Spirituality is the Foundation for Addiction Recovery

6192689846_cac9a32fd6_zHaving been in addiction recovery since 1976, I have heard a lot of people comment on the spiritual “part” of AA. They generally say that they have a “problem” with the spiritual part. I always want to ask which part is the spiritual part. I believe that all 12 steps are spiritual and that we need a power greater than ourselves to help us to accept our need for change and growth.

1.  From Joshua Becker: “A Beginner’s Guide to Exploring Spirituality”:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” —A.W. Tozer

When I was in college, I read the preceding quote from the theologian/philosopher A.W. Tozer. The substance was so profound I have never forgotten its message almost 15 years later. It continues to spring up again and again in my mind on a regular basis.

I realize spirituality can be a very touchy topic that arouses countless strong opinions, intellectual arguments, and far too many unspeakable emotional wounds. Nevertheless, I believe the quote above holds true. There is nothing more central to our lives than our understanding of spirituality. And it is a conversation we ought to engage in far more often than we do.

1. Respect those that have gone before. The quest to understand spirituality is as old as humanity itself. Billions have gone before and have spent countless hours seeking spirituality. Don‘t overlook their efforts. Consider their findings and their writings—even those outside the religion you have become accustomed to.

2. Your journey must be your own. You alone must be the decision-maker for your view of God. You should not blindly accept the teachings of another (even your closest mentor or parent). Your heart must ring true and your spirit must rejoice in your spirituality—or it is worthless.

3. Start right where you are. We all have special gifts of character: compassion, laughter, self-discipline, love, etc. Use them as your starting point. Are you facing a trial in life (disease, loss, rejection)? Use it as motivation to further pursue your understanding of spirituality. Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” He was right in every regard. Start your journey with whatever first step makes the most sense to you.

4. Ask God for help. By this I mean, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making the request. If there is a God, He may answer your prayer. And if there is no God, the process of making the request will still work to help focus your senses and desire.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Like everything else in life, spiritual growth is mastered through practice. If you don’t find your answers after your first few steps, take some more in a different direction. It will require time, effort, and energy. But given its influence on our lives, it is always worth the effort in the end.

6. Don’t be afraid of unanswered questions. Although leaving questions unanswered may sound contrary to the goal of the pursuit, we should not be afraid of them. These unanswered questions will cause some to forever abandon the journey. And while our spirituality should make sense of our heart‘s deepest questions, it would seem unreasonable to believe our minds could successfully fathom all the mysteries of the universe.

7. Be wary of “everyone is right” thinking. If there is no God, there is no God. If there is a God, He is something specific. Personally, I am skeptical of the thinking that says God can change from one person to another—that philosophy crumbles under the weight of its own logic. God is who God is. And it‘s our responsibility to successfully find Him.

Again, I realize fully this journey is going to look different for every single one of us. Spirituality is a highly personal matter and will likely result in different outcomes. This is not a post that endorses any specific religion. It is simply a post of encouragement and a reminder this journey is important. (End of this excerpt.)

2.  Many of Bill Wilson’s (the co-founder of AA) early influences were by people who believed spirituality to be the foundation. Two of those people were Carl Jung and William James. I have included the thoughts of these two men below.

William James is considered the founder of psychology.

These articles about William James and AA show the influence James had on helping to mold the early addiction recovery ideas that Bill Wilson had.

The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps

William James and Alcoholics Anonymous

History of Alcoholics Anonymous

Big Book Theology: “We Agnostics” and William James

The  Varieties of Religious Experience

Bill Wilson’s Letter to Dr. Carl Jung, Jan. 23, 1961

Photo credit.


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