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Book study - Recovery Dharma

Old 07-21-2021, 01:54 PM
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Book study continued:

Trauma and Attachment Injury continued

Trauma and attachment issues are relevant to suffering and addiction because the impact can be intense. Studies show that a majority of people who struggle with addiction have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. The same system that serves to keep us safe from harm is also the one that fuels the mechanisms of aversion and craving that perpetuate suffering. This system can be overactive when trauma is present because it perceives a very real threat, and the body often responds with feelings of helplessness, fear, and vulnerability. This system can be easily thrown into overdrive when one’s life experience screams: "You're not safe! Danger! Danger!"

For some people, symptoms of trauma may be increasingly severe and last long after the events that originally caused the trauma have ended. Many of us have intrusive thoughts that seem to come out of the blue, or we feel confusion or mood swings we can’t tie to specific events. Traumatic responses may lead us to avoid activities or places that trigger memories of the event. We can become socially isolated and withdrawn, and lose interest in things we used to enjoy. Trauma may mean we’re easily startled, edgy, or dysfunctional during sex or other activities, or unusually alert to potential danger. Overwhelming fear, anxiety, detachment and isolation, shame, and anger may become background states of our activities. There are many other effects of trauma that may be triggered by social interactions or even during work or meditation—areas that may seem disconnected from the original events.

Trauma and attachment issues can certainly lead to the fear, anger, anxiety, and loneliness that are common responses to the experience of life. But, at a deeper level, trauma makes it harder for us to cope in general, to form healthy or safe relationships, to develop an identity in the world, or to defend ourselves. No two of us will react to the same experience in the same way, but this truth points to the fact that certain kinds of experience in our pasts can affect our responses later in life. This is key to understanding dukkha, and to meeting our experience with compassion and kindness rather than judgment (not only for others but also for ourselves), which is an essential part of recovery.

Many of us turned to addictive substances and behaviors as a way to cope with our trauma. In some ways, running from the pain of our experiences through our addictions was itself a survival technique when it felt like we wouldn’t be able to live through the pain of our memories. While this may have provided some temporary relief, it did nothing to actually heal the pain of our trauma, and often led to even more pain.

Our trauma is not our fault, but healing from it is our responsibility, and our right. Developing understanding and compassion toward the way trauma affects our reactions to events or circumstances now is an important part of that healing.
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Old 07-21-2021, 01:56 PM
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It's interesting that there is a focus on trauma and attachment injuries. Both of those things feature quite strongly in my life and I've had years of therapy to deal with them. I'm sure it's also part of what led to my endless cycle of drinking, quitting, then drinking again as I longed for the emotional numbness that drinking gave me, but then my life would become a train wreck. So I'd quit. Then I couldn't stand not being numb. Lather, rinse, repeat.
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Old 07-21-2021, 04:16 PM
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Patient [raising Arm above his Head]: 'Doctor, Doctor, it hurts when I do that'.

Doctor: 'OK, so don't do that'.

An ancient Henny Youngman Joke.

It took me a ridiculous length of time to break that maladjusted Alcoholic 'Coping' Cycle. Once broken, I find there's no chance [for me] of going back to it. It was simply too great an effort, and too great a victory. With regard to The Ego, this victory is also too great a contributor to my Serenity. I can now set that battle fully aside to a place of neutrality where it merits no further attention, and generates no more angst.
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Old 07-22-2021, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by MesaMan View Post
.
Patient [raising Arm above his Head]: 'Doctor, Doctor, it hurts when I do that'.

Doctor: 'OK, so don't do that'.

An ancient Henny Youngman Joke.

It took me a ridiculous length of time to break that maladjusted Alcoholic 'Coping' Cycle. Once broken, I find there's no chance [for me] of going back to it. It was simply too great an effort, and too great a victory. With regard to The Ego, this victory is also too great a contributor to my Serenity. I can now set that battle fully aside to a place of neutrality where it merits no further attention, and generates no more angst.
Ah yes a good way of putting it - the alcoholic coping cycle. How well I know that dance! A neutral attitude is definitely better than the one I had for years - fear and terror every time it struck! I would wind myself up into such a state of drama, that I would end up drinking. I was very attached to NOT having cravings. I suffered because of that attachment, and then drank in an attempt to alleviate the suffering. What a hot mess.
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Old 07-22-2021, 01:46 PM
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Book study continued:

The First Noble Truth continued

Questions for Inquiry of the First Noble Truth:

Begin by making a list of the behaviors and actions associated with your addiction(s) that you consider harmful. Without exaggerating or minimizing, think about the things you have done that have caused harm to yourself and others.

