How Addiction Opened My Eyes to a Sustainable Lifestyle

“Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet.

Wikipedia Definition

I’ve stated on numerous occasions that I was an addict before taking a single drug. My addiction was overconsumption, no matter the pleasurable stimuli, once I had a taste my appetite knew no satisfaction.  An obsession to consume, an addiction to more.  Life has a fascinating way of teaching broadly applicable lessons when we take the time to listen.  Once the dust settled after a decade-long drug haze I found myself collecting an array of materialistic items in an order to feel whole.

As a whole, Americans are obsessed (addicted) with consuming.  We spend an inordinate amount of time in fear. Afraid that we don’t have the right car, a large enough house, or (in my case) denim in every conceivable color.  Why do we do this? It is my belief that one of the greatest shortcomings in our society is that we have become brainwashed by the notion that external materialistic have the ability to make us whole. The great lie of advertising.  One of the beautiful lessons I’ve learned from addiction is that my worth is not determined by the sum of materialistic possessions I obtain, but rather it is determined by the impact I’m able to have on others and the world around me.

The reality, in my experience, is an endless pursuit of consumption is unsustainable.    At the macro level, we’re burning through our planet’s resources, while at the micro level consumption will leave you feeling empty.  I was once told that there are three steps to creating a sustainable life. Step one is simplifying, we’ve become so accustomed to an overcomplicating life that it seems counterintuitive the solution is simplifying our surroundings.  For me, this meant cutting my denim collection down from over fifty pairs of jeans to about eight.

The majority of human existence has conditioned us to obtain as much as we can because resources weren’t always available.  Think about this a moment, civilized man has been around for around 6,000 years. Taking evolution out of the equation that is around the time recorded history begins.  The first industrial revolution took place in Britain from 1760 to 1840. That means as a species we have lived in a society where most of our needs can be met for only about 200 years.  Admittedly, this an oversimplification but the fact of the matter is our species (as we know it) has spent 5,800 years consuming as a means to survive and 200 years where bottomless consumption is no longer a necessity.

Step two is taking inventory in the life of our consumption.  It’s surreal when connections can be made from two seemingly unrelated facets of life.  For those unfamiliar with Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous the fourth step is making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. The primary objective in both instances, for me, is learning to develop mindfulness.  This step helps us develop a clear understanding of how we are living our lives, what we need, and what we are spending our money on. Step three is making a lifelong commitment. It is imperative that we do not view a sustainable lifestyle (or sobriety) through a temporary lens.  Be mindful this is a lifelong shift and stay committed!

 

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