The light-bearing gift of addiction

I've been thinking a lot about addiction and recovery as I've been winding down my work in preparation for our move, and feeling all the feels about all of it. Because I'm recognizing the clear signs of withdrawal from work. From WORK for crying out loud. It's been like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland -- I keep thinking I'm going to get to the bottom but I keep falling, my past rushing by, offering me greater wisdom and healing around the gift of addiction and the call to recovery. 

I know this place. 

If you've been here for a while, you know that I freely identify myself as a woman with a body that is addiction-prone. I've not drank alcohol for fifteen years and so many other addictions have shown up for me to circle this particular pattern within myself over and over: money/over-spending, sugar, information mining, Facebook, my silly iPhone... and here we are, with work. 

I'm grateful that I recognize addiction as one of my life lessons and frankly, I believe the world might be a kinder and more intelligent place if more people would make room for addiction and recovery to be part of their story. Because it probably is, to some degree.  

Addiction is a light-bearing gift.

We live in a world addicted, for good reason. Addiction is a reasonable response to living in a dysfunctional society. Addiction is a reasonable response to living in a system that devalues and dismisses women and destroys our habitat, Earth. Addiction is a reasonable response to families and societies that were never taught to value emotions or how to meet needs in truthful, life-giving ways. Addiction is a reasonable response to wanting comfort, joy and fulfillment, but not knowing how to cultivate those qualities in meaningful ways.

So what is addiction? 

Definition of addict {Merriam Webster}

transitive verb

1:  to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively was addicted to gambling

2:  to cause addiction to a substance in (a person or animal)

Origin and Etymology of addict

Latin addictus, past participle of addicere to favor, from ad- + dicere to say.

What I love about the definition and etymology of the word addiction is that the cure is written into the definition itself. To loosen the chains, our call to action is to surrender to the truth — to face ourselves and our habit: the sugar, the work, the alcohol, the endless seeking, the desire to transcend, the drugs — our habitual reliance is harming us, causing pain, or keeping us from what we truly desire. 

Addiction, no matter what form it takes, is the obsessive creation of space between a person and their life. The space between you and your light. The space between you and the discomfort of unmet needs and unseen emotions. The space between you and what you really want. The space between you and being too much. Addiction, in all it's forms, creates space through distraction, through numbness, through disconnection. 

Addiction is not a personal failing, it is an indicator of sensitive bodies and minds living in a society that requires distraction and distance in order to survive the violence and suppression that is the norm. The continued use of violence and suppression to "get over it" is not supportive of the psyche's need for safety, affirmation and great care.

The longing for a different path opens the path.

The pain that creates the addiction is deep wisdom -- a call to meet one's needs, it is a healthy instinct gone awry. As the addiction itself stops working (almost always), it brings you back to the initial pain and then some. Though it’s a place where you are suffering and you may feel broken, incapable and unworthy, the longing for a different path, opens the path.

Addiction, and the inevitable longing and urge for healing, points to the wisdom and wholeness that is alive and well within you. The indomitable human spirit KNOWS that there is something else available. You can trust your instinct to heal and the mere fact that a particular addiction has come to the end of it’s useful life is an invitation to wake up. You, me, we are made for so much more than a life of addiction, distraction and numbness.  

The light at the bottom of the rabbit hole.

In a long conversation with a friend I hadn't spoken with in three years she said to me, "You look great. Softer. There is something different about you and your energy now." I feel that, deeply. I'm grateful for that reflection. 

Seeing my own relationship with addiction and distraction presented to me as I've stopped working has been difficult, and it's been like falling into a state of full on grace. The ways I've wanted work or sugar or marriage or staying ridiculously busy or money or spiritual practice (and previously, alcohol) to support me, to protect me from my own anger or grief, or to make me feel important and relevant are astonishing and oh so human. My pull to these destructive ways of being has stemmed from a deeply rooted neural pathway that told me I was nothing without "important, relevant work" and my feelings? Well, since my anger and grief are related to unfixable circumstances, I best just bury them in sugar instead of feeling through it all. And my desire for real support: to be seen and held and treated with tenderness? I've sought those things in the solace of a spiritual practice instead of the hard work of asking for what I need from actual humans.

Let me be clear, there is nothing to fix and, nothing innately wrong with any of the above - nor are they always addictive. It is my relationship to these things that kept me hidden from myself. As I said, addiction is a reasonable response to an unreasonable world. And, that doesn't mean that it is the response that we are meant to have or that I want to live. My pain tells me there is something far better, far more real available. Despite of, or maybe because of, addiction, I am a fully functioning swirl of human and divine and I feel lucky (yes, lucky) that I knew early on that addiction would be a companion on my life's journey as it has been a constant invitation to move toward recovery -- the call to ever-increasing closeness with myself and with life in nourishing, authentic ways. 

