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NORMALIZING ADDICTION:
There is Nothing Wrong With You
While I’ve never experienced a so-called “hard” addiction to drugs (or prescription drugs) or to extreme behaviors, I’ve had and have my fair share of so-called softer addictions. My main go-tos over the years have been: cacao, caffeine, sugar, food, alcohol, tobacco, exercise, studying, perfectionism and obsessively seeking answers and “knowing.” Some people have addictions to money - earning and spending, shopping, planning, over-working, over-achieving, sex and sexual behaviors, consumption of internet and media, etc. You name it, and it can probably become an addiction.
 
I’m not a huge fan of the label “addiction.” Culturally, it places a negative judgment on a pattern that most humans experience at some point or another in their lives. Most of us have shame around our addictions that we shouldn’t have them and something is wrong with us. But what if we see them as common human responses to life? (Some addictions can be serious and life-threatening and in no way to I want to make light of them, but point to aspects that underlie addictive patterns.) What we label “addiction” can be seen as a means to an experience of something besides the present moment, because that present moment is too painful, uncomfortable, unbearable or causes suffering. We ultimately want relief, an escape, a release, more peace, or to be more comfortable. 
 
Emotions can be extremely uncomfortable. Sorrow, sadness, anger, grief, frustration, or even intense pleasure or joy can be very uncomfortable for some. Physical pain - either from extreme injuries, serious disease, or low-level chronic illnesses- can be unbearable and cause suffering. Even our thoughts can be self-sabotaging, self-critical, or somehow keep us from achieving our goals in life. These human experiences can be too much for us to handle. So we find something to help. 
 
A friend recently shared this Tim Ferriss interview with one of the world’s leading addiction experts, Dr. Gabor Maté. Dr. Maté worked for many years with people struggling with addiction. He's also an advocate for using plant medicine (in some cases) to help people overcome their addictive patterns.
“Addiction”, as Dr. Maté defines it, is when there is a craving for a pattern (or substance), a negative long-term impact of engaging in it and the inability to give it up. After his work in treating addiction over many years, he saw that addictive patterns start in childhood, as we develop coping mechanisms in response to our environment. The patterns helped us at one time deal with difficulties early in life, but are no longer helping us in the present to live the life we are desiring. We respond to our current environment in automatic patterns that began as our brains developed as children. Dr. Maté emphasizes that NOTHING IS WRONG with us to have these reactions, emotions, or sensations and for reaching for something to help. What if our addictive patterns are our responses to something arising in our consciousness that we don’t know how else to deal with? He also encourages us to refrain from blaming the environment, but to accept is as it was (or is in the present). If we see nothing is wrong with us or our environment, we start to get curious about how we are responding. 
 
Many addictive behaviors are automatic and unconscious, we don’t even know we are doing them…until we do. I’ve found myself reaching for the 2nd or 3rd cup of caffeine (or alcohol), chocolate, tobacco, or diverting my attention to endless internet surfing, etc. 
 
Once I notice, sometimes, I stop and catch myself, remembering what is happening and drop into the experience of discomfort. Other times, I notice, and yet the pattern is so strong, it still plays itself out. But what HAS shifted, is that I don’t blame myself, shame myself, beat myself up or punish myself anymore (or anyone else). I simply see it as a pattern, accept it and take a moment to drop in further. What is it I am avoiding that is leading me to this? What is this pattern trying to show me right now? Might it simply be an old pattern from childhood replaying itself over and over again? What is actually needed in this moment beyond the addictive pattern?

With the curiosity, I feel more empowered. I get to explore what is underlying my response and addictive pattern - a call for deep healing. I see how the pattern is impacting me - the truth of the impact. And I get to learn what it is ultimately trying to teach me - my higher self knocking on the door.
A CALL FOR DEEP HEALING
What is healing? Healing is a repair, or an upgrade of outdated patterns of being. How do we do that? Our automatic patterns are just outside of our consciousness, and to better be able to see them, we need outside help.
 
The support of others - friends, family, healers, counselors, mentors, and support groups - can create a safe place to reflect back our own experiences. Supportive people can welcome and accept us as we are, and point us in the direction of expansion and growth. Some can even help us repair the old wounds, so that we do not have to live in the outdated pattern anymore. Other non-humans, such as plants, herbs and animals, can also offer us support, through their presence, acceptance and non-verbal ways of teaching us who we are. 
 
Having practices we routinely return to, can also help us in the healing journey. We naturally have practices we gravitate towards to bring more ease and peace. These practices can be spending time in nature, listening to music, making art, yoga, meditation, qi gong, mantra, prayer, and any other rituals where we slow down from our normal lives to pay attention to something else. These practices help us develop our inner healing capacity and expand expand our consciousness. We can grow our own inner resources to be with ourselves in the painful and uncomfortable experiences, and can shift the old patterns into ones that better serve our life path.
 
