by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
The day that most of us will remember for the rest of our lives is the day that we finally surrendered and were willing to push our particular addictions aside.
I have had multiple addictions, and I remember each day in which I surrendered each one of them. I had tremendous conviction every time that I had to stop doing each of the things that I knew were destructive and harmful to me.
I was 14 years old when I had that conviction about smoking. I relapsed with cigarettes again when I was 19 years old, and I had the strong conviction to quit again when I was 20.
When I was 15 1/2 years old I had spent about a year of my life trying to break free of my involvement with marijuana and alcohol. But things progressed and I then found myself experimenting with cocaine and hallucinogens.
I woke up one morning in terrible despair. I was afraid. And my behavior was causing anxiety. Something higher than my lower self told me the only way that I was going to truly get sober was to get away from my two teenage drug-using buddies.
I was only 15 years old. I did something that I still think is almost unimaginable for the average young teenager to do: I asked my father to find a good drug rehabilitation facility for me and lock me up in there.
I never knew anyone who had ever gone to drug rehab and I hadn’t been in such a facility before. I didn’t even have a clue what I was signing up for. I just knew that I had to stop what I was doing, and something deep within me was driving me to take the necessary action.
Later in my life I had to surrender other addictive behaviors. I remember having moments of conviction about stopping them. I felt completely empowered during those times of conviction.
But I didn’t take the right actions because I was so unconscious. When we are in the throes of an addiction, we can’t expect ourselves to be conscious without effort. The great conscious opener for me in times of trouble was never meditation. Meditation would not have served that purpose for me during such times because I would not have been able to focus to the necessary degree.
The consciousness opener for me was prayer. There have been a dozen times since 1985 after getting sober that I would bottom out emotionally. I would find myself in the bathroom on my knees clasping my hands in desperation and begging the universe to please help me.
I am not susceptible to superstition in the least. But without being able to explain how it works, I believe that something empowering good things comes from prayer, even for an atheist. At the very least, there is comfort.
Beyond that, I believe that something happens when the consciousness joins forces with the other aspects of self in a moment of humbling prayer. Perhaps we activate the cells of our body to become aware of the problem, and perhaps each and every one of them then makes a contribution to the fight.
Who knows? We can spend a lifetime talking about it and never truly have the right answer. In fact it is a very noble cause to spend our lives thinking about the relationship between us and our higher power. We should contemplate how to communicate with it and how to tap into its force.
You first have to be willing to believe that it’s there. You don’t actually have to believe that it’s there—you just have to be willing to believe that it’s there. And then you try to move yourself closer to it, even with your doubts.
If you have a daily dialogue with the higher self, talk about your doubts and talk about your trepidation. You and your higher self can work it out.
Some people have belief and faith. People without faith in God or a higher power should not make fun of people that have it. The reverse is also true—people who have such faith should not make fun of those who don’t.
The question is, what has worked for you thus far? If you are happy and you feel that you have been living a clean, honorable, moral life, no one should judge you. There will always be people who will, though. That is the nature of human societies and that is also the nature of the human mind. And sometimes we are critical of others to avoid being critical of ourselves.
Don’t get caught up in all such drama. Pick a path that you find comfortable for yourself. If you are a religious person and you have deep faith, embrace it. If you are an atheist, then embrace your path of recovery independent of faith.
Neither the presence of deep faith nor the absence of faith altogether will in itself lift us from our existing hell. We are going to have to take a lot of actions other than just believing in something higher than ourselves.
We’re going to have to create new habits and routines. We’re going to have to get into some type of therapy. We’re going to have to do a lot of writing, a lot of reading, and a lot of research. And today’s technology can be tremendously helpful to us in the recovery process. We can listen to great talks and presentations through YouTube and other sources, and we can attend various meetings online.
We will need to create routines that will positively impact both our physical body and our emotional well-being. Atheists will need encouragement and so will people who have faith. I can speak from a similar viewpoint to that of the atheist. I don’t follow a path of organized religion, but I am super enthused about believing in the divine creator. After many years of contemplation, I’ve come to believe that one can be close to the supreme through any religion and any compassionate belief system.
People who have lived in extreme darkness have the capacity to step into great light. People who have suffered greatly and then turn their lives around have great stories to share with others who are in need. People who have lifted themselves out of the mud and brought themselves back to purity can influence those who are still afflicted. That’s beautiful, and it’s what makes life worth living.
A great saying from the 12-step tradition comes to mind: “This too shall pass.” I want to end with that in mind.
The most difficult feelings for us to encounter are the feelings of fear and abandonment that seem to suddenly come out of nowhere. We usually can’t identify their source, even when we’re grownups and nothing is happening in the present moment that explains them.
I’ve come to realize that my childhood was filled with fear and a sense of abandonment. I didn’t feel that anyone had really cared for me in a way that gave me strength and self-esteem. I spent very little time in my life wallowing in that sorrow. I was always very busy. And even though for many years of my life I recognized the idea that my childhood was corrupt, I couldn’t really get to the core of my feelings about it. I shut myself down deliberately through a life of complicated behaviors and distractions. By doing so I kept moving through my life very unconsciously.
I feel as if there was a part of me that was asleep and in a dream for many, many years of my life. I wasn’t truly happy. I never really felt relaxed and at peace. I have to say that I’m grateful for everything that I’ve done and things that I’ve accomplished. But I realize now that I only got to experience it to a small degree throughout the years of my life because I was shut down from my senses. It wasn’t until I had committed myself completely to meditation work over a long period of time that I noticed a drastic change.
It wasn’t that I needed to change my morals. I had essentially been a moral man for some time. It was that I simply couldn’t feel the world in the way that I know I’m capable of. As an example, at this stage of my life I get chills in my body when I hear beautiful music. I wasn’t able to feel that before. Music I love can make me teary-eyed. What I’m feeling is not sadness, but a sense of wonder.
