March 10, 2007

Thinking about Addiction and Personal Suffering

I've been thinking about addiction today. On March 8th, it was the 12th anniversary of my Mother's death. She is the biggest example of addiction that I've had in my life.

Through my Mum, I saw some of the results of addiction:
  • the selfishness,
  • the loss of interest in or sympathy for family or friends,
  • the guilt, denial and defensiveness,
  • the aftermath from the loss and betrayal of self.
If there are behaviours or contributing factors common in addiction, I can only guess at them. I am a layman, with just my own experiences with family to refer to.

I suppose I must include things like gambling, internet use, and anything else that people might do to extremes, which could hurt themselves or those around them. It does sound from my tone that I'm hesitant to acknowledge these vices as addictions - maybe that's my own ignorance at work. Perhaps compulsions is a more accurate term.

I do believe that substance addiction doesn't start or develop in a vacuum - there are always other people involved, encouraging or enabling the process. Each family member or friend who is involved in the addict's life may have to ask themselves what they can do to help.

Underneath it all, in each of us, is the issue of personal angst and suffering.

Buddhists see suffering as a fact of life, and encourage people to first accept it, and then to develop personal and practical methods to transform and transcend it. Words like enlightenment and nirvana tend to seem too fantastic for some people, but basically, Buddha was teaching inner understanding as a basis for happier living. His form of self-help therapy was first laid down in India over 2500 years ago.

Some people blame society for their addiction (my friends got me into it, drugs and booze are all around me - I thought it was normal /okay /expected of me). At the end of the day, we each must take some measure of personal responsibility for our health, both physical and mental, and for how our life and our behaviour affects those around us.

All the same, everyone has a time when they need to ask someone for help. We're all connected, so helping someone else is like helping yourself.

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