Desire Alone

The link between artists and alcohol is well documented. For Koren Zailckas, it was she, the artists, who did the documenting. At 23 she wrote the bestselling memoir Smashed, which detailed her life as a teenage alcoholic. Ironically, in publishing the book she was thrust into precisely the sorts of situations—like appearing on The View and CNN—with which she would have previously coped using booze. Julia Cameron didn’t find her voice until she quit drinking. Her Artist Way series was born once she became dry. With both these women what appeared too painful within the box of addiction was actually the very life they most wanted to lead. I believe this is true of all of us: That what we fear most is often that which we most strongly desire.

In this way addiction is kind of procrastination. I have procrastinated much in my life. While I have never been addicted to a substance, I have often put off beginning what I believed it would be too painful to fail at. But in putting it off, I was left only with the pain that was the idea that I might desire something that for reasons of luck or genetics could be kept from me.

And so we distract ourselves with drugs or porn or video games or shopping, while the pain of denying ourselves the lives we actually want, as opposed to the lives we have accepted in the meantime, waits patiently for our minds to rest—then back it comes. It comes back as a representation of the world as we see it, to show us, like Scrooge’s ghosts, the world we create out of fear.

We can only distract ourselves from our own lives for so long. Eventually, either we will die, or the distraction will die. Usually the distraction dies. And with that distraction doesn’t something else die as well? Doesn’t the thing we so thought we desired perish with it? All our addictions are addictions to the physical world, where we mistakenly place all our hopes, and when the addiction dissolves, desire itself, as invisible as breath and strong as the sun, is revealed as the potion for which we were asking.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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