Monday, February 8, 2016

Hello, My name is ______. I'm an alcoholic...

This post is inspired by a moving documentary I watched recently. Eight men and women spoke about their journey towards alcohol dependence/addiction. What struck me was how each spoke about feeling a sense of anxiety/unease that alcohol "was able to take the edge off."

I began thinking about the nature of "the unease" which the alcohol numbed in relation to my own life. And when I looked back at my childhood/adolescence, I recognized this feeling of anxiety and unease. It was a feeling of not belonging. What I used to dull the pain was food and in my book Female Kundalini I speak about this.

 I now recognize that the emptiness I felt then and continued to feel until I found my spiritual teacher was a spiritual emptiness which all of us, by virtue of being human feel, but frequently block out either by denial or by employing a crutch. The particular crutch we select to make us "feel better" tends to stick to us for the rest of our lives.

I recently heard a famous writer being interviewed and he spoke about how in his early childhood he developed a stutter and turned to writing as a relief from talking, he channeled the anxiety he felt into writing which has made him the extremely successful writer that he is today. Many other writers speak about "being driven to write" that the writing "relieves something."

This is all good and productive when the crutch one uses is socially acceptable and lucrative, but my compassion goes out to those whose crutch is alcohol and/or drugs, both of which quickly become a slippery slope. It is said of alcohol that first it becomes a guest, then a host, and then a master. In the stories which the eight people in this documentary told, that was the inevitable pattern.

What makes one person use alcohol and another the pen to relieve anxiety? I don't know, is it karma? We all do it — more or less. If, however, each of us was to make an honest self-appraisal, we could probably identify the crutch we use to make us "feel better." As our dependency advances, shame and denial kick in. This is the despairing cycle that I went through for years with food. And that's why I'm concerned with the nature of this unease we all feel and are constantly trying to get relief from.

It was only when I read the teachings of my guru and His explanation — that unease is the result of "self-contraction," a separating of ourselves from Reality — that I was finally able to understand the nature of this discomfort.

For the first time, I felt beyond the tension of the self-contraction to the indivisible Reality that lies beyond. Now I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to have finally found my Guru. I know that the word Guru holds negative connotations for many people, and for me to be a devotee involved a major loss of face because I am on record as previously saying that no one needs a Guru.

But because each of us creates the self-contraction it is not possible to free ourselves from it alone. Was it Einstein who said that a problem cannot be solved at the same level as the mind that created it, that solving it requires something else? Guru means going from dark to light and it is the hardest thing to accept that as human egos we are in the dark and in order to be free we have to surrender to the light of a guru or realized adept; there is no other way. The Guru removes the obstacles to realizing our true nature, not by working on ourselves, but by turning our attention to the Guru and surrendering to the process.

The ego "I" rejects this and I am sure that the previous paragraph is controversial, but I have only ever spoken or written about my own experience and that hasn't changed because I am now committed to the path of devotion. This activity of self-contraction that we all do at a deep subconscious level leaves an anxiety and unease that we don't want to feel so we look for ways not to feel it. Any search, whether material or spiritual, is aimed at relieving the underlying anxiety caused by the decision to break away from Reality and identify itself with the body/mind. This is how the search works and it is the ego "I" that searches. The irony, however, is that separate-ness is an illusion.

Freedom or Self-Realization comes not from searching for ways to relieve this anxiety but by having the courage to feel into and examine the sense of anxiety and unease and trace it back to its source. I am aware that this is much easier to write about than to practice. At the height of my self-destructive food binges, if you had asked me what it was I was trying not to experience or feel, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. All I would have been able to say was that there was a tension in me that binge eating eased temporarily, which is why addictions are so strong.

At the end of the documentary, all of those interviewed said that the way they cope without alcohol today is due to learning how to handle and manage feelings of unease and anxiety; they don't go away (of course they won't because they are inherent in the design of the human being). So instead of seeing these feelings and unease as a sign of weakness, we need to see them as human feelings that we all have. The only way to be free of them is not to search for ways to be free, but to recognize that we are and always have been free, but we just don't realize it. To understand this is to end the search forever.


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