Anyone that truly understands addiction understands that through current research that it is an extremely complex brain disease. It is marked by changes and malfunctions in brain chemistry and triggered by biological and environmental factors. While it’s a medical issue, what is we also took a look at addiction through a more spiritual lens? There are many different ways that we can approach the disease to help people overcome their addictive behaviors, with spirituality being a great option for many.
Spirituality can be defined in many ways depending on the person. It largely refers to a belief in a power bigger than oneself that governs the universe, a sense of interconnectedness with all living beings, and the quest for self-knowledge, meaning and purpose in one’s life.
When an individual chooses to partake in the drug of their choice, it is usually so that they can escape reality, personal emotions and disconnect from the self. Addiction causes extreme isolation from others and from oneself through deeply troubling feelings of not being enough. The person continues to use in order to avoid properly dealing with those dark thoughts. A lack of connection to one’s authentic self, friends, family, a higher power, and society can help contribute to feelings of isolation, emptiness, low self-worth and depression.
Being able to have a stronger tie to society and being of service in some way helps addicts to regain a sense of self-worth and purpose as they work towards maintaining long-term sobriety. Spirituality has some really important aspects that help give addicts that purpose. Feeling connected to something in profound ways contributes to overall feelings of health, well-being and meaning.
Addicts spend so much of their time and energy repressing the negative parts of their selves. Through spirituality, we can connect to who we really are and face the dark parts of ourselves and our pasts with the help of a higher power. Addicts may have serious trauma from their past, such as sexual abuse, that they have trouble handling. Trying to fix the addict by simply taking away the drug of choice doesn’t address the underlying issues of why the person turned to the drug in the first place.
No amount of wealth, beauty, fame, power, knowledge, achievement or success can replace the satisfaction and fulfillment that exist when we feel connected to something greater than us. A regular spiritual practice allows us to find meaning and purpose in our lives as we travel down the sometimes windy and bumpy road we call “life” and can be a powerful tool in recovery from any condition. A regular spiritual practice teaches the addict about how to handle future stress, anxiety and depression in a healthy way. It gives them a positive outlet where they can release their negative thoughts without feeling judged or embarrassed.
For example, an alcoholic may have chosen to drink due to an emotionally traumatizing past. Because they drink, they may lose their job, family, and all other sense of security. This brings the addict down and causes their emotional state to be even worse. If the addict then turns to Christianity to fill their spiritual void, they will begin to grow as a person. The alcoholic would be able to connect to their church and meet new people by participating in events such as a bible study. They would begin to learn about the Christian God and how He is always there for them. The addict could learn to pray, meditate, and turn to God during times of trial and tribulation. Over time, the addict would feel like they had a bigger purpose in life and that they had a reason to live without the bottle.
Feelings of contentment, peace, joy, and love replace feelings of fear, unhappiness, anxiety, and discontent as one connects deeply with oneself and with others. As the mental chatter begins to cease and one feels centered in and connected to the present moment, however uncomfortable, true healing can begin.