How fully I recommend this book: 10/10
Lesson 1: What is addiction?
An addiction is any repeated behavior, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impacts on their life and the lives of others.
The hallmarks of addiction: compulsion, impaired control, persistence, irritability, relapse, and craving.
Lesson 2: The question is never “Why the addiction?” but “Why the pain?”
Addictions always originate in pain, whether felt openly or hidden in the unconscious; the research literature on addicts corroborates this.
In this view, addiction is not the problem; it is a desperate attempt at a solution: an anesthetic for pain.
Lesson 3: The pleasure in losing pain.
The pleasure in addiction is dual: the actual pleasure in the behavior and, sometimes more prominently, the pleasure of no longer feeling in pain.
Being aware of this distinction can help us ask: Is there a behavior I can do that also decreases my pain, without the negative impacts of addiction?
Lesson 4: “What does addiction do for me?”
Instead of judging ourselves or others, we can ask how addiction is actually helping.
Perhaps alcohol gives me the illusion of confidence, or work proves that I’m worthy of praise, or sex makes me feel attractive, or heroin makes me feel loved, or smoking brings me peace, or shopping gives me a sense of importance, or the internet distracts me from pain, or gambling helps me escape rumination, etc.
Compassionate understanding is a prerequisite for healing!
Lesson 5: The war on drugs is a war on addicts, and no one’s winning.
One can’t wage war against inanimate objects.
If addiction originates in pain, the war on drugs in its current form is mostly serving to perpetuate and amplify that pain, thus ensuring that addiction persists and worsens.
Just look at the epidemic of overdoses in the USA.
Lesson 6: Addiction is a societal symptom.
Just as addiction in a person is a symptom of personal pain, an addict in a society is a symptom of societal pain.
“People whom we judge are our mirrors,” which is why it’s easy to judge addicts and the homeless: they reflect back to us the state of our society and its values, and maybe also the parts of ourselves that we’d rather not see.
Lesson 7: In addiction, it’s not how you feel that counts; it’s what you do.
In addiction, your brain is literally rewired. Your prefrontal cortex loses the power to regulate behavior, which is why, only after the addictive behavior will someone realize, “Oh no, I relapsed.”
Feeling a craving is expected; what counts is what you do: Seek to refocus and buy yourself time.
If you relapse, feeling shame is expected; what counts is what you do: Reinforce compassion and do something positive.
Lesson 8: Given the choice between guilt and resentment, choose guilt.
“If refusal to take on responsibility for another person’s behaviors burdens you with guilt, while consenting to it leaves you eaten by resentment, opt for the guilt. Resentment is soul suicide.”
Lesson 9: Sobriety over abstinence.
Abstinence is a positive step toward healing, but sobriety is the ideal!
“In choosing sobriety we’re not so much avoiding something harmful as envisioning ourselves living the life we value.”
Lesson 10: Addiction and the spiritual quest.
Choosing to begin the journey to heal from addiction can put us on a quest toward spirituality, self-discovery, service, meaning, purpose, self-expression, authenticity, creativity, and more. In this sense, we can transform the pain that triggered addiction into a gift. To quote Marcus Aurelius: “What stands in the way becomes the way.” Healing is possible!