Sunday, May 25, 2008


I've been watching Oprah's series with Eckhart Tolle on his book, A New Earth. In one of the segments, a woman skypes in and talks about an illness that has overtaken her life, that has defined it to a point that she no longer wishes to live. She asks how to move away from being her illness. Eckhart's response to her is to stop feeding the energy (my words), not talk about the illness except with her doctors and begin to place more attention on all the areas in which she has well-being in her life.

In a way, that's what I've been doing with this blog and my own definition of myself as "alcoholic." But I'm realizing that even when I'm sober, I'm still feeding that energy - that very energy that I no longer wish to live.

In the book, Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May describes addiction thusly:

Addiction exists wherever persons are internally compelled to give energy to things that are not their true desires. To define it directly, addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation that enslaves a person's will and desire. Addiction sidetracks and eclipses the energy of our deepest, truest desire for love and goodness. We succumb because the energy of our desire becomes attached, nailed, to specific behaviors, objects or people. Attachment, then, is the process that enslaves desire and creates the state of addiction.


Addiction attacks every part of what Freud called our "mental apparatus." Subjectively, however, the attacks seem focused on two primary areas: the will, which is our capacity to choose and direct our behavior, and self-esteem, which is the respect and value with which we view ourselves. Addiction splits the will in two, one part desiring freedom and the other only desiring to continue the addictive behavior. This internal inconsistency begins to erode self-esteem. How much can I respect myself if I do not even know what I really want?

The greatest damage to self-esteem, however, comes from repeated failures at trying to change the addictive behavior. Even if I do feel clear about what I really want, I cannot make myself behave accordingly. I seem to be honestly out of control; yet in all truth, I have only myself to blame. This failure can decimate my self-respect. In some other culture, in a society that reveres the mystery of human nature more than ours does, such failure at self-mastery might not be so devastating. They might even be seen as affirmations of one's essential connectedness with the rest of creation and of one's essential dependency upon the Creator. But in modern Western society, we have come to see ourselves as objects of our own creation. When we fail at managing ourselves, we feel defective.

As usual, I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but I think some important things are coming to my attention. Things I wish to share. There was a time when alcohol and drugs were my primary addictions. The substance that I'm currently physically addicted to, that I can hardly even consider giving up, is nicotine. Caffeine, preferably in the form of really good coffee, is a distant second. Among the non-physical addictions I've become aware of are attention and acceptance from certain people, struggle, seeking, and self-improvement. By focusing on my past problems with alcohol and drugs, I conveniently provide a way to avoid dealing with these other addictions, which in actual fact, cause me more trouble in the present.

I wish I could say I am now ready to tackle them all, but if there's one thing I've come to realize, it's the futility of approaching an addiction in that way. So I will state my awareness of them here and my slight willingness to begin opening myself to the possibility of grace in all areas of my life. I think one way to do this is to use Eckhart's advice and to slowly begin to not feed the energy of my addictions.

What do you think?


Diva Carla said...

Oooh, Angela, you've just caused me to question what I am feeding in my life. That is a powerful insight that you're somehow feeding the very energies you are wanting to cease.

What would the blog look like and your other conversations look like if you were to be conscious of what you are feeding?

Something just jumped at me. Reading your side bar on the left, I read that you are "Knee-deep in the process. . ."

Given your knee problems, do you suppose there is a connection? Are your knees carrying some of this recovery/discovery process for you in a direct and painful way?

I might be crazy, but it's the best I can do with what I've got :o)


Angela said...


Knee-deep! Holy Crap! I don't see how they're isn't some kind of connection there.

I'm asking myself that question, about the blog, etc. I don't have an answer yet, but I imagine it would look pretty different, huh?

Hope you're having a fun weekend!

Rick Hamrick said...

Angela--I smoked for many years, always knowing that I would give it up when the time came. No, I had not defined it more clearly than that. I simply pointed out to my Self that my commitment was to quit, not to quit on a certain date.

In my case, it was my wife who made the difference, as we met face to face after a long-distance phone-call and email relationship (a year before we wed). I resumed smoking when she went back to North Carolina, but when she returned weeks later, that was the end of smoking for me.

That was ten years ago, almost.

