"Addiction is when you can’t get enough of what you don’t want."
Food, alcohol, phone, cigarettes, porn, sex, shopping, gambling, social media, games. Chips bread coffee soda beer pot Taco Bell and Mickey D.
Can’t resist, do it even though you wish you wouldn’t.
No one is exempt. Everyone has at least one, usually more than one, addiction.
Everyone wants to feel good and has multiple ways of getting that feeling.
Everyone thinks about their favorite addictions in the same way, too- calling them treats, calling them pleasure, calling them numbing feelings, calling themdistraction.
And goodness knows there are plenty of theories and methods out there for dealing with addiction. Pause before indulging, or examine past trauma, or sit with the urge or the uncomfortable feelings until the desire passes.
Except the desire doesn’t pass. It just waits, haranguing you, until you give in. So you will give in. You’re compelled to give in.
No one seems to notice what’s actually being craved.
It’s obviously not the cigarette or wine or entire bag of cookies. Pay any attention to the actual present-moment experience for half a minute, and it becomes clear that that experience is basically pretty gross and unfulfilling and sometimes even scary.
But no problem, because you’re not paying attention, other than maybe the first minute or two. You're not tasting that entire bag of chips you’re eating while watching TV. You’re looking at your phone while smoking. Right in the middle of this round of sex, you’re thinking about when you can go at it again.
Craving entices you to do the activity, and then, having succeeded at getting you to indulge, attention moves on.
All that was wanted by the craving was to get you to do it.
And then you give in, and do it, and then thought quickly switches from, Do it Do it Do it, too,What have you done?! You shouldn’t have done that.
So really if you think about it, it's kind of odd to characterize addictive activities as being “nice to you.”
It's kind of odd to call it a break, a comfort, a treat. It's kind of odd to say things like, “I deserve this.”
As in, I’ve had a great day so I deserve a reward. Or, I’ve a bad day so I deserve something “nice” as compensation.
So what exactly is it is you deserve? This hangover, this lost money, this self-hatred, this dirty feeling, this lack of sleep?
That’s a funny kind of treat.
That sounds more like you deserve punishment, not reward.
Since once the compulsion is given into, it promptly turns into a mental and emotional whipping.
Could it be it’s not the pleasure at all, but actually the whipping after, that is the true goal of addictive craving? Not the cigarette itself, but the self-hate and punishment after?
I mean, the pleasure is barely there, and barely noticed. The craving just gets you to the punishment.
And what might you deserve punishment for?
Well, there’s always the standard go-tos such as not good enough, not kind enough, not a good person, not social enough, not achieving enough, not enlightened enough. There’s always getting angry, being afraid, being alone, failing, procrastinating.
The list of your imperfections and needs-improvements goes on and on.
Just like addiction does.
And it starts to become clear, if you were able to stop characterizing compulsion as a reward for a moment, that through that punishment, addictive behavior serves as a weight to the sense of self. Grounding, anchoring, holding it down. Making the sense of being a person feel more solid. Preventing it from getting too light, too airy, too feeling good.
Addiction is an anvil for the sense of self.
Keeping attention on problem and wrongness and lack of control and wishing for something else, can cause a person to miss that you might not be what you thought, at all.
Perhaps it’s not coincidence that so many so-called enlightened people experienced the same addictions you do. Alan Watts, Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta, Mooji. All those sex scandals, all that smoking, all that craving for love and adoration.
I mean, if you've ever seen pictures, it's clear that even the Buddha ate too much.
Perhaps there’s some comfort in seeing that the addictive cycle is not unique to you.
It’s a very predictable pattern. It’s scripted.
Do it. You shouldn’t have. What’s wrong with you. Stop that next time.
Over and over.
So if this interests you at all, for a while, you might take a break from trying to quit. Leave it alone, and instead simply begin to notice whether the net result is an actual treat, or an actual punishment.
For now, simply noticing the true goal.
Noticing the lack of reward. Noticing the punishment.
Seeing what it is you’re really after.
And then seeing if that addiction-
that phone or pot or horse race-
has the ability to ever
give that to you.
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