Understanding addiction is easier when we incorporate the soul

A Royal Road for Rehab Recidivists

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

Recidivists in rehab can be wonderful things…..just don’t tell the staff. For those returnees who treat ‘recovery’ like another school reunion are rarely popular.

‘Christ, they’re back,’ or, the even less friendly, ‘I thought they were dead by now,’ are often tempered with the more merciful ‘there but for the grace of God’. I exaggerate, but you get my drift.

What usually happens — certainly here in the UK — is that people who could not or would not adhere to ‘the programme’ are accused, rather angrily, of being ‘special and different’, with exasperated staff (usually recoverees themselves) throwing up their hands in horror and confused failure.

I think Rumi had it right when he said ‘Earth is a mirror of Heaven’. You see, what that means is everything here is backwards. We live in a realm of reflected light and keep looking in the world for satisfaction, wholeness and healing.

As I discovered on my own journey, it is only in turning back to the light of pure consciousness which resides in the heart that the veil begins to lift from our eyes. In the Sufi tradition, this turning is known as tauba. And it only happens after eons of evolution.

And paradoxically, it is often those clients, despairing and hopeless, who are ready.

Like my failing friends, I have always found much of the structure and language of the recovery movement off-putting, but one thing’s for sure, you do have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. Didn’t Osho encourage devotees to follow all earthly impulses to their completion, Rumi too?

Carl Jung, the celebrated meta-magician, decreed that a pattern has to be exhausted before it is given up……but I didn’t know any of this back then — at least consciously. What I did know, was that a lot of those people who were given up on, even scapegoated, were special and different!

And what I have noticed time and time again is the ‘older’ and more beautiful the soul, the more difficult the karma — or that’s how it seems to me. There is an old Zen idea about having to expand ourselves to incorporate more and more of life, becoming one with all experience — the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s the psyche’s equivalent of The Law of Diminishing Returns in economics. When there is more light around, there isn’t less darkness, there is more of both. This age of Kali Yuga is surely testament to that.

Good and bad is polarizing before our very eyes.

Meeting the poet-activist Robert Bly, author of Iron John, and spending time with the African chief and shaman Malidoma Some confirmed my inner knowing that addiction is a problem of soul and should be seen as such.

Often, specifically, it is connected with trauma and grief: the grief of not being recognised as soul. In Africa, the whole community will sing you into the world at birth, celebrating for days.

Indigenous cultures have remembered what we in our sophistication have forgotten: the soul is grand and needs to be honoured. We suffer when it is not.

It is a principle always worth bearing in mind when working in rehab and reminds one to look for the light amid the extremities of those dark nights of the soul, in both self and others.

In the end, what seemed to work with some chronic re-lapsers was to re-contextualise their experience in terms of the soul and its long journey over many lifetimes. If they were ready, if this was the news their soul was waiting for, it revolutionised their thinking and often their progress.

In India, the word pakka, speaks of this ripeness in the soul: the readiness is indeed all. I later discovered another missing ingredient: the shared karma between therapist and client. If there is a benign prior life connection with clients things will go swimmingly through a meeting contracted before this mortal life.

‘Each man’s soul demands that he be, and that he live, every great archetypal role in the collective unconscious: the betrayer and the betrayed, the lover and the beloved, the oppressor and the victim, the noble and the ignoble, the conqueror and the conquered, the warrior and the priest, the man of sorrows and the self reborn.’

Robert A Johnson

Yet if the soul of the client is not ready to turn and the karma with the therapist negative or non-existent, progress will be delayed for another lifetime, with more suffering on the agenda.

Of course, it is neither the language nor the methodology of the scientific community or the recovery movement, but some clients need us to think outside the box to be able to reveal them to themselves.

As therapists, it is perhaps also our duty, as Jung himself did, to explore our own hazardous hinterlands and take those clients who need it into the depths of their own being.

We have to understand the symbolic language of the soul, listen and see with what I call an eye and an ear for initiation, and excavate the darkness, often to reveal the most brilliant of lights.

A good understanding of ‘past’ or ‘other’ lives seems to really help as well an ability to look at an astrological birth chart from an evolutionary perspective to see what the soul is driving at. Transformation is always the case yet the specifics are different for each person.

We come from Oneness into Twoness and return to Oneness. The big question is will we do it before we die? That’s my plan.

Meanwhile, I am flying the flag for being special and different, so the soul, long forgotten and neglected, can receive the blessing it needs, which is always to be seen.

In fact, I quit working in rehab because this missing dimension is vital in my view.

If therapists can see the grandness of the soul, camouflaged behind the wounded ego, success is never far away.

© simon heathcote

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