I have flirted with several addictive patterns in my life.
Validation, marijuana, nicotine, video games, pornography, cocaine, psychedelics, and work.
Though I'm happy to say now that there is no substance, distraction, or activity that binds me in the throws of addiction.
A solution for depression, an antidote to working culture, or chasing transcendent experiences — I’m no stranger to the chains of addictive tendencies. No one is.
We are a culture of addicts. Alcohol. Caffeine. Pills. Clothes. Posts. Endlessly searching for external remedies to fill internal voids.
I also work with people to treat addictive patterns, helping individuals cultivate wholeness, find themselves, and reclaim their sovereignty. I have clinical, mystical, energetic, and experiential history navigating addiction in myself and in others.
Addiction in any form is problematic.
Its deeper origins point to a symptom of perhaps the most fundamental problem we face — separation from self, and as a result, separation from the world. This lack of wholeness drives nearly every corrosive way of being you can find in the current meta-crisis.
This essay explores the nature of addiction, the forms of addictive patterns, and provides specific tools and techniques to eradicate addiction and addictive patterns permanently.
💊 Defining Addiction
"Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences." — ASAM, the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Addiction, as we will see, is far more than a medical disease that operates solely at the level of biochemistry and environmental contexts. It is psychological, and indeed metaphysical at its core.
I have deep respect for the work of Dr. Gabor Maté, who brings together these two worlds, as an addiction and trauma expert. Dr. Maté shares this definition:
“An addiction is any behaviour that a person finds relief in the short term, but craves and suffers negative consequences, and cannot give it up.” – Dr. Gabor Maté
Dr. Maté states that in the life of any addicted person, you find trauma. Trauma is fundamentally a separation from yourself. This separation becomes necessary because it is too painful to be yourself.
Dr. Maté's work digs deeper into root causes. The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain? How have we created a culture that reliably breaks people and is incapable of healing them?
According to Dr. Maté, there are two fundamental addiction myths we have:
- Addiction is a choice, and therefore the individuals responsibility. Addicts are/should be punished for being addicted.
- It’s an inherited disease, a biological disorder of the brain.
These are myths. Addiction isn't a problem, it's a solution. A remedy for great pain. The problem is the culture that so systematically and completely creates pain in individuals.
💉 Examples of Addiction
There are classic scapegoats of addiction, that most individuals use as a way to defer the responsibility or severity of their own addictions.
'Classic addictions' include meth, opioids, cigarettes, cocaine — “the hard drugs” writ large.
These are scapegoated and used as examples because of the immediacy and obviousness of the vicious cycle. Addiction is one of the best examples of negative strange loops, something we've covered in detail in this publication.
Overdoses, homelessness, psychosis — the effects of addiction in the hard drugs are obvious and apparent.
But according to the definitions of addiction, there’s nothing that restricts addiction to substance-use disorders. Any corrosive or habituated pattern of behaviour can become an addiction.
Examples of modern addictions include: validation, procrastination, video games, social media, pornography, fast food, gambling, the internet, having sex, self-abuse, wealth accumulation, exercise, work, marijuana, shopping, technology, caffeine.
Western culture itself is an addiction machine.
Anything that is extremely popular and accepted by the mainstream has addictive mechanisms at the core of it.
Status in society, making money, consumerist lifestyles, influencer culture, the dominance of social media — all of these have skyrocketed to widespread acceptance because of the addictive mechanisms built into how they operate in the world. Because the culture has scapegoated hard drugs, individuals defer the responsibility and admission of their own deeply ingrained addictions.
These are often overlooked because the vicious downward spiral of addiction with other experiences are more subtle, easily overlooked, and passed off on the chain of responsibility.
One of the reasons we overlook these addictions is because they can often fall outside the scope of how individuals normally define addiction — namely physical dependency on a substance.
Let’s expand this definition, and take a look at 3 types of addiction.
🔬 3 Types of Addiction
These are not explicit and mutually-exclusive categories: many addictive experiences can fall into multiple types. The more types they cover, the harder the addiction is to break.
