Addiction and the Desperate Search for Meaning of Life
Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. Most are familiar with drug and alcohol addiction, probably because of the dire consequences associated with these. There are countless other addictions such as prescription drugs, work, food, sex, money, shopping and electronics. These addictions might be more subtle on the surface but can be equally damaging to individuals in the end. If it were possible to compile statistics on addiction as a whole in our society, the results would be staggering. We would see that virtually everyone could be classified as an addict of some sort.
The latest accepted belief in the mainstream addiction recovery community is that 1) addiction is a chronic and incurable disease, comparable to other such labeled diseases as asthma, diabetes and hypertension, and 2) that the treatment is a life-long symptom management program that includes some combination of pharmaceutical drugs, behavioral and cognitive therapies. There is a lot of research as to who gets the disease of addiction and why.
The point is that virtually everyone in our society addicted to something, and mainstream medicine is attempting to explain it all as an incurable disease. Is it possible that such a high percentage of our society has contracted an incurable disease in the last few decades? Probably not. In explaining the massive addiction problem in the US, is it possible that we are overlooking some aspect of human development or need? Could addiction simply be an indication or symptom that something in a person’s life is radically out of balance? Can addiction be the ultimate call to self-examination and action?
Human beings all have basic needs; food, water, shelter. Once these needs are met, it is natural for humans to satisfy deeper needs such as belonging, having a purpose, and being loved. Ultimately it is important to human development to move beyond mere survival and to realizing that life has meaning. This longing for deeper meaning is an inherent aspect of the human soul.
The soul is the essence or core nature of a person. The soul is the place of the sacred and honors the sacredness of all life. The soul expresses itself through creative expression such as music, art, poetry and ceremony. The soul acknowledges beauty all around us and longs for us to acknowledge the wonder of our life experience. It also longs for us to participate in that which honors, sustains and builds life.
Much of our ordinary daily fast paced reality is not soul oriented. We work in a world of fear, competition, downsizing and outsourcing. We live in a world of terror and conflict, waging and witnessing war after war. Our communities are gated and what once were neighbors that knew and supported each other are now strangers that happen to live next door. Children no longer explore, but have play-dates. Our food is processed and lacks vitality. Our lives are no longer based on anything natural and we have become separated from the living earth that sustains us. Our world is has become synthetic, which is completely contrary to the sacredness of the soul.
Because of the increasing pressure to do more with less, the average person is too busy working to think much about the sacredness of their lives. They don’t have time to focus on their true purpose in life or to pay attention to their hopes, dreams and longing in life. Most are able to get through each day without giving much thought to the sacred. Addicts on the other hand, are inherently highly sensitive people, feel this emptiness in their souls. They may not be able to articulate it but the world they live in is too painful because the very soul has been ripped out of it. Know it or not, addicts have a deep longing for meaning and connection. Their inner voice calls for them and they cannot block it out. They know they are here for a reason. Drugs numb the feeling of soul sickness and temporarily fill the need for connection. Chemicals soon fall short and the cycle of addiction sets in.
Addiction can be the biggest wakeup call a person can have in their lives. It can come to let them know that their soul is longing to be alive and express its true voice. People without addictions can rationalize their lives away, giving themselves excuses to stay stuck in dead end jobs or empty relationships. The addict does not have this luxury. They must face their addiction because until they do, it keeps coming for them.
The popular point of view is that an addiction is an affliction one must endure for their whole lives. With no attention paid to the soul an addiction is just another burden. In a mythic or Shamanic sense addiction can be the ultimate initiation onto a path of meaning and purpose in life. What is your addiction trying to tell you?