When I share some of my story about my relationship to drinking or smoking, I often get approached by others who hesitantly want to talk to me about theirs.
It often sounds like:
“Thank you for sharing your experience. I really resonate and admire you. It’s inspiring.
I still drink/smoke—whatever it is. I am sorry. I don’t mean to offend you. But, I do.
I struggle with my relationship to [fill in the blank—alcohol or pot; smoking cigarettes, binge-eating, or sugar addiction; chronic scrolling or shopping or addiction to a person]. I am trying to manage it, go without it, figure it out, only do it out with friends, tell myself this is the last time I do this.
I don’t have an addiction, I’m sorry to say—but I am just wondering what you would say.”
There are many things I could say:
It is possible to have a problematic relationship with alcohol, or anything really, without it meaning the things you are conditioned to think it means.
Meaning is everything. If looking at whatever you are struggling with “means” something bad about you (i.e., that you are an alcoholic or an addict or have a problem or should feel shame), you will struggle…a lot. With yourself. With whatever the thing is that you are struggling with.
Addiction (and the continuum that leads up to it) is a quality of consciousness.
It’s also held in place in the patriarchy, a system that is built on power over others and on profit through the subjugation and oppression and numbing out of others.
It is also a culture with a broken mother function. So, many of the habits or things we do, like drinking, smoking, scrolling, shopping, bingeing, swiping—we learn how to do these things to sooth ourselves.
These are normalized everywhere.
This very same culture that creates addiction also shames it.
So we are left feeling a bit lost, and we turn in on ourselves when there is a problem because we do not know what to do and are afraid to let people know.
We think that the problem lives inside of us and the entire internal family constellation is set up for struggle.
Alcohol (ethanol) is legal (and lethal). So are cigarettes (also lethal). So is vaping (also lethal).
Just because things are legal or normal or natural doesn’t mean that they are good for us.
This is the patriarchy—the death mother culture that offers legal ways to slowly kill our bodies and make illegal the things that heal the soul.
We are culturally gaslit into thinking that if we cannot handle it, it is our fault and not a commentary on the hungry, disconnected society we live in. This is fed to us—in recovery culture, new-age culture, self-help books, and a feminine pathologizing psychological system developed on a foundation of gaslighting.
These industries profit off of death and pain—the longing of people who want relief from trauma and isolation, and to find a good mother to mirror something loving to them.
Addiction is the truest expression of the death mother archetype. It pulls us out of the flow of life and into struggle, which then we are shamed for experiencing and given affirmations for.
Our culture embodies the death mother as her relationship to the soul of our humanity. It keeps people complacent and numb, stuck trying to get unstuck.
Many of our problematic relationships with whatever the thing is have more to do with a problematic relationship to ourselves, our disabled internal mother function to soothe ourselves, to taking a stand and saying no to living inside this patriarchal matrix we are sold as freedom.
It’s not about the object that you are struggling with.
It is that you are struggling at all.
That there is something going on inside of you, in your relationship to yourself, that you are struggling with and that the thing you think is an answer that will help you feel better or closer to Spirit is not helping you.
Lots has been said about isolation being a reason for addiction. I know when I dug deeper, I found that I used those very things as a way to mother myself. Those very things, and my relationship to them, reflected what I’d learned how to be from my mother and kept me spinning in the loop of my own mother wound.
Marion Woodman once said that the mature feminine will actually rise in our culture when we heal our relationship to addiction. It is no accident that the extreme shadow of the Great Mother archetype is here, rearing her head and crying out to us.
We have all internalized this death mother archetype, whether we have an actual death mother or not. It is so commonplace, so normalized—from “Yoga and Wine” to “Mommy, Me, and Wine” to “Women, Wellness, and Wine” to being able to vape or get high all the time, pretty much everywhere, while binge-watching another thing and scrolling on Instagram while watching it—that we aren’t even occupying our own bodies anymore.
So, when that moment comes and you reach for whatever it is—what is that moment? It’s so normal for many I work with to feel it the most at night. After the day when other things have our attention.
Night is the “winter” of the day. When we go inward. When we become intimate with our lives and ourselves and those in it. Those are the moments, when there are gaps and spaces, that we are in the in-between, that we are in our closest relationship to ourselves.
Addiction keeps us perpetually stuck in the in-between, where we do not know how to actually navigate the edges of what is present for us.
So, that is what the struggle is really about. Not about whatever the thing is.
And there, at that edge, that place, is also the place that offers you the path to freedom and inner peace. It’s just not that peaceful getting there—but it doesn’t have to be hard.
There is nothing wrong with you—or me. It isn’t your fault that you weren’t loved or have trauma or struggle or have a problem. It’s human. And, it means there are skills you didn’t learn or feelings you learned to tune out.
And, it’s okay. You can learn. We are all learning. We are all doing the best we can.
Freedom is possible.
Perhaps it is our own internal true freedom that will change this wild, crazy world we are all waking up inside of.