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Thread: How to help a drug addict?

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    How to help a drug addict?

    A couple of weeks ago a reader from my blog wrote to me saying that he wanted to start in Buddhism and zazen to help him overcome a cocaine addiction.

    I have helped people to find out about Buddhism, I have listened to all kinds of problems like jealousy or people who are curious about zazen, but I have no idea how to help a drug addict from a Buddhist perspective.

    I gave him some pointers on how to start sitting but I think he needs a little more than that to really start recovering.

    Any insight you can share?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin
    A couple of weeks ago a reader from my blog wrote to me saying that he wanted to start in Buddhism and zazen to help him overcome a cocaine addiction.

    I have helped people to find out about Buddhism, I have listened to all kinds of problems like jealousy or people who are curious about zazen, but I have no idea how to help a drug addict from a Buddhist perspective.

    I gave him some pointers on how to start sitting but I think he needs a little more than that to really start recovering.

    Any insight you can share?

    Thanks!
    I have never helped a drug addict; well I've helped myself, but not others. I've been addicted to nicotine. But first of all, I would get rid of the notion of Buddhist perspective, and just focus on a human perspective.

    Serious addiction requires a detox program. I mean cocaine is some serious stuff, and that person should really seek professional help IMHO.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  3. #3

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    Hi Morelos,

    Yes, I would provide some information on Sitting Shikantaza, on the Precepts such as not misusing intoxicants and the like ...

    ... and simultaneously guide him to addiction professionals, perhaps Narcotics Anonymous and the like (there are people here that know more about those resources than I, and also we are not sure what is available in Mexico). However, Zazen can go hand in hand with other effective treatments, and all resources should be employed.

    Good Work, Bodhisattva!

    Gassho, J

  4. #4

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    I would also try and guide him through areas of non permanents, non judgment and compassion.
    The chances are, if he is is addicted and wants to give up he is feeling rather low or desperate about how he got there and is there.
    Support, understand and compassion can go a long way. Professional help with regards to addiction would be a great help, more support as well as information.
    A big part of overcoming addiction is understanding both about the addiction and your self (sound familiar ). Practice can be a very good guide for that but if he is new to practice I would think other areas of support would be good too.

    Also if you are going to try and help remember to use the same guidance for yourself. Don't be hard on yourself and just do what you can do.

  5. #5

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    my only words of experience are: understand your boundaries, establish them with this person from the start, and vigilantly maintain them. This was my mistake in trying to help my brother-in-law.

  6. #6

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    I would say to try to teach him to watch himself. In other words, he's not going to immediately stop using cocaine because he sits on a pillow. He will sit on a pillow and then maybe think some about buddhism, but then he will use cocaine. What he needs to do is watch himself as he's using. Where was the impulse that drove him to do the line? Where did that impulse begin? Where was the impulse to go buy the drug? What did that feel like? He needs to understand what he is experiencing. He needs to watch. Obviously, if he is addicted, he could easily say, "I did the line because I'm addicted." But that's not really being mindful, not really looking at oneself. If he can get to a point where he says, "Oh, you know, I did that line because I felt bad and wanted to feel better" then that's a start. Then he might progress to why he felt bad. Understanding this is the first step, I would say.

    Also, a twelve step program would help; someone or something to hold him accountable would help. But he must, I think, become aware clearly of why he's doing it, and that means really watching himself when the impulse to use arises. Why did it arise? Then watch when using and see it clearly. Why am I using when I know I shouldn't? (because I know I'll feel good). Then watching the good feeling during the high. Then watching the bad feeling after the high. In this way, he will learn something about impermanence. If you can help him with this (and I'm not suggesting you tell him to use), then you will really have let him see his own mind. Once he watches and becomes aware, the next time the impulse arises, he might be able to say, "Hey, this is going to go away, this impulse." Or he might think, "I know it will make me feel worse in the long term; this is an impermanent solution to a larger unsatisfied feeling about life. Okay, I will let the impulse pass, watching, watching." In this way, he will know something about impermanence. It may not fix the problem right away, but it's a good start. I would say just telling him about impermanence or no-self is not of any real help. It has to applicable, practical.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rev R
    my only words of experience are: understand your boundaries, establish them with this person from the start, and vigilantly maintain them. This was my mistake in trying to help my brother-in-law.

    This is sound advice. You have to be very careful as so much of the recovery process can make it's way into your life, even when you are only "helping out". The good news is, this person is willingly asking for help, that's a step in the right direction. I'd be careful of them jumping right onto the cushion though, without proper guidance that could be dangerous.

