Today I’m going to do something a little bit different and feature a great blog post by Steve Chandler where he brilliantly makes the key connection between addiction and “adding to the present moment.”
From his post:
The problem in my life starts when I think I have to add something to this present moment to make it better.
How many people on the subway or waiting at the bus stop are simply NOT OK with just being with the present moment? Look around and the answer is obvious: not many.
(Think mobile phone games. Cigarettes. Biting nails.)
If you pay close attention, the root of addiction is our attempt to *ADD* something to (as Steve puts it) the “crashing boredom of the present moment.”
Addiction of course doesn’t need to come in the extreme form of some drug habit or alcohol abuse – it comes in endless wild varieties in today’s times:
- Have a few minutes to kill? Add by picking up your phone.
- Having fun with friends? Add a glass of wine.
- Have a great solid relationship? Add a little flirt on the side.
In other words: addiction is addition.
How much addiction comes from the lure of addition? The myth that tells you…whispers to you…that you have to add something to your life to make it a happier experience.
In other words, the root of addiction is this desire to ADD something to the moment in order for it to be a better, more fulfilling experience.
Addiction as it Relates to Food
Some people have what they call food addiction. Carb addiction. Addiction to bread and sweets. Emotional eating, they call it. But what if I subtracted flour and sugar from my diet? (Versus the addition of a dangerous amphetamine diet pill that races my heart and speeds up the already-circular thinking in my brain…and soon turns into an addiction.)
Food addiction (and health problems) comes when you make food about more than just providing your body with necessary nourishment and fuel: Extra snacks. Adding dessert. Discontentment with a normal-sized meal.
The secret to a successful diet lies in SUBTRACTION.
Addiction as it Relates to Relationships
Ben Affleck has a good marriage to Jennifer Garner (I’m putting my groceries on the conveyor belt slowly now so I can read all of this) and he decides to add to that a romantic relationship with their nanny. In the following weeks and months I read all about custody, betrayal, heartbreak, financial penalties, bitterness…..in other words a major life hangover. So much for adding.
Yet another perfect example of this of course is Tiger Woods. Here he was on the top of the world – dominating the golf world, great relationship with his beautiful – and he decided to ADD TO IT with multiple extra-martial affairs:
“I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” Woods said. “I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish.”
Yet another crashing hangover where the cost of his choice to add to his already successful life was STAGGERING: Not only did he divorce a year later, but also sponsors pulled and a December 2009 study estimated the shareholder loss caused by Woods’ affairs to be between $5 – $12 BILLION (yes that’s billion with a “B”!).
A Better Way: Subtraction
A key reframe to look at any form of addiction that shows up in our life is to look at the idea of SUBTRACTION.
Overweight and want to lose weight? SUBTRACT the sugar and processed foods.
Feeling lost in life? SUBTRACT the endless static and distractions that numb your senses all day long.
… And here we arrive at a head-on collision with the million dollar question:
Will subtracting and *less* truly lift me up to a place of happiness and satisfaction? … (in opposed to further dreadful boredom?)
The answer seems to be yes.
Again as Steve continues:
The famous beat generation author and drug addict William Burroughs killed his wife playing a William Tell game at a drugged-up, drunken party. He was the author of the books Naked Lunch and Junkie. He was actually a brilliant man, and never so brilliant as he was in his later years when he was clean and sober and said that there wasn’t anything, any feeling, any high, that you could get on drugs and alcohol that you couldn’t get without drugs and alcohol.
And that’s because that treasure of good feelings is already in you. The drug (and I always include alcohol as a drug) just breaks down the barriers. It releases what’s already there. It took me awhile, some years clean and sober to find out that he was right. But you can go faster than that. Through meditation and working with others and an ongoing spiritual practice you can find out faster than I did that you can have an even happier life than you did at your best drunken moment.
There it is. Drugs and alcohol don’t contain some kind of magical elixir of pleasure within them – they simply unlock what’s already in you. Spirituality at its core is about finally turning your attention inward, and gaining access to the bliss and treasures that have been there all along.
Your job then becomes the honest and authentic practice of clearing away the blockage, and gaining access to all that good stuff – all of this found and attained through subtraction.
Less does indeed seem to be more.
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Read Steve Chandler’s full blog post “One drink is too many for me but a hundred is not enough”.
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