One powerful tool that isn’t the right fit for everyone is the use of psychedelics and plant medicines. Plant medicines have been an integral part of my own healing journey. Anyone feeling called to work with these medicines, I would highly advise doing your research on any medical contraindications, finding reputable healers and guides, and to prepare for proper committed psychological preparation and integration. (I have been helping people prepare and integrate their plant medicine experiences for the last 5 years. You can read more about one of my own early plant medicine experiences in this blog post and learn more about my work here.) I agree with Dr. Maté when he says that these experiences can open doors in healing, because they quickly bypass the ego (the formed, conditioned mind that holds these automatic responses). He cautions they can not be taken in isolation and that these experiences have to be integrated into our lives with the support of others and development of practices. Otherwise they can become only a memory of experience and not useful in healing on a deeper level. 
 
It’s in finding the right mix of support and practices, that we can shift these old patterns. It is most commonly a gradual process over time (possibly with miraculous leaps too!) that bring us to a healthier, up-to-date operating system where we have access to our true potential.
THE TRUTH OF THE IMPACT
Eventually we have to be truthful with ourselves about the impact of our addictive patterns. We often live disconnected from the impact. We ignore potential short and long-term health consequences; We lose important thriving relationships; We live without fulfilling work in the world; We brush aside our dreams; We put our true potential on the back burner. The addictive pattern is in the control seat. Sometimes the benefit we used to receive from the addiction, is no longer providing us with what we are seeking (relief, escape, peace, etc). 
 
All things we turn to in life, can be medicine. In general, medicine supports us in our lives by improving our health, providing energy or nourishment, and healing physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds. At times, it might not be the time to dive into our pain and discomfort, sit with it, process it, and heal it. Especially traumas - deep physical, emotional and psychological wounds- can be intensely debilitating to experience again, without the proper support. The things we turn to can be medicine, supporting us with qualities we need in the moment: grounding, pain relief, nourishment, energy, or simply a break. However, the spectrum of what we at one time use as a medicine, can become a poison or turn into an addiction without conscious awareness. 
 
It’s up to us to determine where that line and balance is. How do we come to terms with the range of impacts? Can we tell ourselves the truth- are we actually able to give them up? With some of the so-called hard addictions, the long-term negative impacts may not only be consequential to living our lives, but also life-threatening, and yet we are still unable to let them go. For some softer addictions, we may be able to let them go - for a day, a week, a month at a time- working through the pattern with moderation. Sometimes, this can in fact teach us at a more sustainable pace, bringing stability to new patterns.
HIGHER SELF KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
What is the deeper reason for all of this beyond the addiction and the pain? What is it that is calling us? That temporary relief we are seeking, what is that? In the relief, escape or peace, it’s often an experience of a reconnection to something beyond- to our true self, higher self, the divine, higher consciousness, spirit, or the universe. As Dr. Maté says, we get a "good feeling", euphoria, optimism or energy by engaging in our addictive tendencies. Here, we find at least a moment of peace and truth, free from the pain and suffering we were experiencing. This is an important moment- in that moment, we are a reminded of how it feels to live without suffering. While some addictive patterns numb us out, we are free of the suffering for a moment. With other patterns, we may have access to other parts of ourselves that get overshadowed by the pain. Maybe we have more creativity, realizations and insights, we feel more comfortable and safe in our bodies, or we can see clearly what actions to take. Our higher wisdom is not only pointing us to healing, but to what we are beyond the healing, beyond the addiction, beyond the pain.

The journey through and beyond addiction is the teacher, teaching us about our humanity. There is nothing wrong with us, but everything perfectly human about us. Each and every one of us.

Many blessings for our journeys,
Jaime
BEYOND ADDICTION: ONE-ON-ONE COACHING AND HEALING
I offer one-on-one support for those on the journey through and beyond addiction. Get in touch if you would like to:
  • Uncover the deeper meaning calling you through the addiction
  • Explore the root causes and release the old pain and outdated patterns in a safe place
  • Develop a clear path out of the addictive patterns into living a life of meaning
  • Tap into the wealth of wisdom in the journey
Schedule a Call
SACRED MEDICINE COACHING
I also offer one-on-one support for those of you working with Sacred Plant Medicines. Together, we:
  • Prepare by clarifying intentions for entering into relationship/experience with Nature's powerful medicines
  • Develop a life-long relationship with the medicine teacher that you can trust and rely on
  • Apply and integrate teachings directly into your daily life
  • Deepen your understanding of universal teachings rooted in spiritual traditions that can arise in the medicine relationship
  • Strengthen your connection to your higher self
  • Clear old energetic patterns that are no longer useful on your path
Schedule a Call
DO YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO SUPPORT OTHERS IN ADDICTION RECOVERY OR PSYCHEDELIC INTEGRATION?
Last year, I completed an Addiction Recovery and Psycho-Spiritual Coach Certification Program through Being True To You.  It strengthened my understanding of the way society sees addiction, how addiction is "treated" and offered me a holistic and spiritual framework for working with the root of addiction. They also include a framework for psychedelic preparation and integration, which I loved!
Their next 6-month course starts September 9, 2019 and they are enrolling now. If you want to hear about my experience in the training, I'm more than happy to share! If you want to sign up, use this link here and let them know I sent you ;)
Jaime is a Protectress of Mother Earth, Guide for Consciousness Exploration and Shamanic Healer. She supports those on a healing and spiritual awakening path through private sessions and transformational adventures in Peru and India. You can read more about her journey from a traditional career as an environmental engineer through her own deep healing journey that ultimately brought her to this work here or visit:
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