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Addiction, AA, Meditation

Addiction, AA, Meditation

What is addiction?  Boy oh boy if that answer could only be solved to a simple set of observations.  It is different for everybody, so I could never be the keeper of the secret to a clean and sober success story.  I can just tell you part of my story and give you my opinion.

My greatest drive when trying to get sober was to not only be true to myself and the supportive people around me, but also know “what causes a relapse?”. 

The stories other people told of their relapse struck fear into my core.  All you have to do is convince yourself that “just one little nip won’t do me harm”, was enough to send one story teller into a binge where he dropped out of meetings, only to return to the program months later looking more ragged than ever.   Many relapses don’t return to meetings. Some return to the spin dry (detox center) and some don’t return at all.

So what is it, that causes the car to drive into the parking lot of the package store?  What is it that causes us to pick up just one more time?  What is it that causes us to think that it is a great idea to jump on that merry go round of using to abusing?

This is just my honest opinion from where I am now.  I hope this helps some understanding and also this is my opinion and my story, and I am sure there are differences out there that do not fit with what I have to say.

I have written a blog about reward chemistry in what I have gleaned from John Douillard in his presentation of Ayurveda and the Science of Longevity.  In a more subtle sense, life is full of actions, consumptions and things that make us feel good.  There is actually a chemical called dopamine that cycles to highs and lows based upon the our search and gaining a reward.  For example, I am so exhausted from shopping in these stores, I am going to grab a Starbucks and chill out.  Note, for others it’s not the Starbucks, but the shopping that elevates the dopamine.   

The biggest difference to me, between the dopamine experience and the addiction experience is the conscious decision to get the reward.  With addiction, the urge to pick up is an urge that exists in the sub-conscious.  There is this feeling of being in a funk or a low and the sub-conscious immediately knows how to get out of it.  It leads to an automatic desire to pick up, to use, or turn the car into the package store parking lot. There is no time for the conscious mind to intervene, unless we have put up a red flag.  Even then, as in the early months of sobriety, this red flag can be weak and we need continuous reminders of the past, being thrown off the addiction merry-go-round and the resulting chaos. 

And this urge and desire to get the drug of our choice is so strong, it becomes a priority over everything else. We will face all inconveniences, (for example walk miles in bad weather), with the eye on our goal to get what we need. We will face embarrassment, lie, cheat and steal, even with our loves ones, to get to the next fix.

In sobriety, we learn our reward is to stay clean and sober, but that does not feel very much like a reward.  We have to deal with all the crap life is dishing out while our sub-conscious is screaming out it’s solution. We have situations that cause our sobriety to be sabotaged, like feelings of low self worth, or the emotional interactions with a mate, or friend who still uses, that cause the desire for anything to get us out of the funk.  Our solace comes from the support of those who care, the little chips we get on the way, and the slow growing light of the candle of our spirit.

AA or NA

Some people can get sober without AA or NA.  I personally believe in the power of the AA program and that it comes from a spiritual place.  Not to scare anyone off with terms like god, however, AA feels anything but spiritual at the start.  I don’t want to accept or reject something just because it uses a reference to god or people say the lords prayer at the close of a meeting.  I am doing the work.  I am getting sober and it is not easy.  It is a boot camp.  But what on earth are they talking about with the Steps?

The first three steps of the AA program remind us that we do not have power over the addiction and that we need the help of a higher power to set us free from our addiction.  I used to say, the fellowship of AA is that higher power.  It was other people in the program that were invested in my sobriety that gave me the third gift of sobriety.  I thought I could do it all on my own.  I was heavily invested in one of the ego beliefs that Wayne Dyer speaks of.  I am alone in the world and I am separate from any higher power, or god, or what I call now “the creative source”.   Time to get a sponsor.  Who can help me get through the next 24 hours? 

I did not mention the first gift.  It is part of step one.  It was the gift of desperation.  I decided that I needed to get sober.  It was that or perish.  My luck relying on the angel on my shoulder was feeling like it was running out.  The second gift was oversight.  I had to report to someone about my progress.  It was discipline hard to come by in my shattered state.

Once we roll with the first three steps, the fourth step makes us look at who we are.  It is time to write.  What are my buttons?  Who do I resent?  Who is my nemesis?  What do I love and is it Love?  Write about it until you can write no more.   The next steps (5 ,6 & 7) we shared these with our sponsor, or with our higher power and put into action our intention to remove our defects of character.   Looking deep into ourselves can sometimes cause us to realize a whole lot of things we took very seriously were actually not important at all. 

By this point in the program, I was starting to get it.  Step 8 involves making a list of those hurt in the wreckage.  Those people to face in Step 9 to ask their forgiveness.  In these steps we learn to forgive ourselves.  Step 10 keeps us tuned to who we are.  Taking the inventory of others in not allowed.


Meditation is, in my opinion, the practice that catapults us to meet a higher, larger part of who we are.  I used the word practice, however, it is not achieved by doing.  When first learning to meditate, there is some doing, like focusing on breath and drifting from thought, but once we know the experience, it involves just being.  Leaving the physical world and preconcieved thought and beliefs and entering a state of presence.  Entering the deepest level of right now.  (this is also step 11). 

It is possible that meditation practice will reveal how magnificent we are.  Fear and self worth become a thing of the past as we understand that our world is place where we have power.  A palette of possibilities are present to create a world within that becomes manifest in the 3d world around us.  A knowing comes to us that we are to take care of all our brothers and sisters, living things and our domicile on this earth. 

