All people who compulsively drink, use drugs, or engage in dangerous activities do so to obtain some relief from the continuous background fear, lack, or emptiness that is a direct result of life as a thought-based identity (the ego).
An egoic identity is a false one because it is based on thought instead of consciousness, our natural state of mind. The egoic personality requires constant compulsive thinking to sustain itself.
Any life based on compulsive thinking will be dysfunctional and unmanageable. Such a life is characterized by recurring feelings of emptiness, lack, and fear. People often describe this condition as having “a hole inside me that can never be filled.”
As Eckhart Tolle puts it:
"When the thought forms of 'me' and 'mine', of 'more than,' of 'I want,' 'I need,' 'I must have,' and of 'not enough' operate, no possession, place, person, or condition will ever satisfy you. No content will satisfy you as long as your egoic identity remains in place. No matter what you have or get, you won't be happy. You will always be looking for something else that promises greater fulfillment, that promises to make your incomplete sense of self complete and fill that sense of lack you feel within. "
"The ego always wants something from other people or situations. There is always a hidden agenda, always a of "not enough yet," of insufficiency and lack that needs to be filled. It uses people and situations to get what it wants, and even when it succeeds it is never satisfied for long. Often it is thwarted in its aims, and for the most part the gap between "I want" and "what is" becomes a constant source of upset and anguish."
"The underlying emotion that governs all of the activity of the ego is fear. The fear of being nobody, the fear of nonexistence, the fear of death. All its activities are ultimately designed to eliminate this fear but the most the ego can ever do is to cover it up temporarily with an intimate relationship, a new possession, or winning at this or that. Illusion will never satisfy you. Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free."
The fact that almost everyone suffers from this condition makes it seem normal and allows it to go unquestioned.
Consuming drugs or alcohol or obtaining things in order to relieve this unhappy condition may bring temporary relief, but the activity must be continuously repeated. This sometimes leads to addiction.
Substance addiction is a direct result of compulsive thinking, which is itself an addiction. That's why any solution to the addiction problem must focus on the underlying thinking addiction. The “compulsion to use,” not the substance itself, is the cunning, powerful, and baffling engine that drives addiction.
This blog applies the insights concerning the true nature of thinking, as presented by Eckhart Tolle in his books The Power of Now and A New Earth, to the 12-step program as presented in the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I think Tolle’s work sheds new light on the underlying forces of addiction. This understanding points the way toward new approaches to gaining relief--and new ways to prevent addiction from taking hold in the first place.
The 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous has brought about a spiritual renaissance in many individuals--myself included--leading them to a happy, joyous, and free existence. But many more alcoholics and other addicts have turned away from this solution because it is veiled in mystery and language that is sometimes obscure or religious.
Tolle's work has unraveled for me the 75-year-old mystery of how and why the 12-step program really works. I believe an accurate and clear description of the 12-step process and its results can only broaden the acceptance and increase the effectiveness of the 12-step program.