Addiction redux

I am continually experimenting with ways to communicate my insights and learnings about life. Addiction seems to me to be a fundamental human tendency that really covers most all problematic areas of life.

As part of that experimenting, here is my latest attempt at a general overview at what I have learned about addiction; that means all addiction regardless of whether it is to a substance, an activity, or an internal mental/emotional process or state.  I have been working deliberately and specifically on this for nearly 50 years now and in my experience, people use all sorts of different words and descriptions, but it all boils down to this~

Our lives ultimately consist of information in and information out. Information comes in through our sense organs, impacts our nervous and endocrine systems, which are spread throughout our bodies.  These in turn generate outputs in response and they consist of neurotransmitters, hormones, nerve impulses, etc.

[Sidebara quick definition of “information”: What is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things.

We could call information, organized energy. It can be in the form of photons (images), sound waves (speech or thought), physical constructs (chemical molecules) or physical motion (facial expressions, gestures, dance, and of course combinations of any of these and more.]

We perceive that process as subtle physical sensations. Though most often out of conscious awareness, we are none the less on some level aware of them. Some sensations are neutral but the rest we either crave and want more of or fear or hate and want to avoid or at least have less of.  And we will do whatever it takes to accomplish those goals!

Each and every addiction boils down to some form of action to modulate or control those internal sensations, to either increase them or decrease them, prevent them or cause them.  The reason it is an addiction is because it is unconsciously motivated, reactive, driven, compulsive, not a freely chosen action.  We can become free of an addiction in only one way and that is becoming conscious of, and non-reactively tolerant to, the presence of those internal sensations.  Any action we take to accomplish that is progress towards freedom.  The very good news is that becoming even a little more free in regards to one addiction usually generalizes to increased freedom in the rest of our lives.

The very first step is slowing down enough to become increasingly conscious of the inner sensations that drive us, or maybe just becoming willing to do that and starting to pay attention, trying to feel those sensations.  Then we can practice not reacting to them while staying aware of them.  Over time this will build tolerance and provide the freedom to choose alternate courses of action. Anything, any practice that aids us in doing this “slowing down and becoming more aware of” is potentially tremendously beneficial and life enhancing. [See note at end]

Anything that does not do this, increase awareness and tolerance of those sensations, but claims to be treating addiction, is at best not helpful and may well be counterproductive.  A great many so-called treatments just substitute another addiction for the original one.  In some cases this can be life saving and buy the person time, but even then it is avoiding the real issue and may lead to problems later on.

The physical dependence that can develop to some substances (including those substances generated internally by our behaviors!) can certainly cause unpleasant symptoms from withdrawal. With some substances like barbiturates this can even be fatal.   But his is NOT the addiction or addictive process. I have personally known two heroin addicts who would periodically quit when their habit became too expensive. They both told me it was no big deal to quit for awhile, that it just felt like a bad case of the flu for a week or two and then done. After some time would pass, they would be much more sensitive to the drug and require a much smaller dose of it to get what they wanted so the price in dollars would again be doable and back they would go.  So the physical dependence was clearly not the thing that kept them addicted rather it was the emotional/sensation level change they could experience from using that was the issue.

I know this is a bit of an unusual way of looking at addiction and life in general. Please ask if any questions or if I was not clear in writing this!

*In my experience, after many years of experimentation, I believe Vipassana meditation to be one of it not the very best of tools available for this project. For more information go to this link or ask me.

Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac., Health Coach

About Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac.

It is my passion to help others find health on all levels. As a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, and on staff as a supplement/health consultant in retail environments, I gained much knowledge about physical health. As an individual who has had to deal with my own health problems, as well as those of my wife, I have gained compassion for the difficulty one may have in finding the right kind of information and help navigating those problems. From a dedicated 40 year meditation practice I have gained wisdom and patience in helping others on their path to full wellness.
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7 Responses to Addiction redux

  1. Jesus, I have read some crap in my time but your blog really takes the prize. A poorly digested mix of pseudo-facts, out-of-date research and unproven hippie bullshit.

    This is so bad it’s embarrassing. It’s no coincidence that you have nobody commenting–nobody is listening, and for good reason.

    I know you won’t post this, but seriously, take my advice: time to hang it up, friend.

  2. Carolyn RIngo says:

    Great article Geoffrey. I have found this to be true in my own life an work with others as well. While I don’t agree with every word, for the most part I found it helpful to read your intelligent perspective.
    It’s great when one can do their own internal research and then be willing to be vulnerable enough to share it in hopes of it benefitting others.

  3. Carolyn RIngo says:

    Wow. I just read the response before mine of the guy, Jesse. Did he really call you friend? Not any kind of friend I’d want to have. It is interesting how upset people get when they read or hear something they don’t like or agree with. Wouldn’t the world be a sad place if everyone put others down that they didn’t agree with. Oh well, narrow minds abound. Keep up the good work Geoffrey.

  4. GW says:

    This sounds right on to me, but “practicing being aware of them while not reacting” is not easy to do, especially for a sensitive person who feels unable to slow down due to having to be part of the “real world”. The building tolerance over time feels like it may take a lifetime. Thank you for the well said description of addiction.

  5. GW, it is difficult but I think it is also “the royal road” and that really, any approach that works will end up doing this. My experience is that the best practical technique out there, the most direct and far reaching is Vipassana mediation. It is simple but very difficult and requires time and dedication to regular practice. But it is available 100% free of charge at 10 day retreats. Free includes room and food for the 10 days. The entire organization, top to bottom is run solely by volunteers and solely by donations. So far so good, since the early 1970’s!

    Go to http://www.dhamma.org and follow the links for detailed info and locations and course sechedules.

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