Causes and Conditions of Addiction

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shin's picture

I'm assuming that since we are all 'here' we can also see Thanissaro Bhikkhu's talk/article on Skillful & Unskillful Desires in today's (aug 10th) Tricycle Wisdom collection. An incredible wealth of wise instruction and insight there. Check it out, very helpful in this discussion and the whole of the path itself.

with metta

Joshkorda1's picture

yes! terrific recommendation. i've been lucky enough to attend many retreats led by ajahn geoff over the years; he's a hero and inspiration. along with sucitto, amaro, munindo, sundara and a few others, he forms the bedrock of the dhamma for me.
thanks shin!

beasonlopes's picture

Your commentary on the four noble truths is very good. I understand both intellectually and in my bones the truth you are enunciating. So why is it that this is rarely enough? Why is the human body set up to ignore these truths?

Joshkorda1's picture

the brain is hardwired towards survival at all costs, not peace of mind. from a darwinian view, the happiness we can now seek is a luxury.
think of it this way: the human brain was basically organized to help us survive under vastly different conditions than which we live now (the basic structure of the brain hasn't changed in 25,000 years... think of how dangerous the world was back then, when human lifespan was brief, violence and disease omnipresent). in the last 25,000 years the earth has become a much different place; as dominant species our life spans have lengthened, our predators have pretty much vanished. so peace of mind, which was once a luxury, no longer needs to be.
yet the amygdala, the fear conditioning center of the brain, retains vast resources of cortisol, which can trigger fight, flight, freeze responses. the nucleus accumbens can trigger dopamine fed cravings that are painfully difficult to arrest. both of these are preconscious, in that they act a half second before we're consciously aware of what's occurring.
all preconscious regions of the brain are prelinguistic and do not understand reason or logic. they do what they do.
so its not a matter of purposely ignoring the truths. its a matter of slowly showing them that we're safe, that we can afford to let go. we can do this by detriggering regions of the body that trigger stress responses, for example, stimulating the vagus nerve via deep breathing (which releases serotonin). or dropping stress inducing thought processes.
but trying to reason or argue with our fear and craving is a lost cause, as it doesn't understand language.
i suggest checking out "buddha's brain," a book which introduces the basic neuroscience behind stress and its relief. i'm a neuroscience geek and read just about everything, but that book would suffice.
best, j

beasonlopes's picture

Thanks. I will check that out.

wtompepper's picture

I would still suggest to anyone looking for the real causes and conditions of addiction that "stress" is not an explanation, but a vague metaphor which only serves to avoid an explanation. Everyone has "stress," but only alcoholics drink themselves into oblivion because of it. Reducing "stress" won't make the real problem go away--at best, it might help us ignore the real problem for a while.

jennifer.wilson60's picture

wtompepper,
i have a sense that you are far more studies on many topics than I, so I humbly offer my thoughts for consideration... It seems like you are worried that by using the term "stress" that people will not dig deep enough to find the trigger for their addictions. A therapist said to me once (not about addiction in particular, but about human behavior in general), that what he believed was most important initially is to create change in the pattern to create space/relief, so that deeper work can then occur, but that the really interesting thing was that the changed pattern mattered exponentially more than finding the source.

Your point is well taken though, that there is deep work to be done and seeing clearly is part of that work. However, seeing clearly into the past - is that is possible? I found myself what was most effective was to try to see clearly now and create space by changing my patterns to wholesome ones.

There are a multitude of ways people experience and process stress, trauma, dukkha and as many causes, conditions and different paths to heal. It seems to me that any root cause ultimately can be reduced to clinging of some sort, which if you think about it, is as generic or more general than the term "stress." if one chooses to seek the initial trigger, then once identified, it would seem the very next step to let go of that cause/story, which can be also challenging, as we humans do love our stories and rationalizations. I have identified root stories/ causes and they seem as phantoms to me, I do not know if the stories are real/accurate - they are just memories now. What i find somewhat more doable is trying to be present here and now, and trying to direct my intention.

