Understanding the problem behind addiction as a mental obsession
Addiction is actually the result of a confluence of causes operating on multiple levels. There are so many layers to the problem, with the common presentation of chemical dependence representing only five percent of cases. The other ninety-five percent are buried deep in our culture, our worldview, our lives and our subconscious. Most people only see the external effects of dependent behavior, and think that’s all there is to it. I’ve often heard people say, “If only that person would just stop drinking, eating, gambling, procrastinating, being an emotional wreck (or whatever the case may be), then maybe they’d get their life together.”
If only it were that simple.
But because it’s not that simple, and addiction is so misunderstood there are millions of people who falsely believe that they are bad, horrible and hopeless, rather than understanding that they are dealing with a very insidious and complicated disease—that’s really not their fault.
To know what we’re dealing with, let’s get clear about what dependence actually is.
First of all, it is an effect – not the cause. In and of itself, dependence is nothing and means nothing, without some very deep contributing factors feeding it and giving it power. We experience the effects of dependence when we are attached, in bondage—or as described in the French word “attaché” meaning “nailed to” a thought pattern, belief system or way of being that is out of alignment with our deepest desires.
That might show up as being enslaved to a particular substance, like drugs, alcohol or food (compulsive overeating), sex, gambling, and the other more common effects of addiction.
But it also shows up for those of us who have never had a drug, alcohol or food issue—as being in bondage to beliefs related to low self-worth, procrastination, destructive relationships, resentment, financial lack, control and perfectionism. We can even be “addicted to” or “habitually dependent” on the core wounds of abandonment, rejection and betrayal that may have contributed to the problem in the first place!
But it even goes even deeper than that.
The underlying cause of the dependent/addictive ways of being stated above, is based in the deep rooted and false belief that we are separate and apart from our very souls – the part of us that is very clear about our wholeness and magnificence, independent of our experiences.
It is a disconnect from our identity.
When we have bought into a false sense of self and a deep subconscious belief that we’re not lovable, not enough and unworthy, etc., those structures are operating at a lower vibrational frequency than the frequency our true wholeness is vibrating on. This inadvertently causes a split in our awareness, and we become disconnected from our innate, higher vision of life—which some call Soul, God, Love, Universal Presence, or whatever one chooses to call it.
Our true identity is an eternal state of being. It never changes or alters through conditions and it never leaves us (because it is us). It is unchanging and constant, (meaning it is good, worthy, free, lovable, brilliant and more than enough all the time). But I believe that the static interference within our minds: the illusions about who we are, the stories we’ve created to compensate for painful experiences, etc. block us from making a strong connection between this innate higher self and our day-to-day experience—and the extraordinary benefits of having such a connection.
Why? Because who we really are on a soul level isn’t even aware of unworthiness, not-enoughness and all the stories we’ve made up about ourselves.
This disconnect is what Bill Wilson—who wrote the AA Big Book—called a “Spiritual Malady,” a belief that we are separate from our souls (God/Life/Universal Presence/Higher Power, etc.).
Disconnection From Our Souls Creates Mental Obsession
When we feel spiritually disconnected, we experience what is called mental obsession, which is a persistent unwanted idea or impulse that cannot be eliminated by reasoning. Mental obsession blocks out all other thought, and usually does not abate until it is acted upon (over and over again) or healed at a deep subconscious level.
Once it is acted upon, whether we’re talking about a substance, food, gambling, sex, a negative thought, or self-defeating ways of being (i.e., procrastination, resentment, unworthiness, feeling unsafe, unhealthy relationships, etc.), our brain actually releases a chemical that gives us a sense of instant gratification. Even if the gratification doesn’t feel all that good, it is what we’ve become accustomed to—which keeps us going back for more.
We can all relate to having fear and thinking fearful life-draining thoughts over and over again, even when we try with all our might not to be afraid. Scientists have measured more than 1,400 physical and chemical responses to fear—that are independent of our conscious control.
This is called Physical allergy or Phenomena of Craving
For those of us who have had a chemical dependence issue in the past, I can tell you that the interplay of craving and mental obsession does not leave you alone. When you’re free of one, you’re not free of the other and visa versa. You are physically compelled to ride this train to the end of the line where exhaustion, shame, humiliation, and God knows what else is waiting for you.
We often feel so depleted, ashamed and wiped out after one of those physical and/or emotional binges, that we might abstain from whatever our “drug-of-choice” or “emotion-of-choice” happens to be for a few days or weeks, but we ultimately return to that which has become our master, because the underlying cause has not been healed – and the cycle starts all over again.
This is what the first step in the 12 Steps of recovery is referring to where it states: “We admit we are powerless over alcohol, and our lives have become unmanageable.” When you are in the cycle as stated in the previous paragraph, you are indeed “powerless” to do anything about it on your own.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests in the Doctor’s Opinion section, that we must experience a psychic change, and goes on later in the book to describe it as a “spiritual experience,” in order to have a complete healing in this area.
Why? Because we cannot solve the problem at the level of the problem that created in the first place. There must be something of a higher nature that can do for us and through us, what we haven’t been able to do for ourselves.
You might be asking, “how can I have this psychic change or spiritual experience – does that mean I have to go to church?” Absolutely not. Everything that you need to release the static (the beliefs, the chatter, the fears and perceptions) that block you from connecting to your own sense of wholeness, is right where you are – within you.