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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dealing with Thoughts

Alcoholics and addicts share a common 'symptom' that many non-addicts can share to some degree: rushing thoughts.

The mind of the addict is often awash in thoughts.  They overwhelm reason and flood the mind to the point where the addict becomes utterly isolated in a 'stream of consciousness' that is neither awake nor a nightmare.  It plagues us, and the addiction served as a means of regaining focus.

Addiction is an escape from thought, a return to a place that does not exist.  The problems are never cured, simply avoided for a moment or two as the addict indulges in his 'distraction.'  The problem is that the distraction is also a type of intense focus.

The symptoms of these rushing thoughts are obvious: nervousness, inability to pay attention, confusion, conflicting ideas, and so on.

Now, many normal people also experience these as well, but the addict experiences them regularly and predictably: he only feels 'normal' when he is in the addiction and thus focused.  When the addictive behavior ends, the thoughts come rushing back.

The cure for these thought is not in the will: we cannot stop thinking.  Thinking is part of what we are created to do, and when the brain 'stops,' just like the heart, it is a form of death.  We even call is 'brain death.'

Thoughts must be channeled, and this can only take place once the source of the thoughts is found and cured.  This is the process of recovery.  Rather than fighting the thoughts, the addict must trace them back to their sources within himself.  It is like swimming upstream to the origin of the river.  Once the pollution is removed from start of the river, the entire river becomes clean.

Recovery comes when the addict discovers the pollution within himself and asks God to remove it.  The fears subside, and thus the rushing thoughts also decrease, or at least become healthier.  Many addicts will never be 'calm' people, since their minds do not operate that way.  But, they can acquire the gift of peace.

Calm is a pace, but peace is a manner.  We can suffer and have peace.  We can work hard and have peace.  We can even run and be at peace at the same time.

We are not called to stop thinking, but to think with the spirit of peace.  It is not what we think, but how we think that really counts.

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I am dealing with mental illness.
    I am experiencing this flooding of thoughts on a very intense and chaotic level. It's impossible to stop the thoughts themselves, it's even dangerous to try, but with God's help they lose their power. I can simply see them as a malfunctions that have an external source, and deep inside I know what's going on and I can be at peace and have discernment. It's a continuous struggle, not perfect, because I am still addicted to many of them, but God is making things simpler and more peaceful every step of the way. Also, I do remember not having the mental illness; in those times it was easy for me to remain genuinely calm, yet I was not at all free from thoughts, just that they were finer and rarer then, but just as addictive and dangerous. Perhaps most important of all, I was not able to detect the thoughts then, I was very much under their control without even realizing. In many ways, becoming ill ended up being a solution for me because I realized the chaos and pain that these thoughts really cause.