All voices must be heard, even the ones that irritate us, especially the ones that irritate us! Thanks to all the voices.

--Awareness knows and does not object.

Joshkorda1's picture

thanks for your well considered response jennifer. your grasp of the practice is wonderful. a few thoughts:
--agreed, the buddha stated clearly in his teachings on Yoniso Manasikara that watching stress unfold in the present is reliable; and absolutely, trying to uncover past causes is an unreliable method, as we often misattribute causes, as noted in SN 36 if memory serves.
--completely agreed that once we identify what triggers stress, the next step is to cultivate more successful tools to reduce stress.
--most addictions try to relieve stress by (without conscious awareness) increasing dopamine or GABA levels in the brain. For example, shopping triggers dopamine release, alcohol GABA. these neural states don't last long, create a compulsive dependence on behaviors, and eventually make matters worse, as cognitive impairment results.
--breath and body relaxation does work for extended periods of time, doesn't lead to cognitive impairment or dependence.
--i find stress to be a very specific term: a part of the brain called the amygdala, after experiencing a negative experience/association, triggers a release of cortisol, which in turn dilates the air passage to the lungs, speeds one's heartbeat, stops the digestive process, pushes blood to the muscles; the mind, meanwhile experiences anxiety and distorted fear, leading to sweating, nausea, diarrhea, a pounding heart, hyperventilation symptoms of dizziness, tunnel vision, muscle contractions, and on. thankfully breath exercises, body relaxation, cognitive restructuring work in counteracting this cycle.
--I absolutely agree that all voices should be heard, even the ones that irritate us. i think the voice in question made its views clearly on numerous occasions.
j

jennifer.wilson60's picture

Josh, Thank you for the gentle and encouraging, specific and precise response. Your teaching and guidance is most useful. I look forward to your next retreat session. Sincerely, Jennifer

Joshkorda1's picture

thanks for your well considered response jennifer. your grasp of the practice is wonderful. a few thoughts:
--agreed, the buddha stated clearly in his teachings on Yoniso Manasikara that watching stress unfold in the present is reliable; and absolutely, trying to uncover past causes is an unreliable method, as we often misattribute causes, as noted in SN 36 if memory serves.
--completely agreed that once we identify what triggers stress, the next step is to cultivate more successful tools to reduce stress.
--most addictions try to relieve stress by (without conscious awareness) increasing dopamine or GABA levels in the brain. For example, shopping triggers dopamine release, alcohol GABA. these neural states don't last long, create a compulsive dependence on behaviors, and eventually make matters worse, as cognitive impairment results.
--breath and body relaxation does work for extended periods of time, doesn't lead to cognitive impairment or dependence.
j
--i find stress to be a very specific term: a part of the brain called the amygdala, after experiencing a negative experience/association, triggers a release of cortisol, which in turn dilates the air passage to the lungs, speeds one's heartbeat, stops the digestive process, pushes blood to the muscles; the mind, meanwhile experiences anxiety and distorted fear, leading to sweating, nausea, diarrhea, a pounding heart, hyperventilation symptoms of dizziness, tunnel vision, muscle contractions, and on. thankfully breath exercises, body relaxation, cognitive restructuring work in counteracting this cycle.
--I absolutely agree that all voices should be heard, even the ones that irritate us. i think the voice in question made its views clearly on numerous occasions.

Joshkorda1's picture

tom, you've made your point on quite a few posts by now; you don't appreciate my use of "stress" as a translation for dukkha, you find it a vague term. duly noted, i get it.
at this point your incessant comments repeating the same point aren't in any way helping people who are directly asking for feedback from the dhamma teacher who took the time to make the videos.
j

wtompepper's picture

I apologize for my "incessant" comments. I meant to be one of those "people who are asking for feedback," hoping you would respond with some clarification on your talk, on how exactly "stress" might be the cause of addiction. I didn't realize you were just looking for praise and approval.

