gabor mate

why the pain

Posted on Updated on

Hungry Ghosts:



Characterised by – Greed; Insatiable cravings; Addictions.


“I want this, I need this, 1 have to have this”.


This is the realm of intense craving. The Hungry Ghosts are shown with enormous stomachs and tiny necks – they want to cat, but cannot swallow; when they try to drink. the liquid turns to fire, intensifying their thirst. The torture of the hungry ghost is not so much the frustration of not being able to get what he wants. rather it is his clinging to those things he mistakenly thinks will bring satisfaction and relief. The Buddha in this Realm holds a Bowl from which the ‘gifts of the gods’ are distributed. This is to entice the hungry ghosts to desire for the Truth which is the only way that the deepest longings and hungers can be satisfied.
Consider: ‘Gollum’ from Lord of the Rings; The obssessive nature of Video Games; Addictions of various sorts; We can be helped in this Realm by our willingness to ‘look up’, to see beyond our obssessions…… reposted from buddhamind

i went to a dinner hosted by the harm reduction action center in denver last night. the hrac work with injection drug users to reduce health risks and also inject human kindness into their worlds. the evening was also benefiting improbable pictures who have been filming the creation and development of u.s.e.d (underground syringe exchange denver) as needle exchange has been completely illegal in colorado until may of this year. btw, exchange has not been implemented anywhere in colorado to date, the only legalization was that local governments can now decide for themselves about appropriateness.

the keynote speaker was dr. gabor mate, a vancouver physician who has been working with idu (injection drug users) for 12 years and runs a residential program in that city. he recently wrote a book that i have previously written about briefly called “in a realm of hungry ghosts”. it refers to a buddhist concept of the 7 realms that we move through in life. the realm of hungry ghosts is depicted by a very thin dark creature who is always eating and never full. his perspective on addiction and causation and treatment. he blends  20 years of addiction science with a sense of common sense and simple human kindness to highlight a whole new direction of treatment which makes the assumption that the reason someone is over medicating is due to pain. and he maintains that instead of asking individuals “why the addiction”, we should ask the question “why the pain” and his experience demonstrates a completely different response. he frankly finds that all the female addicts he works with were sexually abused when they were young.

“why the pain” is a question that seems so simple, yet i don’t actually think there is an easy answer at all.  i don’t mean that the response “my mother abandoned me” or ” my uncle molested me” or ” my father abused my mother during my childhood” are not simple. the words are simple. not more than 7 or 8 strung together at one time. no, the complications are not in the expression of the concrete aspects of theanswer. the challenges in the answer come forward in the manner in which the individual comes in the treatment door.the bio-psycho-social factors that have brought them this far. they have a lifetime of (not) coping skills that have been built up. a trauma that happens early in life (especially when repeated or endured over time) can cause a person to shut down so as to stop the emotional pain.  it makes complete sense that these individuals would find external chemicals such as opiates or alcohol that help them feel (especially pleasure). what makes even more sound sense is that letting go of these compounds is not an easy task, especially since for most of them, they may connect to the only pleasure these individuals have felt for as long as they can remember. btw, they usually forget a lot of the pain that led them to addiction with good intention- survival.

for me, i look to the explosion of crystal meth use in the gay male population in the industrialized world in the last two decades, with the highest percentage being hiv positive. this reasoning brings clearly into focus an explanation of this madness. is it not common that gay men identify feeling love and intimacy through their sexual contact, and being hiv positive would directly inhibit this process. crystal meth no doubt allows men to circumvent this inhibition and refill their emotional coffers. but when the emotional coffers never feel full, happiness is elusive, and continues to be chased.

it’s a simple question… why are they doing meth? to feel better. to connect with ohters sexually, to feel loved.  if sex is how we communicate- how else do they make this happen?  the only way they have known to feel loved has been diminished and neutered?

writings on the wall

Posted on Updated on

Darling I’ll bathe your skin
I’ll even wash your clothes
Just give me some candy
before I go
Oh, darling I’ll kiss your eyes
And lay you down on your rug
Just give me some candy
After my hug
I know that there´re writings on the wall
But Darling I’ll bathe your skin
I’ll even wash your clothes
Just give me some candy
After my hug

i have been in denial about the things i have been noticing and wondering about a friend. he has been in recovery from iv meth use for a coupla years and has shapeshifted these last few months. i have known something was stinky, but didn’t want to make it real.

i live very close to him and drive by his house frequently. the front door traffic pattern and the porch varmints have been increasing with each month. and a few months ago i had him over to check it out and it was evident that he wasn’t with me in the room. i convinced myself that he had stopped taking his add meds, which he heartily agreed with.

now i understand though that old ways have returned and he is using again. i’m sad. disappointed. a little angry. but i’ll get over those. i guess it brings the possibility of such a thing closer to me, since it happened to someone i know.

weirdly, it has been like watching an accident in slo-mo. the fragments of a cracking veneer and random disrepair continue to become evident. his other friendships are becoming like tall model sailing ships in glass bottles, just sitting on shelves collecting dust. his company du jour are all younger males that most likely don’t have much stability. i recognize well the predatory sexual practices that are likely at work.

i have only begun to understand addiction. i have lived around it and with it for my entire life, but i am only at the tip of the iceberg of comprehension. as i am reading the wonderful book on addiction by gabor mate right now i will quote from him on addiction. I found this series of quotes on a lovely site called change therapy.

in the english language, addiction has two overlapping but distinct meanings. in our day, it most commonly refers to a dysfunctional dependence on drugs or on behaviours such as gambling or sex or eating.
surprisingly, that meaning is only about a hundred years old. for centuries before then … addiction referred simply to an activity that one was passionate about …
in the words of a consensus statement by addiction experts in 2001, addiction is a “chronic neurobiological disease … characterized by behaviours that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving” …

the issue is not the quantity or even the frequency but the impact …
he then gives his own definition:
addiction involves:


1. compulsive engagement with the behaviour, a preoccupation with it;


2. impaired control over the behaviour;


3. persistence or relapse despite evidence of harm; and


4. dissatisfaction, irritability or intense craving when the object – be it a drug, activity or other goal – is not immediately available.
he concludes his chapter, “what is addiction?” by saying
we need to avoid the trap of believing that addiction can be reduced to the action of brain chemicals or nerve circuits or any other kind of neurobiological, psychological or sociological data … addiction is a complex condition … we need to view it simultaneously from many different angles … to get anywhere near a complete picture we must keep shaking the kaleidoscope to see what other patterns emerge.

i am posting a paolo nutini song from his latest cd. i listen to this often when i’m driving. i am completely mad about him…