Buddhism in the west is a funny animal. Addiction in the west is Hilarious! Of all the World’s big problems today, Addiction is the biggest and here’s why – plus how Dharma can help you with it.
In this article, I shall discuss,
- Why addiction is big
- How Dharma can fix you
Everyone has addiction
What do we mean by this word ‘Addiction’? Addiction is the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable.
Whilst this definition may be disputed, it will serve us for this discussion. What most folks disregard is the ‘substantial harmful effects’ that repeating a behavior can bring.
Taking substances such as alcohol or opiates will have an almost instant pleasurable/valuable effect and long-term negative repercussions.
What about the damage caused by the excessive long-term use of microwave ovens.
Are we willing or able to give that up for the sake of an uncertain or some unproven negative health effects?
What about sugar? We know the amount of sugar we consume contributes to poor health outcomes, but can we resist?
Can the epidemic of phone use in cars be quashed with public information or shall we have to imprison people who can’t stop text-driving?
Cigarettes, lollies, ice cream, booze, weed, anger, impatience – what’s your poison? OCD?
WHAT? Did he just say MY IMPATIENCE is a bad habit?
Well, yes I did. Think about it.
From the time we are born we are very specifically trying things that will attain our wishes and when we master that, we repeat. Until it becomes a habit.
We need to walk and get fed and learn to do stuff and we do this by watching and mimicking, and then practice/failure/adapt. Something like that.
The same copy/failure/adapt type of system is employed in the school with our peer groups.
We enter the grown-up world with the skills of adaptation firmly in place and pretend to be like everyone else.
Then comes consumerism, workaholism, helicopter parenting, social drinking, tribalism and then sadly, fatally, CNNism (24-hour news addiction!).
With CNNism we can exercise our opinionism and false empathicalism.
Now, I believe there are two types of people in this world. Those with a problem and those in denial. Finding out what you’re in denial about is fun and has some positive results.
Increasingly too, the world is divided into believers and non-believers. Secularism has gained a lot of followers and the churches are in decline.
Having been educated in the Catholic system and rebelling in my teens, I found a belief in something other possible only when I was brought to my knees in alcoholism.
Then, after five failed attempts at sobriety, I came to believe that a Higher Power could return me to sanity as per the AA program.
I ‘co-incidentally’ fell into my first Buddhist class and discovered to my euphoric delight that meditation and a strong faith can work ‘miracles’ on someone like me.
Dharma can help in the relief of addictions in these ways.
Firstly, the teachings of Buddha (Dharma) are best understood with a recognition of rebirth as a possibility. The life I am living now is only an iteration of many lives that form a mental continuum that is ‘Me’.
Secondly, as all sentient beings are going through the same shit as me, just at different parts of the path that I’m at right now, I have a great deal of empathy for the suffering of all.
The Dharma teachings also inform me that there are only seven basic sufferings and we are all going through them all the time – birth, aging, sickness, death, being separated from things we love, encountering things we hate and having unfulfilled desires.
Thirdly, Newton’s third law and Buddha’s law of karma are similar. As you sow so shall ye reap.
But how does this all save me from ‘ism’s’, you may well scream?
Here it is in a nutshell for me. Know thyself.
When I got to AA and rock bottom I had two problems: alcoholism and ‘everything else’!
I could not solve anything else whilst I was drinking.
Having had a Spiritual Experience, I began to put into place a program of self-discovery.
Meditation and prayer were a daily thing for me.
I sought help and comfort from the group which I am forever indebted to.
And with that help, sobriety, and meditation I found a glimpse of ‘Me’.
Know thyself is attributed to Socrates and is inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
A lot of the things I learn in Buddhist classes is also taught by Jesus, Mohammed, and Abraham.
What I’ve learned in sobriety is ‘Love thy neighbor’, and that I’m not the center of the known universe.
My daily practice now to learn from those who have gone before me and obey a few sacred vows that I have freely taken:
To refrain from
- harming living things.
- taking what is not freely given.
- sexual misconduct.
- lying or gossip.
- taking intoxicating substances eg drugs or drink.
I pray that whatever habit cause you pain is easily removed from you.