If my comments are so damaging to your "teaching" that they prevent if from helping anyone, and you have no counter-argument at all, well, perhaps you should reconsider how helpful such a "teaching" really is? If your presentation is so weak it loses all effect if anyone points out your glaring errors, how useful is it?

No worries, I will not post further on your retreat.

shin's picture

Really Tom, we've done this dance on a few retreats now where there is disagreement about basic terminology. Is it any wonder that the Buddha pointed out clinging to views and opinions as major causes of suffering (stressors) in our lives? All terms are going to be imprecise approximations at best. I suppose that's why the Zen master's left us with "As soon as you open your mouth you are wrong!" Still, if we are going to communicate at all we need language. But if we can agree on basic terms of reference--even if we don't like the choice of phrases, or if they have quite different nuance for us personally--at least we can make some progress with mutual respect without getting ourselves painfully tied up in 'thickets of views.' wishing you well, shin

wtompepper's picture

Really shin, I'm pretty sure this is only the second retreat I've ever posted something on, and my disagreements have absolutely never been a matter of "terminology." Saying all terms are imprecise so it doesn't matter if you say things that are dead wrong is just not useful. My disagreement was simply with Josh's view that he has the explanation for addiction, and it is stress. I don't really care if stress is a good translation of dukkha, I am merely saying that whatever we mean by stress, it doesn't explain addiction at all! Disagreement is not always a "thicket of views," sometimes it is a request that someone reexamine a view that is not very well considered. I am a little tired, though, of someone saying "thicket of views" any time anyone points out an error in someone's thought, or even asks a hard question.

Sorry, I promised to stop commenting. Now I really promise to stop even looking at this retreat.

Tharpa Pema's picture

When people try to speak to you on a human level, you run.

wtompepper's picture

Sorry, I was in the middle of trying to edit my last post when your reply cut me off. I didn't mean to "run", I was asked (quite politely) to shut up. Anyone who wants to speak to me on any level can always email me at wtompepper@att.net. Or come over to Speculative Non-buddhism, and join the debate!

I was trying to add to my post above that I only commented on this to begin with because I think it is a very serious issue, with life and death consequences, and falling back on vague and unclear thought is quite dangerous in this matter. Relying on the old cliches that all language is vague, and any criticism is attachment to view, could have disastrous consequences for such an important matter, where clear and serious thought is essential.

Tharpa Pema's picture

You are predictable. Thank you for your address. I will write you there.

lindaldavis's picture

Thank you, Josh, for this helpful retreat. I'm wondering if you know of any Buddhist online support groups for recovery? with Metta, linda

Joshkorda1's picture

hi linda,
thanks so much for watching; i hope you find the other three videos helpful. i believe the buddhist recovery network has some online resources, though i haven't visited them myself:
http://www.buddhistrecovery.org/links.htm
best, j

outsidethemargins's picture

I'm a shopaholic It is an impulse that can highjack entire days. While shopping, I often feel very guilty and aggravated but still I continue. Acknowledgement of this has helped some and my meditation practice has helped.

Joshkorda1's picture

thanks for sharing your experience. The term you use, "acknowledgement" is very accurate; in the Buddha's language its known as 'yoniso manasikara' or appropriate attention.
first, see if you can notice what feelings and thoughts are present when you first feel the impulse to shop... how the feelings change during a spree, then how and when the underlying stress dissipates.
see if you can note what thoughts or actions precede shopping impulses... for example, are you over scheduled? trying to control events that cannot be controlled? worrying what people are thinking of you, or how the future will play out?
note if there's an obligation or thought train that you can let go of, and see if the shopping impulses diminish.
its important to maintain inner awareness, patience, an inquisitive, non-self-punishing spirit. yoniso manasikara is a tool that allows us to uncover the causes that motivate behaviors, but it shouldn't be done in a way that creates even more stress.
best, j

wtompepper's picture

This is a perfect example of how our additions function to increase our stress, not relieve it. We produce guilt, aggravation, misery, in part to expend the energy we are for some reason prevented from using in more productive ways. My own experience was that I had to discover what it was that was preventing me from really engaging meaningfully in life; once that blockage was removed, I didn't need to invest all my energy in creating misery for myself with addictive behavior.

