I’m an addict. And I’m not alone. We’re all addicts.
Typically the word addict conjures up images from Trainspotting. Needles, overdose and abandoned buildings littered with rotting mattresses.
While this is definitely the reality for some, there are many more people who are addicted in far less obvious ways.
Coffee. Work. Exercise. Sex. Sleep. Procrastination. Money. Food. Sports. Argument. Control. Shopping. Television.
None of these stimulants are an immediate threat to your life. And yet their obsessive pursuit is no less a manifestation of addiction.
Addiction can be seemingly completely benign. Like the uncontrollable urge to switch on the TV or Radio as soon you walk into the house.
Unlike hard drugs, neither the TV nor the radio presents any immediate threat, and yet the common theme is the fact that the behaviour is uncontrolled.
Neither the TV addict nor the heroin addict can stop. And if asked about it, chances are they’ll say they don’t want to stop.
Sure. I didn’t want to stop smoking either. But that didn’t make me less addicted.
Because the question is, could I have stopped and still be comfortable with myself?
In my case the mere thought of not smoking was enough to make me cringe with an uncomfortable sensation of insecurity. A nervous dread, fearful of a bleak and boring future.
At first I blamed the stress of my job. So I changed jobs and started doing what I’d always wanted to do. But still I smoked. Then I blamed the hustle and bustle of city life. So we moved to the countryside where we were surrounded by nothing but nature and the sound of birds every morning. But still I smoked. Then I blamed financial insecurity, but our business started growing and we earned enough money to live comfortably. And yet, still I kept on smoking.
It became obvious that I could blame whatever I wanted to blame, ultimately I was the problem.
It never got to the point where I lost everything. I didn’t sell my car to buy more rolling papers. My family disliked my smoking habit, but I was never disowned.
My life wasn’t perfect, but so what, who’s is?
Human beings are stubborn creatures.
How else could the world have turned into such a mess? It’s clear that something is wrong, but our societies limp along because most of us survive with relative ease, despite the lingering internal conflict that plague us.
Our oil guzzling cars are comfortable, even if they screw up the atmosphere, and our fatty fast foods soaked in MSG tastes good. Right now it’s just too convenient.
So why change? The world isn’t perfect, sure, but for most of us there’s no immediate threat…Human beings are stubborn creatures. We don’t like to change, unless it’s really REALLY urgent.
We’ll change when our lives are on the line. But until such time, most of us continue to do what we’ve learnt, regardless. Until…I might not have sold my car or lost my family and friends, but everything is relative. I too hit rock bottom.At first I tried to limit myself. But that failed. Then I tried to stop. That also failed. Again and again. Every time I would convince myself that it was OK to keep smoking. There were always a million reasons.
And so it went on.
From the outside things looked pretty good. Many people even saw improvements in my life. I was happily married and we were running our own business.
But, personally, it became more and more obvious that I had a problem.
Perhaps not an earth shattering problem or a life threatening problem. I could probably have gone on smoking for years and still have managed a fairly decent and above-average lifestyle.
But the problem was internal. Which is the only reality that really matters, because that’s where peace and happiness comes from.
I knew I really wanted to stop. But I couldn’t.
I pretty much reached a stage where I reluctantly started accepting that I would smoke every day for the rest of my life. That I would always be incapable of living life without this crutch. That I would never be able to give up my comfortable little blanket.
But, somewhere, I still had hope.
Because I’ve always had that dream.
What would a world of freedom and peace look like? What would a world of complete fairness, transparency and justice look like? What would a world without racism, hate and war look like?
Because ultimately that’s why I smoked. To escape the tension of this world. Hoping that some day soon the world would be different, so that I would no longer have to smoke to cope with life.
The world will change. I know that. Change happens whether or not we’re ready. A few thousand years of recorded human history clearly illustrates that.
But these changes take time.
It’s unlikely that I’ll wake up to a different world tomorrow.
But drastic change can happen. Today
Within in me.
Everyday I wake up is another opportunity to change myself. And although truly changing my habits may take time, I can change my life completely in one day simply by making drastically different choices.
What would life be like if I did not have to rely on this crutch?
What would life be like if I could live life on its own terms, without the need to escape?
What would life be like if I was at peace, internally, regardless of what happened around me?
Our addiction is a symptom of a spiritual disconnect.
We compulsively do those things that we cannot stop from doing because we’re trying to fill a bottomless pit. It’s that emptiness that makes us cringe in discomfort at the thought of a future without our daily dose. And the only way most of us know how to alleviate the discomfort is by distracting ourselves with stimuli.
At the centre of every person’s busy life lies a certain restlessness, driving us always to seek the next step. Even as we’re taking this step, we’re always already thinking about where to go next.
Don’t get me wrong, developing oneself is a very noble pursuit.
But if we find that no matter what we do, or how much we’ve achieved we’re still searching for more, we’re trying to satisfy a spiritual urge.
As all of nature is intertwined and interconnected, human beings too need that connection to the greater whole. We all need a connection to something greater than ourselves. The world as it is today is what we manifest without that connection. Deplete of any deeper meaning. A discordant world.
Without that connection we experience a constant lack. An empty hole that cannot be filled.
Self development only makes sense after we’ve satisfied that internal spiritual longing with a true spiritual connection.
But because most of us haven’t been shown how to, we fill that void with drugs, new cars or shopping bags. And we can just as easily use ideas and beliefs.
Because in reality it’s not the drug or the new car that feeds the addiction, but our thoughts about it. “Ah, now I feel better.” Or, “Look at my new car.” Which can just as easily become “This is my sports team. My religion. My qualification. My job. My political ideology. I believe in this. I don’t believe in that.”
Thinking is what we’re all really addicted to.
Try closing your eyes and counting your breaths. How many breaths will you count before your mind is swamped by other thoughts?
Did you decide to think those thoughts, or did they just appear? Like an uncontrollable urge?
Make no mistake, we’re all addicts. Every single one of us.
The word addict might be commonly used to describe a drug addict, but in the truest sense of the word we all have at least one addiction in common. We’re all addicted to thinking. And in the long run abusing thought is just as destructive.
Because we’re trying to satisfy a spiritual urge, an urge for something greater than ourselves, with our own stuff.
As if a plant could rely on its own radiance for photosynthesis.
It doesn’t work.
There is only one thing that can satisfy that urge. A connection to something greater than ourselves.