Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Wanting and Addiction

We have joked for years that the mantra of the addict is “more.” We simply want more of everything. And there is truth in that. Long after we have gained sobriety or clean time or abstinence we still want more ice cream, more shoes, more books, more pretty nick-knacks, more gadgets…you name it. It is also true that this “more” belongs to the greater culture as much as it accrues to addicts.

Last week I was in a workshop called “The Heart of Money” at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. The leader, Lynn Twist, teaches about money and desire and about fund raising and philanthropy. Her life goal is a great one: to change the cultural thinking around money—getting, spending and giving.

So much of what she talked about --and what emerged in the interactive exercises –correlates with what we talk about in ongoing recovery. We know that addiction is not in the substance rather it is in the person. That truth is revealed to us as we transfer addictions over the years.

I’ll write more about wanting and desire –it’s at the core of addiction—over the next few weeks but here are a couple of the ideas that I took away from the Santa Fe workshop:

*Money is an abstraction. Paper money is truly meaningless. It’s an invention that originally represented craft and creativity. In earliest human days you made corn and I made shoes and our friend made fabric and so having currency made the exchange of our created goods easier. Then later, as now, money was produced by government entities (the Federal Reserve in our case) and it is created with debt attached to it. It is almost as if shame and scarcity are built right into our money. So no wonder we have so many neuroses around money, and a constant sense of “not enough”.

*When that sense of constant debt and scarcity is deep enough in the culture we experience an ongoing feeling of “not enough”. Most of us have this. Our waking day begins with a sense of “Oh no, not enough sleep, then not enough time, not enough help…all the way to not enough security, not enough love…and way down under all that is the essential idea of “There is not enough of me” which ultimately belies our deepest belief: “I am not enough.”

This belief in personal scarcity then translates to fear and to the next belief, which is, “I gotta get mine.” So we gather and hoard (More than, lets say, ten pairs of shoes is a kind of hoarding—so I’m in.) And we compare and we worry, and we,  “What if…?”

*And isn’t that deep shameful, “I’m not enough” the center of every addiction? Isn’t that where the “egomaniac with the inferiority complex” comes from?

So it’s worth thinking about money and scarcity and what is enough and how this is expressed in our culture when we think about mental health and addiction.

And I’ll share more here about what I learned in Santa Fe as I unpack.

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