Addicted? Who, me?
Those of us with addictions often turn to the Dharma looking for a cure; perhaps a deepening of a spiritual awakening has already intervened. Even if we have no idea that we are addicted, or that there is any reason to stop, something about our life is not working. But are we prepared for feeling worse before we feel better? Amy Barton-Cayton, psychologist and Buddhist practitioner, tells.
“When I began practicing the Dharma, I already had over a dozen years of recovery having used twelve-step models and psychology to confront my obvious (once I knew what to look for) and not so obvious addictions/delusions. I also had as much time counseling people with a variety of psychic wounds, and especially those struggling with the abuse/shame/addiction cycle. But even though my outside looked intact, inside I still felt broken and empty. In fact, the spiritual seeking I had done before and after the twelve-step programs had reached a plateau and become intellectual rather than felt. My experience was that the world and my life were getting worse rather than better.
“Then I went to a teaching on karma and really felt worse as I saw the real why of the karmic causes behind the decline of my life and the increase of the deadening inside. I didn’t feel better until we reached the part of the teaching on purification and accumulating merit, and then I saw life and I weren’t so hopeless after all. I was also able to see the way my addictions (especially to people) and recovery programs had helped prepare me for the profound path of Mahayana Buddhism. From diminishing my ego (not enough, yet) and recognizing the self-cherishing of a mind that thinks it is the worst, I was prepared to stay through the ‘got worse’ part until getting to the ‘it’s better’ part. It has taken Vajrasattva practice and retreat, as well as putting into daily practice the life dictated by my cushion practice, that has helped me to really ‘be my own therapist’ and to follow (albeit imperfectly) a path of true transformation provided by my kindest root guru, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. This is the path that has gotten my insides and outsides matched up on the ‘better most of the time’ path …”addiction