Addiction and Compassion


Addiction is defined as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, such as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” What makes so many of us prone to addiction in its various forms? What causes us to be open to this enslavement? And how do we begin to undo it?


I’m sure there are addiction counselors who could share their knowledge and give excellent answers to these questions at the psycho-physical level. In the end, however, most addiction counselors themselves would acknowledge that the spiritual level is where these questions will be most adequately answered.

First of all, let’s be compassionate with ourselves and toward people who try to deal with the pain of life through addictions. These are sometimes the most sensitive people among us. What we experience as the pain of life is really a call to the transcendent level of human experience. Addictions are both misguided attempts at self-transcendence and ways to numb ourselves. Intoxication shuts down parts of the mind, frees us of inhibitions and opens us up (sometimes). Sexual addiction brings a rush of emotion and sensation. Other less dangerous addictions are still just numbing dead ends in the long run.

Meditation, and any true spiritual practices, such as meditation, singing/chanting or body-prayer, may also be repetitive activities, but they point us toward a dimension of experience that is not a deadend of physical dependency, but, rather, an infinite opening to an ever-changing reality. This connection with the transcendent level of experience is not an abstract aloofness. The experience of the sacred and holy leads us back to life. It can be integrated with the immanent experience of our daily life, livelihood and relationships. We need to bring the transcendent, the holy, the sacred into our lives. But it is in the nature of addiction to also be in denial, to justify our futile, repetitive, self-defeating ways.

Transformation becomes possible when the soul in its state of addiction can say: “I don’t want to feel this way, live this way or be this way. Help me…”

The Infinite understands all languages and answers, and in some way, all calls.

Have you noticed the intensification of time lately? There’s so much pain and confusion out there. At the same time, the Infinite is beckoning, inviting with an unprecedented insistence.

–Kabir Helminski
Kabir Helminski is Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order, Co-director of The Threshold Society.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction see below for further information and treatment options:

Sierra Tucson Treatment Center 1-800-842-4487 or from the U.K. 0800 891166

Hazelden 1-800-257-7810

The Meadows 1-800-MEADOWS

Alcoholics Anonymous

Free Addiction Helpline 1-866-569-7077

Narcotics Anonymous

Al-Anon/Alateen 1-888-425-2666

Gamblers Anonymous (213) 386-8789

Stopping Overshopping (917) 885-6887