The relationship between spirituality and addiction recovery extends back to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935. Indeed AA’s basic text, published in 1939 and often referred to as the “Big Book” by its members, states that the addicted person has “not only been mentally and physically ill, but [has] been spiritually sick”. From the very beginning, Wilson’s self-help recovery movement was influenced by a wide range of professionals who viewed addiction not only as a disease of the body and mind, but as a spiritual malady as well.
However, the term spirituality is difficult to define and often means different things to different people depending on various circumstances such as upbringing, culture, and life experiences. The term spirituality may best be described in terms of its conceptual components which include relatedness, meaning/purpose, transcendence, humanity, core/force/soul, (non)religiousness, wholeness, creativity, and consciousness (or awareness). C. Cook (2004) defines spirituality as:
. . . a distinctive, potentially creative and universal dimension of human experience arising both within inner subjective awareness of individuals and within communities, social groups, and traditions. It may be experienced as relationship with that which is intimately ‘inner’, immanent and personal, within the self and others, and/or as relationship with that which is wholly ‘other’, transcendent and beyond the self. It is experienced as being of fundamental or ultimate importance and is thus concerned with matters of meaning and purpose in life, truth and values.
Many of us in addiction recovery have come to accept that the inner feeling of emptiness we tried to fill with drugs, alcohol, and the other “stuff” of the world was a but symptom of a spiritual void in our lives. The more we tried to fill that void, the darker and more vast it became until it nearly consumed our lives. It was a monster with an insatiable appetite. And so to learn that the solution to our problem could be found within ourselves and was spiritual in nature was a relief. But at the same time, many of us for various reasons could not engage the process of spiritual healing within the context of Western theism nor by returning to Judeo-Christian religions.
One of the central purposes of this blog is to provide readers with an alternative, non-theistic approach to addiction recovery that embraces spiritual healing without the burdens of traditional theistic dogma.