Rehabilitation of a Yogi: I Am an Addict

May 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

I am an addict. My patterns are too obvious for me to miss, especially after a year of regular meditation practice.  Every morning I sit and I’m confronted with guilt, fear, shame, hope and desire.

Here is my short (and by no means comprehensive) list of things I am or have been addicted to in my thirty-two years of life on this windy watery airy earthy planet.  Super Mario Brothers for Nintendo (the classic), Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, surfin the Net, the Keanu Reaves cinematic masterpiece Speed, reading copious romance novels, taking photos of myself, auditioning for shitty movies, complaining about stupid auditions.  Snacks… mmmm… snacks. Doritos, sushi, ice cream, egg-white omelets.  Smoking pot, drinking red wine, whiskey, Absolute Mandarin with cranberry juice. Crushing on the hot guy or girl, kissing the hottie, fantasizing about make-out sessions and scenarios, being angry with myself for wasting time fantasizing, writing elaborate kinky narratives, feeling lonely, feeling sorry for myself, checking my phone for text messages, Dunkin Donuts hazelnut coffee, cuddling, remorse.

I am an addict.  I see this now. It’s fucking painful, this realization.

What is the nature of my addiction?  I choose to do what at one time was pleasurable, then I hold on, form a habit and as it gradually turns from pleasant to harmful, I refuse to let go.  Then I repeat the pattern over and over again.

Many patterns of behavior are habitual – the way I talk, the way I smile, the way I apologize to avoid confrontation, the way I feel jealous of the success of others, the way I discount my own success, the way I crave attention.  I am an addict.

It’s so easy.  Just one little hit makes it all better.

And then another.  And another.  Just one more sip of poison.  I like the taste.  I like the pain.  I choose to torture myself.

When I was a kid we lived in the Soviet Union, in a city called Leningrad.  There were four families living together in a communal apartment (sharing one kitchen, one bath and one toilet). A lady whom I particularly liked was Tyotya Galiya (Тетя Галя) or Auntie Gail.  We were friends.

When I was four or five years old I loved to go visit her room.  Auntie Gail let me play with her jewelry and showed me the lacy veil she wore as a bride.  On her bed she had a thick quilt and I remember jumping onto her bed and asking, “Помучайте меня. Auntie Gail, torture me.”

She was usually too tired and pressed for time what with making dinner and cleaning in the evening.

“Please!  Please torture me,” I pleaded. “Ну пожалуйста помучайте меня.”

And sometimes, if I begged and whined long enough, she agreed to humor me.  Auntie Gail would wrap me up tight in the quilt like a little sausage.  Then she rolled me around on the bed and tickled me while I squirmed and giggled in confinement.  The feeling was delicious, exhilarating, sweet, trapped, safe and helpless all at once.

I want to feel like that again.

Torture me, please torture me, was the mantra I may as well have whispered into the ears of past lovers.  No reason to say it out loud since I expressed the sentiment eloquently with my actions.  But they never managed to do it right.

I’m the only one who really knows what torment I deserve for being such a very bad naughty girl.  Since Auntie Gail is no longer down the hall to smother me in the quilt I seek out new thrills and restrictions.  My habits are a kaleidoscope of ever-shifting patterns of indulgence and guilt.

There’s a quote from Pema Chodron which I often contemplate, “Whatever arises in the confused mind, or whatever arises is fresh, the essence of realization.”  The awareness of my habitual patterns of thought, my seeing the addiction clearly, well… that’s also fresh, the essence of realization.

What is addiction if not thought?  And specifically, the thought that without this one activity (booze, drugs, money, porn) I am not ok.  This not-enough thinking is so ingrained.  I’ll be happy once…  Once I have a boyfriend I’ll be happy.  Once I have the iPhone 4 I’ll be happy.  Once I’m a famous rapper, have lots of shiny cars, a mansion, expensive jewelry and the adoration of thousands of fans – then for sure I’ll be happy.

But these are all just thinking traps.  In anticipation of that first kiss with (the current) Prince Charming the kiss looms all important, magnificent and central.  But when and if it occurs, well, then I’ll want another, either another kiss or another Prince (or Princess).  And then I’ll want more, to cover all the bases, slide into home.  Yes!  But then what…  We’ll have to keep scoring to stay in the game.  Anxiety arises as time passes.

Of course it’s not just with romance.  And (I hope) it’s not just with me.  The mind creates a labyrinth and around every corner is that proverbial pot o’ gold, except it turns worthless just as soon as it’s found.  That’s the beauty and mystery of impermanence.  What seemed consuming and monstrously important a month ago is now nothing but a dim memory.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s actually the mechanism of rehabilitation from addiction, from bad habits, from unhelpful patterns of thought.  In every moment I die.  And into every moment I am born again.  There is choice in every encounter, possibility in every step.  The chance for awakening beckons with each breath.


rehab_logoRehabilitation of a Yogi is the story of my quest to find contentment with reality and embrace self care. I battle the demons of Should, Must and Have To as I search for the truth, the Dharma of my relationship with self.  Contact me with questions.

This article was originally published at The Interdependence Project Blog.

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