How do you know that you are an alcoholic and what do you do then if you want to do something about it?
The meaning of Dharma reveals what objects are to be abandoned, what objects are to be practised, and so forth, says Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in ‘Joyful Path of Good Fortune’.
Since I first read this book with my sangha’s Foundations Class back in 2008, it has indeed been a provided a joyful path for me. I had been searching for meaning for two and a half years since AA made me aware that I was powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable.
Somehow the combination of Buddha’s wisdom and the practical information I got from other alcoholics was the secret remedy to my personal hell. I hope by sharing this and my story that you too can become similarly well.
The journey is necessary,
so don’t say that it’s too hard-
Anyone can change,
so don’t claim ‘I can’t do it.’
Millions of people have recovered from addictions of all sorts – you would think that at least one of them were just like you. In fact, I have found that most addicts, whether they’re drug addicts, overeaters, sex addicts or co-dependents – share a lot more in common with me than I care to admit.
I have also been in NA, Al-Anon, and ACoA meetings and all of the pain stories are similar. Watch the movie “Thanks For Sharing” with Pink and Mark Ruffalo, and see if you can’t laugh hilariously at the same symptoms in these characters as you have.
What is awareness? One could expand the awareness or focus one’s awareness. Who am I and What is life, the universe, and the cosmos?
We need to practice the three Higher Trainings to attain liberation.
This can be a lifelong pursuit however in the context of recovery from addiction we can use this advice in the here and now. What are the three higher trainings? They are Concentration, Moral Discipline, and Wisdom.
They can be utilized in out recovery thus.
Overcome all distractions. In this instruction, I am urging you to see all the things that might lead to a drink or drug. We can start by not visiting our old playgrounds, and for the time being, not having contact with our old playmates either. NOT FOREVER. Just for today.
Furthermore, focus your attention on things that you wouldn’t normally do, or pastimes that you enjoy outside of the drinking routine. Gardening, walking, beach visits, gym, reading healthy books, or even going to a movie could all give your hands and mind something to do that aids in ‘Not thinking about drinking’.
Importantly, try meditation and concentrate on the breath. Just try. Even get worse at it. I did when I began.
The first meditation class I went to I was about two weeks clean and had (inadvisably) given up smokes that week too. I was going to be the next Buddha, and save everyone I know from addiction immediately. I had discovered the secret sauce and I was going to tell everyone about it. The following week’s mediation made me want to scream and drink and kill.
So, if you get worse, that’s okay. It’s doing it that matters and not the result.
Lastly on concentration, be consistent.
We want to establish a new way of living slowly and surely. Be single-minded in the focus on not drinking, one day at a time (like they say), and if you have to refer to a list of things that you DON’T WANT if that helps you stay on track.
There is an old line about the experienced mediator being asked ‘What have you gained from years of practice”, to which he replies, “Nothing, but I have lost so much!”
You can lose the desire to drink and drug in a relatively short time and never, ever get it back. I sometimes wish that I could have a drink occasionally now, but it lasts a second and a half before my mind remembers all the hell, pain, and loneliness that I have lost.
2. Moral Discipline
My morals ain’t your morals.
This was my first objection when I began learning Buddha’s teachings because I had abandoned my Church 25 years ago and was extremely independent thinking. I even thought my way into bankruptcy addiction, several divorces, and the gutter ultimately.
This was surely one of the reasons that I didn’t get sober straight away in the AA rooms – I simply couldn’t release my (ego’s) stubborn beliefs. I was right, no matter how miserable it made me and others.
So, what are the Buddha’s morals and why does Mikey Mather live by them now?
Avoid killing, avoid stealing, avoid lying, avoid sexual misconduct and avoid intoxicants. There. They look reasonable, don’t they?
I could not argue that following these principles was not a better way to live than the way I had ended up. In fact, they would have been for me, better than the Ten Commandment that I didn’t keep beforehand.
The major point here is that we are looking for a way out and a way forward, yeah?
In order to attain and maintain a life beyond addiction, certain new ideas need to be implemented and to look towards a 2,500-year-old system of living is a great place to start. These five disciplines are easy and fecund (I love this word).
- Keeping your own set of moral disciplines may include
- Be kind to all creatures
- Love our neighbour
- Stop before saying negative things about someone
- Take out the garbage before bed
Anything that you can be more mindful will do for now. It has been 10 years now since I took my lay-person vows and frankly, it is like brushing my teeth now – I take it for granted mostly. See also Darren Littlejohn’s great book “The Power of Vow”.
This is a biggy.
For this ‘little black Buddhist’, it is the meaning of life and all else, and will take many lifetimes to fully ‘get’. So let’s look at just getting through today, shall we?
The answer is not in the bottle.
The problem is not even there.
The wisdom we are looking for today is this.
I am the problem, the solution and I am everything that is standing in my way to happiness.
There is nothing outside my mind that can make me drink – and right now, as an addict, my drinking is ruining my life. There is nothing else. My parents are not making me drink. My boss is not the cause of my grief. A new girlfriend won’t make my life better, nor will some jewellery or a Big Mac.
- My mind is the problem.
- I can change my thinking and feeling.
- I will succeed.
How does that all sound to you? Bullshit? Is it like swallowing razor blades? Do you want to hurt me right now?
I understand – truly, I do.
The bad news is that you are the problem. The good news is that you are the problem.
If the problem is your Mum, or where you work and who you sleep with, then you’re fucked. You can’t fix anything except you!
‘You are the problem’ is the most freeing thing that you have ever read or heard.
‘You are the problem’ should be written in lipstick on your vanity mirror.
‘You are the problem’ is the first step to realizing your goal of a Happy, Sober & Frickin Awesome lifestyle. You might even get rich beyond financial wealth if you realize that ‘You are the problem’.
This is the wisdom that can set you free today. You have many lives to work out the rest if you can just believe me on this one thing. ‘You are the problem’
Eckhart Tolle says in “A New Earth”, You are a human being. What does that mean?
Mastery of life is not a question of control, but of finding a balance between human and Being.”
This is a really interesting point to ponder, and frankly, on your first sober day, I don’t expect too much sense to be made.
But this realization may also tip you into another completely new frame of mind (And remember the only thing wrong with you is YOUR MIND. I used to say in meetings, ‘When I came into recovery I only had two problems – Alcoholism and Everything else)
This idea of Tolle’s leads us to the awareness of God too.
What is BEING, Self, God, Oneness?
I hope you quickly find your own realization in this respect because I am convinced that every person whom I have seen recover from alcoholism and drug addiction has had a revelationary change in their awareness of God. Not a revolutionary change either – we can do without the crusades.
Here’s something that I like to ponder sometimes when I am lost.
There’s me. I am pretty sure in real terms that I am here.
Then there is Heather my girlfriend and other people. I have children and a family.
There are about 7 billion other humans here on earth. There are lots of insects and animals and fishes. There are plants. And what else?
There might be nothing. It just seems that most people believe that there is something. What is that? Are we all nuts, deluded, grasping for something where there is only fear?
It is my assertion that human beings in the 21st Century as we know it aren’t equipped with the applicable mental power or information to definitively understand the Esoteric, Ethereal, Spiritual nature of the Cosmos. We can but try.
This article forms a part of the 72 Hour Challenge – a great new resource for addicts to challenge themselves for 3 days to get clean and learn about themselves to aid longer-term sobriety, health and happiness. Begin here.
Throughout my writing, if you care to stay with me there are lots of references to other authors that have made an impression on me. There are no definitive God-answers here – rather a place where we can question each other and hold each other whilst we think together.