My Buddhist friend is traveling to lead a retreat in India, and asked if I had any words about addiction. I ended up writing him 3 e-mails.
Here is the first one:
Addiction is trying to keep the party going, but it's meant to be an infrequent thing. It always hides difficult emotions and thoughts. As a Buddhist there is a specific precept out of 5 to forbid. Avoid the habit because the progression of the disease means you need more and more to not feel bad. It may even take a decade or more. Alcoholism is an equal opportunity obsession and allergy. Anyone can get it, rich or poor. If you aspire to follow the Buddha avoid drugs. Get support if you have a problem, isolation is an aspect of addiction. May you be happy, may you be well my brothers and sisters in India, from America.
Here is the second one:
You asked me to write about addiction for our brothers in the dharma for your next retreat. I dashed off a quick response, that might be short and the one you want to read to them.
I think I also left out another aspect of addiction--delusion that you are not harming anyone. You could also call that magical thinking. The idea that you can drink and that only hurts you is a fallacy. Supporting the industry harms others. Anyone you come in contact with will be adversely affected. Your family most definitely is affected. The fantasy that you work and provide for the family so you deserve a drink is an especially pernicious thought. The idea that others are doing it, so that it is OK is another pernicious thought. The road to recovery, and it's a lifelong journey, is to connect with others who value sobriety. Please reach out to others and commit to sobriety. May you be, happy may you be well.
Here is the third one:
Another thing to remember is that the default reaction is to denounce the alcoholic and suggest that they are morally weak. But the disease model means you treat it the way you would cancer. You bring kindness. What an addict needs is being hugged closer, not pushed away. So find a way to suspend your judgements, and protect yourself from exploitation and your own harm, and be there for your friend with addiction problems. It's only through a solid relationship that you can chip away ever so lightly at the delusion that it's not affecting a person. Consult friends and get support if you are in contact with someone with addiction because it will be hard, frustrating, annoying, challenging and off putting. It becomes a negative feedback loop that leads to more and more isolation. But the buddhist goes against the stream and seeks to cure the suffering of the world. Be like Ksitigarbha, go into the hell realm and help out your brothers and sisters. You are strong enough.
May you be happy, may you be well.