When people hear the word ‘addiction’, they most likely associate it with obsessive patterns of drug use or excessive behaviour that is having a detrimental effect on a person’s life. While these connotations hold true, there is a different type of ‘addiction’ that plagues each and every one of our lives without most ever even realizing. I’m talking about vices. Vices are essentially external things that we use as pleasure stimuli to gratify ourselves, also known as void fillers. This is something we are all guilty of to some extent.
We Are Always being Stimulated
From the day we are born, we are exposed to a plethora of environmental stimuli which our brain begins to compartmentalize as either pleasurable or non-pleasurable. Babies and children are given toys to satisfy their attention span, adolescents discover the joys of sugary treats, teenagers become consumed with alcohol, TV and Internet, college students begin indulging in drugs and their morning, afternoon, and evening coffee, and adulthood usually coalesces all of the latter. These vices are cunning and evasive, as most of us never realize how much these small pleasures are actually crutches. At some point the line between innocent pleasure stimuli and addictive vices becomes obscured, and these vices become fillers of ‘the void’.
The void is generated by the system. It is an emptiness that exists in most of us because we are never taught how to truly heal our inner voids. We are never taught at a young enough age that the adage had it right all along, “nothing external can truly fulfill”. Through spiritual discipline we eventually learn this, however.
This was a lesson I learned during a special type of cleanse, the spiritual precursor before drinking the Amazonian plant medicine ayahuasca. I got rid of all the vices I had accumulated throughout my life. I’m talking no alcohol, no cannabis, no sexual activity, no salt, no processed sugars or fats, no soy (I eat a plant-based diet), nada. I’m not going to lie, I was definitely scared. When I cut out all of those vices, it quickly became clear how much I was using them as an unseen crutch. I became aware of my sly addictions. Salt and sugar are the big ones. We don’t realize how much these two ingredients are added to our food. Pasta sauces, stir-fry sauces, snacks, crackers, fruits, soy sauce, soups, and the list goes on. I was shocked at how I didn’t recognize that my pleasure centers were constantly being stimulated by eating. Even losing the option to have a drink, smoke cannabis, or engage in sexual activity was strange; when you can’t do something, it’s almost as if your brain sends out the craving to taunt you. I couldn’t shake off the feeling of being bored and unfulfilled.
The moment arrived when it was just me and nothing else, kind of like the deep introspective moment during meditation. I had an epiphany. I realized how much worth I was giving all of these ‘things’ in my life. My pleasure and satisfaction was based around all of these external things. I was filling the void, buying time. Without all of these little habits I had taken on throughout my life, who was I? The great adage had finally sunk in and it made sense.
Whether it’s watching your favourite movie, TV show, or sports broadcast, eating sweet, salty, or fatty foods, drinking tea or coffee, smoking weed or cigarettes, drinking alcohol, working out, or even reading your favourite book, it’s important to ask yourself the following question, are these ‘things’ being used as vices to fill some sort of void? Would you feel bored or unfulfilled if these attachments were taken away? Really think about this question, or better yet, try it.
I extend the challenge to you right now. Try cutting out some or all of your vices, even if you only do it for 1 day. You will be surprised at the range of thoughts and emotions you will go through. When you are forced to face yourself with no other vices, you are catapulted into a space of self-analysis and observation. Although it may be scary at first, you quickly move past these feelings into a familiar space. You learn about the thing-less you, a humbling space to be in. Share your story with us down in the comment section, I’d love to hear it! Much love.