We need normalcy. We need reliability. Above all, I think we crave a sense of certainty in our lives. That’s why, in my opinion, addiction has such an intense appeal. For so many people, the certainty of addiction provides a sense of stability or normalcy to our lives that can’t be matched. For better? Sometimes. But for the alcoholic, the meth head, the pothead, the coke head, it’s for the worse almost every single time. Yet we look at the substance and can say, with all certainty, at least that’s there and I can go to it whenever I need it as often as I need it.
Buddhism teaches the impermanence of all earthly things. Even our bodies. For as much as we want to point to them and say “I am addicted to nicotine” or “I always start the day with a bowl of oatmeal” or “ I can’t function without meditation”, we can and do always get along just fine if we don’t have these things. When it comes to addiction, we do well when we step back from our addictive life and ask ourselves how, exactly, is my immense allegiance to maintaining, even nurturing, my practice of drinking/smoking/snorting myself into oblivion really benefiting me. The short answer, of course, is it isn’t. A hell of a lotta the time, it’s cost us a job, a house, a wife, a child, and all manner of things that we held dear and sacrificed for the certainty of addiction. In truth, there is no “always,” no “can’t,” and no “I am” because there is no need for “always,” no necessity for necessity. Apart from water and breathing, our bodies will figure out a way to keep on truckin ’and the “you” that asserts “I am” is not the same “you” of yesterday or tomorrow. Ya’ dig?
Enter the certainty of recovery. To the newcomer, the guy who stares at the table for the entire hour of a meeting and wonders how the hell he ever got there (I know him, His name is Mitch and he does stand-up comedy now and he’s really good at it), a meeting is often the last place on earth they want to be and the place they most need to be. My friend Mitch once said that a meeting is the safest place you will be all day. I extrapolate on this concept and assert that it’s the most valuable place an alcoholic/addict will be all day. You just have to be open enough to put aside your preconceived notions about the followers of Koresh who all sit down together and whine about how hard their lives are. Now admittedly, there are groups of these people out there. Just as there are groups of folks that insist that you dress up for their meeting and call your sponsor every day and you only be addicted to booze (Spoiler alert: Addiction knows no such restrictions. You could have a problem with huffing embalming fluid and you’d probably get something out of a meeting).
The problem isn’t with booze or pot or coke per se. The problem is with our undeniable, primordial need for the certainty we get from knowing the mind-altering substance is there. At a meeting recently, a man stated that he spent the last couple decades in a haze. He was numb to the real world, the colors and people, the sunrises and the brilliance, the lusciously vibrant hue that is Now. He knew only the pain, the humiliation, and the vast empty void that is Him. As I said, recovery can and, for a vast number of people does, provide that same certainty we crave, only in the spark of hope that grows into the inferno of Love that we feel when we hug a brother, kiss a lover and comfort a child. The Love that we have for a sunset and a walk with our dog. The love that we enjoy with friends at a card game and riding a roller coaster. The Love in our Now.
This is why so many of the clichés in the Program are clichés. Because the Program and others like it have been around for some 80 years and things like “one day at a time,” “keep coming back,” and “It works if you work it” have stood the test of time and are as a reliable as Old Faithful. They work. They are true. And they provide us with the certainty we so crave.