Bucket Problems: An Additional Post

B u c k e t    P r o b l e m s

Bucket with holes.

I wrote a post entitled “Bucket Problems”, about addictions.  One of the guys I try to keep up with, through his blogs, gave me feedback about that post.  His encouragement and insight brought me back to the writing desk, on the Other Side of the Trees, to write more about “Bucket Problems.”  Here is a hypothetical scenario, where addictions are at play:

A man pours his energy, heart and soul, into a bucket.  The idea is that the bucket will hold all that is valuable and sacred.  A shiny, good-looking, bucket.  But, emptiness happens.  Something is wrong.  He pours more of who he is, what he has, into the bucket.  But, the emptiness continues, and is stronger.  He pours out more of his sacred self into the great bucket.  The bucket, however, is not a great bucket.  In fact, it is not even a good bucket. The bucket has holes.  There are bucket problems.

“Addictions”, in our society, often refers to several categories: substance abuse; binge eating; alcoholism (even though alcohol is a substance).  Other addictions fly under the radar and are socially acceptable (and therefore are not considered addictions). Check out some of these potential addictions, a short list:

  1. Shopping
  2. Relationships
  3. Chocolate
  4. Sex
  5. Coffee
  6. Sugar
  7. Work
  8. Being a victim
  9. Eating

An addiction is not just about substance abuse.  Part of the human soul craves relief.  We want something that will ease the pain of living in this world.  We, as individuals, can (try to) hide in our addictions: work, reading books, eating.  My work in addictions, my work with addicts and recovering addicts led me to the realization that the addiction is not just about the addiction.  Something is driving the addiction(s).

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon (many people believe that the author was Solomon) wrote about his realization that everything he pursued for meaning and comfort was … meaningless. That is, everything but God.

1:12-14 ” …  I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I … study (studied) and to explore (explored) by wisdom all that is done under the heavens …14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

1:18 … For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Pleasures Are Meaningless (subtitle)

2:1-26 … I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test (self) with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?’  I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards … 5 gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem … the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Solomon’s words “chasing the wind” suggest that such pursuits are futile.  Such cravings, are part of a desperate search for meaning, for comfort.  How we manage that, how we control that, is up to the individual.  My belief is that it is only through the “reliance” on God, that the “holes in the bucket are plugged.” *Note: the words quoted came about in a discussion with a poet-photographer-friend who blogs:

The Book of Bokeh / https://bookofbokeh.wordpress.com

The Book of Pain / https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

I would like to acknowledge one of my “go-to” books on addiction: Addiction and Grace by Gerald May.  I would not say that this volume is “easy reading” ; but instead an excellent reference for looking at addictions from a non-religious, non-denominational, and non-judgmental spiritual perspective.  The same author wrote The Awakened Heart, which I heartily recommend.

Thanks for reading this lengthy post, and I hope you found some value here.

Bucket Problems

“How do you like my bucket?”  

“(Pause) Hmmm.  That bucket looks alright, on the outside.  Is it working for you?”

“Actually, I haven’t tried it out, yet.  Heck, let’s give it a trial-run,” … he picks up a water hose, turns it on, and points the end of the hose into the bucket.  Water comes flowing out, into the bucket).  

We both watch the bucket, and immediately water comes out of the bottom of the bucket; three or four different streams.  Apparently, there are holes in the bottom of the bucket. The owner, and the custodian, of the bucket is no longer enthused about his “new” bucket.  Now, he is concerned, confused, a bit angry, and embarrassed about his bucket. I speak into the uncomfortable silence: “You have bucket problems.  In fact, you have holes in your bucket.   (Pause)  What were you going to use that bucket for, anyway?”  

“I was going to pour my energy into this bucket.  I was planning on the bucket giving back to me, joy and relief from the hardships in this world, a place to escape for a while.”


In the realm of addictions, individuals pour their hearts and their energy into buckets with holes at the bottom.  But, the bucket never gets full.  I have quoted from three of Gerald May’s books numerous times  in my writing.  Now, I think of a word / concept May used in his book Addiction and Grace:  “attachments”, which he often uses interchangeably with the word “addictions”.  “Attachments” connects with us more effectively than “addictions”.  We get attached to ______________ (consider filling in the blank, even it it is regarding someone other than yourself).  The buckets that we use, sometimes, are deceptive.  We might believe that that there is joy, meaning, relief, to be found in that bucket.  But unless we rely  on God, most buckets have holes, toward the bottom.  The desperate sojourner responds by continuing to fill up that bucket, even though whatever we put into that bucket is simply coming out of the bottom.