(These are some notes I've been making for my Death Wish project
The problem in my life starts when I think I have to add something to this present moment to make it better.
Addition is seductive. It’s a lot like addiction. The words look a lot alike. Look too quickly and you'll mistake one for the other.
How much addiction comes from the lure of addition? The myth that tells you…whispers to you…that you have to add something to your life to make it a happier experience.
Let me add this strong drink to the chemistry in my brain and body. Now let me add more drinks. (One is too many, a hundred is not enough.)
It’s simple addition! And it leads to misery.
What if I were brave enough to turn my addicted life around? What if I were strong enough to experiment with subtraction? Subtraction! People fear it. What would be left? Just me?
Adding muddies the water. . .subtracting makes it crystal clear
Some people have what they call food addiction. Carb addiction. Addiction to bread and sweets. Emotional eating, they call it. But what if I subtracted flour and sugar from my diet? (Versus the addition of a dangerous amphetamine diet pill that races my heart and speeds up the already-circular thinking in my brain...and soon turns into an addiction.)
What if I subtracted my drug, my alcohol? What if I were brave enough? Subtraction leads to freedom. It takes these chains from my heart and sets me free.
For the word addition to become the word addiction, I just have to throw a “c” in there. You know “c.” It stands for cocaine, or cannabis, or cognac, or cookies, or catastrophe, or chronic alcoholism.
I’m not enough. I have to add something to me…something from the outside world.
Byron Katie talks about being addicted to love and approval. There are clinics for sex addiction and romantic love addiction.
Yes I have a happy marriage but I myself am not happy so maybe if I just added this one adventurous romantic love relationship to my life.
I read the tabloids to keep up with what addiction can do to people. Famous people in celebrity rehab. All of them. Adding like crazy. Look at Oprah’s five beautiful homes!
Ben Affleck has a good marriage to Jennifer Garner (I’m putting my groceries on the conveyor belt slowly now so I can read all of this) and he decides to add to that a romantic relationship with their nanny. In the following weeks and months I read all about custody, betrayal, heartbreak, financial penalties, bitterness…..in other words a major life hangover. So much for adding.
The famous beat generation author and drug addict William Burroughs killed his wife playing a William Tell game at a drugged-up, drunken party. He was the author of the books Naked Lunch and Junkie. He was actually a brilliant man, and never so brilliant as he was in his later years when he was clean and sober and said that there wasn't anything, any feeling, any high, that you could get on drugs and alcohol that you couldn’t get without drugs and alcohol.
And that’s because that treasure of good feelings is already in you. The drug (and I always include alcohol as a drug) just breaks down the barriers. It releases what’s already there. It took me awhile, some years clean and sober to find out that he was right. But you can go faster than that. Through meditation and working with others and an ongoing spiritual practice you can find out faster than I did that you can have an even happier life than you did at your best drunken moment.
I used to believe I had to add drugs and alcohol to my system to feel the things I wanted to feel. If I wanted to feel more relaxed or more courageous or more confident in a crowd of people, it was never going to happen unless I added something to my system. I did get (most of the time, at the beginning, until it turned really dark and desperate) the feelings I wanted. But they were all-too temporary.
But as Burroughs found out, the drug itself doesn’t directly produce the feeling. It just removes the barriers in the brain to the treasure that’s already there. And there are other ways to remove those barriers, thank God and the people who will help you.