For each behavior listed, write how you have suffered because of that behavior, and write how others have suffered because of that behavior. List any other costs or negative consequences you can think of, such as finances, health, relationships, sexual relations, or missed opportunities.

Do you notice any patterns? What are they? What are the ways that you might avoid or reduce suffering for yourself and others if you change these patterns?

How have your addictive behaviors been a response to trauma and pain? What are some ways you can respond to trauma and pain that nurture healing rather than avoiding?
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Old 07-22-2021, 01:49 PM
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Quite a lot to think about here! It's rather overwhelming and I feel sad at the memory of missed opportunities particularly.
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Old 07-22-2021, 03:12 PM
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I consoled myself with the promise of opportunities to come, Patcha.

D
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Old 07-22-2021, 04:17 PM
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Very good point, Dee!!
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Old 07-23-2021, 02:16 PM
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Book study continued

The Second Noble Truth: The Cause of Suffering

As people who have become dependent on substances and behaviors, we’ve all experienced the sense of failure and hopelessness that comes from trying, and failing, to let go of our fixations. Addiction itself increases our suffering by creating a hope that both pleasure and escape can be permanent. We go through this suffering again and again because substances or behaviors can only give us temporary relief to our pain, our unhappiness, and our lost or damaged sense of self.

Our refusal to accept the way things are leads to wanting, or craving, which is the cause of suffering. We don’t suffer because of the way things are, but because we want—or think we “need”—those things to be different. We suffer because we cling to the idea that we can satisfy our own cravings, while ignoring the conditions of the world around us. Above all, we cling to the idea that we can hold on to impermanent and unreliable things, things that can’t ever lead to real satisfaction or lasting happiness, without experiencing the suffering of one day losing them.

Clinging to impermanent solutions for suffering results in craving. We experience craving like a thirst, an unsatisfied longing, and it can become a driving force in our lives. If craving goes beyond simple desire, which is a natural part of life, it often leads us to fixation, obsession, and the delusional belief that we can’t be happy without getting what we crave. It warps our intentions so that we make choices that harm ourselves and others. This repetitive craving and obsessive drive to satisfy it leads to what we now know as addiction. Addiction occupies the part of our mind that chooses— our will—and replaces compassion, kindness, generosity, honesty, and other intentions that might have been there. Many of us experience addiction as the loss of our freedom to choose; it’s the addiction that seems to be making our choices for us.

In the way we “must have” food, shelter, or water, our mind can tell us we “must have” some substance, buy or steal something, satisfy some lust, keep acting until we achieve some “needed” result; that we must protect ourselves at all cost and attack people with whom we disagree, or people who have something we want. This “need” also leads to an unsettled or agitated state of mind that tells us we’ll only be happy if we get certain results or feel a certain way. We want to be someone we’re not, or we don’t want to be who we are.

Conditions or circumstances in and of themselves don't cause suffering. They can cause pain or unpleasant experiences, but we add suffering on top of this when we think we “need” those circumstances to be different. We create even more suffering when we act out in ways that deny the reality of the circumstances and the reality of impermanence. Craving is the underlying motive that fuels unwise actions that create suffering.
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Old 07-23-2021, 02:16 PM
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Even though I know this logically, it's still rather startling to read it in someone else's words and realise how universal the suffering of addiction is. We might have different addictions, but the underlying experience is the same.
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Old 07-24-2021, 02:24 PM
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Book study continued

The Second Noble Truth continued

Questions for Inquiry of the Second Noble Truth:

List situations, circumstances, and feelings that you may have used harmful behavior to try and avoid.

List the emotions, sensations, and thoughts that come to mind when you abstain. Are there troubling memories, shame, grief, or unmet needs hiding behind the craving? How can you meet these with compassion and patience?

What things did you give up in your desire to cling to impermanent and unreliable solutions? For example, did you give up relationships, financial security, health, opportunities, legal standing, or other important things to maintain your addictive behaviors? What made the addiction more important to you than any of these things you gave up?

Are there any beliefs you cling to that fuel craving and aversion, beliefs that deny the truth of impermanence, or beliefs about how things in life “should” be? What are they?
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Old 07-24-2021, 02:25 PM
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Ooof! It would take me a long time to write these things down. It hits pretty close to home! The things I gave up to maintain my addiction? So many things. It took a long time to see it but I wouldn't let anything come between me and drinking, or even take time away from drinking. It's quite painful to think about.
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Old 07-25-2021, 02:14 PM
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Book study continued:

The Third Noble Truth: The End of Suffering

It is possible to end our suffering. When we come to understand the nature of our craving and realize that all our experiences are temporary by nature, we can begin a more skillful way to live with the dissatisfaction that is part of being human. We don't need to be torn apart by our thoughts and feelings that say, "I have to have more of that," or "I'll do anything to get rid of that.” The Third Noble Truth is that the end of craving is possible. Each of us has the capacity for recovery.

