What if the reason your life is difficult is because it is not the life you were meant to lead?
I’m putting together an eBook for people interested in using mindfulness to overcome addiction problems. I’ll share the chapters on here as I write them. Here is part seven in the series – you will find links to earlier posts at the end of this one.
Recovery Means Finding Your Path
Fear of death, guilt over my bad behavior, and the regret over lost opportunities were never good enough reasons to get me to quit alcohol permanently.
Why would I fear dying when there were already so many days when I wished I was dead? Why would I care about lost opportunities when ‘normal’ living seemed utterly pointless to me? How could guilt be a good reason to quit when being sober only meant facing all the mess I’d created?
All of my attempts at quitting alcohol were doomed to failure until there was a compelling enough reason to choose this path. Alcohol was my coping medicine, so I was never going to let go of it easily. I needed a purpose for being sober. Change just wasn’t going to be possible so long as recovery appeared like any type of sacrifice.
I underwent my final detox from alcohol at Thamkrabok in 2006. On my first day at this Thai temple, one of the monks (Phra Hans) explained his theory of addiction to me. He believed people turned to alcohol or drugs because their life lacked a sense of purpose – they have somehow lost their way, and this is their only way of coping.
How We Lose Ourselves to Fit In
Gabor Mate provides an interesting theory as to why so many of us lose our sense of purpose at a young age. He suggests we humans have a deep yearning to be authentic, but this need is often suppressed as we attempt to fit in with our family, our friends, and our society. In other words, we sacrifice our true identity in exchange for human attachment.
I came to the realization at age seven that there was something wrong with me. Unlike my older cousins, I didn’t care about football, and I asked question that other people found wired and annoying (e.g. how do we know we are not dreaming? Why can’t I travel back to yesterday?).
I needed to fit in, so I tried to suppress those parts of my personality that bugged other people. I made more of an effort to act like a ‘normal’ seven year old. Later on, when things would go wrong for me (like my parents noisy breakup), I made further changes to my behavior and persona in an attempt to protect myself.
I tried so hard to become a person other people would like, yet it just meant I felt more like an outsider than ever. It’s hardly surprising that by my teenage years, I began to experience a profound lack of purpose from living a stranger’s life. After years of attempting to fit in, I no longer even remembered my authentic self. I needed alcohol so living this false life felt bearable.
“It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behaviour.”
Gabor Mate In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
What did you sacrifice to be accepted?
Is it possible this whole mess began when you started to sacrifice your authenticity in exchange for some approval? What if the reason your life is difficult is because it is not the life you were meant to lead? Could the key to escaping the nightmare of addiction be awakening to who you really are?
In the beginning, alcohol numbed the pain of not having a purpose. I didn’t believe in an afterlife, yet I saw life as being similar to being stuck in a departure lounge where I needed to get drunk to pass the time. If I gave up alcohol, it would just mean a longer, more boring, and less comfortable wait until someone got around to turning off the lights.
Recovery is a Return to Authenticity
The monk at Thamkrabok promised that if I gave up alcohol, I could once again find my purpose in life. I would do this by becoming mindful and seeing through all of the bullshit that hid my authenticity. This work could never be done while I was still drinking because intoxicants reduced my awareness and prevented such insights.
Check back soon for the next post in this series – How to Mindfully Find Your Life Purpose – Part 2
Part 1 – The Mindful Path from Addiction to Serenity
Part 2 – Why Mindfulness Makes the Perfect Replacement for Addiction
Part 3 – How Mindfulness Works
Part 4 – Mindfulness versus Addiction Cravings
Part 5 – Mindfulness for the Ups and Downs in Recovery – Part 1
Part 6 – Mindfulness for the Ups and Downs in Recovery – Part 2