The Hungry Ghost : Evolving Away from Childhood Pain

Like some of you, I have a difficult time knowing when to stop drinking. As someone here in the Boozemusings Community has put it so well “My off switch is broken”. I would add that in my case that off switch is a problem sometimes, not all the time.

I have not hit rock bottom and I haven’t been a daily (or even weekly ) drinker for a long time. Not for years. Most of the time I can go out and have one or two drinks. That’s plenty and I’m done. But there are times when that’s only the preview for the main show. And during those times even 4 or 5 or 10 drinks are not enough.

It’s because of these occasions that I decided to stop drinking. Feeling lousy and tired, depleted and irritable for three days following a night out or even one morning is definitely not worth it. Life is too precious. I recognize and respect that I have a genetic condition and have chosen to adjust my life lovingly and accordingly in response to this.

As time goes by and I go down this path I’m on, I’m becoming my own best friend. I’m softening inside. I used to be very harsh and critical with myself . This, in part, made me want to escape myself in various ways, partly through drinking. My addictive tendencies are not limited to alcohol. And actually, this is not really even about alcohol or even about addiction. I see these as symptoms of deeper issues. Alcohol was just one of the many rocket ships that sent me soaring high and as far away as possible from planet me. It could be and has been other things, like sweets, tobacco, social media, and people.

When I was a teenager and really depressed because of family problems, I got addicted to a TV series, Star Trek. My mom was addicted to pills and living with her was like living with Jekyll and Hyde. She was in the other room stoned and out of her head, abusing and shouting at everyone anyone around her (especially those closest) while I took refuge on board the Starship Enterprise with Kirk and Spock and the rest of the crew, visiting strange and distant planets. It sounds funny, but it wasn’t. Just think of all the kids out there now going through some kind of hell feeling isolated with no one to talk to about it. Some of them survive it, some don’t.

My mom hated alcohol, her father (my grandfather) was an alcoholic and she saw what that could do. But the pills got her. And eventually contributed to her death (at 42). From early childhood, I was one of her emotional caretakers. She had a hole inside that I suppose she thought the unconditional love of a child could fill. In Buddhism they call this “The Hungry Ghost”.

I recently became aware of “The Hungry Ghost” through my spiritual readings and especially through the work of Dr. Gabor Maté. He is an addiction expert and specialist in childhood development and trauma.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mate’s book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost

“The inhabitants of the Hungry Ghost Realm are depicted as creatures with scrawny necks, small mouths, emaciated limbs and large, bloated, empty bellies. This is the domain of addiction, where we constantly seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully present.”

I did my best, to fill that hole she had left, but many of us know how that goes, it’s a tall order and nobody can do it. That hole needs love, and only self love can fill it. For some of us that needs to be learned and mastered like any skill because our parents didn’t teach us. Our parents didn’t teach us because they didn’t know how to do it either so it’s not really their fault.

She, my mom, did her best too. It was always her one and only dream to have children and she was very affectionate when she was well. But when she was sick (migraines) she was a different person, abusive and full of rage and hate. The pills caused a side effect which resulted in a double amputation, she lost both legs when she was 32. That’s when the depression, the rage, and the abuse and darkness (and the war which divided our family) really began.

This all sounds depressing, and it was, but she did her best as we all do. I used to judge her, and hate her. Now my path also includes forgiveness. And I am on that list of people to forgive. This is enough work for a lifetime and I’m in no hurry. And I’m enjoying the process. She is with me. I try to remember the good things. And when it really counted, during my formative period of childhood, before she got sick, she did a great job, filling me up with lots of good things to carry through life.

I also know that unconsciously I am attracted to and attract unreliable and emotionally unstable women. We are usually attracted to what we had as children because that is partly how we define and know love. There’s comfort in it, even or especially when it’s abusive and/or neglectful.

I’m not looking for pity. Many people, some of you for sure, have much darker stories. And this doesn’t define me, nor does my complex relationship with alcohol. I prefer to be defined as an artist/painter (art is my life passion) or even better and more importantly as a loving soul. There’s nothing higher than that. Behind all of the walls in our hearts that need demolishing and our defenses and our egos that need letting go of. Behind the wounds that need healing that’s what we are, all of us.

We are Loving souls. Do you agree?

Live Long and Prosper !

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