I believe that humans are wired for devotion.

For emotion. For shining big light and walking in the dark. For intuition. For celebration. For stillness. We are wired to ride the rhythm and flow of our emotional waters. For wonder, joy and connection. I experience it more and more, and I hope beyond hope that you feel that, too. 

As I let my work as I know it unravel and fall away, my personal work continues to be taking a compassionate bow of reverence toward my desire to create space between myself and life and to say, "Not today. Today I am devoted showing up for the fullness of my being and the fullness of my life." I have come to believe that I cannot engage in the work I am meant to if I'm putting space between myself and my light, between myself and my needs, between myself and my emotions, between myself and my body and my experience -- all of it. 

Your invitation, and there is one, of course. 

If you are a woman who knows that you are putting space between yourself and your life with.... something (pick your soothing agent of choice) then honor that. Soften into it. Let me affirm that this is not a personal failing, but a reasonable response to what is happening in your life or in our collective experience. Only then are you free to choose differently, if that is what you want. I would invite you to get curious about your habitual responses and what might be available if you got just that much closer to yourself and your own experience? What light and treasure might you reveal to yourself and to the world?

With all of my love and adoration. I am fully on your side.  


The Only Way Through

Let's begin with a fundamental truth. 

No one escapes the discomfort of uncertainty. That's the truth. The wisest course of action is slow down and lean towards it, peer into it's depths and soften your whole body. To welcome the waves of emotion as they crash on the shores of your being. The quickest way through (which may not be fast at all) is all the way through.

New beginnings are uncomfortable.

Knotted together with the wonder and consciousness-expanding experience is the inevitable discomfort. The death of something old and outdated. Uncertainty abounds. In the middle of transformation, we live in the question. And a question that always comes up for me, "How do I get away from this discomfort, this not-knowing?" (Usually repeated like a desperate mantra at one point or another.)

Humans are tender beings. 

The tendency is to protect, to create distance, when we are in the middle of change -- be it internal or external. I'm struck by knowing that there is no solid ground. We are always in a state of uncertainty, but there are large swaths of life that FEEL certain most of the time. 

And when the discomfort of change sets in, we all have ways of distancing ourselves.

Rightfully so -- we are tender beings. We have endless means to distract and numb in today's world. Some people whistle in the dark and want to stay endlessly upbeat. Others numb up in ways that are relatively benign to wildly destructive: eating all the ice cream to shooting up with heroine and everything in between. Some people try to control everyone and everything in an attempt to make things comfortable again. 

I used to drink it away, many years ago. Then I tried to transcend the human experience through becoming enlightened (so funny, right?). Now? Now I tend to vacillate between welcoming the full spectrum of experience and compulsively seeking clarity before I hunker down with cupcakes to create some space between myself and the uncertainty.  We all have our ways to soften the edges where our capacity for upheaval dwindles.

But time and again, more quickly I circle back to the pulse of my desire -- the desire behind all others that drives and inspires me moment to moment. 

I want to live with my heart wide open. 

The full catastrophe is what I want. Adventure, truth, joy, connection, love, beauty and authenticity and all the heartbreak and failure it takes to get there. This has been growing in me since I stopped drinking 14 years ago, the seed of this desire was likely the root of my sobriety. Now I want what life offers, I long to know the world and to let it change me, but I still fight against my conditioning. My desire for safety and my fear of being hurt. 

Honestly, if it were all bad and I knew I was going to be suffering in the next act, it might be easier -- pain and suffering are celebrated, respected and revered and I'm a skilled navigator in those choppy waters. However, learning to open myself just as fully to joy and beauty and love challenges me and teaches me in a way that suffering has not.  

I am committed. I stay the course with compassion for my failings and keep opening, nudging my edges, expanding my heart's capacity for contentment, if not joy, in any and all circumstances. I'm so much closer to trusting life and trusting myself to be okay with not only the choices I make, but what's offered to me.

And with this growing trust? I don't need to know anything else because the journey is going to show me what I need to know.

What is life bringing you?   

When you are in the middle of change, wanted or unwanted, no one can make your choices for you. No one knows you, and your circumstances, better than you. It's wise to be fierce in your commitment to know your own heart. 

Others can walk with you, hold you hand and light your path -- perhaps even offer you glimmers of inspiration as to how you wish to ride the waves of change.  I offer you these aspirations for your journey: may you find yourself inspired to slow down and to lean in. May you have the courage to peer into the depths and soften your whole body in a gesture of welcoming. May you savor the path and know that the quickest way through (which may not be fast at all) is all the way through. May you trust that the journey will show you exactly what you need to open your heart, moment to sacred moment. 


