As addiction science has advanced through the years, spirituality in addiction treatment is regarded as voodoo by many healthcare professionals, but most of us who’ve worked in the field for decades believe there are spiritual solutions to addiction. When you witness the amazing process of recovery over and over, you begin to see something change that’s beyond the physical. Call it what you like, but spiritual is good word to describe it. Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, called it a psychic change in part of his writings, but also talked about the spiritual aspect of recovery.
Bill Wilson’s ideas on recovery were influenced by the famous psychiatrist, Carl Jung. Below is from a NYT’s article:
It came about in 1932 when an American alcoholic named Rowland Hazard was sent to Zurich, Switzerland, to Dr. Jung’s clinic. After about a year, Jung told Rowland that since they had been unable to bring about a psychic change in him, he would be discharged.
No doubt startled, Rowland asked, “Is there no hope, then?”
Dr. Jung’s answer, an astonishing one for a man of science, was, “No, there is none — except that some people with your problem have recovered if they have had a transforming experience of the spirit.”
I’ve witnessed this “transforming experience of the spirit” many, many times over the years. This doesn’t mean that what science has discovered about addiction treatment is useless, far from it — it takes all of it. There are medical solutions, intellectual solutions and there are spiritual solutions to addiction. When all three are present, recovery is almost guaranteed.
First, the medical aspect of addiction is addressed to clear the body of the drug and to address physical/mental damage, then the person is informed/taught that addiction is a powerful brain disease which overpowers will and reason, and then the person is urged, in different ways with different descriptive language, to search for spiritual solutions to addiction. It needs to be said that spiritual here does not necessarily mean religious. It takes a deep and lasting change of mind for recovery to become real and powerful. Call it what you may, but, whatever it is, it’s life-changing, and life-saving.