Addiction and the Quest for God

Addiction, a brief definition from the clinical worldA beautiful young man, after Zikr last night, shared his struggles and challenges in finding compassion for a family member caught in the throws of addiction.  He felt it was so difficult to comprehend why any person would be caught in such a trajectory of self-annihilation.  But an addict is an amazing being– someone who is willing to annihilate themselves, even for the momentary illusion of being more alive, someone seeking life more passionately than many of the successful, careful and properly behaved among us may ever know.

Perhaps that is why, in 1968, God told Murshid Samuel Lewis, “Teach the Hippies.”  Perhaps God looked with great appreciation upon those reckless young people who were throwing themselves over and over at the jaws of death in hopes of a glimpse of Truth, a sweet taste of the Infinite.

It is so easy to turn away from suffering.  Addicts walk the edge, but how insane are those of us who feel that if we do not look at the suffering in the world, it will pass us by?  Do we honestly believe that by dissociating ourselves from that which is too painful to see, we will insure our safety from pain as if God were an insurance salesman and our willful blindness was a signature on His contract?

Oh, and then there are the  Fixers.   Not the healers, healers are of another ilk, but the Fixers– those of us who believe we have all the solutions, and by following the appropriate rules, all problems will be solved.  What a comforting offer! It’s so seductive, so seductive.  Here is the attraction and beauty of religious Fundamentalism at it’s core:  follow the rule book and we will be spared all pain… or at least whatever inexplicable pain we are subject to endure in this life will be explained or rewarded the next.

What addiction is the obsessive attachment to the belief that if we just find the right rule book and follow it exactly, that we will finally be saved, blessed, free of pain?  What a dark road it leads us down, over and over again, into Holy Wars and hell on Earth and yet we persist.  What ‘loss of control in limiting intake” is that?

And Fundamentalism isn’t limited to the spiritual realms.  There are Material Fundamentalists, even Atheist Fundamentalists.  For when we cry  “Give me rational proof or give me death!”  we are no different than those who cry, “Give me my God my way or give me death!”.  In these cries, we are still courting death to preserve our precious attachment to the righteousness of our points of view.  How precious is it to simply question?  To possibly not know?  To be willing to consider?  To be willing to examine the possibilities?

What if Heaven and Hell as places of reward and punishment don’t exist?  What if they are here, right now, here with us, in our minds, our points of view, our beliefs and concepts?  What if we truly have the power to bring Heaven to the Earth, or Earth toward Heaven, just by altering the condition of the human heart?  What if the addict’s painful and often horrible descent into personal hell is just the result of throwing herself into God without any flying lessons ? What if the horrible face that stares back at the addict from his mirror each day is a face humanity needs to recognize as part of itself every bit as much as humanity needs to recognize the Saints and the Prophets?  What if  “There but for the Grace of God go I” is a lie because all of us are everyone and none of us is truly free until we can accept fully and completely both the beauty and the capacity for utter devastation within us?

After all, we would not expect a child to excel at any academic discipline without recognizing and training his or her capacities, so why would we think we can fully attain our potential as a humanity or  realize, as a humanity, any real self- responsibility at all by persisting in denying the darkness within us.

Perhaps the addicts among us are actually Saints, sacrificing themselves so that we can finally see who and what we truly are.  Ask any addict in recovery and he will tell you– no matter what horrible things he did and how many people he hurt, the person who was hurt most by his addiction was the addict himself.


On the clinical view of Addiction–

On Murshid Samuel Lewis (Murshid SAM)–

4 thoughts on “Addiction and the Quest for God

  1. My grandfather was an alcoholic and my father is a “fixer” and I am a recovering drug addict. The one thread that has weaved itself between generations is that lovely compromise gene. In order to not feel guilty about all the things we feel guilty about we compromise our own happiness to do what is “right.” It is a horrible cycle, especially when dealing with an addiction because most of the self loathing addict behavior stems from a completely self-less place. We know deep down what is fair but do not know how to execute and provide that which in turn adds even more guilt on top of the guilt of being an addict. And we do not care enough about ourselves to separate the injustice. It is easier to abuse yourself than be abusive, unfortunately there is a thin line between the two and under the influence almost impossible to recognize. But to the outside world addicts are self-absorbed monsters that need a strong dose of tough love. For those who want to reconcile with or help an addict I wish I could tell you how. Compassion is always a good start. The personal guilt that an addict has to go through and face before getting out of the vicious cycle takes an enormous amount of strength. Some people can’t pull out of it, some can. Divine intervention is the only sustainable solution I have witnessed. It can heal, save, STRENGTHEN those who are screaming for it. You will never know when that will happen for someone else. It is not your life and your decision. Though, I believe it is an unavoidable force we must all submit to at some moment in time.
    My dad use to tell me that alcoholics are really just sensitive people. How he figured that out after being physically abused by one is amazing to me. At 62 years old, that is his conclusion and he never struggled with alcohlism personally.
    I try to remember that when I find myself annoyed with a drunk homeless person or when I become overwhelmed with life and start craving Valium and a bottle of wine. We are just sensitive. I know how to deal with sensitive and abusing my body is not how.

    Wishing love and healing to all.

    Thank you for this inspiring and insightful article!


  2. Dearest Kim,

    I can’t thank you enough for your thoughtful, honest, sensitive comment. You and Larry and several others have convinced me that I need to share my thoughts and observations more in this area. Look for more blog entries on addiction in the future and thank you, again, for your inspiring courage.

    Much Love,


  3. Hey Larry,

    Thanks so much for this. Your professional perspective brings a particular depth to your reading that is so valuable.


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