Here’s how to break free.
As you drift off to sleep each night it’s impossible to tell when you’ve slipped into the dream world. Dreams seem real because you’re unable to tell reality from delusion.
Similarly, it’s very difficult to tell when trapped in addictive patterns because pain-free delusions offer an escape from a painful reality.
Like a heroin addict coming off a high, you constantly ask, “What can I do to keep these euphoric feelings of love, acceptance and happiness from ever going away?” But instead of reaching for a syringe filled with drugs, you reach for status, validation, and various temporary pleasures.
The drug addict relies on external stimulants to maintain a sense of what it means to be normal. And you? You rely on externalities to help you feel normal too. Should you lose your job or your lover leave, you would experience a low and a disconnectedness that is very similar to a drug addict going through painful withdrawals.
That’s because addictions fill a void within us.
To live life in this way where pleasure and pain are always in flux is to leave your fate to a universe filled with chaos over which you have no control. This can be seen in the Animal Kingdom that is ruled by the pain / pleasure cycles of life; simply put, the nervous system knows pleasure as desirable and pain as undesirable. Similar traits are also deeply embedded within people as remnants of the evolutionary process.
We, however, we have the ability to strive for higher dimensions of consciousness beyond the reach of wild animals.
Just because you’ve experienced fluctuations of happiness and unhappiness your entire life, that doesn’t mean that it need be the case any longer. There’s no universal rule or law stating that you ever have to be sad, angry, or unfulfilled. You can kick the habit of constantly searching for your next “hit” of happiness, comfort, acceptance or love — that’s because there’s an alternative path, should you be willing to take it, which offers eternal bliss, peace, and fulfillment in life.
To free oneself essentially means removing the source of your temporary highs and replacing it with something that would never and can never be taken away from you. The effect of doing so is a lifetime of peace, joy, and bliss regardless of everything that happens outside of yourself.
If this sounds impossible, it’s only because you’ve been drugged for so long that your happiness is heavily conditioned the same way a circus animal mindlessly does a trick in order to get a tasty treat. Here’s the typical pattern: you feel sad — you do something about it — you feel happy. Repeat. But you can unshackle yourself right now and leave this circus life of emotional ups and downs behind forever. But before that happens, it’s important to ask how you got into this predicament in the first place.
No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’m going to become a drug addict for the rest of my life starting today!” Not at all. What typically happens is someone has a problem they can’t seem to solve, some sort of inner pain that won’t go away. So they consume stimulants that change their physiology to help them feel better. And because every high must have a low, they must repeatedly smoke, drink and inject themselves to keep the problem “solved”.
In actuality, they’re only avoiding the problem and destroying their lives. But they’re deluded in a pain-free dream state so they don’t see it that way, and neither do you, because you do the same thing with power, status, money and love.
Your addictions just happen to be more socially accepted, that’s all.
The vicious cycle of drug addiction leaves people unsatisfied regardless of how much drugs they’ve taken because the problem of inner pain never goes away so there’s always an insatiable need for more. The same goes for addictions to anger, love, wealth, health, acceptance, and anything else you use to help stop the pain you have inside.
The truth is you’ve been in pain for a very long time.
You’ve been hurt in the past and instead of facing the problem head on, you convinced yourself that you’ve solved the problem by ignoring it while gaining vast amounts of wealth, power, education, or love. You haven’t solved anything because the original pain is still there. And just like a drug user you still feel the pain from time to time when at a low, but you’ve become an expert at making it temporarily go away by travelling, buying something you don’t need, or working yourself to death. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with travelling, buying things, or working, but you must ask yourself, “Why am I doing these things?”
If you need milk, then for Pete’s sake buy milk. But if you’re simply buying things to fill a void inside, or travelling to run away from your problems, or working long hours to feel significant and accepted by others, then it’s important to become conscious of this so you can enter the next stage of your spiritual growth.
Just like inner pains, the path to freedom from addictions begins inside yourself because this is where you’ll find everything needed to process and heal the pain that’s been covered up all this time. Think about it:
How could a painful event from the past that happened so long ago still hurt you today? Why does the pain still resonate within you? The event has passed and you’re safe now, but you still feel the pain like the event is happening right now.
If you are brave enough to come face to face with your past pain, the abandonment, feelings of being unloved, feelings of not being good enough; what you’ll realize is that there’s an old record that has been playing negative thoughts in your mind non-stop ever since the painful event happened. It’s been your background music for as long as you can remember, but because you feel like you can’t turn it off, you simply drown out the music by keeping your mind busy while feeding your addictions. So how does one turn off that old record player?
Simple, by recognizing that the record player isn’t you.