We are responsible for our own actions and for the energy we give our thoughts and feelings. This means we have control over our own suffering, because the unpleasant emotions take place within us: we create them through our response to experience. We don't need to depend on anyone or anything else to remove the causes of our suffering. We may not be able to control anything "out there,” but we can learn to choose what we think, say, and do. We come to understand that if our thoughts, words, and actions are driven by greed, hatred, or confusion, we are creating suffering. And so, if we let go of these actions, we can avoid suffering in the future. We can choose to give up the causes of disturbing and unpleasant emotions, knowing that virtuous actions result in happiness and un-virtuous actions result in suffering. This is the true empowerment and freedom of recovery—recognizing that happiness and suffering are entirely up to us, based on how we choose to respond to our experiences.
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Old 07-25-2021, 02:15 PM
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I know that a lot of my suffering comes from worry about the future. I think it's fine for monks to say don't worry about it, but they aren't potentially going to live under a bridge in a cardboard box if their retirement investments tank, or if they don't have any retirement savings at all!
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Old 07-26-2021, 02:06 PM
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Book study continued

Questions for Inquiry of the Third Noble Truth:

What makes it so hard to quit?

What resources are available to help you abstain and recover?

List reasons to believe you can recover. Also list your doubts. What might the wise and compassionate part of you—your Buddha nature—say about these doubts?

Practice “letting go” of something small. Notice that the craving doesn’t last and that there’s a little sense of relief when you let it pass. That’s a little taste of freedom.
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Old 07-26-2021, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Patcha View Post
I know that a lot of my suffering comes from worry about the future. I think it's fine for monks to say don't worry about it, but they aren't potentially going to live under a bridge in a cardboard box if their retirement investments tank, or if they don't have any retirement savings at all!
On the other hand we're pretty lucky living in the first world, and IMO luckier in Oz compared with other parts of the world.
We can definitely do stuff now to mitigate against possible disaster later - which to me is really the only real use that comes from worrying
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Old 07-26-2021, 07:57 PM
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We are very lucky Dee!
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Old 07-26-2021, 07:58 PM
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I think even monks are feeling it now though as many monasteries made income from having people come for retreats, and now with COVID they have to close to the public in many places.
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Old 07-27-2021, 01:41 PM
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Book study continued

The Fourth Noble Truth: The Path

The Buddha taught that by living ethically, practicing meditation, and developing wisdom and compassion, we can end the suffering we create by resisting, running from, and misunderstanding reality.

The Fourth Noble Truth is a summary of the essential elements to recovery, or awakening, called the Eightfold Path. The Path is a set of instructions, a practice, and a way to investigate and be aware of the conditioned responses we cling to. These are the eight factors of the Path:

● Wise Understanding
● Wise Intention
● Wise Speech
● Wise Action
● Wise Livelihood
● Wise Effort
● Wise Mindfulness
● Wise Concentration

These eight factors can be broken down into three groups: The Wisdom group of Wise Understanding and Intention; the Ethics group of Wise Speech, Action, and Livelihood; and the Concentration group of Wise Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration.

Each of us will understand and practice each aspect of this Eightfold Path in our own way. We develop our wisdom, ethical practice, and concentration as far as we can in any given moment. As we come to a deeper understanding of the Four Noble Truths, we’re able to bring more effort and concentration to letting go of our greed, hatred, and confusion. Our ethical development will cause us to reflect more deeply on the sources of our unwise actions.

The Eightfold Path is a way of life that each of us follows and practices to the best of our current understanding and capacity. The Path is not a religious journey, and has nothing to do with belief, prayer, worship, or ceremony. It’s a guide to practice and a road that leads to a deep experience of the Noble Truths.
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Old 07-27-2021, 01:44 PM
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As I mentioned before, I'm not Buddhist, I just find some aspects of Buddhism have become foundations of my sobriety (meditation, mindfulness, keeping the 5 precepts). All the above makes sense, but I'm also tired of finding things out about myself that I need to change! I feel like I'll never be ok because there is always something else I need to work on! I guess the change needs to come if it causes me or someone else suffering. Suffering led me to drink to excess. Drinking to excess caused me suffering. Suffering caused me to drink to excess. Lather, rinse, repeat. So suffering is the thing I need to find ways to reduce.
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