It's all about the right circumstance and the perfect motivation which makes it easy. To put it most simply, Julia was more important to me than smoking was.

Your ideal circumstance will show up too, Angela. Just be willing to recognize it when it pulls up the driveway!

Olivia said...

I think that being aware of them as you are Angela is a huge first step. And then being slightly willing to open to grace---big second step. I don't know, but I'm thinking that in order to not feed your energy in these directions, you're going to have TO feed it in a whole different direction---but who knows what that will be? Maybe just being present will lead you to where you need to be. Or maybe just being present IS where you need to be.

Very provocative question...I'm following the discussion closely on this one!

Rest and peace and blessings,


Anonymous said...

Angela, You have a fan in Fresno. CA. I'm a 39 year old single Momma, and I'm afraid I'm not being the person or parent I've always wanted to be. Over the years I've smoked sooo many cigarettes and drank sooo much wine, it's very easy to feel defeated and useless. Thanks for lettin me in on your life. YOU are helping ME. God Bless.

Diva Carla said...

Yes Olivia, actively choosing something else to feed is the best way to stop feeding the thing you don't want. Tolle's advice is simple but about as good as it gets. Inspired by this post, I am going to feed being supported by my art making. I am going to show up for work at my jobs, but I am going to talk about, think about, act out being a professional artist who makes a living from her work.

Angela, I think in reading and writing about this Book on Grace, you are feeding grace.

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

It took two attempts, five years apart, to break a three-pack a day nicotine habit. The second weaning was so painful I swore never to put myself through that again.

I'm really impressed with this part of the quote. "we see ourselves as objects of our creation." Exactly: just another product to make new and improved and better and smarter and sexier and and and.

Insights big and small. Actions, big and small. Change of focus. Dropping old self-definitions (including ex-this or ex-that). Mindful living good buddies, good vibes, good music...

you know you're doin fine, Angela.

Jessica said...

Most of the people today are suffering from these kind of addictions. It is important that you learn how to improve your self esteem through positive thinking. If you have been feeling bad about yourself, you need to start changing the way you think.

Angela said...

Rick - thanks for sharing your story of quitting smoking. I agree - circumstances can make a great deal of difference in our desire to stop a destructive behavior. My eyes are wide open.

Olivia - I agree. Learning to feed the positive things in our lives has to move us away from the negative.

Anonymous - I am so glad you find the blog helpful! That was my hope in the first place with sharing all this stuff.

Carla - Bravo!

Lee - Congratulations on quitting. Part of my smoking problem is that I'm a very moderates smoker - sometimes it takes me a week to smoke a pack - then again, sometimes it takes me only two days. :)

Anonymous said...

I love diva carla's insight! Thanks Carla! I will make it over to your Blog one of these days! Just really busy right now . . .
Angela, I don't know, I think it is great that you are aware of yourself. Do you remember a time when you weren't? I remember when I used to use and didn't have a clue why . . . even nicotine. When I first started smoking there really wasn't any awareness of how unhealthy it was . . . I haven't had a cigarette, this time, for almost a year. I have quit numerous times, once for 3 years. I love to smoke, I love how it makes my head feel, however, I HATE the smell and I HATE how it makes my lungs feel and how I always seem sick when I'm smoking. I've just made a choice not to smoke today, and I ask The Great Spirit for help. I know that if it was up to me, alone, I'd be smoking, drinking, drugging, stealing, sleeping with anybody I could get anything from and on and on.
My eating right now is my main issue. My system cannot tolerate sugar or white flour. But boy don't I go freakin crazy with it sometimes!
I believe that most addicts are genius'. We just struggle with finding the right outlet, and in turn seem to love to beat ourselves up in one way or another
A Long winded comment. You have struck a chord, obviously, with many of us! Thank-you.
Thats another way of keeping myself on an even keel . . . Namaste, Kel

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bella said...

i remember reading this book a few years back and something clicked for me. it made sense, the way he described addiction. it was honest and compassionate. I still think of it, that book.
we give energy to where we give energy.
I'm all for making conscious choices and living our best lives and all that. and I also think, we do what we can, what we know, and at some point the desire for what we most truly want will become to painful to ignore. and this is when change happens. not out of will or fear or fleeing or fighting. more like surrender.
as always, your perspective gives me much food for thought.
i've been thinking of you.
take good care.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

"To define it directly, addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation that enslaves a person's will and desire."
My primary motivations in life are my compulsions and obsessions. They give my life meaning. Everybody has some preoccupation. To generalize by calling it an addiction is looking for pathology where there is none. It's when the obsession is regarded as self-destructive by the obsessed themselves - that's addiction.

