Busted Brain Journal: Desire

I’m halfway through One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps by Kevin Griffin. I was a little suspect at first because he quoted Noah Levine a couple times at the start of the book and Noah Levine has had a lot of bad press lately. I don’t judge what he is accused of doing because, well first off, Buddhism teaches us not to be judgmental about anything and I have only been to one Refuge Recovery meeting, a Buddhism-based 12-Step group for alcoholics and addicts of every flag. Second, I know next to nothing about the circumstances and I don’t have the time or energy to explore it.

In One Breath at a Time, Griffin wrote two things that aren’t related at first glance but after pondering them for a couple days, I realized they are intrinsically linked.

“You are responsible for your own karma.”

“Learning to live with desire may be the single most important act of an alcoholic.”

To explain, in the Buddhist interpretation of the word, karma doesn’t mean if you do something bad, eventually, something bad will happen to you. It’s more complex than that. If you are a bad person you will experience this life through the lens of negativity, anger and despair but negativity, anger and despair are what’s in your mind and heart. If you are bad person, you can expect the world to react to you as it always does to bad mojo. People will not want to help you move because you are a jerk. Your mechanic will try to upsell you on things your car doesn’t need but he knows he can sucker you into and your difficult to deal with. A woman will not want that second date because she realized on the first date that you don’t care about entering her mind and experiencing her thoughts, that you are only interested in entering her vagina. Good karma means you are a kind person. Good karma means that on my more morning run this morning, I picked up a piece of trash in front of a woman and her daughter and now maybe, they will pick up pieces of trash and the running path will look less ghetto. Good karma means that I try my best to serve the needs of the brain and spinal cord injury survivors I work with and do so with a smile. Hell, good karma just means smiling more.

Which brings us to desire.

“Learning to live with desire may be the single most important act of an alcoholic.”

Griffin really put the hammer to the nail with that one.

Addicts and alcoholics are creatures of habit and creatures of habit seek out what brings them pleasure. In other words, they are driven, first and foremost, by desire. Addicts and alcoholics are always, and I mean always, seeking the first high or that first drunk or that first meal. They don’t want the meal or drink or meal, though. They want the surge of dopamine their brains dumped on them and they will spend years, decades even, try to recapture that euphoria. That’s where the term “high tolerance” comes from. People with a high tolerance have developed it because they always want more. If there was a pill that gave a person that perfect balance of cocaine/booze/pot/heroin/food they so desperate desire, they’d take it every day, all day. And because they are an addict or alcoholic, they don’t care who or what they must manipulate, cheat, steal from, shag, lie or otherwise betray, to get it.

It doesn’t matter to us. When you are an active alcoholic or addict, to any drug, drunk, high or person, you are always chasing the high you will never achieve again.

Desire. The Buddha said (and I’m paraphrasing here) desire and attachment to that desire is one of the huge boulders than stands in the way between you and enlightenment.

Drop the desire, drop your attachment to getting what you most crave, and you’re one step closer to peace. To enlightenment.

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