lotusrainfive's picture

Thank you Josh, i look forward to hearing the next 3 talks.

brook.laura@yahoo.com's picture

Josh
Well first I have been sober 31 years
2. Your talk at this times seems as always to much of a coincidence to be ignored.
3. Most of my 31 years I have been a member of AA (I did leave the program for ten years to pursue other spiritual practices)
About 6 years ago my husband and I found the gambling boats. It has been a downward descent into addiction since than. In fact the reason I returned to AA is the awareness I was in trouble very early on I knew in my heart even though it didn't look like addiction it had me. Well I no sooner returned to 12 step programs that my life took a severe turn for the worse. I was handed in life some of the greatest stressors a person can have. Cancer, my husband broke down from PTSD and my beloved grandson was born with serious health problems. This meant I have spent 6 months at a time in children's hospitals and doing his home care. Leaving me many times hungry lonely isolated exhausted and of course scared to death and overwhelmed. Of course in the last 5 years my daughter in law and son have divorced she is mentally ill but not to the point were we can get full custody of Ryan (working on it) so the addiction has gotten out of control we r now losing enough money to buy cars.
It seems it is hopeless all of it. My husbands mental illness his gambling addiction my grandson survival and his suffering my aging body. Recently we almost lost him it was so painful to watch so very painful.
I just want to run but my love for him keeps me involved present. As you so beautifully stated the gambling does all those things for me yet as you also stated cost emotionally physically and financially. Currently she has him 1 week we have him the next. When I care for him that week there is no gambling I am just to very tired and need my energies for his care. It is what I call Hell Sunday and Monday that I lose my resolve the day we turn him over to her. Geez it's like I am being boiled in oil. I work so very hard at eliminated problems improving his care ect than off to Moms I can't protect him I can't help him I can't monitor his status I can't put into words the degree of suffering it creates. So I gamble than I seem to be able to get moving go out get some of my needs met mtg friends food rest zen group........plan things to protect me from the addiction all the methods I have learned thru my long recovery process.
Now we can talk about supportive friends but most people close to me don't know how I have made it period the last therapist I went to thought I was in her words amazing just being sober..?..and intact functioning. It's been that bad for that long...........I also have chronic pain from the CA that I don't medicate much due to my addictive nature. I got enough shit I don't want to be dependent on doctors to live.
I don't even like writting this it stirs me up emotionally. So I don't talk much about it all. It's so overwhelming and seems hopeless. It triggers the gambling.
Now back to gambling addiction breathing don't work I have practice qi gong daily thru all this still gamble chanting moving meditation more meetings less meetings GA seems there is this sense of what's the use on a very deep level. I can't find a sponsor I am AA royalty remember I am sober I found one guy but he would tolerate no slips will ..........also most people have no clue how to deal with a really really sick child. It's big it's suffering at its max.......they want to move away..........my emotions can be extreme. Also I don't even want to hear easy fixes like breath one day at a time all the glib meaningless things we say to people.
Well that was a lot so can you help me? I need help I want to stop. I am just so afraid to afraid I will crumble afraid of these feelings afraid of loosing Ryan broken hearted over Ryan's suffering and the painful things I have to do to him to keep him alive.......my deep sense of failure the only meaning I have found for life is the obvious what is being presented just love my way thru it the best I can.
Laura

