By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 11, 2011
Have you ever noticed that addicts are often extremely interesting people?
Addiction itself is excruciatingly boring, in that it’s so predictable. The lies, the evasions, the transparent self-justification and self-exoneration. But the addict himself is often a colorful and compelling person. His story reads like a novel, packed with drama, intrigue, conflict and heartbreak. If the addict’s drug of choice is alcohol, the narrative is frequently one of job loss, domestic abuse, divorce, abandonment of children, bankruptcy. If Class One narcotics are the culprit, the tale often includes crime, the law, violence, even death.
Of course we fallible mortals can be addicted to a lot of things. To love, to sex, to worship of our children or parents, to dominance, to submission. We can even be addicted to ourselves (check the manual under “self-iconization,” e.g. Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump.) Such individuals can be absolutely fascinating at the same time that they’re boring as hell.
What’s the connection between addiction and Resistance?
The pre-addictive individual experiences a calling. To art, to service, to honorable sacrifice. In other words, positive aspiration. A dream. A vision of the higher self he or she might be. The intimation of this calling is followed immediately, as we know, by the apparition of Resistance. The dragon rears its head. Fear. Self-doubt. Self-sabotage.
What makes this moment so precarious is that most of us are unconscious, in the event, both of our aspiration and of our Resistance. We’re asleep. We know only that we feel bad. Something’s wrong. We’re restless, we’re bored, we’re angry; we’re seeking something grand but don’t know where to look and even if we did, we’re so terrified and so paralyzed that we can’t take a step.
Up next: a drink, a woman, a habit. Addiction replaces aspiration. The quick fix wins out over the long, slow haul.
Addiction becomes the evil twin of our calling to service or to art. That’s why addicts are so interesting and so boring at the same time. They’re interesting because they’re called to something–something new, something unique, something that we, watching, can’t wait to see them bring forth into manifestation. At the same time, they’re boring because they never do the work.
I have a dear friend who’s addicted to love. (I can relate to this myself.) I’ve known her my whole life and it’s absolutely excruciating to listen to her stories. She goes from one intensely romantic, all-consuming affair to the next. She is in agony throughout the affair, and it always ends in agony. It will not surprise you, I’m sure, when I report that this woman is one of the most gifted, intelligent and talented people I’ve ever met. She’s a piano genius. Her photography win prizes. And she’s a near-world-class athlete; she has swum in the Maui Channel open-ocean race half a dozen times.
Over the years my friend has developed a philosophy (you could almost call it a religion) about pursing the Sublime through Love that is so complex and so convincing that she can not only talk herself into it, but you or me too if we sit still long enough to listen to it. She is absolutely mesmerizing. At the same time the experience is bone-numbingly tedious, to watch her transit from one great love to the next, with each story playing out according to the exact same script and each ending in the same dead end.
My friend knows this is Resistance. We’ve talked about it a hundred times. She’s running away from her gifts and she knows it. But the addiction is too strong. She has become identified with it. It has become who she is.
Why is this so boring? What exactly does “boring” mean?
Something that’s boring goes nowhere. It travels in a circle. It never arrives at its destination. The circular nature of addiction is what makes it so excruciating. No traction is ever gained, no progress is ever made. We’re stuck on the same endlessly-repeating track. That’s what makes it like hell.
The critical point is the link between Resistance and addiction. When, for whatever reason, you and I cannot overcome the forces of self-sabotage that block us from following our calling, the next easy step is to seek relief from the pain, the shame and the self-reproach we feel by submerging ourselves in a form of substance-induced oblivion or self-abandonment that travels under the name of addiction.
[To be continued}