Will power doesn’t heal addiction – living your personal myth does
Florian is an addiction specialist and together we have taught classes in Europe and the US on “The Alchemy of Addiction.” In the class we offer the perspective that addiction cannot be healed by will power. “How can it be healed then?” I hear you say. We believe by deep, committed inner work, partnering with the part of ourselves that is looking for a solution in the addiction. The feeling that something isn’t right and the desire to find a solution to the soul’s needs is perfectly valid – looking for the solution in a substance or addictive behavior is the problem. As Marion Woodman says, addictive behaviors confuse the metaphor (the addictive behavior) for reality (the underlying unconscious needs).
Through shadow and trauma work, we slowly begin to reconnect with parts of ourselves that have been abandoned. Through facing our wounds instead of trying to fill the gap we feel from being separated from the shadow parts of ourself with addictive behaviors, we begin to honor all of ourselves and connect with our personal myth. This journey takes time, it is not a quick solution.
When we make the decision to stop an addictive pattern through will power alone, it can feel like change is happening fast, but is it really? If we put all the energy that went into the addiction into willfully changing and prohibiting the addictive behavior, we are still ruled by the same energy, from the cut-offness from our shadow parts. The addiction, or more precisely the unconscious demands, still rules us. We become obsessed not with the addictive substance or behavior but with diets, exercise, supplements, substitutes for the addiction, etc. that still have a compulsive drive. Long term, we will either get to the point where we can no longer sustain the energy needed to hold the dam of willpower that is blocking the addiction from drowning us in place and we relapse. Or we keep the addiction at bay, never believing we can relax the compulsive alternative behaviors, because we are addicts for life. In this latter scenario, as the underlying issues haven’t been dealt with, the psyche will find another way to try and solve them, for example through an illness.
Recently, as I shared in the last newsletter, I made the decision to once and for all heal my sugar addiction. It felt like the frustration of staying in that pattern was finally more painful than changing it. I decided to share my journey with our You Tube subscribers daily, thinking that I could share the tools, reflections and challenges with others and hold my self accountable by showing up publicly. I’ve given up sugar several times before, so I was ready for the long haul, the nail-biting resistance, the cravings, etc.
The journey began and something didn’t feel right for me. Lots of people gave me advice, tricks and tools that helped them, for which I was very grateful, but still, something felt off. Plus, this time, the odd sugar craving I was feeling was easily manageable and the detox symptoms only lasted 48 hours. I didn’t feel the need to put all my energy into ‘forcing’ the path ahead. On day 6, this discomfort and feeling of being at odds with the process pushed me to thinking and realizing something quite profound:
I WAS ALREADY HEALED
Since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, I’ve spent the last five years committed to healing and transformation. I peeled away layer after layer of personal and transgenerational traumas and through this I have stepped into my personal myth. I am my personal myth.
The metaphor of sugar addiction and red wine are clear. Sugar fulfilled my need for support, unconditional love, and the gentleness of embodied, feminine nurturance. Red wine was the ideal metaphor for reconnecting with my severed motherline from which our birthright of unconditional love, support, guidance should ideally come from energetically. My soul knew what was missing, what I was separated from. The addictions were metaphorical symbols for these things, but unfortunately of course didn’t heal them.
So if I had reconnected with these severed parts, how come I kept on eating sugar and drinking red wine addictively? Because truly healing from transgenerational and personal trauma is a slow, long process. We don’t one day say, “Hey, now I am healed, and I don’t need my additive behaviors anymore.” We may feel that the addictive behaviors don’t feel as good anymore or we are less called to do them, which is what happened to me. What I realized was that all I needed to do was allow the healed, reconnected me take the forefront. The old habits had lost their power, their attraction, their meaning. I didn’t need to go on a long journey of will power, complicated replacement behaviors, etc. I just needed to allow the healed me to guide me. This is new ground. Instead of the ego being in charge, the ego needs to remember to honor the soul and her demands.
Simultaneously, I also realized the underlying emotional reasons for the hypothyroid diagnosis that I feel is intimately interwoven with the sugar addiction. I knew I’d been heading for this diagnosis for ten years or so. I looked it up in my reference books for biological decoding and of course, it is about feeling you do not ever have enough time. This resonated strongly. There is always a small inner voice making me feel time is running out and that I must move quickly, whatever I am doing.
At the same time as realizing the need for sugar and red wine had fallen away, I suddenly understood why I had lived my life feeling there was never enough time. I am the last female on my immediate motherline. This means that although my sons share the same mitochondrial DNA, they will not pass it onto their children. My motherline, my mitochondrial DNA end with me. I am also the first of my motherline to be born outside of India. My maternal ancestors from the Ahom tribe of Assam in North East India are a people where ancestral worship is at the heart of their culture. They have been guiding me during the past five years of healing work. They knew I was their only hope and there was an urgency to connect with me and so we could heal the lineage. Now I know this was where the internalized feeling of not having enough time came from.
Bringing this realization out of the shadows and into consciousness feels like the last piece in the puzzle. I no longer need the message from my thyroid. I no longer need to use sugar and red wine to feel I belong to my people and to receive their love and support. The work is done. The ancestors are no longer ghosts, but truly healthy ancestors whose gifts and guidance I can fully feel supporting me with the life force that I was born to receive.
The old habit of addiction and old ways of thinking I need will power and grit to heal addiction are now the ghosts of the past.
“An addiction is anything we do to avoid hearing the messages that body and soul are trying to send us.”
— Marion Woodman