Rare it is that we were deeply and well-connected to parental nurturing as babies and small children. Some were. Most were not. Most of us were born to mere mortals and not to saints. Some were. Most were not.
As I watch Liz and Joe nest with their new baby, Evelyn I marvel at the choices they have made and wish I could be so centered and healthy. I suppose that having a human life emerge from between one’s legs and enter a frightening world with only silky soft skin as a protection will up one’s game of living internationally. Though, as I have known Liz and Joe, I am not surprised. They are heroes of mine and always will be. They have taken lots of good time to get to know their baby, and that mutual knowing will set Evelyn’s life up for a life well lived.
At first I was jealous, as clergy are so want to do. I wanted months off for myself. But as I have studied addiction and addictive behaviors these last few months, I have come to realize that is is the disconnection from maternal love and wellness which causes so many of us – most of us if we are honest (and most are not), to admit to silent-addictions and to be able to trace their beginnings to our childhood and to the weaknesses of connection to unconditional love and acceptance in those early weeks. Liz and Joe are breaking a cycle and that makes me curious. The result of my curiosity will be a new class I hope to teach in January at Cathedral Nite and a new book in 2017.
It is so easy to point to drug addicts or alcoholics or internet porn addicts or food addicts with a boney, scolding finger and say “tisk, tisk, tisk, you naughty addict” when we all have addictive tendencies which cause havoc in our lives. So this Cathedral Nite class will look at “addictions for the rest of us.”
How do you and I, who pretend to be centered,well and all put together… how do we play out the losses and scars of our lives with our attachments? Detachment is an ancient Christian and Buddhist core value but we do not know much about it. We think the word “detachment” is negative – to push away – to reject. But the spiritual underpinnings of detachment are not like that at all. Detachment is being able to see, in deep awareness, what is happening inside us as we relate to ideas, people and things. Addiction is simply feeling pain and seeking a way out – an exit ramp from the thought or feeling. But what if we trained in staying with the pain – feeling it a bit – learning from it?
When I flare up at the Thanksgiving dinner when Uncle Dick spouts off again, I am attached to my being right. When I over-shop with the purchase of a house or car or decor I am overly attached to, addicted to, my own image. When I interrupt people or spend my silence rehearsing what I am about to say instead of listening to other view-points, then I am addicted to my thoughts.
At its core, an addictive personality is simply one that did not get the connections needed as children and so, now, react to the world rather than simply responding to it. I know people who would secretly look down their nose at an emaciated drug addict and then buy thousands of dollars worth of books or CDs or art. I know people who would wince at the alcoholic under a dirty blanket with his fist around the neck of a vodka bottle but then go home and abuse the people around them because they are undiagnosed in their addiction to the adrenaline of anger or co-dependent relationships. I know people who frown on young stoners hazed out on pot and then rush to the mall for coffee and shopping – assuming all the while that they are addiction-free. They are not.
Our body is constantly squirting chemicals into our blood system to which we are addicted. And most of our pain comes from early childhood disconnection or scars left by one or another trauma soothed by our own chemicals. But to get that squirt of dopamine we cause havoc in our lives and the lives of others. In this January Cathedral Nite class, we will look at “silent addictions” weaving the writings of Evelyn Underhill, Thomas Merton, Gabor Mate and the Psalmist David into a braid of theory which will help us to detach from our grabbing, loosen our grip on our clutching and enter into a new way of relating to the planet, our loved-ones and our lives.