Joshkorda1's picture

laura,
thanks for reaching out.
obviously your situation is challenging, given the amount of responsibilities, obligations and dramas in your life (caring for your grandchild, chronic pain, husband's ptsd, etc), along with the additional stresses of gambling, and feelings of loneliness and helplessness... here are some ideas that come to mind...
--start listening to tara brach's audio talks; she's terrific and will definitely help you develop a different perspective based on acceptance and compassion: http://tarabrach.com/audiodharma.html
--it seems to me that giving therapy another chance would be a very appropriate tool at this point. even if you don't feel the immediate relief that gambling gives you, in the long run it would help you prioritize what you can handle, and what you can let go of.
--if you can't get beyond the 'aa royalty' thing, and GA isn't working, try al-anon, or find a support group that specifically focuses on caregivers.
--in addition to therapy, and despite whatever beliefs you've developed over the last 31 years, looking into the possibility that seeing a psych to determine if anti-depressants or anxiolytics could be helpful.
--look into local meditation groups to sit with once a week; again, the more support in your life, the less you'll feel alone.
hope this in some way helps.
j

brook.laura@yahoo.com's picture

Thank you josh
Have done all of the above even Tara Bach and yes she has helped
Really josh at this point most teachings and groups seem so distant from the reality of my life. Like most people r just mouthing the words.
Sometimes poetry speaks to me in a deep way. I think I am unteachable
After all these years I have heard done it all I guess I was seeking a spark thought maybe you.
I am in deep spiritual crisis traditional answers do not help.
I guess just keep loving believing trusting the path of my life. The best I can do. Wait for that inner outer voice.
I don't know it's like it's all been a big jokes on you Laura. I know u can give up everything practice day and nite and still miss the point. Is this my addict speaking? I need to dialog with someone who can hear these question and not throw up there own defenses god I long for it someone not so afraid to stand on the edge with me. We all invest heavily in our own process.
Keep teaching keep reaching out it is a noble path.
Laura

lokkenliane's picture

"most teachings and groups seem so distant from the reality of my life. Like most people r just mouthing the words."

This really struck a chord with me, Laura. I used to wonder why Buddhist groups choose AA as a model for working with addiction. I think I have figured it out. Both encourage completely turning over one's self to a HP/teacher. It has been a slippery slope in my experience. In the Vajryana path, one turns themselves completely over to the teacher. At this point, I don't think I could do that, but I have a lot to learn.

Words are very powerful, and I find some of the lingo in my lineage to be incredibly precise and important, but when I hear myself or others flinging words around without thought, it's a symptom, for me, that I'm not speaking from my heart..just parroting lingo.

You might want to check out LifeRing (don't know the web address, but they are out there). Our motto is "Empowering your sober self." They are a secular recovery group, devoted to abstinence and to honoring the idea that everyone creates their own plan for sobriety. We have no lingo. We use our own vocabularies. The founder created an exhaustive workbook designed to assist the individual on the way, but you can choose which section is most helpful at the time. No steps, no sponsors. Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all prospect. Different methods work for different people. Same with Buddhism. The main thing I adhere at this point is discovering my basic goodness, and learning how to be of benefit to others.

shin's picture

just another possible resource for you Laura is Kristin Neff
http://www.self-compassion.org/

what came up for me reading your post was a comment that someone made in a grief support group, not minimizing their own situation and pain, but they said something like, "Every time I look around this room I hear somebody with a story as disturbing or more disturbing than mine." And not sure if this will help or not at the moment, but we sometimes explore from a Buddhist perspective a statement by St. Bartholemew:
"You tell me that you cannot stand the pain... But you have already stood the pain... What you have not done is seen all that you are--beyond the pain..."

may you find peace and release

brook.laura@yahoo.com's picture

Josh went to a meeting my women's meeting tonight. I forgot about my soberity birthday and didn't announce it at a mtg it was July 4 I did tonight. I also spoke freely openly about my gambling addiction which I do as mtg allow. Yet and at the end of the mtg someone spoke up about my soberity and how much they loved and appreciated me thur the years than others did the same. I cried. It touched my heart. Both failure and success. That's me. That's us sometimes at meetings the beauty of the hearts desire to be free is so overpowering my whole being feels this longing. All of us packed into this dingy rooms yaking away yet there it is so pure so real. I love these women's courage well than they fight :)
Or gossip :) or.......so messy being human
Ok I will stay tuned for your next talk.

