Inner Peace: My addiction to fear, guilt and conflict

    My friend in AA insists that everyone is addicted to something: food, chocolate, sports, collecting, computer games, cell phone, a hobby, being a news junkie, being a soap opera junkie, etc. She couldn't figure out what I was addicted to. She kept asking: “What is your addiction?”

    It finally hit me. I am addicted to the mother of all addictions, to this world's dramas, to this “dream,” to this world's conflicts. How many times have I reincarnated, if that is possible? How often do I get “hooked” back into the world's dramas?

    I am in recovery but I still have an addiction. How many times have I been told that my “addiction” was “self-destructive.” How many times have I been told that there is a better way of living? How long did I deny that I had a “problem”? How long did I blame God or others for what was happening to me? How long did I think, “I can quit any time I want?” When I finally admitted that I wasn't happy with my addiction and its manifestations, how long did I think that I could handle it on my own?

    The first step in recovery is recognizing that I had a problem and that I was not happy. What was my life all about? Why couldn't I find lasting peace and happiness? I hadn't even recognized that I had a problem or that there was a “better way.” Wasn't I doing as well or better than the next guy? Nobody seemed completely happy and at peace. That seemed to be the norm — to be accepted. Weren't fear, guilt, conflict, doubts and bouts of unhappiness normal? I couldn't see that there was a choice.

    My life had a persistent underlying layer of anxiety that I hadn't even recognized. There was an endless list of woes buried below the surface of my mind: water shortage, gas shortage, food shortage, race conflicts, religious conflicts, world conflicts, disease, poverty, natural disasters, man-made disasters, pollution, contamination, political conflict. So there was the problem and the damage it was doing — in my own mind. So there was the “addiction” to fear, guilt and conflict in my own mind. How could it be an “addiction” if they are “natural” and not of my own making? Ah, I had never questioned that before. Does someone besides me have control over what I accept into my mind?

    Finally, I saw the problem where it was. I had given up peace of mind to let conflict abide there instead. The ultimate purpose of projection is always to get rid of the problem. The world was responsible for my loss of peace of mind and I was in no way responsible for it. I had given up responsibility for my thoughts by projecting that responsibility onto the world.

    Peace of mind is an internal matter. And I am responsible for my thoughts. I had accepted fear, conflict, guilt and sin into my own mind and deemed it natural. I became “addicted” to conflict at the cost of peace of mind. But there are all those niggling thoughts that I can't do anything about the problem, that I'm not responsible for it, that the “cost” of peace of mind is too high (I would have to refuse to let the world's woes affect my mind, and wouldn't that make me an insensitive bastard?).

    To give up my “addiction” and to have lasting peace of mind I would have to give up the idea of conflict completely and for all time. I would have to be in the world, but not of it.

    Jim Meissner lives in Ashland. Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan

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