Healing From Within – Finding Meaning in Addiction and Recovery
Host: Sheryl Glick R.M.T.
Special Guest: Peg O’Connor
In today’s episode of Healing From Within, your host Sheryl Glick author of The Living Spirit shares a look at Universal Energy Healing, Spiritual Communication, and ways to awaken to higher consciousness for achieving true human and divine potential. Today Sheryl welcomes Peg O’Connor author of Life On the Rocks: Finding Meaning in Addiction and Recovery which is the first book to address addiction and recovery from a Western philosophical perspective ultimately showing us that philosophy is more than an academic subject..it is really a way for life and a quest for meaning.
Peg O’Connor who is Professor of Philosophy and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota will begin by taking us back to the ancient Greek roots of philosophy as care for the soul illuminating many issues addicts and their loved ones face, as indeed do we all, and that is: self-identity, moral responsibility, self-knowledge and self deception, free will and determinism, fatalism, the nature of God and our relations to others.
Peg O’Connor wrote this book because rates of addiction are reaching epidemic proportions. More people are interrogating themselves about their relationships to substances and behaviors. This interrogation Socrates might claim, is about examining one’s life…Peg’s own story is illustrative. She writes,” I was sober for more than 19 years before I started to irregularly attend a 12 step fellowship. In the process I found myself drawn back to philosophy. In hindsight I see that philosophy helped me to stop drinking and start living life differently. It provided me with the tools and concepts to ASK and ANSWER questions about my moral character, my non-negotiable commitments, the nature of identity and the degrees of responsibility. It provided me with a framework for meaning and understanding…”
Many seekers would ask to know who they are and why we are having this physical life…Peg describes herself as an alcoholic and a philosopher and thinks that many addicts or people who suffer are philosophically inclined, perhaps sensitive, and are searching for the meaning of life…often just looking in the wrong places. Addicts struggle with issues of self identity, self-deception, free will and the nature of God and relationships as they try quite possibly to understand the human condition in all of its frailties and inequalities.
Philosophy is an orientation to the world as Peg describes. To be philosophically oriented is to be curious about everything but especially the nature of the world, the human condition and an individual’s place in it… Philosophy also aims at prescription or the most basic concern how one ought to live…
Sheryl says in a way philosophy and spiritualism are very similar as Spiritualism seeks to know the Self or inner essence or soul and its connection to Universal Life and how to live according to the values of energy and soul wisdom. Both are ways to reconnect to truth and a higher view of creation and manifesting a better journey through the many varied and sometimes challenging life experiences. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were concerned with living a good life which requires a great deal of self-examination and embodying certain character traits and attitudes that lead to self-improvement.
This book does not advance any one particular form or program of recovery. It is complementary to many approaches to recovery. One of the books central claims is that there are multiple ways to become addicted so there need to be at least as many ways from addiction to recovery to be realized. A person’s needs in recovery will change as he or she changes. Peg suggested and wrote “Philosophers would suggest that the happiest life is the virtuous life and only those who have the right sort of concern for their character can achieve this…so friends matter importantly to one’s character and happiness. Our friends can make us better. The wrong friends can also make us worse off. Any addict would say the same…”
SHERYL SAYS; In regard to this idea of the uniqueness of each individual and situation and the many ways to discover yourself…. In The Living Spirit, I wrote… “Will you take the ride to your personal reality and become more of the intuitive individual you were born to be? Will you seek to understand yourself and those around you in a more profound, gratifying way? Will you eliminate such unnecessary sadness, anger and fear, and replace it with more joy, acceptance gratitude and love? You do not have to accept this challenge. God gave us free will over our own lives. However, if you do choose to accept the challenge this time around you must begin to entertain new ways of viewing your energetic thoughts and actions and improve the quality of your presence in the world. If you do this simple task, you will ultimately see the world change and shift into a new and better reality, not only for yourself, but ultimately for the generations to follow.”
First we may see that Wittgenstein a philosopher of the twelfth century whose work was important to Peg wrote that philosophy was similar to working in architecture. It is more of a working on oneself in which a person has his own interpretive way of seeing things and expectations. The reference to architecture may at first seem odd but certain virtues that are important to being a good person and living a good life are also embodied in architecture which must demonstrate good proportion, balance, simplicity, functionality and congruity, both within the building, and between the building and its environment.