Most people are unaware that there are two types of thinking: intentional, and unintentional. Intentional thinking is the type of thinking you’re doing right now as you read this article. You can actually hear a voice in your head read these words out loud in your mind. It may sound odd, but as amazing as this biological tool is, it’s not you. When controlling the voice of the mind, you can make it do all sorts of things like read and solve complex problems.
You are the one who uses the mind’s voice the same way you’d use a hammer to pound in a nail. You are not the hammer, just as you are not the thought or the voice.
When we’re not actively using the voice of the mind, however, that’s when unintentional thinking takes over. For many people, unintentional thinking consumes most of their lives. That’s because the very moment organized intentional thinking ends, chaotic unintentional thinking immediately steps in. If you’ve ever had the experience of sitting in a boring meeting where you’ve been unable to actively pay attention to what’s being said, then you definitely know the voice of unintentional thinking. Some call it day dreaming, others call it “zoning out”. But whatever the case, unintentional thinking jumps from one idea, to the next, to the next, seemingly forever in no organized fashion.
Because most people mistakenly believe they are the intentional thinking mind’s voice, they also incorrectly believe they are the unintentional thinking mind’s voice as well.
Until you’ve trained yourself via mindfulness techniques or meditation, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two types of thinking. But regardless, what’s important is to remember that you are not your thoughts; you are the one who uses intentional thoughts (like you are now) and you are also the one who hears and sees the incessant random chatter of the unintentional thinking mind.
Sometime life events naturally generate thoughts and those thoughts inevitably trigger emotions within us. Or sometimes an event may be so shocking that the emotion is felt first, followed by a stream of thoughts. This domino effect happens so rapidly and seamlessly that it often feels like a single experience. But just as you can think thoughts, you can feel emotions. Meaning that your emotions aren’t you either, they’re something you feel.
Much of the pain we try to bury with our personal addictions are deep emotional scars from past experiences.
Consider this possibility: you go to a bar to blow off some steam with co-workers and unexpectedly see your old ex there having a blast and is the life of the party. Your heart immediately sinks, then your unintentional chaotic thinking fires up, “Whoa, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. He/she looks so happy and I’m still single. I wonder if I’ll ever find someone again and be as happy as that?” Then right on queue the painful feelings of loneliness and not being worthy of love get activated. What typically happens next is the addict in you immediately tries to drown out the pain by drinking excessively, calling an old ex-lover for affection, or flirting heavily to counter the effects of the pain.
The first step in freeing yourself from pain and addiction is realizing that you are neither your thoughts nor emotions. You are not the pain.
Doing so enables you to realize that the old negative record player that’s been causing you pain for so many years simply isn’t you. It’s completely separate from yourself and can be handled accordingly like anything else that causes you to experience pain.
You wouldn’t force yourself to read a book about how stupid you are and then say you are the book, would you? Of course not! Throw it off a cliff, burn it, or do just about anything else to destroy it, but most importantly realize that the book, the thoughts, and the emotions aren’t you. They’re things completely outside of yourself.
The realization of separation between self and the mind is an incredible leap in spiritual growth that helps sever the bond to addiction.
Once you’re able to step back and objectively witness thoughts and emotions as things separate from yourself, you will experience a sense of overwhelming peace, fulfillment, connectedness, and joy like never before. In this sacred place within there is no pain, judgment, labeling, resistance, or emptiness. There’s only you, saturated with love, connectedness and at peace.
That is how you heal the pain at its core, that’s how you end your addictions; by decoupling yourself from emotional pains and negative thoughts.
Meditation will help strengthen your ability to detach from pain and help you awaken to even deeper levels of consciousness. And because this new found sense of peace comes from within, it’s something that can never be taken away.
While life occurs in the present moment, your addictions are either triggered by pains that echo from the past, or thoughts of pain that you think await in the future. Meditation techniques will help you harness the power, peace, and serenity that is now, while strengthening your emotional and spiritual fitness for life events. The next time a thought or feeling of, “I’m not good enough” pops up, calmly watch it bubble to the surface and float away.
There is no need to protect yourself from painful thoughts and emotions that can’t actually hurt you.
Could an imaginary sabretooth tiger seem just as scary as a real one? Absolutely. It’s called a nightmare. But remember, thinking a thought or feeling an emotion doesn’t make it any more real than dreaming makes the dream real. You have control over what you believe. Make those decisions wisely so that your truths better serve your life.
No matter what event energizes your thoughts and emotions, trust that you will always remain unharmed. At first doing so will be scary because you have been conditioned to protect yourself from imaginary pain, but that is a small price tag for freedom.