How Good Can Life Get Following Addiction?
I used to believe that if only I stopped drinking, my life would become instantly perfect. So, it came as a disappointment to give up the booze and not automatically enjoy a hassle-free life full of riches and acclaim – this failure of sober living to meet my high standards became my favorite excuse to relapse. It took me a bit of time to realize that all the not drinking did was give me an opportunity for a better life.
Breaking free of addiction doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does put us in a more favorable position to create a better life. None of that suffering needs to have been wasted if it can motivate us towards real freedom and happiness – unfortunately, for most of us humans, it tends to be pain that drives us far enough away from our comfort zone to break free of the mental traps that keep us imprisoned.
What is Awakening?
One of the problems with the word ‘awakening’ is it means different things to different people. This confusion is partly due to the limitations of language – how can thoughts be used to describe something beyond thoughts? There is also the tendency for awakening to be interpreted through the lens of the person’s cultural, philosophical, or religious orientation.
The word ‘awakening’ suggests waking up to something – so what is it we are waking up to?
Awakening is waking up to the ego and seeing clearly how identifying with this pattern of thinking is the source of our suffering. It is not about stopping thoughts but about realizing with absolute certainly there is no person in these thoughts. This means we stop bickering with reality and we discover the joy of internal silence – ‘the peace that passeth all understanding’.
Is Awakening a Realistic Goal for People in Recovery?
Awakening/enlightenment is a realistic goal for anyone who wants it enough. You don’t have to become a monk, subscribe to any particular religion/philosophy, act like a ‘spiritual person’, or spend the next 30 years meditating in a cave.
The reality though that most people don’t want to wake up – they are too obsessed with stuff that can never lead them to ultimate freedom and happiness. This is fine because nobody has the right to tell anyone else what they should want, but it is kind of sad when such a person laments, “I just want to be happy”.
I would say those of us who fall into addiction actually have an edge when it comes to waking up. This is because most of us had already decided long before we began abusing alcohol or drugs that ‘normal living’ wasn’t going to be fulfilling enough for us. There was nothing wrong with this realization (in fact, this is the same conclusion the Buddha came to), the only problem was what we did with this realization (i.e. we used it as an excuse to get drunk or high).
If you are serious about finding lasting inner-peace, it is realistic to make ‘waking up’ your goal. You need to be willing to let go of anything that gets in the way of this process but don’t worry, you won’t be letting go of anything that wouldn’t have been taken away from you anyway.
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