It is becoming clearer to many that addiction is a disease or illness, not a choice we consciously make that we should be punished for. God knows we punish ourselves and suffer enough in this life without “society” and law makers punishing us further simply because we are not well. A very long time ago I read that all disease could be seen as dis-ease i.e. not being at ease or at peace with ourselves. So is addiction to anything actually really just dis-ease? The roots of which lay in learned behaviour?
Addiction is, from my perception, certainly a symptom of a far deeper cause than that which lays on the behavioural, psychological and physiological surface. Western medicine primarily always looks at symptoms and what can be seen, attempts to treat that solely usually with chemicals or surgery and rarely does it look for causes that to the naked or microscopic eye are unseen. Yet when we find and heal cause within ourselves of physical symptoms, dis-ease, or behaviour we do not find acceptable, would like to not be experiencing or are subconsciously participating in, the symptoms just simply no longer exist. From birth we are taught to seek outside ourselves for what we need to make us feel good – love, encouragement, nurturing, guidance, cuddles, belief in ourselves etc.
As the child of an alcoholic step-father and cigarette smoking mother their addictions became learned behaviour for me so it stood to reason that as they were the two main ways in which I was shown adults behaved and coped with whatever they were trying to cope with, that I would naturally follow in their footsteps. As a teenager from about 14 onwards after a rape situation occurred I began to consume cigarettes. Not long after when I left home due to the situation I was living in there, I began to consume alcohol and drugs to the point I damn near killed myself. Surviving on little food, drugs, cigarettes, coffee and alcohol was not at all healthy, nor was it a good mix, reducing my weight so dramatically after six months, the only clothes I could wear were size 16 children’s clothing and I was so unwell that not even my own mother recognised me.
I didn’t feel that anyone cared about me, so why should I care? What did it really matter whether I lived or not? All I wanted to do was have a good time and feel better. I did not want, at all, to feel the pain and sadness of not feeling loved, cared for, cared about or understood, of being hit, yelled at, controlled, nor the fear of the alcoholic induced, often physical, arguments and abuse I had been living with since about 6 years of age on a regular and totally unpredictable basis.
To say I, like so many people in this world, grew up in a dysfunctional environment is putting it mildly. My consumption of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes lessened for a short while after another whose love for me quite literally saved my life by showing me they were the only person in my life who did care which gave me the gift of hope and I once again started ingesting regular meals. I then slid back into copious ingesting of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes whenever I got the opportunity to do so after I was involved in a fatal car accident at 17 in which the young man I had been living with for six months was killed. Back in those days there was no counselling available like there is now.
There was also no funeral and no grave for this young man who lost his life to a drunk driver at only 23 years of age. I was seriously injured and it took a good six months for me to learn how to walk again. The only words I heard at the time from my step-father were “Write down how much pain you are in each day so we can get more money.” The only people in my family who even said they were sorry I had been injured and this young man had died was my mother and one of my step-brothers. For everyone else in my immediate circle it seemed to me to be a case of suck it up buttercup and just get on with your life.
Drugs, cigarettes and alcohol became my friends, they numbed me from feeling all that was going on inside me. They distracted me and they became my “pain killers”, my “feel good medicine” of choice because I simply had no knowledge of other coping skills I could utilise. The catch being, as all addicts know, is that once we start down this path our brains and our bodies tell us we need more and more “feel good medicine” and “pain killers” to maintain that feel good state of being, to actually cope and survive, to not feel all that pain, anger, grief and sadness living within us that is so very real and raw and it is a very slippery slope we travel until eventually we either kill our bodies or our lives fall apart so badly we hit rock bottom.
We have two choices if we actually do survive and hit rock bottom, continue as we have done and physically die, or trawl the depths and start to bounce back from what feels like the bottomless black hole we have been sucked into that also very much feels like a literal hell or nightmare there often seems to be no escaping from. Thankfully I was one who chose to trawl the depths and bounce back when in 1992 at 28 I was again faced with my own impending physical death.
What I came to understand as I started to walk the path of the Shaman which was a path that at the time I had no clue I was even walking, was that I, like so many other folk in this world, was actually experiencing what in Shamanic terms is known as Soul loss.
Soul loss can best be described as us becoming like the walking dead, merely surviving, not living and thriving as was intended, simply because who we truly are is not fully present in our bodies. Parts of us that have not wanted to feel grief, trauma, fear, shock, loss or pain have fragmented off into the subconscious abyss and in very simple terms it is like we are not fully at home in our bodies when we are ingesting substances or distracting ourselves with addictive behaviours or by external means in order to make us feel better or not feel our pain. It is literally like we have huge energetic holes in us, great gaping wounds that we defend, need others to fill, or don’t want to feel the pain of because they are so raw and we are so very vulnerable.
These energetic holes we have, we attempt to fill with external substances or means which consequentially then just make our bodies and our minds very sick indeed. We behave in ways not previously known to us once we start on the road of addiction and it is also not behaviour that those close to us know from us as being “normal”. How many times does the drunken or high person just not seem to be themselves? It is like we become totally different people, often aggressive, angry, totally uncaring and hurtful towards others simply because we are hurting and we just don’t give a damn. We become harmful to ourselves and others and we often have absolutely no memory the next day of our behaviour.
