I introduce the notion of addiction as a subject of philosophical inquiry here for a reason. I am a philosopher, yes, but I am also an alcoholic who has been sober for more than 24 years ― only the last four of them as part of a recovery program. I am often asked how I got and stayed sober for those first 19 years; it was because of philosophy, which engendered in me a commitment to living an examined life, and gave me the tools and concepts to do so. My training in moral philosophy made it natural for me to wrestle with issues of character, responsibility, freedom, care and compassion in both work and life. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/out-of-the-cave-philosophy-and-addiction/
Peg O’Connor at the NYT writes:
I introduce the notion of addiction as a subject of philosophical inquiry here for a reason. I am a philosopher, yes, but I am also an alcoholic who has been sober for more than 24 years ― only the last four of them as part of a recovery program. I am often asked how I got and stayed sober for those first 19 years; it was because of philosophy, which engendered in me a commitment to living an examined life, and gave me the tools and concepts to do so. My training in moral philosophy made it natural for me to wrestle with issues of character, responsibility, freedom, care and compassion in both work and life.
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.
From an article I wrote on a different site:
Many of us in recovery — especially early recovery — have difficulty with what we see as the “religious” aspects of the 12 Step fellowships. Again, without getting into a discussion about religion versus spirituality, it has been my experience that those who are able to put such prejudices behind them, take from “the program” what fits for them, and allow others the same privilege, are the ones who are most likely to succeed. Personal problems with concepts of gods and higher powers notwithstanding, it is quite possible to be a part of the 12 Step experience and not delve into religion at all.
Spirituality, however, is an absolute must, and certain concepts that have come to be expressed in terms of prayers and similar ideas are also critical to success. Again, we need to read between the lines of those things and take from them the underlying thoughts and wisdom. Sometimes we even need to show a bit of humility and go along with customs such as prayers at the beginning and end of meetings, understanding that those things are important for many people, and that participating does us no real harm at all.
One prayer that we need to take absolutely to heart is the Serenity Prayer…
This is really clever. Thanks, Pat.
Three of the top 5 happiest nations, according to a recent poll, are also among the top ten least religious.
‘…being a civil libertarian requires a sprinkle of paranoia — it means anticipating threats to freedom rather than waiting for them to mobilize, because often, that means it’s too late. “It’s striking how rapidly things move from being science fiction to being true threats to privacy, from face recognition to body scanners,” Stanley says. “It’s important to be ahead of the curve and frame the debate so they know what the civil-liberties issues are.”‘