brook.laura@yahoo.com's picture

Yes yes I need someone to help me see beyond the pain the pain is here to stay. I have not seen past it yes.......it implies a something else that I am missing yes yes......

shin's picture

sorry to barge in again but as an afterthought, lest we think that Kristin Neff leads the charmed life of an academic and therapist { : ) } 'horse boy' is her son:

http://horseboymovie.com/

brook.laura@yahoo.com's picture

Dear shin thank for the movie recommendation Ryan's older brother has ausbergers I care for him also. It is very trying I found the movie so uplifting and beautiful. Letting Kyle be yet at the same time supporting and allowing his talents to emerge. In fear from fear the need to change and control his behaviors arise we both suffer greatly when I fall into this place.
Yes I will go to her web site.
Ryan takes much of my time his medical needs, Kyle is left too alone with his obsessive thoughts. Right before Ryan was born I was working on taking Kyle away for months if needed to decrease incoming and allowing nature to heal. But than Ryan came with his needs. I feel at times such a sense of failure.
May I learn to love with great compassion and an open heart. My I know peace my you know peace my all beings know peace.
Laura

Nanigae's picture

Thank you. I've now been sober for 5+ years. When I first came to AA, though I knew that I felt better and especially hopeful after only a few meetings, collected baggage around faith and religion nearly gave me a ticket out. I quickly found a sangha within my home group that practiced meditation and explored Buddhism. Further, my home group was unconditionally tolerant of my spiritual resistance and sometimes in-your-face atheism. KG's One Breath at a Time, which you reference was a watershed for me. It's probably a major force in why I stayed in AA. I intended to integrate the 12 steps into Buddhist practice, selectively choosing the more palatable and convenient steps. What I know now is that I actually learned and deepened my Buddhist practice by working the 12 steps as written and in order, enough that I now consider myself Buddhist as opposed to someone that practices buddhist-like things. AA and Buddhism now feel like a Gordian knot that is intricately interwoven. I've also found that I became increasingly tolerant of the varied religious and spiritual practices shared around the table.

Regarding stress as a driver, I know this was true for me and that the primary manifestation was fear combined with deeply conditioned fear-based avoidance coping mechanisms learned growing up in a physically abusive and alcoholic household as a child. I appreciate the body scan and the deep breathing. I routinely notice the tension in my neck and shoulders, combined with upper chest breathing as opposed to belly breathing, but often forget to change my breathing. The pause between inhale-exhale-inhale-exhale ... helps to create a physiological pause as well as emotional and cognitive pause. I often refer to this as 'my precious pauses'.

Thanks again,
Robert

Joshkorda1's picture

thanks robert,
along with staying spiritually connected with wise spiritual people in buddhist and 12 step circles, listening to thai forest monks for insights and wisdom, a daily meditation practice, i'd have to say that regular body and breath scans and relaxations are the foundations of my recovery and practice. and indeed, i don't see spiritual practice and recovery as at all separate, as the goal is the same—peace of mind—and the paths are so overlapping.
metta, j

Supernaut1978's picture

Josh,
Thank you so much for your teachings and Discussions on Addiction this week. I am a recovering addict with 10 months clean and am grateful to have found Buddhism as a spiritual path especially since it doesnt condemn my strong Atheistic views.I had really struggled with the whole "Higher Power" thing until I happened upon Noah's book Against the Stream at my local library. It has really help me get over my reservations about 12 step programs and has deepened my appreciation for a spiritual life that doesn't involve belief in mythical, all powerful beings. I believe that Buddhism and meditation has really helped me deal with life more skillfully than I ever did as an addict of 17+ years.
Much love and respect,
Lex