Hold the Vision

At two points in my life, I stopped drinking: first, when I was 18, sickened by my decisions and the hold that alcohol had on me. By ultimatum, I attended Alcoholics Anonymous and stayed sober for five years. My motivation was escaping the destructiveness I experienced in myself: the poor choices, the darkness, the desire to be numb. 

Sometimes, resisting something is enough. Certainly, it was enough to keep me sober for 5 years.

However, the second time I got sober I was again sickened by my decisions and the mess my life had become. But this time, I wanted something better. My motive wasn't to escape myself, but to become the person I knew myself to be. I didn't know what, exactly, that would look like, but I knew it existed, I knew in my heart I was better than my behavior. 

The ease with which I was able to stop drinking the second time taught me a valuable lesson: moving toward a vision is far more potent than fighting against what you don't like. 

The courage to see beyond the chaos

My sense is that we are standing at an opening-- in my mind's eye, it looks like a large cave with an opening to the light. Between you and I and that opening stands a dying system of power. What that means to me (and what it looks like) are people and structures making decisions that are creating chaos as they try and roll us back into an old way of being. 

This, and their ideas, are old news. Obviously. Look at the response of people around the world -- the strength of our conviction that black lives matter, that the environment matters, that women are sovereign beings who are in charge of their own bodies and their own voices, that immigrants are vital to our economy and welcome here, that separation of religion and state is desirable and necessary and let's not forget that the truth matters. The truth and actual facts matter very much to a majority of people. 


What you are seeing are ghosts -- they appear real, they appear solid but they are not. The reason they appear to have any power is the fear and anger and accusation that many of us are sending their way by buying into the chaos, and reacting to their unbelievably hateful and destructive actions. In my mind's eye, it appears that the more attention the old structure receives through fear and anger and disbelief, the more real it appears. 

It's so difficult to see what is happening, to acknowledge it and not react in a way that gives the ghosts more energy and power. However, when we react in kind with anger, disdain and us vs. them language and energy, we perpetuate the same dynamics over and over. 

I, for one, am ready for something different. Are you?

The power of using tension for change

To have an intention is to be in tension -- to want one thing and to not be there....yet. To even know that you are in tension, you must have a vision for where you want to be. This is a most powerful and potent act. I believe that what is happening can clarify your vision: what do you see beyond the ghosts? What world do you believe exists beyond the opening where they stand guard?

And beyond the wall of ghosts? Beyond, I see light. I see equity, justice and Truth. I see respect for all beings and a world community working in partnership with the earth instead of against ourselves by trying to extract every single "valuable" particle from our beautiful planet. 

We have a choice in every moment that something hateful and horrible happens - to rail against it in anger, giving the ghosts more power or, we can see what's happening, acknowledge that this is an old story that very few people believe in and allow it to break our hearts open and clarify our vision. This in turn will strengthen our action on behalf of the world we wish to create beyond the opening. 

If you and I can hold the vision for the just and equitable and safe world that is possible for all; then the old paradigm and it's limited remaining power will, in time, dissolve. Like water against stone -- the water does not see the stone and become angry that the stone stands in her path -- the water flows around the stone and eventually dissolves any resistance as she continues to flow to her final destination.

Hold the Vision

What kind of world do you wish to live in? Hold the vision for that world, and move into action - the action that is meaningful for you. 

Stay rooted in the center of your heart -- now is the time to nurture your connections and your community. Commit to your work in the world with increased passion. Dance and sing and cry. Eat well, travel, delight in the world, and honor the earth. Make love to your life. As I watch us live fully, holding the vision and acting with the strength of our convictions, I see power and energy draining away from the ghosts, freeing up the opening. Your lived joy and commitment to the vision you hold weakens them and strengthens you - strengthens us all, which will help move us into the world we wish to create beyond the ghosts. 

It is in holding the vision with fierce love for the planet and for all beings on this planet, that our power becomes like the ocean - an unstoppable force for change.

Finally, let us be like water.

Flow around the obstacles and see beyond what is before you. Trust that in the power of flow, the seemingly immovable object is dissolved and becomes part of the water itself. We will move through the opening to a new world. 

Whatever part you are playing, I honor you. Thank you to the reporters and truth tellers, thank you to the analysts, thank you to the warriors. Thank you to those coaching and working with the traumatized. Thank you to the immigration lawyers and those who are standing tall for civil rights. Thank you to the water protectors and those who link arms between the bulldozers and the land. Thank you to those who are donating money and quietly making calls. Thank you to those of you who are drumming and dancing and calling your neighbors together to share a meal. I honor you. I thank you. 

I believe in you. I believe in us. No matter how long it takes. 

And I believe we can hold the vision and move over the threshold, together.