Buddhism is a religion and a philosophy stressing mindfulness, compassion, and the pursuit of enlightenment. People of all faiths have found Buddhist teachings beneficial while seeking substance abuse recovery. So, what is Buddhist philosophy? How does it relate to addiction, and how can you use it to support your efforts to get clean and sober?
What Is It?
Simply put, Buddhist philosophy is that we crave and cling to impermanent things. Impermanent and unimportant in the long run, they fail to satisfy us even when we get exactly what we want. The result is dukkha or suffering.
Saṃsāra is an endless cycle of rebirth (described as anything from a change of consciousness in the current life or reincarnation), suffering (always craving what we don’t have), and death (a temporary liberation from the cycle before consciousness begins again and can mean physical death or the end of that version of our consciousness). The only way to end the cycle is to reach Nirvana or enlightenment.
The Four Noble Truths
- There is a lot of suffering in human life: A substance abuser’s cravings are a source of suffering, as are the circumstances that led to substance abuse. Both body and mind crave a substance that gives momentary relief but never lasts. We use it to escape suffering for other reasons or, by using it, cause suffering for others. Drugs and alcohol never heal anything. Instead they destroy, causing shame, avoidance, anger, helplessness, hopelessness, and loss. By clinging to harmful substances, we increase and prolong suffering.
- Greed is the root cause of suffering: Addiction is about wanting more. You develop a tolerance for your drug of choice and need more drugs to get the same high. More time on the drug to escape withdrawals or other pain. People are willing to lie to hide drug use, steal to pay for their next fix, and even kill in some drug or withdrawal-induced states.
- Suffering has an ending: No pain lasts forever. You can find relief in drug recovery (preferred) and be reborn in this earthly life, or die and move on to your next life if you believe in reincarnation as the Buddhists do.
The Noble Eightfold Path Ends Suffering
- Right Understanding – To conquer addiction, you must first understand it. What causes the emotional or physical need for the drug? What are you telling yourself about the situation that makes it painful? Why does the drug make you feel better? What adverse effects do you experience after using? Do you want to keep using it despite the negative consequences? What has stopped recovery in the past?
- Right Intention – Can you commit to working the program? Will you do it for the right reasons? You’ll likely return to using if you’re quitting because the court has mandated your rehab. If you’re starting recovery because you can’t bear to lose custody of your children, then this pure emotional incentive can carry you past steep challenges.
- Right Mindfulness – To be in the moment and have a non-judgmental awareness of what you’re experiencing. You observe without frantically trying to avoid the sensation, hide from your feelings, or make judgments about your character for having those feelings. Your feelings just are.
- Right Concentration – Controlling your thoughts takes practice. You can distract yourself with more productive thoughts, try guided imagery meditation to calm yourself, or think of nothing to let your mind be quiet. Meditation takes practice. If your mind drifts, be patient with yourself. Observe that you got off track and calmly redirect your thoughts.
- Right Effort – Take action. Check yourself into a faith-based treatment center. Follow the program. Take the time to define your triggers. Develop an aftercare plan to get you past triggers and cravings. Mend your relationships. Take responsibility for your actions and make amends.
- Right View – Challenging negative beliefs in therapy and self-reflection can help you discover mindsets that hold you back, feed into your addictions, and prevent you from forming healthy relationships. Continuing that process after you leave the drug treatment facility will strengthen you while you choose beliefs more suited to the life you want to live.
- Right Livelihood – How you make a living will determine where you spend most of your time. Have a career that supports your goals, or at least doesn’t sabotage them, like working in a bar if you’re an alcoholic. Set yourself up for success.
- Right Action – Beyond the first big step of starting faith-based drug rehab, you will continue to make a million tiny decisions daily that lead you closer to your goals or farther away. Be deliberate about how you spend your time and with whom you spend it. Sometimes, getting healthy takes drastic changes. Avoiding change will leave you weak and vulnerable to temptation. Decide how you want your life to look, decide what must be done to get there, break it down into manageable steps, and start moving forward.
Whether you consider yourself Buddhist or identify with another religion, the key to recovering from substance abuse is to come to know and rely on that higher spiritual power in your life. If you would like to know more about our faith-based treatment centers in Utah and Idaho, call us at 855-736-7262.