Joshkorda1's picture

definitely right with you with your struggle with how God centered 12 step programs can be.
12 step programs are invaluable in giving us access to other recovering addicts, so we can connect and diminish those perspectives of terminal uniqueness and isolation.
but the insistence that a higher power must be external, disregarding all the valuable resources we always have within, is to me counter-productive. also, 12 step groups tend to view addictions in isolation: if we're in AA, we're supposed to share on alcoholism, and keep any sex, shopping, work, gambling, addictions for other programs. this too is unfortunate, as i've come to see all addictions as fundamentally stress related; our addictive tendencies shouldn't be treated in separate compartments.
in any event, a terrific book on the subject of developing a buddhist "higher power" is kevin griffin's "A Burning Desire: Dharma God & The Path of Recovery."
best, j

Supernaut1978's picture

Havent read Burning Desire yet but his book One breath at a time has been an invaluable resource in working steps and clarifying higher power. Also I should also point out that I don't get that sense of Specificity of types sharing in NA. I hear people sharing on all types of addictions apart from drugs. Something that really clicked with me with Narcotics Anonymouswas the verbiage used in that the problem isn't phrased as "alcohol" or "dope" but rather "addiction" and that we are addicts. For some reason it really helped my accept the 12 step message alot easier than it did with AA.
What are your thoughts on 12 step Buddhist groups as an alternative to traditional 12 step meetngs? I know it's not quite the same and it doesn't have the same consistent structure and Literature but the time I went to one it was really comfortable to me and it seemed to be less , I don't know, hostile or aggressive than NA or AA meetings?

Joshkorda1's picture

12 step buddhist groups are wonderful support tools, especially for people who don't feel comfortable in AA/NA environments. if you feel comfortable, go for it!
j

roswellgrl1's picture

I self talked my way into believing I am a casual drinker - 2 to 3 glasses of wine or 1/2 a pint of alcohol a night, every night for the last 3 years. I have also become n avid shopper recently maxing all my credit, which will take 4 years to pay off, if I don't miss payments. 40 lbs over weight on my small frame has taken it' s health toll. I truly dislike my marriage and the people we have become. My problem is complacency. After work, I come home have a few drinks and veg. I come from a family of alcoholism and we never dealt with it professionally. I was also sexually abused and didn't professionally deal with that for 30 years.
I recently " woke" up and feel I have got to make changes now or I will disappear into oblivion. It has been two days since I had a drink. It has been two days since I have indulged on sugary snacks, choosing healthier options instead. It has been 2 days since I went shopping since I no longer have the means. I know these are but baby steps. The worst part has not been the cessation of my indulgences, but the self talk that It simply doesn't matter and I will die anyway. I have been Buddhist for many years and I know various practices to align my emotion, focus on my breath, or exchange myself for another. I feel these practices are coping strategies that help me get through a day but not to the root of the problem. Have I missed something?

Joshkorda1's picture

hi roswellgrl,
i'm grateful for the honesty and openness in your comment. congratulations for the awareness that the road you were on was a dead end, and self-care you've put in over the last 2 days.
it is indeed clear that the stress that's pushing you towards addictive, destructive behaviors is a general lack of deep purpose for life, and the self-talk. in terms of developing a purpose for life, i wrote a piece for tricycle which you may find useful. i've posted the text here to make it easy for friends to find:
http://dharmapunxnyc.blogspot.com/2012/08/now-what-life-as-recovering-ad...
a few considerations for working with unskillful inner dialogue:
--ask yourself, would i let anyone else talk to me like these thoughts do? or would i eventually conclude someone speaking this way to me is not worth taking seriously?
--would i talk to someone i care about in the same way? if not, then practice the metta meditation daily, developing the recognition that you deserve happiness, appreciation, compassion.
--when i speak this way to myself, which muscles in the body become tense? how do i breath? can i relax whatever tenses, and lengthen the out breaths, deepen the in breaths?
--if you have access to a meditation community near you, it would be helpful to associate with people who are on a spiritual path. share your inner dialogue; when we say it out loud, we can hear how punishing and unfair our thoughts can be.
hope some of these ideas are useful.
j

