I just discovered the book “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” by Steven Pressfield. It’s been around for a long time, and it’s meant for writers or people who want to create something worthwhile in their lives.
But it’s perfect for addicts, too, because it compares the struggle to live our passion with the struggle to overcome addiction. This could include addictions to drugs, sex, gambling, money, fame, web-surfing, or even maintaining the perfect house–it’s all the same.
All addictions are mindless or mind-numbing distractions.They are all ways we resist being who we were meant to be, and doing the work we were meant to do.
Let me quote a few things he says about addiction that ring true:
Have you ever noticed that addicts are often extremely interesting people? Addiction itself is excruciatingly boring . . .because it’s predictable–the lies, evasions, the transparent self justifications . . . But the addict himself is often a colorful and fascinating person . . . . [His] story often reads like a novel, packed with drama, conflict, and intrigue.
“Addictions” are not bad. They are simply the shadow forms of a more noble and exalted calling.
Addiction becomes a surrogate for our calling. We enact addiction instead of embracing the calling.
All addictions share, among other things, two prime qualities: (1) They embody repetition without progress; (2) They produce incapacity as a pay-off.
Both addicts and artists are dealing with the same material, which is the pain of being human and the struggle against self-sabotage.
Both artist and addict wrestle with the experience of exile. They share an acute, even excruciating sensitivity to the state of separation and isolation, and both actively seek a way to overcome it, to transcend it, or at least to make the pain go away.
The addict seeks to escape the pain of being human in one of two ways–by transcending it or by anesethitizing it. Borne aloft by powerful enough chemicals, we can almost, if we are lucky, glimpse the face of the Infinite. If that doesn’t work, we can always pass out. Both ways work. The pain goes away.
The artist takes a different tack. She tries to reach the upper realm not by chemicals but by labor and love.
The book is calling all the “amateurs” of the world–those of us stuck in our distracting, mind-numbing “addictions”–to turn “pro.” Turning Pro is changing our mind-set. It’s turning our life around. It’s embracing our higher-self and our higher-calling.
This how-to book starts off by identifying all the ways we avoid being who we were meant to be—through our addictions, our self-doubts, our self-inflicted wounds, and through fear in all its forms. And it identifies what is needed to overcome these, how the “Pro” approaches these very same doubts and fears and resistance in ways that are productive rather than self-sabotaging.
“Turning Pro ” evokes the spiritual in a non-secular way. The author states: “The pain of being human is that we’re all angels imprisoned in vessels of flesh.” We’re all struggling toward a higher sense of self that we fear we will never reach.
But we can, Pressfield claims: Once we start taking ourselves and our dreams seriously. When we realize it’s worth the hard work to do so, worth the effort to resist anything that would slow our momentum or lower our reach, that’s when we turn our lives around; that’s when we turn Pro.
This is what the struggling addict (in all of us) needs to hear. This book is for those who are tired of the merry-go-round of addiction and want desperately to get off. And it’s also for those who have gotten off the merry-go-round and wonder, now what?
This is what my son needs to hear. And I think he’s ready for it.
Yesterday he told me with such heartfelt conviction: “I’m done with drugs. I’m never going back.” I believe him.
But he also said: “I’m tired of screwing around, working low-wage dead-end jobs. My life is half over. I don’t have time to waste what’s left.”
He’s started to explore a new career choice, something that has always tickled the back of his mind, and he’s excited about pursuing it. He’s ready for this book.
It ends, appropriately for all struggling addicts, with these inspiring words:
The hero wanders. The hero suffers. The hero returns.
You are that hero