"How much can I respect myself if I do not even know what I really want?" I respect myself because I had the courage to admit to myself that I don't have it all figured out yet. I can keep my options open if I so choose. It's rather presumptuous of anyone else to think they can close those doors for me. Calling addiction an "internal inconsistency" is quite reductionist. "We have come to see ourselves as objects of our own creation." It's not just about conflicting frames of mind; we are slaves to our own biochemistry. Let's not forget that.

Anonymous said...

Angela I know you are a wise and strong person. When you put your mind to something your can and will accomplish anything. Remember all the things you have to be grateful for. You are a great person and sister and I believe in you.

Love Pam

Angela said...

Thanks, Bella and Island Girl.

EOH, I always appreciate your perspective. In my life, addiction does create an internal inconsistency. I agree, though, that the way we regard our particular obsessions and compusions is the key to how much trouble it causes us.

thailandchani said...

I think it's always dangerous when we let something like that become an overriding part of our personal identities. If I had to note my addiction issues, it would be way at the bottom of the list of traits.

Not becoming "it". That's really important.

Lydia said...

I think you are very wise. You've created the opening for more healing to come.

Years ago a friend described me as "a non-smoker trapped in a smoker's body." So true for that time! I passed my 15th year of no smoking in March and still marvel at it. It was more difficult than giving up drinking for me (which is why it took me seven more years after getting sober to leave cigs behind). Nicotine had a powerful hold on me and I knew I needed assistance. I went to a hypnotherapist in Portland, OR, who came highly recommended for one private session. He was the lie-detector expert for the Portland PD, very professional-not whacky. Hypnosis was the ticket for me. I've never smoked again.
Thank you once again for your blog, Angela. It's one of the most honest forums in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

I am so greatful to Eckhart Tolle and Oprah for turning me onto Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor and her beautiful book ""My Stroke of Insight"". Her story is amazing and her gift to all of us is a book purchase away I'm happy to say.

Dr Taylor was a Harvard brain scientist when she had a stroke at age 37. What was amazing was that her left brain was shut down by the stroke - where language and thinking occur - but her right brain was fully functioning. She experienced bliss and nirvana and the way she writes about it (or talks about it in her now famous TED talk) is incredible.

What I took away from Dr. Taylor's book above all, and why I recommend it so highly, is that you don't have to have a stroke or take drugs to find the deep inner peace that she talks about. Her book explains how. ""I want what she's having"", and thanks to this wonderful book, I can! Thank you Dr. Taylor, and thank you Eckhart and Oprah.

Jane said...

I simply can not give up my coffee. I need it and love it! I don't have an addictive personality but my ex did. It was always interesting to see how, when forced to give up one addiction, something else was soon to replace it. To this day, he still struggles with it. I have to believe though that there are positive things to hook in to.

You are inspiring with the way you work through your journey.

RubyUK said...

Hi,fantastic blog.I agree that you can feed your addiction by negative energy---for me the drinking is the negative energy. I dont drink all the time now but when I get drunk I struggle with so many negative feelings about myself. I have started to realise that being drunk isn't to do with craving alcohol for me ,it is to do with wanting to be liked or accepted.I realise that I worry about the one person in the room who isn't friendly instead of concentrating on the twenty friends that I have got. Learning to be your own best friend elps ,I believe .Also recognising recurring patterns in relationships. For instance I realised that I was projecting my relationship with my mom onto my boss.Once I did that I was able to step back from the work relationship and be more objective and positive( not all the time!).I was actually making the situation far worse with my negative attitude.As to the knee deep analogy--I read Lousie Hay You Can Heal Your Life years ago and in some ways I feel she has a point. Thank you for the opportunity to give an opinion.