Peaceful Coexistence with Addictions

balancing rock

Every addiction has a balance point.

Active Addiction Is an Internal War

One one side you have the attraction of the senses towards the object. And on the other hand you have the internal resistance to indulging. That’s the essence of the battle.

Sometimes the senses dominate, leading to indulgence. Sometimes resistance dominates, leading to abstinence. And round and round it goes: temptation, resistance, weakening of resistance, indulgence, remorse, resolve to resist more strongly next time, temptation, extra resistance, weakening of resistance, indulgence, extra remorse, extra resolve to resist more strongly, etc.

The cycle of addiction is a vicious cycle with ever increasing intensity of resistance and sensory experience. It is exhausting, and wears down the mind, the self-esteem, and even the senses.

Where Is the Balance Point in this War?

Many of us focus on trying to get rid of the addiction, often even doing The Work with this purpose in mind. But this doesn’t usually get too far. Because it is biased. And The Work doesn’t work so well when you’re doing it with a bias.

It’s like taking sides in a war—selling weapons to the side of resistance to addiction while trying to destroy the side of indulgence.

But true peace doesn’t come from victory of one side over the other. If resistance to addiction wins, there may be temporary, external peace. But true peace comes only when resistance and indulgence come into balance with each other.

This Can Mean Doing The Work on the Motives for doing The Work

If the motive for doing The Work is to get rid of addiction, then this motive needs to be questioned. You can literally question, “I need The Work to help me with my addiction.”

This is radical work.

It means literally stepping out into no man’s land. Who would I be without the thought, “I need The Work to help me with my addiction”? I would not be trying to get rid of the addiction. I would see it as the teacher that it is. I would not be pushing addiction away. I would not be using The Work as a weapon against addiction. I would be open to it, unafraid of it, meeting it, listening to it.

As Soon as I Push, I Engage the War

Pushing against the senses is war. And pushing towards the senses is war. For me the balance point lies in neither pushing towards sensory gratification nor pushing against sensory gratification.

At first, this seems like permission to indulge, but it is a really subtle balance point. Neither pursuing pleasure, not fighting against it—that is the neutral place. And in the beginning, the mind cannot land there. It is constantly slipping off to one side or the other. But with practice, in my experience, it can be held.

It feels like the balance between surrender (that the senses are more powerful than me—so resistance is futile) and awareness (that sensory pleasure is not really what I’m interested in). That’s where I can float between not stepping onto the slippery slope of temptation yet not trying to destroy temptation either.

It is a peaceful coexistence (non-interest and non-resistance living side by side). Then I am free. There is nothing I need to avoid. And nothing I want to pursue. I am in a state of balance that is no longer a fragile balance, but rather a balance that can roll with anything that comes—even full indulgence if it comes again, or full resistance if it comes again.

Here Are Some of the Ways I Have Done The Work on This

I like to question thoughts on both sides of addiction:

On the indulgence side
I want to indulge.
I deserve to have fun.
I want to feel good.
It feels so good.
I’m not really addicted.
It’s too hard to resist.
The cravings are too strong.

On the resistance side
I need to stop this.
It’s out of control.
It’s shameful to be addicted.
I shouldn’t be addicted.
Addiction is bad.
I’m a bad person.
I need to be stronger.
I need to resist more strongly.

It Takes a Gentle Approach to Question Both Sides

The mind can start to spin if you go too fast.

I like to take each stressful thought when it comes up naturally in my life. Instead of making a list as I did above, I just wait for the next stressful thought about addiction to arise, and question it. That keeps it real. And ensures that I’m only balancing the part that needs to be balanced in any given moment.

The list above is just a reference for the kinds of thoughts that can come up on both sides of balance. In my experience, it’s okay to question even resistance thoughts. That was the missing piece for me to find my balance point.

Have a great weekend,

“But here’s addiction: A concept arises that says that I should or I shouldn’t smoke, I believe it, and I move from the reality of the present. Without inquiry, we believe thoughts that aren’t true for us, and these thoughts are the reasons that we smoke or drink. Who would you be without your ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’?” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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  • Helena says:

    Hi Todd,

    this is a very good view of addiction. The same can be also applied to so called procrastination 🙂

    And I realized that all my work until now has been biased. I always do it with a specific goal in my mind – to reach a certain outcome. Questioning motives for doing the work is a great idea 🙂

    • todd says:

      Thank you, Helena. Yes, I think this can be applied to anything. My motive to change myself is as much a part of the war as my desire to do the “bad” thing. As I take the ammo away from both sides through inquiry, the war deescalates. There is no getting rid of one side or the other, one side is not good and the other bad, there is just a respectful, peaceful coexistence of opposites.

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