A week ago I wrote about Mark Muldoon’s powerful article in Presence Magazine in which he writes about the complexity of addiction within humanity. He quoted Gerald May in saying, “All people are addicts…to be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in the need of grace.”
I wrote to Muldoon to thank him for the article and I learned that his book, “The Addicted Pilgrim” will be published later this year. It is sure to be a must-read for all people in recovery, and people in spiritual and faith communities.
In his work Muldoon presents this term, “ambient addiction”, which he describes this way: “An ambient addiction is a misguided but seemingly acceptable strategy to gain control over debilitating feelings of inadequacy and shame disguised as anxiety.”
He’s talking about the everyday stuff we all—or we each—do, in most cases things we joke about but for which there is a hint of angst. Too much TV, reading, shopping, Internet and social media, and all kinds of busyness—even seemingly good things like exercising, volunteering, and work.
People in long-term recovery recognize this immediately, perhaps with a tinge of discomfort or defensiveness. We have knocked off the biggies: alcohol, drugs, eating disorders or a sex addiction so we are reluctant to now have to consider our closets, kitchens, garages and calendars. We might rightfully say, “It’s my money” or “It’s my time” or even “It’s my body.” And certainly we are not doing the kind of damage we did years ago but this is where long-term recovery requires discernment.
Do we want to keep growing? Do we want to truly feel our feelings and know the truth about ourselves? We have that choice each time we get a second bowl of ice cream (been there), bought more shoes (done that) or insisted that working so hard is someone else’s decision not our own (that’s me most days).
The early AA writers knew this; they talked about our restlessness and our low-level, ongoing and terribly human anxiety. They called it fear and talked about it all the time. They also knew—from the wisdom of Carl Jung and The Oxford Group’s deep religious roots—that only be a deep spiritual experience could displace that fear.
Unfortunately we misunderstood the message and came to a misguided idea that fear/anxiety is bad and that acknowledging it or feeling it meant flawed recovery instead of what it really means: that we are fully human.
Mark Muldoon knows this and reminds us. Using scholarship and spirituality he makes the case for the humanness of addiction and of fear, and for the spiritual “solution”. Again, from his article in Presence Magazine:
“Viewed correctly, addictions are a vital aspect of the spiritual journey. They are, in fact, doors to the sacred that facilitate a deep and unique conversation with our deepest selves—that is, with Mystery and the Holy.”