I see the addict as a seeker; albeit a misguided one. The addict is a person in quest of pleasure, perhaps even of a kind of transcendent experience-and I want to emphasize that this kind of seeking is extremely positive. The addict is looking in the wrong places, but he is going after something very important, and we cannot afford to ignore the meaning of his search. At least initially, the addict hopes to experience something wonderful, something that transcends an unsatisfactory or even an intolerable everyday reality. There's nothing to be ashamed of in this impulse. On the contrary, it provides a foundation for true hope and real transformation.
I'm tempted to go even further in this characterization of the addict as seeker. In my view, a person who has never felt the pull of addictive behavior is someone who has not taken the first faltering step toward discovering the true meaning of Spirit. Perhaps addiction is nothing to be proud of, but it does represent an aspiration toward a higher level of experience. And although that aspiration cannot ultimately be fulfilled by chemicals or by compulsive behaviors, the very attempt suggests the presence of a genuinely spiritual nature.
Ayurveda, the traditional Indian science of health, teaches that there is a memory of perfection within each of us. It is etched into every one of our cells. This memory cannot be erased, but it can be covered over by toxins and impurities of many sorts. Our real task in dealing with addiction lies not so much in pointing out the destructive effects of addictive behaviors but in reawakening the awareness of perfection that always resides within us. As a schoolboy, I read Paradise Lost, and it is surely one of the greatest poems in the English language. But I've learned that the paradise within us can never really be lost. We may lose sight of it, yet it is always within our reach.
I've often thought that music is the art form that can best put us in touch with this inner perfection. Although it can certainly be appreciated intellectually and even as a kind of mathematics, music also engages us at a level that's somehow deeper than our conscious thought processes. We can experience this by listening to music, and perhaps even more completely by playing it. Whenever I attend a concert or recital I'm always struck by the obvious effect of the music on the performers. There's a kind of ecstasy being experienced. Musicians who are really caught up in a performance enter a different reality, and they display a totally unself-conscious experience of joy and pleasure. It's a fascinating and inspiring thing to see, and certainly that sort of experience is a worthy aspiration for your own life.