Is addiction a fate worse than unremitting, agonizing pain? To many people, the answer is absolutely not—particularly if the sufferer is close to death. But that’s not how our policymakers—and even many people affected by addiction—seem to view the issue.
While use of prescription opioids for cancer and other end-of-life pain is increasingly accepted, if you are going to suffer in agony for years, rather than months, mercy is harder to find. Indeed, it seems a given by the media that because addicts sometimes fake pain to get drugs, doctors should treat all patients as likely liars—and if a physician is conned by an addict, the doctor has only herself to blame.
Previously we mentioned that the pleasure center is a portion of the brain over which we have no conscious control, and that it can be stimulated by a variety of chemicals — some of them produced inside our bodies and some that we introduce from outside. We said that the pleasure center rewards us for activities that it interprets as contributing in some way to our survival, whether they be social interactions, exercising, or more prosaic things such as eating. We also stated that these pleasurable feelings, when pursued too far or for too long can create problems. Now we need to examine how that happens….
There is a well-known Buddhist lesson concerning two monks who were traveling and came to a muddy stream. There they observed a woman who was hesitating to cross, apparently concerned about soiling her clothing.
The older monk approached the woman, bowed, and then picked her up and carried her across the stream. He set her down, bowed again, and he and his younger companion continued on their way.
That evening, while they were eating their rice, the younger monk said, “I don’t understand. As monks, we are to have no contact with women, yet you picked that woman up and carried her in your arms!”
The older monk said, “I put the woman down at the side of the stream. You are still carrying her.”
That’s how we are. We cling to thoughts and ideas, worrying them and twisting them around inside our heads, causing all sorts of turmoil and accomplishing nothing in the way of our journey toward spirituality.
To me, spirituality is about things of the human spirit: understanding, compassion, forgiveness, love, willingness to contribute our efforts to help others, humility (at which I fear I’m not all that successful) and things of that sort. Compassion and forgiveness are especially important, because clinging to the resentments that prevent those qualities from shining forth causes us so much unhappiness.
Compassion is, essentially, seeing things from another’s point of view, and being willing to do what we can to alleviate their suffering. Forgiveness is compassion toward ourselves. It is not about “freeing” the other person from anything, but about freeing ourselves of the unhappiness that is caused by being unforgiving.
Like the young monk, we sometimes carry things along with us after the reality has changed and, in our very human way, often blow it up in our minds until it forms a nearly impassable barrier to true spiritual growth. Not until we realize that forgiveness does not involve condoning a wrongful act, but is simply choosing to accept, and move on with our own lives, can we expect to get beyond it. That doesn’t mean that we have to invite the person to dinner, but only that we need to learn to put down our own burden after we have crossed the stream.
A pair of 72-year-old scientists, saying they have much to be grateful for and little to lose, have formed the Skilled Veterans Corps, enlisting volunteers willing to venture into the radioactive Fukushima Daiichi plant. Officials have accepted their offer.
The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment has reviewed testimony from experts
and members of the public, relevant Maryland laws and court cases, as well as statistics and
studies relevant to the topic of capital punishment in Maryland. After a thorough review of this
information, the Commission recommends that capital punishment be abolished in Maryland.
The following sections detail the findings that support the recommendations and address each
major issue the Commission was charged with studying
There are still some who question the need for drug and alcohol detox and treatment, who feel that addicts and alcoholics’ issues are moral rather than physical and emotional, and that we deserve what life hands us. There is truly no way to argue such issues. Addiction has been accepted as a disease for half a century, and if folks choose to ignore that, nothing is left to say.
There are, however, good arguments for treatment and detox that have nothing to do with morality. Let’s look at some of them.