Psychologist/Life coach Dr. Amy Johnson has written a very insightful little book about how we can find relief and, finally, total freedom from the habits that imprison us. Including the more desperate habits of drugs and alcohol.
In her book, The Little Book of Big Change, she correctly identifies urges, cravings and compulsions as mere thoughts. They are thoughts that we dramatize. When we call a passing thought a "craving" because of the sense of urgency it makes us feel, we think we need to do something fast about that uncomfortable feeling. So we act on the thought, the feeling is relieved, and a neuronal pathway is formed. So the next time that thought reaches consciousness, and the uncomfortable feeling arises from it, we habitually act. We reach for a pill, or a smoke, or a wine bottle, or a doughnut. Or two.
In the brain there is now a vicious circle.
But what feels like an unbearable compulsion began as only a thought. If we believe and then dramatize the thought, the path to freedom and serenity is blocked. And that path is everything.
"Compulsions obstruct the path by monopolizing consciousness," says Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor in Living with the Devil. "The hypnotic fascination they exert prevents us from attending to anything else. We behave like a rabbit dazzled by the headlights of a car."
Like rabbits, we are run over. Our death wish (compulsion for release) morphs us into road kill.
We long to die to this discomfort. To not feel it.
What can we do about these thoughts that get internally dramatized in this way?
Stephen Batchelor says "To escape their grip does not entail suppressing them but creating a space in which we are freed to let them go and they are freed to disappear."
His recommended form of creating that space is meditation. But what if it were easier than that? What if we already knew about that space. . .that it was pre-existing inside of us? What if we were (already) that space? The space that the thought had shown up in? And if we just relaxed a bit, and grew still, the thought would continue on out of its own volition? What if?
"As soon as I know the mind is distorted," says Shantideva, "I should remain as steady as a log."