As I was growing up from newborn to two years old to four to six to ten, the feeling of personal warmth and security was leaving me.
I was becoming an individual.
Psychologists call this individuation. It became extreme at age 18 and I took my first drink. (I know young people often experiment with drinking and drugs at earlier ages now, but I was old school.)
My belief today is weird: I believe that if you can understand how to recover from addiction into what 12-step people call “good sobriety” (a very low risk for drinking or drugging again) you can understand how to enjoy life, even if you are not an addict.
I came upon this belief after noticing that my own recovery, after years of meetings and endless hours being mentored by my sponsor, had a major transference into my created profession of life coaching. Spiritual progress applied to everything.
The spiraling up beyond individuation is what I mean by spiritual progress. (Others might mean other things.) When the vicious circle you are in becomes a spiral, you are trucking. The creative genius Vladimir Nabokov said “a spiral is a spiritualized circle.” And personal growth is a matter of liberating the vicious circle, so one can spiral up.
What is that vicious circle? It is the mistake of taking the game of life too seriously, taking the behavior of others personally and circling around and around between worry and resentment.
Babies don’t do that.
There is an oceanic sense one has as a baby. Like feeling that you are a wave in a huge, thriving, pulsating ocean of life. No name, no separation, no individuation yet.
No separation means I cry and you come feed me. The two things are as connected as my hand and my fingers. I cry, you come change me. I don’t know yet that there’s any real difference between you and me, or between me and anything else. I don’t yet feel the disconnect. It’s awfully warm and secure on this fine planet!
Like a wave upon the ocean. The wave doesn’t know it’s a separate wave, or a good wave for surfing, or a bad wave. It feels like it’s just an expression of the ocean. Which it is! A gesticulation! It is only we, we labelers, who call it a wave. And by labeling it, we make it separate. We try to separate it from the ocean, not seeing it's just an expression, just a wave, like I am waving to you right now.
But trying to take the wave from the ocean and putting it in a sand castle on the shore?
You can see what happens to it.
So as a baby I was the ocean itself until I grew older and my parents kept insisting that I was a wave. And not only a wave, but a unique individual wave like no other. A wave with a name. The name was so important. It made my separation final and “the truth” about my life.
My first drink took me back to the ocean.
Like the drunken character played by Robert Shaw sings in the movie Jaws, “Show me the way to go home. I’m tired and I want to go to bed. I had a little drink about an hour ago, and it went right to my head.”
When I was a little boy, after I was taught that I was separate, I was then taught that some things were mine, and some things were not. I began to learn the difference between being and having. Being used to be blissful and more than enough but now having became the thing. All the rage. (In both senses of that word.) I saw a toy in a store window and I had to have it. I learned the importance of the word mine.
If you want to torment a child (and why would you want to do that, really? Maybe just briefly to understand this idea).....point to something the child is holding, a stuffed animal maybe, and say the word “Mine!” Watch the alarm run through the child’s body as the child pulls the animal away and shouts back, “Mine!”
And so the fear begins. Security fades away. Nothing is secure anymore. Who can you trust? Your parents promise they will love you forever and then they divorce and one of them moves away! Even Santa Claus turns out to be unreal.
Can you blame a boy for wanting to get drunk? Fortunately, there’s a better way back home.