Addiction is very prevalent in our society, I believe far more so than most of us realize. We may think of addiction and think only of someone strung out on crack or someone who lives at a bar. But addiction is much more pervasive and insidious than these more extreme cases. Often unseen and unheard, addiction can seep its way into our lives for years before it becomes a blazing problem we can no longer ignore.
Substance abuse may not be the root of addiction. Addiction can come in the form of thoughts, such as a perpetual core belief with which we have fully identified. For example, the idea “I am ugliness” or even “I am darkness” could be so all-consuming that we end up acting in ways that feed that identification. Feeling like a victim would feed that identity. Feeling others are against us would feed it as well. We can believe that we are empty and need to be filled. We then may turn compulsively to substances, work, sports, people or even to religious practices as a means to try to fill ourselves up. We have identified with darkness and act in ways that only feed that reality, until we wake up to the reality that we are not darkness, but are in fact beings of infinite light.
This form of psychological addiction can come in any form. Perhaps it is the idea “I am not enough”, or “I am a nobody”, or “I am incapable”. Any of these kinds of self-effacing thoughts, when we identify with them as who we are, become an addiction. These distorted, root thought forms, when they become our identity, then in turn fuel secondary addictive behaviors, such as substance abuse.
Part of sobriety is developing the humility to understand that we are powerless over the force of addiction. In accepting powerlessness, we come face to face with the pull of the addiction and begin to let go of the seduction of its power. We begin to find space between the addiction and ourselves.
When addicts begin to admit they are powerless over their addiction, they begin to let go of its power. They begin to step backwards, away from the edge of a black hole that can only consume, and move towards personal choice and the ability to manage destructive habits.
Deep wounds, fear, rage and shame are at the root of addiction. These shadow emotions when unmet become the feeding ground for addiction. There needs to be a willingness to embrace the darker side of ourselves so that our shadow does not run wild in addiction. Everyone has painful emotions. Everyone can experience fear, rage and shame. The addict must find the courage and humility to open to these painful parts within their shadow so that those places no longer fuel their addict behavior. Looking into these painful places usually requires the support of professionals who are used to supporting addiction recovery.
If you are an addict, the twelve-step programs are very powerful and effective. I have seen many, many people benefit from them. But they only work if you are willing to go and do the work to heal and change. There is a saying in the program, “It works if you work it. So work it! You’re worth it!”
To move away from addiction, you must find the inner strength to no longer feed that part of your psyche. You know that allowing your addict to rule your life does not work. You can hear the voice that doubts and ridicules your healthy choices, but you must give it no energy. Keep going, move towards sobriety and health. There will be ups and downs. But this will be the most important journey you have ever made in your life.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current shows, “YIN: Yoga in the Nightclub” and “Natamba”, bring forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.