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Healing Addiction with Spirituality"When you struggle with an addiction, you deal directly with the healing of your soul." ~Gary Zukav~

I believe that we are born with our spirits in tact, fully whole. I also believe that somewhere a long the way as we grow from childhood to adulthood, we forget our essential nature. We forget the beauty of our spirits. Various messages and experiences get tossed our way as we grow, and we wind up feeling far from whole. In fact, we may end up feeling down right inadequate. We may question whether or not we have the ability to meet life and its challenges. And because we feel so out of control of our life experience, we unconsciously may begin to reach outside of ourselves to fill the empty spaces in our hearts. This is the place where many addictions are born.

It is difficult to be a human being. Life throws us many curve balls. We clearly do not come into this life educated on how to navigate through all the unexpected twists and turns. Unfortunately, God does not send us into this plane of existence with a guidebook detailing our spiritual nature and our innate ability to meet life's challenges that we can refer to when we lose our way. We must make our own guidebook. In fact, that is the nature of our journey, to rediscover our wholeness, and unearth the guidebook that God placed in our individual hearts.

We are all on a spiritual path, whether we are conscious of that fact or not. Our collective path is that journey back to wholeness that we knew before life took is toll on us. Our journey is to fill that gapping whole left by the painful and challenging circumstances that are inevitably part of the human experience. For some, the lack of feeling whole may be so unbearable that they become desperate to fill it, and become addicted to various things in the process.

There are many different types of addiction. The most obvious are drugs and alcohol. Food, sex, gambling, shopping, romantic relationships, and even exercise are others. Some addictions definitely seem more dangerous then others, like smoking crack, but I believe the underlying theme is the same for all addictions; that being, the "thirst for wholeness" that Carl Jung described when discussing addiction. I also believe the only way out of an addiction to anything or anybody is forming a partnership with God.

While addiction is now recognized as a medical disorder, I see it as a spiritual disorder as well. As BobWilson says in the Alcoholics Anonymous Blue Book, those with an addiction are "spiritually sick." Many studies have been done on what causes some people in the same situation, to use drugs and others not to. I find it quite intriguing that how two people who may have both been abused as children, were both children of alcoholics, or for that matter didn't have any obvious outside manifestations of a dysfunctional childhood, may choose a totally different path to wholeness. One may turn to drugs and one may not. While I am certain that there is tremendous value in these studies, I am more concerned in this paper about how addicts find their way out of the darkness more then what got them to do that first line of cocaine in the first place.

God's plan for our lives begins way before we get here on earth. And while, God would never want us to suffer, many a life has been made better because of the pain we must go through down here on earth while finding ourselves. Many of us have risen up through the ashes of our painful experiences, all the better for having experienced them. As human beings we can never fully grasp the enormity of which God is. He is all encompassing and infinite. Though we may get glimpses, we can never know His total plan for our lives. So perhaps being addicted to something and finding your way out of this addiction, may be His plan for your soul to find it's way back to wholeness. Many times hitting rock bottom is the only way human beings get the incentive to turn their lives over to God.

I clearly remember hitting my personal rock bottom. While I was not addicted to drugs or alcohol, I do believe I was addicted to my own misery and drama. I had already been dabbling in spirituality a bit. I had been reading some books and was very curious about seeking a spiritual path. My curiosity began as my marriage unraveled, and I found myself to be in the midst of a breakdown of sorts. I realized that there had to be more to life then what I was experiencing. While I was reading the spiritual books, I was not changing my actions. I was still acting irresponsibly towards others, and myself yet I was frustrated that life wasn't changing for me. I was still hitting my head against a brick wall, getting no where quick.

The reason I bring up my own dark night of the soul in this paper, is because it is the best way for me to relate to what an addict may go through as they make the decision to turn their life over to God. While I clearly do not pretend to imagine the agony and courage it takes a person who is addicted to heroin and the like, to stop using, I feel that I can at least understand what it feels like to be out of control, in emotional pain, and spiritually lost.

I believe God throws pebbles our way first to try to get our attention, and if we don't hear His call, He starts tossing larger rocks and boulders our way soon after that. I wasn't getting it, and sure enough my life experience got all the more challenging. Most people with addictions do not become addicts instantaneously. Nor may their lives become out of control instantaneously either. But eventually the pebbles become boulders, and life becomes unmanageable, for the person addicted to alcohol, cocaine, or just good old fashioned drama. In the best of circumstances, a light bulb goes on one day when the individual finally sees that their life is out of control and they are going to need some help pasting themselves back together.

While I am a huge proponent of therapy, having gone through the process myself, I believe that God is the ultimate counselor. One of the best situations to be in is when you realize what you can overcome and create when you align yourself with God. Many times human beings do not get to this place unless they have suffered a great deal, addictions being one the things that brings a person literally to their knees.

I once went to a seminar that Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God, was speaking at. He was speaking of his personal dark night of the soul. He came home to an empty house (his wife left and took all his kids and the furniture) and he was laying around the house in the middle of the night feeling completely miserable about his circumstances. Nothing was going right. He started yelling at God. When he started this dialogue, though anything but congenial, his life started to change. He began to get the dictation from God that eventually became the huge best-selling success of the Conversations with God trilogy. Not bad for an angry, scared man whose wife left him with barely a couch to sit on. The point I am trying to make is that his life turned around because he dared to turn to God for some answers, and God did not shut him out just because he wasn't being particularly friendly about it either.

God is always present, but it is our choice to tune into him or not. I like to use a garden hose as an metaphor. The water is always present, but you must choose to turn the hose on if the water is to flow. God is the water, and we are the hose. It is also our choice on how MUCH water we are going to let flow through the hose. We can choose to run it full throttle or just a trickle, but it is our choice as to how much Spirit we will allow to flow through us.