🩸 Physical Dependency
The normally harmonious functioning of the physiology is disrupted by the introduction of foreign substances, altering homeostatic equilibria where the body becomes dependent on an external substance to function correctly, while also increasing tolerance, requiring greater doses to maintain pseudo-equilibrium.
When the external substance is no longer present, the body has a reactive process known as withdrawal.
Depending on the specific compound, whether it’s cocaine or caffeine, the withdrawals can take many forms, with varying levels of intensity: from mild discomfort, to insomnia, to death.
Physical dependency is what most individuals define as addiction.
Psycho-somatic addiction is a mental/emotional/physiological dependency on an action or habit.
This is the next great wave we will need to contend with.
Marijuana falls directly into this category, among many other subtle addictions like shopping and video games. Though marijuana has no physical dependency (one of the reasons it was legalized in several countries) it certainly has psycho-somatic addictive properties.
Psycho-somatic addiction looks like “once I do X, then I’ll be ready.” Or “just one more, and then I’ll feel fine.”
"Just let me smoke a joint and I’ll start my day. I can’t go to bed until I’ve played my game. If I buy that bag then I’ll feel better. Porn is the only way I can truly relax my body to fall asleep."
The signs of psycho-somatic addiction are rampant in society if you’re looking for them.
Psycho-somatic addiction is a dependency on routine, on the muscle memory of certain actions, and the outcomes of those actions. Video games provide dopamine, just like social media, and easily lure young children into addictive tendencies immediately and without mercy.
Psycho-somatic addictions create a way of being where the individual doesn't feel normal, complete, or prepared unless they have completed it.
Ontological addiction is the most nuanced and difficult to overcome. Ontology is the study of the nature of Being. How someone relates to all of Reality.
Ontological addiction is present in the psychedelic, religious, and philosophical spaces.
Ontological addiction is a dependency on “the more beautiful reality”, whether traversing inner landscapes of mind in philosophy, the safety and seclusion of immaterial ideas/knowledge, or through the transcendent ecstasy of the psychedelic experience.
After piercing the veil, exiting the matrix, or seeing the true face of God, it's very hard for individuals to return to “the normal world” and remain content. They often chase the next ceremony, the next trip, the next glimpse of God.
The same applies to the festival/retreat circuits as well, where individuals view these as “the peak human experience” and orient their entire lives around getting the next dose of digitally or physically mediated self-transcendence.
Burnt-out, washed-up zombies return to the wishing well, time and time again, like moths to the flame. Reality and Life itself become mundane, greyscale, untrue illusions.
"The Mirror of Erised is an ancient, ornate mirror. It has clawed feet and a gold frame inscribed with the phrase 'Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.' The mirror shows the most desperate desire of a person's heart, a vision that has been known to drive men mad." — Dumbledore
In Harry Potter, Dumbledore warns Harry of this mirror — men have lost themselves in front of this mirror, fading away, never leaving as they are fully and wholly absorbed in the beautiful illusion of desire. This is the nature of Ontological Addiction — and it is a tough one to crack.
Fortunately, addiction is not a death sentence.
⚔️ Addiction x Sovereignty
Addiction fundamentally erodes sovereignty.
It removes your power and places it in firmly in the grasp of external situations, places, people, substances, or things.
This is paradoxical, because many of the most “successful” people in modern culture have become successful by catering deeply to their addictions. Their addiction to work, to success, to exercise, to suffering. The examples are everywhere if you look.
Most people don’t view this as a problem. “Well working a lot isn’t that bad.” It doesn’t qualify as an addiction, it’s not a real problem.
This isn't true. We have made the case in Cultural Architecture that we need a holistic and highly agentic population to steward humanity forward into a future it can survive and thrive within.
All addiction originates from lack. An existential neediness. A state of scarcity, of wounding, of trauma, of emptiness. Any actions coming from that are plagued by those intentions.
For a holistic, healthy population and culture to emerge, it must and indeed can only emerge from healthy, holistic individuals.
Addictive patterns are antithetical to the culture we are being called to create.
Any addiction, every addiction, must be healed. Not for the addiction itself, but because addiction is a response to pain, to emptiness, to incompleteness. It is this emptiness that we must heal. If we heal the emptiness, we will heal the addictions.
