Recovery-A New Paradigm
The Focus of the Past
Addict as "Sick Person" and the Culture of Sickness
In addiction treatment, our focus in the past has often been on treating the addict as a sick person and looking at how this sick person can become a healthy person, make his story better, and develop an ego that is less prone to succumbing to addictive cravings and obsession. Yet, many people who have been in recovery programs for years still identify themselves as addicts and therefore still identify themselves as sick people.
This creates a culture of sickness in which addicts relegate themselves to second class citizenhood. One is made to feel "sick" and made to feel that he belongs with other "sick people" who are not like other "normal" people in the world. This creates a separation in our society between addicts and non-addicts. It is a division that is becoming less and less helpful in the treatment of addiction. We tend to think of addiction as "their" problem, the "others," the sick people.
If you look around, however, most people in the general population struggle with one addiction or the other. Some are addicted to substances like drugs or alcohol and others are addicted to more socially acceptable things like shopping, working, romantic love, pornography, sexually acting out in unhealthy ways, money, sweets, gambling, praise, fame, or attention. The list of substances and activities to which one can be addicted is endless. When viewed this way, we (all humans) are in this together. Recovery from addiction is an endeavor in which all of humanity ought to be interested. We are not islands onto ourselves. Whatever affects one of us, affects all of us including our families, our communities, and in fact our world. So even if one is not addicted himself, he may live with or know someone who is addicted or he may be affected in some other way by addiction, including dealing with the rising health care costs and crime associated with addiction.
Focusing Too Much on the Particular Substance Rather than the Underlying Mechanism of Addiction Itself
We have been focusing on divisions too much in recovery paradigms. We have divided ourselves off from one another. Heroin addicts go to this program. Shopping addicts go to this other meeting. Those with eating and sexual obsessions divide themselves off into separate factions. This separation comes from focusing on the content of one's addiction (i.e., the particular substance or activity) rather than the underlying mechanism behind addiction (seeking, clinging, running or escaping present uncomfortable feelings).
The underlying mechanism in addiction is really the belief in thought itself. More pointedly, it is an addiction to objects. Thoughts create the sense of separate objects in our lives. The main separate object is "me." And as long as this "me" sees itself as separate, it will look to other, separate objects for fulfillment and contentment, always reaching for something else, something more, some object (whether it be a person, place, thing, drug, relationship, etc). This constant grasping comes from a misperception regarding who we really are. In this sense of separation, we cannot help but grasp after something else because the separation itself makes us feel incomplete. This incompleteness or sense of lack is precisely what causes all the grasping. So until we get to the root issue, we are very likely to just move from object to object, content to content, not seeing and releasing ourselves from the underlying mechanism that runs the addictive cycle.
When our focus is on content, we tend to substitute the content. We tend to move from object to object. For example, if we get clean and sober from drugs, we may find ourselves obsessing on relationships or tobacco or something else. We have switched the object (i.e., the content). We have not treated the underlying sense of separation. Even if we free ourselves from addiction to the various substances in our lives, our dependency may then move to other, more hidden forms of addiction. We may become addicted to self-improvement, spiritual awakening, or recovery itself. Yes! Addiction is that insidious.
The Natural Rest Presence Method
If we begin to focus on the underlying addiction to the object making machine itself, the mind, we have an opportunity to release ourselves from the cycle of addiction and all of its forms.
This approach invites us to rest in presence, repeatedly, throughout the day. Through resting in presence, we put ourselves in the perfect position for seeing what is happening in our interior experience (i.e., in the realm of thoughts, emotions, and sensations).
Why is it important to look at our interior experience? Science and medicine have given us important information about how the brain works and how addiction affects the brain. They have told us about the pathways and the neurotransmitters that play into the addictive cycle. The problem is this: an addict never experiences, directly, the brain, pathways, or neurotransmitters. Go talk to a heroin addict. Ask her what was on her mind the last time she wanted a fix. It wasn't "neurotransmitters and pathways." Addicts experience a sudden, irresistible, and immediate urge to use or act out. This urge happens through an interior experience of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. The thought, "I want heroin" arises instantly along with an actual energetic sensation or desire or craving in the body. The urge often happens in times in which the addict feels emotionally troubled or uncomfortable in some way.
So the focus in addiction recovery can turn towards developing the capacity to immediately see the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that arise when cravings and obsessions happen. And the way into that seeing is through presence. Presence is a word for the experience of recognizing a basic awareness in the present moment that is aware of what arises in one's interior body and mind, including thoughts, emotions, and sensation. This is the focus of the Natural Rest Method. This method is holistic. So it values science and medicine and therapy. It values the notion of taking care of the body and its physical health needs including sleep and good nutrition. But it looks at recovery as an overall view--not just physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. All of these views, together, but with the focus on recognizing presence, which is often underplayed or ignored in current western approaches.
Through resting in presence, and allowing all thoughts, emotions, and sensations to be as they are, the addict begins to experience a newfound freedom to not follow each thought, emotion, or sensation that arises. Through resting in presence, the pull towards the object or towards the future, dissolves away on its own. This approach to recovery is more helpful than developing a better story or ego. How does visiting the past help an addict who is experiencing an immediate, present urge to use? How does developing a better story help a woman who is looking for instant gratification through shopping? Urges and cravings are immediate. They take us over in the here and now.
The Natural Rest method seeks to get to the very root of the mechanism of addiction itself, as it is happening in the moment.
This approach helps the addict see through the ego itself. It helps the addict see through the sense of separation. When the addict no longer identifies with thoughts, the thoughts are allowed to come through freely and uninterruptedly. But the clinging to those thoughts for a sense of self releases itself. In that release, the addict stops seeing himself as an object, cut off and separate from other objects "out there." Therefore the seeking towards those objects releases itself.
Through presence, the over-active thinking mind relaxes. The addict experiences a quiet mind. The addiction to thinking relaxes, and with it, the addiction to the objects that thought creates also relaxes. This releases the entire addictive cycle, regardless of the content or form it has taken.
In that relaxed presence, he is better able to see and experience painful emotions more directly, instead of trying to cover those emotions up with the next fix. In allowing all emotions to come and go within this basic present awareness, the addictive cycle comes to a stop. All energies, positive and negative are allowed to be as they are. The addict experiences a deep quietness within his being, which is like a warm bath that embraces him in all situations, providing a sense of freedom, peace, and well-being. When the addict experiences this stabilized and ever-present freedom, peace, and well-being, the need for a fix dissolves away. The sense of lack and incompleteness is gone. Contentment is realized to be a natural aspect of his very presence. The need to identify himself as an addict or "sick person" falls away too.