A Spiritual Path of Coping With Addiction

Are you held back by an addiction? If you’re not personally, it’s almost certain that you know someone who is afflicted by an urge of some form that inhibits his or her own life—one that has an incredible impact on their overall well-being and happiness.

These sufferings create an inability for us to grow and flourish personally, as well as in our relationships with others, which, many times, can create an even more difficult struggle or a deeper dependence. As such, the need to escape becomes, as Pema Chodron notes in her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, “involuntary”.

She continues, “Addiction and dissociating from painful feelings are two examples. Anyone who has worked with a strong addiction—compulsive eating, compulsive sex, abuse of substances, explosive anger, or any other behavior that’s out of control—knows that when the urge comes on it’s irresistible. The seduction is too strong.”

If the throes of addiction sound inescapable, don’t lose hope yet. How can we cope? Chodron calls this practice ‘The Knack of Refraining’—continually training with a present, but lesser stimuli, that teaches us to rise above the impulse when we’re fixated on our desire.

“By training with everyday irritations, we develop the knack of refraining when the going gets rough. It takes patience and an understanding of how we’re hurting ourselves not to continue taking the same old escape route of speaking or acting out.”

This allows us to begin to become freer, a little lighter each time we succeed in not succumbing—rebuilding a sense of self worth and an appreciation for the beautiful bounty of good the world has to offer us. We begin to lose the tunnel vision, to see beyond the narrow lenses we were looking at the world through before; our minds and hearts become open.

On an arduous journey such as this, be kind to yourself or the one bearing the burden. Encourage the idea of “refraining” as a way to restart—to create a new beginning for a healthier, happier life.

With more confidence and purposeful goals, it begins to feel less like coping and more like strength. Once we’ve developed that core strength over time, our clearer mind allows us to see how our old behaviors were truly doing harm and keeping us from true happiness.  

Life is progress, not perfection—the key is to not give into the seduction of temptation.

Meditate on what is good in your life; if only just for a second. When it all feels especially unsettling, find something constructive that makes you feel whole; allow yourself to experience a natural high that brings you back to center and allows you to stay the course without the fear of guilt or shame.

The journey is long and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be dark and daunting—we can all find our peace; it’s already inside of us. It takes courage to unleash its full potential and experience life in a more meaningful way, but it leads us to being truly free.  



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