  8. #8

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    Very difficult to overcome addiction without professional help. But not impossible. Sitting practice will probably reveal those demons that motivate him to use a substance for relief. If he can face those without losing solid ground, and without using a substance to numb himself again, he can be free. Programs help because substance abuse is such a selfish and isolated disease. To be surrounded by people who are suffering in the same way helps break our fascination with our own drama and self-pity. Shikantaza reveals a deep self-respect and dignity that nothing else does. But those first months (or years) can be daunting when you've spent so much time burying pieces of yourself under layers of addiction. As you sit they all come flying out and can scare the hell out of you if you don't own them. Once you shake hands with your enemies they become your friends and then you are on your way to being a whole person. Be patient with him. Let him fall if he does. Just be sure to be there when he gets back up.

    gassho
    Greg

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    Very great advise posted above! I just wanted to bring up another factor this guy will have to face which hasn't been mentioned. Don't forget shomeone is making a living off of him......The drug dealer.
    To the dealer this guy is a paycheck. They can become very upset when their customer wants out of their arrangement. Just another factor which may require him to have the skillful advice of professional help.

    Please keep us posted on this one!

    Gassho,
    Hoyu

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    Fantastic advise. Thanks all.

    Too bad this guy doesn't seem to be very interested on quitting drugs.

    @Risho: Totally agree. This guy must look for professional help. I have only told him that zazen and Precepts are great help, but he needs a medic and psychologists to give a treatment.

    @Jundo: Yes, I suggested he should go to Adictos Anónimos (Anonymous Addicts) but he didn't take it very well. He stopped talking to me! Anyhow I invited him to my online zazen group and he did downloaded the files I wrote. Hope he finds them useful.

    @Undo: I understand those concepts, my only question for this guy is: is he willing to listen? I'm not sure. Dharma can be great help for letting go addcitions, I guess. But we have to be receptive and willing to make a change in our lives.

    @Chugai: Thanks for the links! I didn't know there was a Buddhist recovery plan, and I am forwarding the link to him now. I am familiar with the 12 Steps because of my dad and his drinking problem. He quit about 35 years ago, but my childhood was tough.

    @Rod: This is a most valuable advise. Yes I have set my limits from the start. This person is a reader and in no way close to me. Still I want to help him if I can and so far I have no emotional involvement on this. I prefer being seen as a cold person than to suffer for problems not mine.

    @Alan: If he gets back at me I'll try to talk to him with your advise.

    @Chuck: Yes. Baby steps and a lot of reading and talking so he can understand. I sent him some reading material that should help.

    @Greg: You just said something that resonates in me: Patience. Yes I know I must be patient if I want to help.

    @Hoyu: Now this is an eye opener. You are so right! This guy must not forget the dealer, which could be even dangerous. I will talk to him about this and to even look for police help if needed.

    Thank you guys. I took a couple of days to sit with your advise. All I want now is that this guy comes to me again so I can help.

    Deep bows to all.

  11. #11
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    While I was writing my last reply to this thread I was thinking...

    Being an artist, I have bumped into a lot of drug addicts and 100% of them chose this kind of life.

    However on any 12 steps program they treat addiction as a disease, which takes away the addict's responsibility and places it on fate/magic/gods.

    What do you guys think about addiction? Is it a disease or a chosen condition?

  12. #12

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    No-one chooses to be an addict.
    More often than not an addict dosent always realise they are addicted. Considering just over 90% of the UK adult population ( sorry I dont have country specific numbers) drinks alcohol, I would suggest that drug taking is pretty much a norm.

    Personally I see addiction as addiction. Not a disease and not a choice.

    All the best with what you are trying to do.

    Gassho

    undo

  13. #13

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    I think it is a disease.

    Addictive behavior is a symptom of a disease which cannot be controlled by reason or an act of will. The problem is, you don't know you are one until you are one.

    One dictionary defines it as "A particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people."

    We choose to take the first step in the process but no one chooses to be an addict. People buy packs of cigarettes every day with a warning printed on it that says THIS PRODUCT CAUSES CANCER but nobody chooses to have cancer. We human beings just have such a hard time dealing with pain.

    "Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only disease you can get yelled at for having." --Mitch Hedberg


    gassho
    Greg

  14. #14

    Re: How to help a drug addict?

    Hi Kyonin. I'm an addictions therapist by trade and work everyday with people dependent on class A drugs. I also have personal experience of dependencies in many forms.

    In response to your first question, i think you have already had some fantastic responses, from advising about structured treatment, to fellowship groups to keeping boundaries and practicing zazen and midfulness. I don't really have anything to add to this list, and as Jundo states, and in my experience all of the support available should be taken up, and can complement one another.

    In response to the second question, my belief is whatever works, works. If you believe that dependency is an illness, afliction or condition, and you join a fellowship group that helps keep you drug free and sober, then that is the truth.

    If you beleive that your condition is the result of your background, experiences and current conditions, and you embrace therapy and maybe medication and it keeps you drug free and sober then that is the truth.

    If sitting zazen and following the 8 fold path keeps you drug free and sober etc...etc.

    No right way for everyone in anything in my view.

    Metta, bukowski.

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