I marvel at creation and I marvel at the miracle of life. I feel a sense of gratitude that I have my hearing and can be conscious of it, and I have my site and can be conscious of that as well. I don’t ever want to take those senses for granted. I want to express sincere praise for those things.
When I think about good fortune I don’t think about money and I don’t think about objects. And I don’t really think about accomplishments anymore. I think about good mental and physical health. I think about those two things as being the greatest gifts that any of us could experience. And I think about how much time we waste not realizing this until perhaps some of it goes away.
We spend so much time in our youth trying to accomplish and gain acceptance with money and things. Those things are important, but they are not of primary importance. If we do not have a sense of comfort in our body—just from being, just by being awake—then there is no amount of stuff that will truly bring that to us. We could have more and more and more, but we’d still feel disconnected and feel as if we had nothing but stuff.
The addict’s way of thinking is that more stuff and more accomplishments will compensate for the lack of true happiness and a relaxed way of being. When we’re caught in that web, we must break free of it.
So, what are you to do for yourself and others with that message in mind? Are you supposed to give up all your earthly possessions and join a monastery? I think not. Or maybe you are—it’s up to you. What we’re supposed to do are the things that are right for our own minds and our own lives.
One of those things that is right for everyone, though, is to sit on our mats and mediate every single day. We must cherish the chance to climb inside of our own minds and explore the universe.
Do not miss a day of meditation. Work at it. Practice it. Apply all your tenacity to getting it. There’s something in it for you, and don’t waste time not having it.
What about those who have fragile or failing health? Are those people never going to be able to reach a certain type of happiness? What if one is laying on their deathbed experiencing some kind of pain? Can that person find enlightenment and true happiness even then?
The answer to that question can only be answered by the individual who is experiencing that situation. Any human being confronted with their mortality and experiencing pain should not be judged for any type of negative emotions. Facing death and pain at the same time would break the strongest person’s will. So we can only have compassion when we either see someone in such a situation or even just contemplate what that would be like.
If you’re in such a situation, your compassion has to be directed to yourself. Perhaps one of the hardest things for any human being to do is to feel true compassion for self. And doing that has nothing to do with being self-serving. It doesn’t have anything to do with being selfish. It has nothing to do with praising oneself for accomplishments and stroking one’s ego. It’s a closed eye meditation during which we take deep breaths through the nose and thank all aspects of self for trying and all aspects of self for working.
For anyone who is sick and suffering, you must write the book on this chapter of your life. Perhaps you can share with others how you found the strength through such difficult times, through such adversity, to find a positive frame of mind and faith in the divine.
No one who has not experienced this type of difficulty is really qualified to talk about what they would do to climb out of it. I would hope for myself that if I spent my lifetime practicing experiencing the best in what’s happening around me that I would keep my spirits high. I know how much physical pain can alter our ability to find divinity in the simplicity of just laying down, feeling the pain, and crying.
This book was not designed to cover this specific topic. But I want anyone in pain to know that this present moment that you’re in my thoughts, prayers, and hopes.
I hope that you took some comfort in this writing and that you will be inspired to put a little extra work into liberating yourself from whatever you’re experiencing.
If you can find love and share love, you will experience some type of physical and emotional pleasure. You can share love with others without having people surrounding you. You can write poetry, you can be kind to others, you can write informational material, play and record music, or do one or more of a vast multitude of other things to express love.
The battle with addiction is as old as time. In our societies we continually find new ways to become addicted and to be distracted from our inner turmoil. Each one of us has a different set of addictions, some of us having more addictions than others.
It’s obvious that the vast majority of people that we have within our own circles struggle with addictions. Science supports the notion that in this day and age humanity is afflicted with distractions of one kind or another that could be defined as addictions.
It should be the desire of all of us to rid ourselves of addictions of all types. It can sometimes be a feasible short-term solution to replace negative addictions with positive addictions, but in the long run being free of all addictions is what all should strive for.
Without judging yourself too harshly, you should first aggressively attack your negative addictions. Then, as you progress in life, you can move from addictive and compulsive behavior to be closer to the light. Doing so will be an exciting adventure that will take time and effort.
Living a life free of addictive behavior should be done in community with others. We have to surround ourselves with good role models so that we can see what they’re doing to keep their own lives moving in a positive direction. It’s also necessary to avoid creating a community of people who are addicted to things and not striving to conquer those addictions, even if they are “positive” ones.
If we do not have a community of people who are either free of or striving to be free of substance abuse and behavioral addictions, we still have to work on ourselves every day. We must understand that the work will take time; we won’t wake up one day and be free of our addiction(s).
Having said that, there are exceptions to that rule. But such exceptions are very rare. A situation such as getting into a great relationship or surviving a brush with death might make it so that a person snaps out of their addictions and stays on a better path moving forward. The majority of people will not experience positive results so suddenly, though.
One thing that helps in the addiction recovery process is the fact that we simply get wiser with time. As we graduate from one phase of life to another, the natural progression is such that we get a little bit smarter over time if we allow ourselves to.
Each day, constantly strive to take as many right actions as possible. Then in the evening you will have a positive attitude as you go to sleep and dream. Whatever you encounter in the world of dreaming is part of your life.
When you wake, first ask yourself if you are afraid of anything. If the answer is yes, don’t open your eyes. Lay there with your eyes closed, take deep breaths, tell yourself that you’re alright, and surrender your fears to the universe.
Then, change the direction that your thoughts were going in. Put your mind on your strengths. Put your mind on your successes. Put your mind on your mission to go out into the world and do good—to do good for yourself and do good for others. There are so many opportunities to do that; pursue all of those opportunities without attachment.