted to suffering, and if not addicted, then very, very attached to it. But you are free to choose, and it’s important that you know this.  We all have the freedom to choose to stay imprisoned by our hallucinations. You’ll choose to be empowered over disempowered when you are ready.
When we walk into the safe haven of recovery and choose a life of abstinence from mind altering substances, we sign up for the greatest adventure of all time. We wake up from one dream right into another, and we continue to wake up as we go. We shed the false and come to cherish intimacy, relationships, principles, work, spiritual practice. We perceive the world lovingly, with tolerance and compassion. But first things first; if you are new in recovery, rest assured that the terrors will pass. The cravings will pass. You are literally in the worst part of hell, and the Opponent, the Ego, the Trickster, the Disease, some even call him, appropriately, the Devil—is riding your coat tails. That is why you need a community to get you through that first year, you need a full surrender, to be teachable and hopefully desperate. After that, the next part of the journey begins. And the journey, as they say, is the destination. Your entire life has led you to this exact place.
Which pill will you choose?
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