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Gabor Maté Interview:

Understanding Addiction

In this Banyen interview Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, illuminates essential questions about addiction and substance abuse. Gabor Maté will present a full-day program on Saturday January 30, together with Diederik Wolsak and Sat Dharam Kaur. The workshop is a fundraiser for Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path of Recovery, an innovative 16-session recovery program.

Banyen: How do you define addiction?

Gabor Maté: Addiction is a set of complex emotional, psychological, neurophysiological, social and spiritual phenomena manifested in any behaviour, substance related or not, characterized by

a. immediate pleasure or relief
b. intense craving for the experience
c. negative long term consequences on health, emotional balance and/or relationships with the world and with close ones
d. inability to give it up, despite negative consequences

Thus, addiction can be to anything: substances, relationships, food, sex, exercise, TV, Facebook, gambling, etc.

Banyen: What are the most common misunderstandings about addiction and substance abuse?

Gabor Maté:
a. That they are choices people make and should therefore be punished for or judged for.
b. That addictions represent brain diseases, or are genetically based.
c. That addictions are only to substances.
d. That the “addict” is somehow different from other people.

Banyen: What do you see as the relationship between addiction and spirituality?

Gabor Maté
: The French philosopher Blaise Pascal said that inside every human there is a “God-shaped hole.” This is particularly true of addicts who, consciously or not, experience a deep spiritual void they desperately attempt to fill by whatever activities they are compelled to pursue. The cause of this void is a disconnect from the person’s true self, which is naturally and inevitably and irrevocably part of All That Is. The addictive behaviour very temporarily covers that hole, while making it yet more unfathomed at the same time.

Hence, true healing from addiction is necessarily a spiritual path—whether it’s perceived that way or not.

Banyen: What is the approach and vision of the Beyond Addiction program?

Gabor Maté: Beyond Addiction is a program that combines a yoga-based approach (and yoga itself means unity) with my insights on the trauma-based origin and dynamics of addiction. Beyond Addiction teaches yogic methods of breathing, body posture, and mindful intention while leading participants to self-compassionate insights about their mind states, behaviour, history, and emotional challenges. The intent is to teach people practical (as in ways of practice), emotional, and mental modalities with which to promote their own healing and well-being.

Banyen: Dr. Maté, thank you for taking the time with us today. We look forward to seeing you at your talk and workshop on January 29th & 30th.

Gabor Maté is a Vancouver physician, author and public speaker who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction and mind/body health. Dr. Maté has written extensively about addiction in his book In The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. His website is Read more about Beyond Addiction: The Yoga Path to Recovery at 

Interview © January 5, 2016 Banyen Books & Sound