relapse

Get over it

Vimalasara

So I have survived one month of mentorship through my own programme of ‘Eight Step Recovery.’ I’ve relapsed twice, and am back on track with three days of abstinence. I tried harm reduction and it didn’t work for me. Told myself I will eat a handful of raw cashews a day. I even left them out on the kitchen counter so my hosts could share them with me too. But once they were finished, I went out bought a 500 gram packet and proceeded to eat them for my lunch, during a period of three hours. Now you may think: ‘Get over it, you don’t have an addiction. It’s not a matter of life and death. You’re hardly going to wreck the family, or cause any great harm’.

While I do have a mild allergy to nuts, I can’t claim that if I carried on eating them that they would kill me, but I do know that consuming them stunts my emotional growth. Why? Because the nuts have replaced the cigarette I once used to put in my mouth, it has replaced the gum I used to chew obsessively, the food I used to binge on and purge, the substances I used to consume.

Although I’m not in the throes of a life threatening addiction and admittedly avoiding my direct experience has lessened, I still at times turn away from my direct experience enough to disturb my peace of mind. Every time I turn away or avoid, I am resisting and triggering the urges to pick up. These urges manifest into the mental proliferation and mental obsessing, multiplying my initial experience of discomfort several fold. ‘Now I must eat those cashews because it has become too overwhelming.’

I took the opportunity to reflect on my attachment to raw cashew nuts and I wrote this to my sponsor.

‘I’m on the bus licking my wounds and thought I could email you from my phone. As I walked today I realized I do not want to let go of cashews and that is my problem. I know I need to and that I should do as it is a neurotic behaviour that usurps my equilibrium. After that thought, I found myself buying cashews and ate them all over the next two hours not a huge amount but now I feel sick and wish I could turn the clocks back but I can’t. I can see I was turning away from the discomfort of knowing I don’t want to stop. So the question is how do I move from not wanting to let go or knowing I need to let go, to wanting to let go?’ I know eating them in small doses does not work as I end up bingeing as I did today’.

“What I recommend for you is to meditate and reflect on what you are believing about this behavior that is not true. Usually we are believing an untruth. And usually its a variation on ‘it will be okay this time’ (in spite of what has always happened in the past) or ‘even if it’s not okay, it will be worth it’. These are the lies that we most often keep on deluding ourselves with. Another common one is that: ‘I just can’t do this and I might as well give up’. It may be as simple as ‘it will make me feel better’, which of course is not true, because it never does. So there’s your challenge, to bring awareness to your unspoken beliefs, and then to investigate them for current validity. Uncover the lie that you’re believing.

Most of these bad habits did actually have a valid coping function at one point in our lives, before they became debilitating addictions. They did help us cope. But now we have to uncover the dynamics, and ask ourselves ‘what did this do for me in the past?’, ‘what is it doing for me now?’, and ‘what is it doing TO me now?’. But mindfulness of the inner dynamics is a prerequisite. Then we can face our issues instead of having them ambush from behind.”

Great advice for somebody who has co-created Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery MBAR course. While delivering the training the trainer MBAR course this weekend, I could not help realize, that I had few thoughts about eating cashews over the three days.

I realized that I have needed the dharma, the mindfulness teachings, rather than actually wanting them. It’s a subtle and gross difference. Nothing wrong in needing the teachings, but what does one do once they have been rescued by the teachings? Often go back to their ways.

If I want the dharma enough, I will wholeheartedly place positive values at the centre of my life moment by moment. I did this while delivering the training. I needed to, to deliver the course, but now the course is over, can I want the dharma enough to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, effectively and absolutely. This is step six. More about this step next month.

For a free sample of the book study and 21 meditations of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Step four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery and discover freedom

Eight Step Recovery

In this 8 step recovery program – we speak about being willing. We use this word because if one wants recovery, they have to be willing to step onto the path. Too many of us bargain with our recovery. We want it, but we don’t want to do the work it takes to get the recovery. It’s my way or the high way. There is only one path in the Buddhist tradition to recovery, and that is the direct path of the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. Of course this path comes in many different formulations and lists.

Last month, I heard the The Dalai Lama say: ‘The Mahayana teachings are an extrapolation of the four noble truths’. First we must understand the first truth of suffering. The second truth, a path that leads to more suffering, is the understanding of the three lakshanas, suffering, impermanence, and self view. The third truth, the cessation of suffering, is the understanding of the emptiness teachings, and the fourth truth, a path leading us away from suffering, is the illumination of all the teachings.

The Eight Steps

The good news is, that we could focus on just one of the teachings, and one teaching alone will help us discover a new freedom. It could be as simple as cultivating loving kindness and compassion for oneself. Cultivating compassion inevitably includes the five traditional training principles, of non harm, not taking the not given, sexual misconduct, false speech and abstaining from intoxicants. We need kindness and community to help us step onto the path of recovery.

But we can have all of this and still continue to relapse. Why? Because we have not wholeheartedly connected to the vision of recovery. We have not connected to something that we want more than our addiction, more than the thing we turn to ease our suffering. We have to want recovery more than our choice of drug in that split second before picking up.

‘The moment we decide to pick up our drug of choice, we are blocking out what is at stake. That choice may mean losing our families, our jobs, our relationships……This can be uncomfortable to accept. But every time we reach for our addiction we are making a choice. To recover, we must find or be inspired by something that we want more than our addiction. We need vision.’ Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction

You may still be saying I have vision. But are you willing to transform and change? Vision becomes redundant if we are not willing to step onto the path of transformation. Our vision of recovery will be realized when we have the courage to step on to the path and transform ourselves.

  • What is there in life that you would like more than your addiction?
  • What path do you need to be on to bring about this thing in life that you want more than your addiction?
  • Is it my way? The Highway? Or the direct path to the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path?
[Eight Step Recovery, pages 95-115.]

For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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