5 Stations to Break Free from the Shackles
Addiction happens when a person becomes so committed to a certain object of desire that instead of controlling the object of desire, the object of desire controls the individual. The object of desire can be a substance (like alcohol or drugs), an activity (like eating), or a sensation (like the feeling of an adrenaline rush). There comes a point when an addict will do anything to feed the addiction, even defiling things the individual would normally hold sacred.
With such seemingly unbreakable bonds grabbing hold of a person, what possible steps can someone take to break this chokehold? There are legions of anti-addiction programs and therapies. The effectiveness of various therapies or programs depends on the unique makeup of the person, and on the program itself. This article is not meant to replace a program of recovery. If you are an addict, please seek help from an established recovery center, recovery group, or therapist. This article, rather, aims to demonstrate the role that the soul plays in recovery from addiction.
One must differentiate between an object of desire and the power of desire
– The Alter Rebbe
Picture your life as a train: A train rumbles down the tracks. Car after car, one hitched to another like letters in a word. There is a dining car, a sleeper car, a bar car, a baggage car; and an assortment of passenger cars, first-class, business, and coach. At the head of the train, churns the engine, chartering its course, pulling every single one of these cars along. Not one of the cars moves on its own.
Your life is like a train. Comprised of many cars, one hitched to the next like letters in a word. Your dining car is where you eat. Your sleeper car is where you repose. Your baggage car is where you store past experiences. Sometimes you reside in first-class; other times your life feels like coach, with very little legroom.
At the head of the train churns your engine, your Divine Spark, which powers the entire locomotive that is your life. Your soul is the engine of your life. Without the engine, nothing is mobile and all cars stand still.
Addiction is when a rickety, dangerous car gloms on to your train. No matter how hard you try – oh, and you do try hard – you cannot get rid of this poisonous car. The car sometimes totally derails the train, but sometimes fades into the line of cars so well that it appears to not even be a problem anymore. Yet sooner or later that rusty, ruinous addiction car will push the train of your life off the track again.
The following steps cannot be accomplished alone; addiction is a disease of isolation. Just as an actual train would need a whole train maintenance crew and some heavy machinery to take a defective car out of its line of cars, you need a recovery community in order to break your addiction. The following four steps are steps to strengthen your soul so that you are able to approach and sustain a recovery program.
1ST STATION – KNOW YOUR ENGINE
The first step in removing a poisonous car, to which you are addicted, is to differentiate between the cars of the train and its engine. Knowing the difference between the powerful force that pulls the train, and the immobile train cars that are being pulled by the engine is essential. Your objects of desire, whatever they may be, are the cars on the train; the power of desire, the ability to energize something, is the engine at the head of the train.
The first step is getting to know your engine – and its infinite power. Your soul is the engine and you must get acquainted with it. Your authentic self is not that dilapidated car that threatens to derail your life; the real you is your soul.
2NDSTATION – IDLE WORSHIP
An engine has to pull something – that’s what engines do. The more powerful the engine, the more powerful is its need to pull. Having an addiction does not mean that you are weak. Having an addiction means that you have all of the passion necessary to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, but that you are currently using all that energy to lug around a bad habit.
3RD STATION – ADD A CAR
Hitch a new car to the train, preferably between the engine at the head of the train and that poisonous addictive car at the back of the train. Call it a study car, where you go for an hour a day to learn something deep and meaningful; or call it the prayer car, where you go to pray as soon as you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.
This accomplishes two things: 1) it provides your engine with something meaningful to energize and empower; and 2) it pushes that addictive car further back from the engine, to the rear of the train.
The more positive cars you add, the better.
4TH – UNHITCH IT
Unscrew another bolt from the addiction car by thinking of your engine, how holy and divine and pure it is. “How could I ever allow such a beautiful engine – a pure piece of the Divine – to drive such an impure car? I cannot!” Spend time crying for your true self, which has been covered up by your addiction. Comfort your true self and apologize to it. Treat your true self as if it were a fragile baby.
5TH – FORWARD MOVEMENT
The beauty of life and trains is that they move quickly. Things that move quickly leave anything that is not wholly and securely connected to them in the dust. Beginning a program of recovery, one which very well might include relapsing, requires commitment to keep moving even when you feel like you have become totally stuck. You must remember that every step of your recovery from addiction might not look perfect, but every step will bring you closer to your true self. The operative thing is to persist. Move away from what harms you and toward what makes you feel whole and dignified.
Keeping an eye on the destination is the key to keeping the train
of your life on track
We call it: Light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel vision. It is the vision that an addict must maintain in order to recover. There will be times when recovery feels smooth and easy, and there will be times when it is the hardest fight of your life. Keeping an eye on the destination is the key to keeping the train of your life on track.
For an active addict (versus an addict in recovery), the destination of any journey is the addiction itself. The addict will dedicate all of his resources, time, money, and energy to feeding his addiction. This destination is the addict’s sole focus. This goal becomes the addict’s purpose.
To counteract this, we must remember and realize that we as human beings have a very specific and meaningful mission on this earth, one that is much greater and more powerful than any object of addiction.
Ultimately, by doing everything in your power to reaching your goal of honoring and strengthening your true, whole, pure self, you divert your attention away from any other goal. By dedicating all of your resources, time, money, and energy to realizing your truepotential, you will give yourself the strength and commitment necessary to recover.
As with our analogy: Remember that your train’s goal and destination is one of purity and light; and darkness has no place here.