The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.
Addictions seem to offer us an escape. They may create a turbulence in our lives, but this turbulence, while problematic, also gives us something to pin our conscious experience on. Our addictions first provide us with the ability to transcend aspects of experience that are uncomfortable or overtly painful. And if they get bad enough, they even cloud our ability to examine and challenge the very addictions themselves, objectively—we call this denial. And this is one of the reasons they can be so hard to stop. When we try to live without our addictive patterns, we can’t be distracted from the underlying emotional states that motivated their existence in the first place. But this is also the benefit of abstinence. Abstinence provides us the space we need to examine these underlying emotional states and heal them. This is the paradox of healing addiction—we have to face the very pain that our addictions have been attempting to protect us from if we are to protect ourselves from the damage caused by these addictions. If, through a process of recovery, we allow the turbulence that our addictions provided us to settle, we can use that clarity to expose and heal their root causes.