roswellgrl1's picture

Thank you, Josh, for your kind words, candor, and sense of humor. I love your blogspot and will keep it as a resource, along with your ideas for helping me develop a more skillful inner dialog and sense of self. It is difficult to balance the No-Self and my self-worthiness when I feel so empty. It is day 3 of right choices, with one only misstep, and that was to devour an entire bag of thickly coated malted milk candy. The bag was softly cooing the Human League song - don't you want me - when in a moment of work related stress, I swallowed the entire sack as a whale consumes the ocean! I am so happy that Tricycle offers these retreats and I am grateful to you for sharing your wisdom and your experience.

shin's picture

one tool that I have found helpful comes from suggestions by Ajahn Sumedho. When the incessant chant of negative self talk kicks in, first try to find at least a few seconds of deep silence at the still point and then quite deliberately, fully consciously, say the worst of it to yourself v e r y
s l o w ly.
for example, "I don't deserve love/enlightenment/peace... or I am unworthy of ... etc." and then rest in the silence AFTER the words end... Note that you actually have to *come out of* full present moment awareness to even utter those words to yourself... Then we can really begin to investigate: what is missing? Is there anything 'broken' in awareness or is it my sense of self that is/seems broken? and so on...

We are all taking baby steps... one after another, moment to moment... best wishes

roswellgrl1's picture

Thank you, Shin, for thoughtful reply and kindness. I shall use this insightful tool!

fredy.escobar's picture

Hi Josh. I have been struggling/grappling with my addiction to alcohol with varying degrees of success for the past six years. I have 12 days sober now and that's a hot streak! I hope to take away new strategies that can help to dissolve the second arrows of my existence. I routinely go to Against the Stream here in Los Angeles and am finding interlacing Buddhism and 12 Steps to be a potent pair. I look forward to future talks as I put it on my to-do list ;)

Tony

Joshkorda1's picture

Thx tony! Give my warm regards to Noah and Pablo if you see them there. I salute your determination; what matters aren't the setbacks, it's the resolve to keep trying that matters, and 6 years of coming back is a lot of effort. I hope my talks offer you something that makes the journey a litte easier.
Best, j

mac's picture

Hi Josh,

I stopped drinking 12 years ago, and I agree with 99% of what you have to say, but the one thing I cant get my head around is WHY do people say they are recovering or in recovery. I am recovered NOW but I will not drop my guard ever again.

Take care
Mac

Joshkorda1's picture

Hi Mac! Thx for watching. I can only speak for my own intentions when using the phrase "recovering" as opposed to "recovered." Recovering, in my view, acknowledges that the same ingrained responses towards addictive behavior remain in me, they're just no longer the dominant voices in my mind's committee at present. Right now patience, trust and comassion are louder. But if I stop doing the spiritual work, after awhile fear and it's addictions can become the loudest thoughts in my head. So I don't think of myself as recovered, just on the right path to peace of mind.

mac's picture

Thanks josh for the reply I understand. it is as it is.
Take care
Mac

adrianahol@yahoo.com.mx's picture

Love your honesty and good energy. I found your talk to be very uplifting and informative. I am addicted to relationships, I come form a very chaotic alcoholic family, I have done much therapy, Buddhism and ALANON groups have saved my life, so I am sure your course will be nurturing and supportive for my practice. I have had a relapse these last months and it has being hell. Thank you, Adriana (Mexico) PD enjoyed meeting your cat :-)

Joshkorda1's picture

Thx Adriana, from me and Wharf, my eldest cat who visited during the video taping. I hope your efforts steer you back to inner peace, as relapses are often far more disheartening than the original bottoms that bring us to the doorstep of recovery. In addition to the suffering of addiction, we often add even guilt and disappointment during relapses. The Buddha's teaching on how every being deserves compassion, including those most prone to self-destructive tendencies, lies at the heart f returning to recovery. You deserve happiness; I ope you look for it in the right places.
Metta, j