This is the springboard that takes us spiritually higher.  We are no longer that person just getting sober.  There are no more chains that hold us and hopefully those urges in the sub-conscious are replaced with benevolence, caring, compassion and gratitude.

Step 12 of the AA program requests that as we have a spiritual awakening, we carry the message to those who desire sobriety and practice the principles of the steps in our lives.

I am not that person who entered the AA program over a decade ago.  I am so thankful of those who showed me how to get where I am today.  My spirit candle is so much brighter and I wish for everyone who is challenged by addiction to find the miracle of being clean, being sober and aligning with the higher spirit of who they truly are.

Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Know that you are magnificent!

Oxytocin and Longevity

Oxytocin and Longevity

Almost opposite to dopamine and its effects, is the hormone Oxytocin (the longevity hormone).  Oxytocin has been linked to optimal health, longevity, reducing heart disease.  This hormone is produced when you love, give, care, and take care of others.  This hormone is in contrast to dopamine, where dopamine usually is exacted when you do things for yourself, and oxytocin is produced when you care for others.  We are more related to loving, compassion, and caring for others, and these expressions bring us back to harmony and balance with mankind and nature.   

We carry microbes in the inner lining of the intestines, the skin and other parts of our body.  When we are stressed, the nature of these microbes change.  Stressed microbes will be more prone to illness and disease whereby a harmonious body, through higher levels of oxytocin will contain good microbes and will gravitate to a increased state of well being.  Epigenetics or the modification of gene expression experience an alteration through our giving, loving and caring.  A supposed genetic predisposition has little effect when the acts of giving, loving and caring change our microbes and our genetic expression.

Current science agrees with Ayurveda in suggesting that we are expressions of Love.  The Bhagavad Gita emphasizes that we not be attached to the fruit of our actions.  When we care for others and give unconditionally, we are no longer concerned with return on investment, however, sometimes in life it is almost unavoidable to become attached to the fruit, or what we get in return.   

We often set in motion agreements in our relationships with others based upon the fruit of our actions.  You can see where the reward chemistry would apply when we wish our companion might respond a certain way if we were to be good or not so good to them.  If we were to open the flower of our love, with no expectation of the outcome, the result will be pure and the relationship with our significant other would reach new awareness and perhaps enlightenment.  It may take the intention to understand others and casting away our old patterns of engaging to get there.

When someone inflicts hurt (throws a dart) at us, we can have one of three different  reactions:  1) we can throw a dart back, 2) we can turn and walk away, or 3) we can identify with the dart being thrown and understand that it exists because the other person is feeling pain.  If we throw the dart back, we continue the cycle.  If we turn and walk away, the other person feels abandoned.  The pain continues.  If we choose the way of 3), with that understanding comes compassion and we remove the protective armor around us (freeing ourselves from old patterns and behavior) and show our true side which comes from a genuine love. 

This is an example of transformational change, which is a goal of Longevity.  If you can free yourself from old patterns and behavior and enter a new awareness and expression you create an environment within that is loving, giving and kind.  This is the environment where good microbes flourish, and change in genetic expression and telemeres create a natural transformation toward longer life.  In a loving giving kind environment our body feels safe and we evolve without the stress.

Ayurveda and the Science of Longevity Pt 1

Ayurveda and the Science of Longevity Pt 1

I have taken the time honored practice of yoga and yoga principles as a foundation upon which to apply modern physiology and spirituality.  John Douillard takes the same approach in is workshop “Ayurveda and the Science of Longevity, applying modern science to the time tested methods of Ayurveda.

Auyurvedic medicine is a circadian medicine as it focuses on the natural rhythms of the earth.   In some ways, we have strayed from those natural rhythms. The current approach to life is from a perspective of survival from things that are out to harm our existence or the inevitability of aging.  

In addition to living in synchronicity with the natural rhythms of the earth and nature around us, the Auyurvedic lifestyle opens awareness so we become more conscious of ourselves.  How did we get here?

From an early age, we want approval from our parents and childhood experiences cement into our subconscious a reward chemistry.  We strive for approval.  We feel good when getting a raise, a new car or new home.   This carries to a daily level where activities like a stop at Starbucks or going out shopping causes our dopamine levels to rise. We feel gratification from things accomplished or things acquired or even things consumed. 

When we become still, and exist in a state of being in the present moment, we become conscious of who we are.  This is accompanied by feelings of satisfaction towards our surroundings and who we are at a very deep level.  Eckhart Tolle mentions this contrast in trying to find gratification be constantly doing compared to the state that we achieve when just being present.

That is not to say our lives should be transformed by just spending all our time in meditation.  We are continuously manifesting in life and a large part of that involves the doing.  Moreover, if we lead a balanced life with exercise, eating well and becoming more aware of ourselves, the things we manifest come with much less effort and stress.  John Douillard compares this to an archer, who is holding the bow with steadiness before releasing it to its target.  Be still, knowing the target, aim with steadiness and then perform action.  As our mind body harmony and balance improves, our targets also change as we refine what we want to manifest in life just by developing it in our state of presence.  Our quality of life and our life expectancy increases!

Great Hall Yoga at Veasey Park

Great Hall Yoga at Veasey Park

Please join us for practice at Veasey Park in Groveland on Wednesday evenings at 7pm. The address is 201 Washington Street, Groveland, MA 01834. We practice in the Great Hall; a wonderful place of serenity and energy. Admission is $8 per class or $40 for 6 classes. We hope to see you there!