SHERYL SAYS “I never thought of my interest and my study of interior design and architecture or the fascination with beauty in the world as a spiritual or soul inclination until reading this, and after 20 years of searching for ways to shine the light of truth and good will from myself to others I can truly now understand that the balance and integrity one searches for in themselves they look for in others and in their environment…not from the mind but from the remembrances of the soul and their infinite divinity.”
The question arises “Is addiction a disease or a choice….” If addiction is a disease then in some ways it is out of our control and forecloses choices..A disease is a medical condition that develops outside of our control: it is then not a matter of choice. The addict may be overpowered by her addiction. Recent scientific studies on the biochemical responses of the brain are tipping the scales toward the more deterministic view of addiction as a disease. Others would like to think the issue of willpower or personal responsibility which assumes we have free will and have chosen to become an addict. I think if you look at addiction as involving both choice and disease, our outlook on ways to recognize and treat it move past a moral view and towards a philosophical view to help the innate qualities of a person’s inner life or intuition to evolve.
Sheryl Says… “It is my understanding that we come into this life with a soul that has its own programmed package of experiences and lessons to learn to help the refinement of greater love and compassion within Self and others..therefore nothing is Random and the addictions, physical diseases, loss of relationships or home job or loved ones, is necessary and never a failure….just experiences ultimately chosen by our soul for evolution and growth… Free will and will power and how we respond to our challenges is our decision and leads us out of suffering to greater acceptance of the beauty of life and death.”
Many things the government encourages benefit the large Pharmaceutical companies and promote the economy, but not always the well being of our citizens… In fact the governments slow action to promote and incorporate Eastern Alternative Healing methods alongside Western medicine is simply the system protecting what they have even where it is not working effectively. Less expensive treatments do not fit the financial structures that encourage surgery chemotherapies radiation and drugs.. Some of the politicians may even be making money in alliances with other countries that supply drugs to this country…Maine and New Hampshire I recently read is rampant with drug problems and they are not near the Mexican border where a lot of the drugs are coming in…Corruption greed and a lack of respect for life and others is at the heart of this problem.
Sheryl Says… “I would say in learning to meditate and open up to higher states of Consciousness I did not need drugs to achieve a higher state of Consciousness. What I needed was to recognize my inner soul nature and align it to my ego or mind belief system so I could understand the Universal Laws of Energy and my physical life qualities, learn to accept allow and surrender to the truth of Being and work with developing my intuition and self healing mechanism…I changed my awareness to a higher state of consciousness, eliminated outdated thinking and beliefs and began to resonate in the truth that philosophers have always known: “We are much more than our physical bodies.” Consciousness survives physical death and responsibility for awakening to our true nature and reach our full potential is for everyone…Saying YES as Peg states is a heroic undertaking and a grabbing hold of life. Like all important decisions in life saying yes to create your best life and taking responsibility for what we have done and who we wish to become requires Bravery.”
For Ludwig Wittgenstein, a 20th century philosopher, as well as Socrates Plato and Aristotle, philosophy has a built in moral command to become a better person. Anyone who is trying to live a life of recovery is trying to become a better person which is why philosophy, addiction and recovery belong together. As many philosophers created false problems in their search for answers and wasted a great deal of time trying to solve their problems. This tendency applies to addicts…… and many of these problems arise from expectations, assumptions and beliefs about how things should be. When we accept ourselves and others as well as circumstances as they are, problems fade away or dissolve. As we know it is difficult if not impossible to understand others because each of us can barely begin to understand ourselves. Wittgenstein challenges us to look at our assumptions and draw lines between sense and nonsense: try to understand people who in effect operate with some really different organizing principles.
Sheryl says, we have only to look at the way the 2016 Presidential Race is going to see that politicians have a language motivation and agenda quite different than the constituents or populace they hope to represent.
Philosophers believe there is no higher obligation than caring for your soul or self and philosophy is a means to that end. When we don’t care for our person in all its dimensions: mental physical emotional social and spiritual, we run the risk of creating confusion and suffering for ourselves and those around us…Non-addicts cannot understand why an addict would risk their health livelihood and family: addicts don’t understand why non-addicts would be sucked into their world, believing they may be able to make a person stop using.
