Addiction today is a disability that many people have to deal with. Personally, I have seen friends and loved ones affected by this and it can be very frustrating. It’s so hard to care for someone who suffers from an addiction especially when you see that same person seem to no longer care for themselves. As much as this blog entry is dedicated for those suffering with an addiction and their loved ones, this blog entry is also for everyone else because I think addiction in today’s society is teaching us all some very real, hard lessons we can all learn from.
Lesson #1: learning a detached form of unconditional love. A lot of suffering in relationships, especially that which surrounds addiction, comes from the lack of detached unconditional love. From a very early age, we learn that love comes with a lot of expectations, for example, many parents will love their child but unknowingly set expectations like obedience and respect, couples who have found the ‘love of their life’ also set expectations like treating each other with equal adoration, even ‘self-love’ is the expectation to do what is beneficial for oneself. A lot of the suffering from such close relationships come from certain expectations not being met. How about examples of detached, unconditional love? These examples are quite rare and probably not applicable to most people’s lives. But when it comes to addiction, detached unconditional love is what’s needed the most. For example, sponsors can effectively act as anchors for addicts, why? because they provide this unconditional support. Meanwhile, an addict’s loved ones can easily become enablers or triggers for an addict’s relapse because of the expectations their love comes with. Even an addict’s limited self-love can keep them from recovery since true self-forgiveness comes from an unconditional love for oneself.
Love with expectations is quite okay, and this is certainly the parameters in which many relationships are based on. But in the case of addiction, or when times are difficult, a detached form of unconditional love is the only quality that will get us through suffering. The only expectation that may come with the true sense of unconditional love is the expectation for hope. For example, a wife or mother may decide to shed their roles as the wife or mother to an addict, but they may continue to send unconditional love for that individual as a fellow being where they will only send them their hopes and wishes that they get better but with no other expectations. With that said, how do we even experience unconditional love in the first place? It’s very simple: it starts with the very basic belief that it is in our true nature to love unconditionally.
Lesson #2: learning to become your own friend. As basic as this may sound to some, I think it’s important to get this out there since schools definitely don’t teach this valuable lesson and I doubt parents go out of their way to teach their children this neither. Even the very definition of friend implies that it is someone else, external to oneself. This certainly doesn’t mean that we should encourage becoming a loner, but when times are really rough and when one feels like they’re very isolated, it’s important to know that they have a friend within themselves. For example, addicts or abused children can really benefit from this conceptualization. If someone feels like there’s no one else who cares about them or nothing else matters, it’s important to know that they have a friend that’s encouraging them to take another step forward and that no matter what, their friend will always be there. This ‘friend’ can be whomever they like, but the idea is to project any positive qualities into a being that we have an affinity to and use that as an anchor, especially during hard times. The purpose of this is allow the projection of positive qualities within someone who’s at a really low stage and let those positive qualities emerge. Continually turning to this imaginary friend will allow the habit of emerging positive qualities to become stronger, which can eventually overcome the negativity that often spirals in individuals like addicts.
Lesson #3: learning to become pure from impure. Today, almost everyone is ‘impure’, from our deepest thoughts that lay in our subconscious, to our intentions we set out everyday, collectively, we can all make effort to become pure from impure. When people think of an addict or watch a loved one suffer from addiction, it’s easy to think that the addict is the one who has to do all the work of making themselves better from their affliction. But what if all of a sudden you were diagnosed with an illness that required you to give up something you have a habit of doing, like drinking coffee or having chocolate or turning on the TV, in order to stay healthy, how would you feel? Wouldn’t it be easier to give up that habit if no one else was having coffee or chocolate or watching TV? Certainly, we can’t control the availability of alcohol, drugs, or gambling, but what we can control is our efforts to become pure from impure and to only reflect pure thoughts and intentions. By doing so, we can override a lot of habits. Addiction is a societal affliction, not just at the individual level. Taking effort to become pure in thought and intentions will especially help those who are in close relationships with an addict as this will guide them in navigating through such rough waters, with the quality of compassion as their beacon of light.
I think with the rising rates of addictions and how costly this disability is on society (last survey I saw, it’s costing the US billions!), we should learn a thing or two regarding this issue. Learning to love unconditionally and letting that original nature of ours to shine through, is not a bad lesson to learn. Not to mention, learning to become our own friends and setting forth only pure thoughts and intentions are very practical lessons all of us can benefit from. Addictions are in today’s very real world drama, and they’re here for a reason – to teach and remind us of these very basic lessons.