Potential benefits of opiate addiction

Proviso: Of course, they depend on our surviving our addiction to get into recovery.

I can think of at least two:

1) We are forced to begin a process Jung called “individuation” and Socrates called “the examined life” in order to survive. This means turning our gaze inward in order to know ourselves. This is generally good for human beings, as it improves relations with others and ourselves; but for addicts, it’s critical, because if we don’t discover the internalized negative messages and self-destructive behaviors we have come to take for granted, we can’t achieve a lasting recovery.

In some cases – especially the ones I call “terminal,” or late-stage addiction – we may have suffered trauma so early in life that archetypal defenses were deployed to prevent disintegration of our psyche. These become part of our worldview, so integrated into our perception of the world that we don’t realize they are not supported by, and don’t correspond to, our actual potential. They will take longer, and probably several rounds of recovery work on the same topics, to exchange for healthier perceptions of ourselves, others, and the world.


2) Opiate addicts (more than other forms of addiction) are more familiar with Death than squares because it was an intimate part of our using lives, with the constant knowledge that each day could be our last shadowing us for as long as we used. But it is possible to transform the fear of Death into a more nuanced grasp of Its role in the material world.

Castaneda said that Don Juan told him that a warrior of knowledge used Death as an adviser.  We all know it is the final transition, yet most people fear the end of life because they’re caught up in a materialist worldview. This is just one of many reasons that some form of spiritual practice is required for any successful, lasting recovery.  It may, among other things, lead to the realization that death is just the last transformation in our current incarnation.  Our souls are eternal and move on to the next appropriate learning experience. This viewpoint can free us from some of the fear of Death.

I use a capital letter to embody the Person, Angel, or Agent of death because at the end of my using career I had an encounter with this primal force or being.  It “told” me (in a visionary experience, not in so many words) that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I had only two months left to live.  This encounter initiated the chain of events that resulted in my finding a way to do ibogaine, which in turn gave me a chance to re-boot my life.  So, I am grateful to that dark being – the Angel of Death – for warning me to change my ways  (Death as an adviser), instead of just taking me away.

A reduced fear of death can lead to a movement toward a more cosmic view of life – the choice is ours.  As ever, more consciousness leads to enhanced understanding, and thus a probable improvement of any situation.

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