🌱 Overcoming Addiction
It’s entirely possible to overcome addiction. You can overcome every single form of addiction we have explored thus far.
From physical dependency through the sacred wishing wells of ontological addiction — healing the addiction, the patterns of behaviour, and the fundamental emptiness that gives rise to them.
There are several primary principles to healing emptiness and addiction:
- 💛 Cultivating Wholeness: Returning to wholeness is the only thing you must achieve. This is a complete bio-psycho-spiritual process of addressing outstanding areas and addressing them with love and systematic rigour. Health, finances, relationships, trauma, meaningful work, growth — everything must be considered. A healthy, healed, and whole person can partake of any of the experiences or substances that cause addiction and not become addicted, for there is nowhere for these activities to sink their hooks into, no emptiness for them to remedy.
- 🌲 Environment & Context: Identity-level transformation is a difficult process at the best of times. Put someone in a space filled with wholeness, good relationships, healthy food, engaging activities, and they will naturally return to their natural state. Humans are homeostatic virtuosos, unless acted on from an external force, the human always returns to wholeness. However, modern society is about the furthest context from this as possible. This is the infamous Rat Park experiment. If you put a rat in a dingy cage, with a bottle of water and a bottle of cocaine, the rat will ingest cocaine until it dies. However, if you put a rat in a wonderland for rodents, complete with games and friends and healthy food, even with cocaine present, the rat will never become addicted, and oftentimes won’t even use it. This is the true power of contextual shifts for overcoming addiction.
- 🔁 Substitutions: While radical change is always possible, in the forms of major environmental shifts, substitutions are the incremental compliment. Slowly, at near sub-perceptual levels, substitute undesirable behaviours for more aligned ones. No TV on Friday evenings. Fruit salad instead of ice cream. Done slowly enough, the human adapts and over a period of weeks or months, everything has shifted. Finding small substitutions for behaviours, substances, and activities is the slow and sustainable way to overcome addiction.
- 🌟 Willpower: Every single addiction can be broken through force of will alone. The hardest to break with willpower are physical dependencies, as the withdrawals can be extremely debilitating. However, 'cold turkey' stories exist for every substance available. At any moment, you can gather your strength, your honour, and the force of your will and declare that you are done. The declaration is necessary, but the true test comes in the following weeks when the cravings and addictive patterns of behaviour reemerge.
- 🐸 Cleanses: Deep cleanses to initiate the process of breaking addictions are helpful and available for any type of addiction. If you’re addicted to shopping, get rid of all credit cards and donate 90% of your possessions. If you’re addicted to heroin, seek iboga treatments which cleanse the nervous system and get rid of withdrawals after single dosing sessions. If you’re addicted to video games, sell all of your consoles. Whether physical, psycho-somatic, or ontological, deep cleanses to begin the process are major catalysts. Tools like minimalism, kambo, iboga, and meditation retreats are all effective cleanses to begin the process.
When you combine these mechanisms to overcome addiction, you will be unstoppable. You will be able to overcome any addiction.
If you'd like assistance with this, refer to the Hedonic Engineering protocols, as these can be tailored for addiction. Death practices are helpful in removing the attachment to the addict identity, to the necessity for crutches, and to the narrative of incompleteness and emptiness that dominates the addict persona.
A declaration and commitment of your will, a major cleanse to initiate the process, finding and addressing all areas out of alignment, making small and consistent substitutions, and finding pro-social environmental shifts will eradicate the addiction itself, dampen or remove the pattern of behaviour, and push the individual in the direction of more aligned ways of being.
🐲 Your Turn
Like any other significant work, identity-level transformation is challenging. Particularly when it's working on deeply ingrained bio-psycho-spiritual systems like addiction does.
But if you wish to begin playing the Infinite Game, to take your seat at the table of the evolution of humanity, you must address your addictions and reclaim your sovereignty.
It is possible to overcome every addiction.
The first step is admitting it. Admit to yourself what you are addicted to. Find the void that it feeds, and create a tailored growth stack to address this. It is necessary work. This is the maturation process in action.
You can do this. I believe in you. I love you. 💛