Practically speaking, an addiction is something we can't do without, something we are enslaved by. An addiction is an habitual practice, the cessation of which causes severe trauma. Addictive behavior means to serve at all times and at all costs that to which we are addicted. We are not able to live without our addiction. Addiction is to be terminally dependent. One day, something within us awakens to the condition of our enslavement, and wants freedom. Wanting freedom, we seek out and enter an appropriate ÒrecoveryÓ process.
In this recovery process, we begin to discover the particular causal roots of addiction: how we want to medicate or escape tedium, self-loathing, existential isolation and loneliness. The object of our addictive behavior is like a rapturous distraction and avoidance of our present experience. Something in our present experience is compelling us to find solace, repeatedly and with great vehemence, elsewhere. We find something to get us elsewhere, and that becomes the object of our addiction.
What is it we can't face? The intensity of emotions? The depth of fear? The tremendous ache of loneliness or despair? The realization of impermanence? The intuition that we are not what we have been told we are, that we are not just a physical body and mind, but that we are the Self that shoots out like a geyser of light to unimaginable realms?
Are there many kinds of addiction, and are there many causes? We have heard about chemical dependency, and that our bodies develop a craving for certain substances, like nicotine or heroin. We have heard that, psychologically, we crave certain relationships and can't imagine ourselves independent of them. We will suffer all kinds of abuse, as long as we can remain in the familiar structure of that relationship. It is the familiarity that provides the support. In this familiarity is the known. and we are shielded from seeing exactly the condition we are trying to escape. In a sense, the consummation with the object of our addiction helps us avoid a confrontation with the insufficiency of our experience. It is not really the object of our addiction that is the problem; it is the quality of our experience about ourselves and our inability to face this that is the problem.
The object of our addiction becomes the solution to a problem of self. What is the problem of self that requires solution Ð whether the solution be medicated suppression or escapist transcendence? Don't answer immediately, don't rely on what you have read or heard to fashion a quick and ready answer. Take a few minutes to look directly at your own condition, and what you want to medicate or escape.
Addiction is not just wanting, it is craving. Why do we crave something, and what happens when we fulfill this craving? Having fulfilled our craving, is our craving over?
The question of addiction takes us right into the heart of freedom. Can we ever be free if we must have something? How does this condition come about in the first place? Why do we crave, why must we have something? Do we crave something to stabilize us, to comfort us, to provide security and relief because we feel we are spinning wildly out of control, without direction or purpose?
In the moment we awake from sleep, before anything has stirred, what do we crave? There is no craving. There is silence, peace. Before thought, there is peace. There is simple awareness, a breeze of pure awareness. This awareness attaches itself to thought. Thought itself is anxious and fragmented. Pulling away from the pure breeze of awareness, we become enslaved by the anxious undertone of all thought. This anxiety creates a sense of existential emptiness, and then we try to fill that impossible cavern.