There are some struggles or suffering we do not have to endure.
Addiction is one of them.
There is enough suffering in the human experience, why invite more?
Someone said to me recently, “Boy, but for your addiction and what followed, you’re not doing what you do today.”
I was immediately gracious and agreed.
But the compliment got lodged in the recesses of my brain.
I began deconstructing everything that came with my addiction — the internal pain, the hurt inflicted on others, the cost to society, and the years of toil.
Sure, I love what I do today and am grateful for all that I’ve accomplished since putting addiction behind me … but that’s a world of suffering I could have done without.
This isn’t an exercise in what if.
Instead, this is an exploration of why? Why struggle or suffer needlessly?
Well, the short answer is that I was never taught how to forgo struggle. I was never taught how to meet struggle head on.
When you lack that learning — that skill — conditions are set for addictions to take root.
The stoic philosopher Seneca wrote,
“To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.”
When we meet times of trial and hardship with a calm mind — we steal misfortune and tragedy of their strength, burden, and destructiveness.
My good friend Patrick wrote to me the other day,
“Addiction is a symptom of our reaction to chaos & complexity … self evident in retrospect but secretly invasive over time.”
Addiction is a condition predicated on human reaction to emotions, actions, choices, and circumstances. Some actions and circumstances are out of our control. What we control, however, is how we respond. That is a choice.
We feel or experience despair. The despair may be a combination of generational trauma and geographical economic distress.
What are we to do?
Many choose to numb themselves from the despair.
Suddenly over time, we find ourselves consumed by adverse circumstances.
But, and here’s the lesson from the stoics …
Adversity does not have to induce struggle. We can experience adverse situations, learn from them, not be reduced by them, and be made resilient all the while.
We can be aware or conscious of the pain or challenge and choose in realtime to limit its effect on us.
We almost always have that choice (see Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”).
While I’m grateful for what the struggle of my addiction taught me, I wish it never happened.
I don’t wish that hell on anyone.
What I do wish is that we spent more time teaching people how to forgo this particular suffering.
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