26 Apr Addiction as Spiritual Process
Let’s ponder something for a second. What if addiction, continual substance abuse despite negative consequences, is a misguided spiritual process? Now, many people have said this, but they seem to be more focused on the idea that substance abuse or use is a “substitute” for meaning or spiritual transcendence. But what if the use of substances are the vehicle to a higher learning that one must then “return to earth” in order to make sense of? And the problem we see in this world, called addiction, is the lack of mentorship around how to build a solid spiritual foundation from the altered state of consciousness found in being “high” or “drunk” or whatever.
People do all sorts of things to find themselves on the spiritual plane. Why can’t substance use be one of those ways? We don’t really know it isn’t. We already know that many people have spiritual experiences while intoxicated with drug, and that many writers and thinkers have used descriptors of drug experiences that express transcendence and aliveness. So why wouldn’t we really try and understand the ceaseless returning to drug for the addict as a real and honest search for something profound?
Of course this search becomes warped by the pleasure and desire for “more”, but that does not mean the grounded aspect of the process isn’t about something profound. The addict must be reminded what her soul is after. The addict must be mentored into using his drug or drink in such a way that produces growth and depth. Zen masters will make their students do chores immediately after returning from a profound meditation where they may have even found nirvana.
Maybe, just maybe, we have lost sight of the use of substances for spiritual experience. And maybe the addict has not been given this information. Maybe the addict knows, deep within his being, that his use of drugs is more than recreation, more than an escape from life or a numbing of feelings. Maybe she knows that she must keep going back until she has figured out what this experience is really about. But he has no mentors. He doesn’t understand any longer. So he just gets lost in the cookie jar with no guidance. He thinks he’s just enjoying sugar, good feelings, fun times, heightened sexual encounters. But she misses that this is always pointing toward something much more profound. Something of real “substance.”
But everyone has forgotten. No one sees anymore. There is no longer a place in the culture for this understanding. There is no longer an understanding of rites of passage and eldership around the experience of altered consciousness.
Think of the profound and more fluid process of therapy for substance abusers if instead of working to get them to stop this problem, they were guided further into it to find what they are truly looking for – and not elsewhere, as in addiction as substitute, but right in the middle of excess use of substances.
Just a thought.