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zencare talk: working with the addict

the addict alcoholic's mind is comprised of mutually reinforcing outlooks that create stress:

a view of oneself as being profoundly unique and different from all others in the universe; the addict/alcoholic believes his/her thoughts cannot be understood
—this results in what the buddha termed papancha, or self obsessed thought: what do others think of me?
The alcoholic takes everything personally, considering himself a victim, conspiracies
feels "uncomfortable in his own skin,"

three fold disease alcohol and drugs are stress responses.
he's rendered so stressed, that his search is invariably for an external, magic bullet, solution.
—damn the long term consequences.
drugs and alcohol work at first, relieving the mental agitation and stress, but in the long term one develops a tolerance
the addict/alcoholic doesn't believe other solutions exist

the problem with the false solutions—drugs, drink, etc:
—external solutions, don't address the underlying condition
—they stop working, we become habituated
—result in the alcoholic becoming more and more isolated, which reinforces the underlying spiritual outlook

addictive coping strategies that keep addiction in :
isolation & avoidance
victimization narratives: its my ex-wifes fault we're not married, my children's fault we're not close, my boss's fault i was fired, etc
secretiveness, esp an unwillingness to be open with feelings of fear or anger.
—fatalism: doesn't believe transitory mental states will pass or be relieved.
—dishonesty: doesn't acknowledge unskillful actions.

greatest enemy is a lack of openess to other solutions to stress
—he doesn't trust anyone to listen non-judgmentally
—he doesn't believe there are other solutions

keys to recovery

to regain trust the the addict alcoholic has to be in a group of other alcoholics; the underlying self view of uniqueness will be shaken.
—hopefully the addict alcoholic will find courage to express the obsessive thoughts & fears: 5th step, 9th step.
—the alcoholic takes up service, helping others, unravels low self-esteem.

working with the alcoholic

1) keep in mind karma and the teachings on equanimity.we cannot save everyone. some people's past actions are so self-destructive, their histories so littered with trauma, the resultant stress and suffering so great.
its important to understand our limitations.
—if you're invested in their recovery; if they're a husband, wife, son, daughter, get someone else involved.

2) don't take it personally. an alcoholic / addict is capable of saying anything when their addictions are the topic of discussion. its not about you.

3) is it the right time? the buddha said that speech always must meet three conditions 1) it must be true, 2) it must be useful/helpful and 3) it must be at the right time.
most alcoholics/addicts will never welcome a talk about their addiction; interventions are generally a measure of last resort and rarely work.

4) start by sharing your own experiences. the alcoholic / addict is extremely sensitive to any feelings of feeling "lesser than" or "judged" or "different." if you start by explaining your own addictions and fears, the alcoholic will feel less cornered and judged.
—if you have no experiences with addiction then bring someone.

5) provide hope. its important to state that there are plenty of resources available now to reduce stress, that they don't have to go it alone.

6) try to jump immediately if they open up to seeking help. its helpful to have the number of AA intergroup at hand.


  1. Check out Blessed are the Addicts by John A. Martin, an extraordinary understanding of addictions as a spiritual sadness.

  2. When I am stressed, I experience overwhelming fatigue. I get lightheaded and feel like someone literally tied my stomach in a knot. I also have anxiety as well.
    Andrew Jhonsonn


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