Spirituality in Addiction Recovery

Spirituality in addiction recovery has been controversial at times,  especially among those with a more rational, scientific bent. Spirituality in addiction recovery was controversial all the way back to the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first hundred or so AA members had a split between Christian members who wanted a more religious tone and the agnostic-type members who wanted a clear separation from any religion. The compromise was a higher power of the individual’s understanding, even the power of a group with a common cause.

The underlying idea that made spirituality necessary at all, according to many who were working with alcoholics at the time, was that alcoholism can’t be beat by will power alone — they said it takes all the will power a person has, but it takes more than will power alone. They believed the alcoholic needed a power greater than themselves to overcome the insane obsession with alcohol. Even Dr. Carl Jung, the famous Psychiatrist, told a relapsing alcoholic who’d gone to him for help, and who had tried many sources of self-help and talking therapy to no avail, that in his (Dr Jung’s) experience alcoholics who recovered all experienced some kind of spiritual awakening, a deep desire for transformation.

Today in addiction treatment, for the most part, spirituality is still discussed in broad terms as an important part of recovery from addiction. The best addiction treatment techniques, the best counseling, the best treatment plan, are only effective if the individual in recovery can reach deep enough for inspiration to follow through. I guess it can be called many things, but spirituality is still a good term. Even if we can’t see it or touch it, most of us have experienced that deep stirring which comes from music, art, love, religious ceremonies, or other special moments or life changing events. Even though this deep, strong movement inside is not easily described, it’s powerful and real. And even if science discovers neurons and brain chemicals that are related to this “spiritual awakening”, it doesn’t change the fact that the experience is often transformational. Like Dr. Jung, spirituality in addiction recovery, regardless of what it’s called or how it’s experienced, is what I see that makes the difference between a return to drug addiction and long term recovery.

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