Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Addiction and centers

Bee-mimic fly, Sparkill, NY
 These flies are adapted to look almost exactly like bees.

Reader question: Is addiction run by instinctive center?

Response: Is addiction “run” by any Center at all? That is to say, how could we understand it relative to the work of centers?

This is a complex question. I would say that it isn't run by centers, but rather substances. In nearly every case, addiction is producing a chemical reward for the addict. The chemical reward can be external — in the form of nicotine, cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and so on — or it can be internal, that is, it can produce a set of endorphins or higher hydrogens from the actions of eating, gambling, obsession on a particular subject, and so on. It is, in other words, a misalignment and disruption of the chemical systems in the body.

Now, centers use these chemicals, but the chemicals themselves don't "run" anything. They are mechanical elements in what ought to be a conscious system—but isn't. The machine is broken; and once the chemistry runs amok, putting it right can be a Sisyphean task.

Once the centers are under these powerful chemical influences, they lose what little influence they have over behavior; and in this case, a powerful intention needs to develop to counteract the problem. That intention must be so powerful that it becomes a man's or a woman's inner God. This is why it is said that addicts generally have to hit bottom in order to recover; only by hitting bottom and seeing that they are at the bottom can they perceive the idea that their God must be a God of recovery. 

And indeed, as we see, AA — the most experienced and probably the best organization in dealing with addicts, so effective that almost all other addiction organizations have patterned themselves on it — understood this quite precisely and built it in to the foundational premise of their work. As Peggy Flinsch told me (she didn't need to, as I knew it anyway from personal experience) this kind of work is real work, not sitting around in parlors and meeting rooms with one's hands folded primly in one's lap while one philosophizes. It is quite literally working life, and it is a struggle against the most monstrous parts of oneself — a kind of work that most people (that is, everyone who isn't an addict) cannot and will never understand. That is because spiritual development is rarely, if ever, seen as a life-and-death struggle, even though that is exactly what it is.

So addiction isn't run by the centers. The centers get involved to feed it, but they aren't in charge of it. The best way of explaining it would be that they are enslaved by it. It is like a kind of infection by bacteria that produce a craving for the foods that help them grow, a problem that is all too familiar and even rather well-known in the biological world.

Most addiction turns on a simple and subtle fact: it is always built on a real need. For example, nicotine fills a specific shock in the air octave that always ought to be present, which enhances sensation. If our bodies were working normally, they would produce this substance all the time; they don't, so when they encounter tobacco, the body craves it — and does whatever it needs to to get it. 

In starving creatures, hungers are always exaggerated — and this is exactly how addiction works with us. By the time one realizes that one has been gripped by an excess, one is no longer in charge: the forces being fed by the situation are powerful and very difficult to interfere with. All of my own addiction issues were like this. There wasn't an alternative in me; so I couldn't say that one of my centers or parts, for example, my emotions, was involved in the addiction. 

All of my parts were involved in it. 

My intelligence, my emotions, my body, instinct, and sexuality all revolved around it, so every center was enslaved. In one way or another, it always works like this — it is an escalation of slavery beyond the ordinary slavery of life into a slavery of a material nature. Because it lives at the lowest note, so to speak, of the octave — the material note, the note re—it is both difficult to access and difficult to root out. Most of the remaining work the machine does is based around it, so in order to tear it out, one has to tear up everything at the roots

— which is exactly what addiction recovery is like.


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