Buddhist thoughts on addiction


Drug addiction does not begin with drugs. Insofar as we know, society does not have a problem with drugs—we have problems that lead to drugs. Problems can begin to manifest in loss of control and anxiety long before addiction to substances begin.

Problems begin at birth, in not being able to speak about what we want—we cry.

Problems begin in kindergarten, in not being like the other kids who point out our differences—we cry.

Problems begin in middle school, when we realize we can’t memorize the multiplication table fast enough or our anatomy changes early and it’s scary—we cry.

In the Buddha’s first noble truth, there is suffering in life because of the impermanence of things.

But at some point we stop crying about what hurts us and we try to ignore our problems—we bottle them up inside and our mouths become the cork to keep the pain, fear and anxiety from spilling out all over ourselves and our friends and families.

Because at some point in our lives, somebody we know and trust is going to tell us to suck it up, don’t worry about it—grow up!

And for perhaps the first time we will begin to doubt ourselves when the people we care about tell us that what we are feeling is wrong.

We need to stop invalidating the feelings of others. Pain is real and to some extent, as far as I can figure out, necessary for survival. There is nothing or no one today that has not experienced pain—pain is the cornerstone of democracy, it is you, me, he, she, they—or its affects are felt thereof. We need to acknowledge pain and let it pass through us without holding onto it, without bottling it up inside.

Allowing people to be who they are without shaming them is a part of growth and change. True leaders do not criticize but show the people the way, leading by example to ease the suffering.

Addiction to substances begins when we wake up and realize we can’t trust our leaders because they criticize and don’t show the way through example—we cry, but by now we do so quietly, behind closed doors, or subconsciously on the low-low, and allow the people we see on a day-to-day basis to believe our smiles while inside we feel miserable.

We feel insignificant when our lives are invalidated by critical people but we know the worst critic is our own self.

So we must awaken to realize we cannot trust our self because we criticize our self and we do not know how to show our self the way by good example.

We have to learn to love ourselves enough to have real conversations—to go to the level where we can develop trust, change and voice.

Addiction issues to substances begin when we lose control but also when we attempt to grasp and control. We cannot see how our constant attempt to grasp, to control, affects us—so we cry.

The second noble truth of the Buddha is that suffering is due to grasping and clinging.

And to fill the sad void within ourselves—because we cannot grasp, cannot control—we replace love with substance. Something we can see, something we can set on a table. Something tangible. Substance addiction is tangible. So is love but if we aren’t looking past the surface, we may never see it. We have to let go of looking at the surface.

The Buddha’s third noble truth is that it is possible for us to end suffering when we give up on grasping and trying to control, by putting an end to the continuance of action that creates suffering.

Beyond grasping and controlling there is love. It’s beneath the table of substance. It’s in the way we do things, the way we speak and use our voice, love is our action.

The foundation of addiction is love—or the lack thereof—and not only are we losing an entire generation to addiction right now, but we are living with an entire generation who does not know what love is, whose action is not love.

The Buddha’s fourth noble truth is that in living in the present moment and being mindful of who we truly are, all are liberated from their suffering.

Love begins at birth when we are born—we grow.

Love begins in kindergarten when we realize we are capable of doing things that others can’t do and we can learn to do what seems impossible to us by learning from others—we grow.

Love begins in middle school when we learn to face challenges on our own for the first time and keep trying despite failure—we grow.

And at some point, we grow up inside.

But at some point, we bottle up our sadness and we continue to grow with this bulge of sadness within us, like a tree who grows around a fence post it cannot move—we adapt. We change ourselves, we become mentally, physically and emotionally—we grow.

Then at some point we stop loving. Addiction to a drug does not begin with the drug. It begins when we stop loving.

Things get better with time. All those tears, all that pain bottled up inside—when you finally realize it for what it is and remove the cork that’s kept it inside—will one day surprise you, when suddenly you realize it’s like opening a bottle of champagne, a bottle of you and you will celebrate life.


By Ashley Bunton

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Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton

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