It might be a catch 22 for in the hijacked view of addiction the brain is the innocent victim of certain substances –alcohol cocaine, nicotine or heroin or certain behaviors like eating gambling or sexual activity. The drugs or the neurochemicals overpower the brains normal responses often causing pleasure and a burst of euphoria..Studies have shown that people who are addicted have lower dopamine and serotonin levels in their brains and need more of a substance or behavior for them to experience pleasure. All life, you may begin to observe, is about moving past pain and fear to reach a level of joy happiness and pleasure.
With the cave allegory Plato uses in “The Republic “to draw lines between the appearance and reality, we then have a powerful tool for understanding the crisis of the addicted person. In the allegory Plato tells of prisoners who are inside a cave chained facing a wall. They cannot look sideways or behind. Behind them is a burning fire and a half wall where puppeteers hold up puppets that cast shadows. To the chained men the shadows are real; they have no concept of the puppets causing the shadows. They mistake appearance for reality. They have no knowledge, therefore they create illusion and assumptions instead of truth and wisdom. When freed into the light, some will still run back to the shadows, and some will adjust and realize the world of light is the real one with genuine knowledge. Some people who have seen the light of truth and reality will feel compelled to go back to the cave to help those still enchained. This is the Philosophers Burden according to Plato. This allegory is wonderful for understanding addiction relapse and recovery. Addiction comes from the Latin verb and means to give over dedicate or surrender.. What may have started as fun and a harmless uses begins to grow troubling painful and difficult to stop. So addiction is a fixation on a shadow reality and may be apparent to others, before it is to the addict… When the personal cost of using becomes noticeable, it can still be written off, or excused as merely atypical….
So drug use is not always a form of escapism but it is a form of fear loss of control anger and other negative emotions generated by issues and events and a perception of the world that may or may not be accurate…assumptions and expectations…. that make a person unable to deal with their environment or pain seek ways to feel better. All fear leads to a lack of self confidence and ultimately the body wishes to feel good and the addiction feeds that need. It may be a way for a person to learn more about themselves and life..sometimes people hit rock bottom before they discover what they most need in life.
Peg writes, “Each time the addict makes a promise to cut down or stop but does not the chains get more constricting. Yet for some reason some addicts begin to wriggle against the chains of addiction be it alcohol drugs sex control power food or other disempowering actions,..whether it is a low or experience that squares them to death or looking in the mirror and not recognizing themselves, some people begin to work themselves out of their chains. People who have their descent later in life may remember themselves before the addiction began. The physical and emotional withdrawal can be excruciating. Understanding existential concussions and an expanded understanding of suffering that relate to ambiguous loss( the first is when a person is physically absent but psychologically present; Example: a soldier lost in action so he is there, but not there, or the Second type is when a person is physically present but psychologically absent, such as a person with dementia or mental illness) help with recovery and to orient a person perhaps relate to a faith based or therapeutic model….Recovery becomes a passionate commitment to living a life of self-care, self-examination and respectful connection to others. That is the choice Peg made for herself.”
Peg O’Connor gave us many new and creative ways to approach addiction and indeed, all life challenges through looking at the philosophical thoughts of ancient and modern teachers, who really explore the quality of our human soul and the search for happiness over sadness, and joy over suffering, which can only be accomplished by “knowing yourself” and pursuing the search for goodness beauty and love within.
Peg O’ Connor has given us much to think about in terms of the addictions and behaviors which adversely affect our success in mastering our emotions and creating a life of purposefulness joy and growth. We find in the search for meaning in life about who we are and where we come from a similarity to the addict who is in search of those same answers, for in the lack of knowing, and the pain and fear that a physical life imposes on each of us, we cannot completely understand what is expected of us, or what we wish to find in our own lives. As addicts may be almost entirely a curiosity to non-addicts it is much the same for each of us to understand another person as it is difficult to even understand many of our own issues and inclinations. It is better to recognize our uniqueness and be open to whatever transpires for us and to think of events as opportunities for our complete spiritual emotional psychical and social evolution.
And in regard to this thought, Peg wrote “There may be significant comprehension problems between addicted populations as well. An alcoholic may not understand food addiction, and the food addict cannot make sense of someone who would be addicted to heroin. There’s more blah blah happening here.”
Peg and Sheryl would have you try to be understanding of your fellow citizens and their differences, problems, addictions, limitations and fears, and spend more time recognizing our similarities and needs to help one another without judgment, blame and intolerance…In the end we are all just energy beings here for awhile to experience the physical world of choice and possibilities.