One thing you don’t know about me is that when I was little I was pretty much a nerd. If you had seen me at 7-years old, you’d meet a shy, timid, little guy who always carried with him either a Popular Mechanics magazine, or book on science, nature, gardening, construction, or theater.
Since very early, I wanted to understand how the world worked, especially why people behave the way they do. This is what inspired me to become an actor, then a minister, and in the past few years, a coach.
And one area of human behavior that’s always interested me the most is the area of addictions. The reason this is so close to my heart is because I grew up in a home deeply affected by addictions. This included my brother Juan’s addiction to crack, which eventually cost him his life, and my father’s workaholic lifestyle, which eventually resulted in a deadly stroke shortly after my 21st birthday.
In today’s article, I’d like to share with you some ideas about what an addiction is, and most importantly, what is the root cause of our addictions. I will also tell you about the role that the human heart plays in healing addictions.
Please note that what I will share with you comes not as an expert in human behavior, but being an expert at understanding, managing and healing my own addictions, and helping many of my clients work through theirs.
The Root Cause of Our Addictions
Despite modern advances in science, it wasn’t until Alcoholics Anonymous came along, that for the first time people were cured of addictions. Prior to this, the recovery rate for alcoholism was zero.
Dr. Carl Jung, who played a key role in the founding of the initial AA fellowship, was once quoted as saying that science had no answer for the problem of addictions, and that something above and beyond ordinary human experience had to be sought, and that the answer would be found in spirituality.
If Jung, and thousands of recovered alcoholics are correct, then doesn’t it make sense that if the answer to addiction is a spiritual one, that the root cause of our addictions must also be spiritual?
The Key to Understanding our Addictions
In his letter to Bill Wilson, Carl Jung says, “I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition. An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil.”
After I read this, I wondered, what is this ‘power of evil’ that Jung is referring to?
When I examined my own addictions, especially in co-dependent relationships and in my struggle with pornography, what I realized is that what Carl Jung referred to as the ‘power of evil’, was the idea or belief that there is “another” source of power.
This is key in understanding what an addiction is.
You see, every major spiritual tradition tells us that ultimately, there’s only one power, and that is the power of God (or Love, Spirit, Source, or whatever you’d like to call It.) And, every great Avatar that’s walked this earth has taught us that it within us, in our hearts, in our souls, where the Source of this power resides.
In addiction I give away the source of my happiness and meaning of life by projecting it onto the outer world and giving that power to the drug, sex, food, or alcohol, to something or someone outside of myself.
As it’s now been well researched, the drug, in and of itself has no power at all to create the higher experiences of joy, love and happiness. Instead, what it does is block my lower level emotions and gives me access to higher emotional states that are already part of my real Self. In other words, the drug or substance acts as a key that opens the door. But the room where all the joy, love and happiness is, was already inside of us.
The addiction then begins to take root when I continue to use the key to keep coming back to the room, no matter what the cost will be and often resulting in loss of relationships, credit cards, status, physical health, and functioning of the body organs.
So, as best defined in the book Healing and Recovery by Dr. David Hawkins, “An addiction is the giving away of our power to that which is outside of us, thus bringing about lower energy levels of fear, shame, anger, guilt, desire, and wantingness.”
Treating, Curing and Healing an Addiction
In my experience, there’s a difference between treating, curing, and healing an addiction.
In treating an addiction, you begin to take the necessary steps towards healing. Perhaps you join a 28-Day program, start attending AA, or join an ACIM study group.
The verb ‘to cure’, from the Latin curare means to ‘take care of’. So, in curing your addiction what you’re doing is taking responsibility for the effects of your addiction. At this stage, you may stop drinking alcohol, watching porn, taking drugs, etc. What normally happens at this stage is that because you have not dealt with the root cause of your addiction, you’ll either have a relapse or you’ll substitute your current addiction for another.
I experienced this when I went from living a sexually promiscuous lifestyle and being addicted to sex, to becoming addicted to porn. I’ve also seen this in a friend who was a heavy drug user, and after going through recovery he is now a heavy porn watcher. Or in another friend who used to drink heavily, who now turned to highly idealistic raw food lifestyle he’s fanatically preaching to others.
What’s at play is basically the substitution of one addiction, for a more socially acceptable, less damaging one. This is definitely a step towards healing. But from where I see it, the root cause of the addiction has not been dealt with.
Healing the Root Cause of our Addictions
The word ‘healing,’ from Germanic origin means ‘to make whole’. So, healing from addiction is, in essence, a process of becoming whole once again, by re-owning the source of happiness in our life. To heal is to remember that happiness, and joy is not something you get, but something you already are, when you start embracing your own spiritual nature.
Beginning the process of healing is much simpler that most of us imagine. The process begins when we start to let go of a number of things. The first thing we must let go of is any unconscious guilt. We have to discover what it is we feel guilty about, and so we begin a self-inquiry process.
At first this will bring out the fear that if, “if I open Pandora’s box, I’m not going to be able to handle all the negativity and guilt that I have depressed, repressed, and pushed out of awareness all my life. Therefore, it is obvious that we need a tool, some kind of practical way to process these things as they come up. This is where your heart’s intelligence comes into play.
Your heart intelligence is a higher level of awareness or understanding that arises when your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual intelligences, are entrained or aligned thanks to the unifying power of our hearts.
To begin with, we need a context that your conscious mind can understand, a way to hold all that comes up during this self-inquiry process. This is the realization of what has been the basis of all our behaviors throughout our life: that everything you’ve ever done in your life was out of the naïve, and innocent perception or thought that it would make you happy.
This is the one ‘original sin’ we all have committed over and over through out our lives. It’s important to know that what we did at the time was because we thought it was necessary for our survival, and that our survival was necessary for our happiness. Within this context, the guilt can automatically be transmuted by a higher understanding that results in forgiveness for ourselves and others.
Then, as the pain, guilt, and other negative emotions begin to come up in our awareness, you need a tool that will help you stop resisting your emotions. Breathing deeply, and rhythmically into your heart, will help you energize and open your heart so that these emotions can be deeply allowed, felt, owned, and transmuted by the unconditional love at the core of your heart. This produces physiological changes, including the release of endorphins and oxytocin and the enabling of additional neurological resources to enable the healing to take place.
What you’re doing is in essence, learning to connect to and access your own inner source of Love, Joy and Happiness, and use it to heal, or make whole again, that which was divided, that which appeared to be broken or unloved within you.
To truly heal, the energy of the heart is the key. As Dr. David Hawkins describes it, “we found that healing occurs at an energy field that calibrates at about 540, which is the energy field of the heart. This is the level of those organizations that are famous for their capacity to heal such as AA, ACIM, faith-based recovery groups, and others.”
Being Grateful for your Addictions
When I look back at my own struggles with addictions, I’m really grateful that I experienced them. This may sound a bit mad, how can I be grateful? Well, they forced me to grow, wake up, and become more real and conscious. As a result, I’m a better human being than I used to be.
Sure, at first I resented and resisted them, projected them onto others, but when I started to see my addictions as my teachers, I started to embrace the healing process and finally started experiencing a sense of serenity, or peace of mind, that only comes when my heart is open to the powerful energy of the Love that’s already within me.
Such is the power of connecting to your heart!
Photo by Kathleen Vanacker