Our behaviour however is NOT us, it is a symptom or cover up if you like hiding whatever we have experienced or been conditioned to believe. How many times does the drunken or drugged person lash out in Jekyll and Hyde fashion? You never really know what to expect but you just know that who you know that person to be is no longer present in the body in front of you. This is because we are definitely NOT ourselves at all. Who we truly are is no longer contained in our bodies. What primarily happens with ingesting alcohol and drugs is that when who we truly are checks out of our bodies it’s like an empty house and other “darker” energies with perhaps not so good intentions take over. This may seem like a very strange and far-fetched concept to many but perhaps for those who have lived it, seen it in others, you will know precisely what I am referring to.
So… how do we heal these gaps and holes we try to fill by external means? How do we stop this happening? How do we change our behaviour? How do we become fully present in our bodies and become whole, well and healthy again? There is only one way I personally found and that was firstly to make a decision I didn’t want to be that way any longer given that I was so out of control at times, often very re-active, aggressive, defensive, angry, miserable, depressed and more times than not, suicidal.
I did not do the whole re-hab thing, nor did I do AA or have any other types of support in place similar to those, I just said enough when I was faced with my own impending physical death, for the fear of death at 28, which I no longer carry, put the wind up me, literally, and I prayed like I had never prayed in my life prior to be free of it all and to feel nothing but peace, love and acceptance within me.
What ensued was 10 solid years of feeling ever so much grief, trauma, pain, confusion and sadness as I firstly turned to alternative therapies to help heal my body because all the doctors I saw over a six month period all said there was nothing wrong with me – here have some Prozac, meanwhile my body was shutting down more and more each day. I uncovered and discovered all my physical symptoms were due to constant abuse and unfelt emotions, which I also discovered did not just come from this lifetime but past lifetime experiences as well, all of which had resulted in symptoms associated with having a blocked small intestine and kidneys that were barely working.
I trusted all I was drawn to and underwent attunement to Reiki/Seichim, learnt how to work with my dreams, attended many courses, began walking, meditations and yoga, ate better, studied for two Diplomas in Counselling, one Holistic, one standard that also included some alternative modalities. I read all I could get my hands on, discovering along the way many fragmented parts of me, along with many gifts and skills I never even knew existed within me. Gradually my addictions abated but always there is work to be done.
Physical pains were always linked in with emotional pain, the true cause and source of which came to me either via dreaming or during meditations (which is really the same state of consciousness) and it truly was only in the fully feeling of ALL the emotions that bubbled up from within me and by integrating/re-membering i.e. bringing into being, the fragmented parts of me I re-connected with in The Dreaming, that eventually there was peace. I came to see that time did not exist as we know it to exist, that past definitely has an impact on the present until we heal it by fully feeling it and releasing it (shutting the door on it and just saying past is past, forget it and get on with your life, simply does not work) and that the emotions which came with memories or in the dreaming, meditations etc., were just energy passing through.
Rather than numbing those emotions, once felt and released, with each and every process of integration and release, a strength, love, acceptance, understanding and peace began filling me up like nothing I had ever experienced before. There is an old saying you may have heard of – The cup must be emptied before it can be filled. This was certainly the case for me and I began to live by the motto which Jamie Sams brought into the world “To feel is to heal.”
Emotional pain is the LAST thing any of us want to feel – we do everything we can to avoid it yet it is only in feeling it, that we truly do heal it and are free of it. Was it easy work? Definitely not. Was it lonely work? It certainly was. Was it worth it? Without a doubt. For I learnt the hard way that no matter what I chose to ingest that was external to me, no matter how much I sought love and acceptance externally from others, no matter what I did to feel “better”, and no matter how “strong” I had been to just carry on Columbus and survive it all, the real strength came when I turned fully inward to find, eventually, all I needed was already inside me for me the love, peace, wisdom, knowing and acceptance I was seeking only came when I paid attention to what my dreams and daily life were showing me and what my memories and emotions were telling me about myself and about life. As I uncovered who I truly was I also discovered there would never be a need again for me to re-cover my Self.
To free ourselves from addiction is a huge undertaking as there is so much in this world we can become attached and addicted to. It is however achievable if we have the courage, faith and trust needed to turn inward, face our fears, grief, pain and trauma, feel it all fully and be free of it once and for all. Many of us are so busy telling our stories, which whilst important, does not enable us to actually feel the emotion contained in those stories for our stories come from our heads.
No-one can do this work for us, it is something we all must do for ourselves for it is only in doing for Self that we become more Self-aware, more Self responsible, heal and become more Self empowered. It is not at all selfish to do this work for it brings about self-centeredness, balance, peace, love, acceptance, respect for all life and an awareness of our wholeness with all life, like nothing else we have ever experienced can, all of which is then reflected back to us in the world.
The choice whether we do this work or not is entirely ours to make. We can keep going as we have been or we can quite literally turn our whole world and reality around by coming from the inside out and in doing so move out of the nightmare of externalism, blame, victim mentality, attack, defence and addiction.
Much love and peace to all.
Copyright. C. O’Connor.
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