There are things we all do to tune out. You know your vices. You know what they are made of, where to get them, how to use them, where to keep them when you aren’t using them, and who else in your family or friends also has a relationship with them.
The funny thing about vices is that some people will tell you that you are numbing yourself out, and some will say that you are making yourself more creative or awake. Usually those are the ones who share in those vices with you, but not always.
The thing is, your experience probably tells you that both sides can be true at different points. Sometimes having a drink makes you incredibly alive and alert; other times it seems that with each passing sip, you are spiraling down into some thick hole that there is no way out of, except drinking, but it’s only pushing you down further. Why is there this discrepancy?
My momentary theory is that most of the difference between when a substance is numbing you and when it is enlivening you is all within your intention at the time of using it.
If I hold a shot glass of whiskey in my hand calmly, pour it into some hot water with honey and lemon juice, and take a small sip, this is one thing. If I take the whole bottle, drink a huge slug while feeling pissed off, and then chase it with lukewarm water with honey and lemon, this is another. The same is true for the way I might watch television, talk to a friend, or eat a bowl of soup. These things sometimes make one feel better after a little while, and sometimes they just make things worse.
I know that personally, substances do different things based on the intention I am holding. If I am truly open to letting a sip of whiskey make me more creative because I am in a good enough mood to purely welcome that creativity, then that is far more likely to happen than it making me increasingly upset. However, if I am incredibly upset and expect a substance to make me creative, this is not a very likely to occur.
The next thing to think about here is that numbness has a lot of qualities to it. When you are feeling pain, it may be natural for you to reach for that vice to get some numbing action. However, as you run from this pain, you are also running from true joy. There is no way you can numb one part of life in general, and not the other, right? You may feel the lack of pain; but this is not the same as joy. It is not the same as letting life in.
Why do we reach for these numbing things, and when? Do we reach for them only at night, when the day is over? Or do we reach for them all day, as soon as we wake up? Once you have layers upon layers of vices that you have not lived a week without in some years, then you may not realize how long this state of numbness has been going on.
When was the last time you felt real joy?
I propose that by changing your intentions, or at least, being aware of them while using your vices, you can gain some control over how they are going to make you feel. This is not because of magic; it is because you are personally touching in with how you feel before you expect some substance to magically change you. You are also using your intentions, which we all know can go a long way in changing the world around us. Most importantly, you are acknowledging when you are truly open to life; open to the vulnerable state that is welcoming creativity, welcoming love and joy, into your experience.Any object or substance can be a tool for transformation; but none of them can give you a willingness to transform that you do not already have.
If you do not have that vulnerability, I would argue that no substance in the world would help you feel anything other than numb to pain as well as the joy.