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Addiction. Noun. An inability to stop doing or using something. The need or strong desire to do or to have something, or a very strong liking for something.
Growing up, I developed a few harmful habits and addictions to deal with my problems and traumas.
As a teenager, I developed an eating disorder and used to cut myself to deal with emotional pain. When I moved to the city to attend high school, the amount of freedom that suddenly became mine turned me into a shopaholic. I strolled the aisles of the mall every afternoon hunting for sale items I knew I’d never use.
At university, I became addicted to marijuana. While living in Korea, I became a caffeine addict. Later in my 20s, I was a total gym freak, might even be called an orthorexic working out for three to four hours a day, giving up on every social interaction and event for the sake of my training. Many of my friends had worse addictions, like tobacco, alcohol, or even sex.
I always wanted to get rid of these addictions but even if I was successful in getting rid of one bad habit, I’d replace it with a new one. In fact, treating addiction and substance abuse involves a multidimensional approach that can include the use of medications, therapy, peer support groups, family support, and other interventions.
Personally, I had my breakthrough when I was about 23. I was dealing with major depression—I couldn’t even get out of my bed for about two years. My dad got me a book titled The Secret which helped to build a gratitude journal practice.
For months, I didn’t write anything on my list but “I am grateful for staying in bed all day.” I diligently stuck with this sentence and one day, I was able to notice other things I could be grateful for, such as my warm dauvé or my cozy pillow, my comfy mattress, or the fact that I could spend most of my days alone, unbothered.
Though I was skeptical about the law of attraction, I got curious about what else was out there. I finally got out of my bed when no one could see me and started to do some yoga stretches. It felt good. So, I got more curious. I dwelled in Eastern spirituality and things started to change quickly. One day, I found myself excited to get out of bed at 5 a.m., perform my spiritual practice, and then go out to attend to my duties.
I know of people who found their way out of addiction and dark times through Western medicine or religion. It can be different for everyone, but it’s not my thing. My way was clear: through Eastern spirituality and ancient, natural approaches.
Spirituality is part of the human experience in which we explore who we are and what our life is about. I believe we address the same “force” when we talk about God, Universe, Source, Fate, or whatever you call it and every religion is just a different way to get to the same place.
Let’s take a look at some and how they can be of use with addiction treatment.
In the East, Buddha recognized addiction problems and advised his followers accordingly, although this was not the primary focus of his teachings. With its emphasis on craving and attachment, an understanding of the workings of the mind, and practices to work with the mind, Buddhism provides a rich resource to assist addiction recovery. The 12-step movement itself uses ideas and practices from Buddhism.
Hinduism disapproves of the use of drugs or alcohol, although in some Hindu sects, cannabis products are used to promote spiritual experiences through the use of an intoxicating drink called Soma.
Hinduism may involve the use of meditation, yoga, or other techniques to sharpen the spirit, mind, and body. The major belief is that the entire universe is connected, one should have a daily relationship with God, and one should take responsibility for their behavior as their first intention. Thus, the use of self-control and meditation can be used to an advantage for those who are in recovery from some type of substance abuse problem.
The major goal of Taoism is to live with compassion and balance in life and reject intolerance. Bad deeds, including addictive behaviors, lead to illness and imbalance. Tao means “the way,” and its central value is the achievement of a state of naturalness by freeing oneself from desire, selfish thinking, and self-centered behaviors by embracing the simplicity of life.
The use of drugs or alcohol is forbidden in Islam as well, and addiction is often viewed as a sin. The purpose of life is to live in a way that is pleasing to Allah and in turn, earn his forgiveness and entrance into the afterlife. The use of acceptance, repentance, and returning to the right path as opposed to the damnation of people in recovery is essential in addressing substance abuse issues in Islamic recovery clients.
You don’t need to believe in some kind of God or follow any religious paths but you can still find things in each of them that might resonate with you and you can take it with you on your journey of overcoming addictions.
I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I have my beliefs and it’s like a patchwork blanket. Every little piece of it comes from a different place, religion, and spirituality.
You don’t need to be religious to live with compassion for others, root your actions in love, embrace a simple lifestyle, meditate daily, or do yoga. Many people in the Western world find yoga helpful when dealing with their daily life even if it’s just stress management. Addiction is the ultimate “checking-out” of the moment. Yoga, on and off the mat, is the “checking-in” to reality. Several recovery programs work with yoga to cover all bases.
Yusuf, formerly known as Cat Stevens, a rock star from the late 60s, overcame his drug addictions and even left behind his fame when he was introduced to Islam and turned to spiritual life.
A great Hollywood comeback story is Robert Downey Jr., who is now one of the most bankable and highly-paid actors in show business. Could you imagine that he was practically unhireable due to his drinking and drug misuse and even landed in prison? He credits a combination of 12-step programs, yoga, meditation, and therapy with keeping him sober.
YouTube yoga star, Cole Chance, is an advocate of recovery as well, mainly due to her own addiction to alcohol. Cole combines yoga, Buddhism, neuroscience, and psychology in her recovery and shares her practices and sobriety talks with thousands of people around the world.
Oftentimes, we think of addictions as something bad. We overlook the addictions that don’t seem harmful to our health, like being a shopaholic. But, the underlying problem can be as bad in these cases as for a drug addict, and we have to address these issues.
In the process, we can get addicted to things that are supposed to be good for us, too. Though most people call that “mania”—like addiction to working out, eating healthy, or even meditation. In this case, in my opinion, addiction becomes a gateway where we can run away. Run away from the things that cause addiction in the past and are still chasing us.
I have my own “healthy addictions,” as I call them, but I see how they relate to my unhealthy addictions. My commitment to eating healthy might come from my former eating disorder, my passion for hikes and yoga might relate to the way I closed out the world by overexercising. Meditation could be my gateway from overthinking which used to lead me down the path of addictive behavior.
These all take me to the same end result, but on a different path. The important thing is to find balance and find a way to use our healthy addictions to deal with our struggles instead of escaping them.