Don’t do a thing. Just rest.
For your separation from God,
from Love, is the hardest work
in this world…
–Hafiz, translated by D. Ladinsky
Those of us in recovery from addiction of one kind or another are often encouraged not to dwell on positive memories of our substance of choice. Glamorizing or romanticizing our old experiences is dangerous, and we are most likely to do it when life in recovery is difficult. So it’s important that we remember the bad parts and remember where our addiction led us–and let those memories combat the illusion that we could ever relive any good times.
But this shouldn’t mean squashing or outlawing the feelings we may have about giving up this thing that’s been part of our life. The truth is, we who join together in recovery have something in common besides our addiction and our desire for change:
We are all grieving.
Each of us had something that took our pain away. Each of us had something with the power to make things different, soothe our fear, make the unbearable bearable. Each of us had a sort of magic spell to invoke when we couldn’t take any more of whatever was making us crazy. The fact that our magic thing began to destroy us does not negate the fact that it was special to us, and so was the comfort it represented. I wrote a little about this, trying to describe the indescribable, in A Love Letter to the Non-Addicted.
No matter how much we embrace the idea of living one day at a time, there is a corner of our hearts that is broken, crying plaintively for what it misses and grieving at the thought that it’s not coming back.
We get up in the morning, and go to bed at night, with a void inside us, whether we are conscious of it or not. This, to me, is a reason for the spiritual seeking many embrace in a path to recovery. That void within us, and the loss we feel, cause us to seek a higher source of comfort and completion.
There are those who say and write that a spiritual void is actually one root cause of addiction, or that the hell of our addiction is a blessing because it opens us to a spiritual search for something better than what we’ve lost. Leonard Cohen said “There is a crack in everything–that’s how the light gets in.” It’s certainly true that pain, loss and other experiences of breaking often precede spiritual growth.
Our grief needs to be respected. Being aware of it helps us avoid being undermined by it without knowing. Being aware of it helps us use it in ways that strengthen our recovery, not weaken it. Our grief and loss, when felt honestly, make us more compassionate with our fellow addicts. Our grief and loss spur us to search more passionately for new sources of pleasure and comfort. And, if we are ready, we can lay these feelings on the altar of our choice and let them open us up to something new.