In this easy-to-read book, Dr. Dodes presents insightful observations of his patients and the powerful urges that possess them. He convincingly argues that the purpose and drive behind addictive behavior, regardless of what form of behavior or substance the addiction takes, is an effort to preserve one's power and to fend off uncomfortable feelings of helplessness or powerlessness.

Seen from this perspective, an addiction is simply an unfortunate way to express the healthy drive toward personal power. And while Dr. Dodes does not mention meditation in his book, it is also a model which lends itself quite nicely to the skillful application of mindfulness and insight meditation. It is a model that draws upon one's ability to sit with discomfort long enough to move from mindless reactivity to skillful response. And this ability is one of the early fruits of a meditation practice.

"Virtually every addictive act is preceded by a feeling of helplessness or powerlessness. Addictive behavior functions to repair this underlying feeling of helplessness. . . It can do this because taking the addictive action (or even deciding to take this action) creates a sense of regaining control--over one's emotional experience and life."

This book presents the tools one needs to understand and overcome powerful addictions. Dodes includes engaging examples of his patients suffering with addictions and shows how they have used his ideas to free themselves.

I found this a quick read and one that I highly recommend to anyone interested in how the skills of self observation and intentional focus one develops in this practice of mindfulness meditation can be applied to the underlying causes of addictive behaviors. I found his investigation into the underlying dyanmics of addiction refresingly different from the customary narrow focus on the additive behavior (e.g. sex, gambling) or the substance (e.g. alcohol, cocaine) itself.

Dr. Dodes encourages a look beneath the surface of the problem where it seems to me, we must look if we are to make long-lasting, liberating change. If we are to move into true freedom from our addictions not just move from one form of restrictive, emotionally limited lifestyle to another.

Heart of Addiction by Lance Dodes, MD. Harper Collins, Publishers, 2002, 257 pgs, hardback.