In 2009 I was living in Bologna, Italy when my mom called with oddly predictable news: Justin (my now deceased brother) overdosed on opioids for the first time. Crippled from a football accident and wildly delirious, Justin demanded to drive by his old school to reminisce on a lost childhood.
But even before the drug addiction, parents would warn their children, “Don’t hang out with that Jenkins kid!” A warning all too familiar to my dad and his siblings, who were also labeled “bad kids.”
Naturally, when Justin started using drugs, the good ones (except one true friend) fell away, making room for life-sucking vultures from the underworld. For the record, I also avoided Justin.
But I have a question: why don’t we avoid people with eating disorders, anxiety or other ailments? Growing up, parental figures never told me to avoid Betty because she eats too many sweets or George because he stutters under pressure. Yet, we shun people who struggle with drug addiction.
I believe that drug addiction is a disease. A disease that should be treated with proper medical care. But what if this disease is passed down from our parents?
During Narcotics Anonymous (NA) family meetings, I noticed a pattern: nearly every person had addiction in the family, my family included. Yet, Justin didn’t have a relationship with any of these family members. In fact, he met most of them only once in his short life. So, how is it that they all struggled with addiction?
A 2015 study found that the children of Holocaust survivors had epigenetic changes to a gene that was linked to their levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Cortisol is released when you encounter a threat, such as a territorial pit bull on your morning walk.
But if your great-grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, you don’t need to walk down LA’s crime-ridden Skid Row to increase your cortisol levels. According to the study, your natural alarm system is already bright-eyed and perky without any perceived threat.
What does that mean? The study shows that the effects of trauma may be passed down to our children and grandchildren. This changes how we view our lives in the context of our parents’ experience, right?
I’m clearly not a scientist, but I believe that this study highlights the effects of all ancestral wounds, including drug addiction.
Drug Addiction and Karma
According to yoga philosophy, when a baby is born, she doesn’t have a clean slate. She inherits lifetimes of habits, reflexes, unconscious behavior, character traits, and predispositions. Deepak Chopra calls these behavior patterns “karmic,” because they have no obvious cause.
But thankfully, we aren’t doomed to repeat ancestral patterns. We can change our karma by becoming more conscious. After all, you can’t change anything in your life unless you are aware of it first.
So the next time you feel anxious, panicky, excited, or restless, notice your impulses. Do you want to devour a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or buy every crystal in the shop? Before you fall back on bad habits, center yourself. Here’s how:
- Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths
- Bring your attention to your heart
- Breathe in deeply by filling your belly with breath
- Slowly exhale
- Pause for three seconds
- And repeat
How do you change unhealthy behavior patterns? Share your techniques in the comments!
By the way, as I’m writing this article the security alarm at my parents’ house is going crazy. I had to wake up my dad to turn it off. The alarm was silent while he was watching the news. But as soon as he left, the bloody alarm went crazy again. A visit from Justin’s spirit, perhaps? My pendulum agrees.
You Might Also Like…
- Can the legacy of trauma be passed down the generations? by BBC
- Chronic stress puts your health at risk by Mayo Clinic
- “Abundance: The Inner path to wealth” by Deepak Chopra
Photos by Zori Art Photography and CoreRock on Shutterstock