Fantastic article on Buddhism and Addiction

The teachings of Buddhism are entirely designed to help us to become happier and more contented people, by reducing those things in our lives, which cause us suffering [or cause suffering to others], by helping us to reflect more deeply upon the consequences of our actions, and by increasing those things that bring us happiness. There is not really any ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in Buddhism; there are just actions that bring us greater happiness and those that bring us greater pain. To live skilfully, therefore, is to live in harmony with these principles. In general, it means to reduce our selfishness, to give more to others, to increase our happiness and to stop those things that harm self or others - to adopt a life of non-harming. Non-harming to self and all beings.

In the case of addiction, it is clear from a Buddhist viewpoint that it can be seen as an overactive desire sense, that has gone way beyond normal limits, and which is harmful to self. It is also important to acknowledge that we are all in some ways addicted to something, be it only money, shopping, success, promotion, food or sex. People who are addicted to something have become too solidly locked into a love of pleasure and are reaping the consequences of that lifestyle. It also means that their sense of identity is rewarded only when they indulge whatever they crave, and this has thus become dependent upon their addiction. A firm sense of self-identity is based solely upon their habit, and without it, they feel invisible and non-existent. This is often termed an ‘addictive personality’ – they believe that life without ‘their fix’ is unfaceable, not worth living and sad and boring. Such people have identified so strongly or solidly with the source of their pleasure that they believe life without it is not possible or is unthinkable. To at least some degree, they have lost control of their life.

While there may well be deeper reasons for this behaviour and also a deeper basis of unhappiness that lies at the root of it [such as in unresolved childhood unhappinesses, or mixing with the ‘wrong people’], Buddhism, in typically pragmatic style, seeks merely to deal with the problem as-is and to reduce the extent and power of one’s current addiction. All other factors can be addressed through meditation, self-restraint and discussion.

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