As I have been conducting my research and reading various books to write this paper, I have come to the conclusion that you cannot overcome an addiction without a strong sense of spirit for many reasons. As the Bible says, " All things are possible with God," including overcoming addictions. Though I am familiar and have read the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous before, I really took them in on a deeper level as I have been processing all this information. I've thought about my own journey, and how I've developed my own "steps" for overcoming my dark night of the soul. Though the words are different, the sentiment behind my personal steps and AA's steps are similar. Therefore, I have concluded that there are some very important universal "steps" or parts of the process in the journey back to wholeness, that human beings must go through to become fully conscious and free from a past life controlled by outside circumstances, to a life led by spirit.

In no particular order, I would like to address some highlights of how a human being either addicted to drugs or that is completely spiritually out of touch, can move past their pain and emotionally unhealthy tendencies. Below you will find a synopsis of what I have found to be true, through both my research on this subject matter and from my personal experience to be the golden threads from which all spiritual healing is woven.


When I used to hear the word surrender all I could think of was someone waving a white flag in defeat. The word had some serious "weak" connotations to it, but the true meaning of surrender is anything but weak. In fact, the idea of a drug addict knocking on God's door waving the white flag, paints a clear picture of what is true; that being, an addict needs to surrender to God to overcome their addiction. They need to wave that white flag, as does anyone whose life is out of control. It is as though you are saying, "I give up, I cannot make this better on my own. Will you help me?" As Wayne Dyer says in Your Sacred Self, "The most effective way to rid yourself of toxic addictive behavior is to go directly to your higher self and turn the problem over to God. That's right. Just run it over, Surrender, knowing that the highest force in the universe is within you."

It's incredibly important to stay in a place of surrender, even on your good days. I've heard people say that surrendering to God is being down on your knees emotionally before him. I need to go one step further. For me surrendering is having my head on the cold marble floor before God. No matter how great our lives may be going, we always need God's help. God isn't looking for a fair weathered relationship with us. He wants to be there when the sunshine is out to rejoice with us and to hold us when our hearts are breaking open with grief. He should be our priority always.

Surrendering your life to a higher power is difficult. It isn't something that is done in an instant and then you never have to do it again. Surrendering is done on a daily basis. On tough days it can be a minute by minute experience. It is all about trust. Most of us seem to have issues in that area. What is being asked of us here is to trust a force that we cannot see, touch or even feel most of the time. It's a tall order. Trust is a big nut to crack for sure. But without trust, we will not know inner peace, just fear. Without learning to trust that there is a Higher Power looking out for them, the addict may never find the courage to walk through their addiction.

I find it easy to give God the things that aren't priorities to me. But if it comes to things like a romantic relationship, an important friendship, or money I always seem to think that I can take care of that. After all, God is a busy person and maybe he isn't completely clear about my desires.

In the past, I did not trust that I would be taken care of. I couldn't have been more mistaken. God knows what we want even before we do. It is when I decided that I needed to give it all to God, that my life started moving forward quickly. I began to pray that he would leave no stone unturned. I asked him to transform my weaknesses, fears, anger, and pain. The importance of this is reiterated in step #7 "humbly, on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings-holding nothing back."

When you say "yes" to your higher power, your life will become illuminated with light, love, hope, and inspiration. Please do not misinterpret this statement, as life will then be easy. Easy it will not be. Your highest good will come for sure, but that doesn't mean that the road will not be rocky and painful at times. It doesn't mean an addict will never be tempted to smoke crack again or take a drink, it just means that they are acknowledging that God has the power to transform these harmful urges and weaknesses.

Truth & Responsibility

We lie to ourselves on a regular basis, especially addicts. Addicts will justify their addiction for as long as possible. As Gary Zukav says in The Seat of the Soul, "You cannot begin the work of releasing an addiction until you can acknowledge that you are addicted. Until you realize that you have an addiction, it is not possible to diminish its power." Therefore it becomes imperative that a person who is addicted to something, acknowledges it. This requires truth. Truth requires courage. Let's face it, none of us are perfect and when it comes time to follow step #4 in AA to make "a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves", it can be a very painful process. It is not easy to look in the mirror when your life is out of control. Though the addict may be abusing themselves terribly with drugs or sex, they most likely have taken a few people down with them along the way. To have to admit you are less then perfect and have hurt other human beings, not to mention yourself is not easy.

Learning to take full responsibility for your life and losing a victim mentality is also essential to releasing addictive tendencies and moving forward. It is very easy to blame others when your life sucks. It is very easy to say "I drink, or I do drugs, or I shop so much I'm in massive debt, because I had a bad childhood. It's all my parents fault or my spouse's fault." Seems logical to blame your parents if perhaps their marriage was terrible or abusive, and they did drugs. Or maybe their spouse is emotionally distant, so they drink instead of feeling the pain of rejection. Reality is someone addicted to a substance or anything outside of themselves is most likely doing more harm to themselves then any parent or spouse could ever do.

When you choose to live a life from a victim mentality, and it is a choice, you lose spiritual power. You are putting your life in someone else's hands, and it is not the right hands. While no one would ever say that a child who was abused was responsible for that happening to them, they are responsible for what they do with that data once the are an adult. As human beings, we tend to get hung up on our pasts. Society supports that and there are plenty of self-help books out there that do too. But I say you should learn to use your painful past as a stepping stone to a beautiful future. Those of us who experienced a painful childhood (I haven't come across too many people who haven't), with time, prayer, and a commitment to building a solid relationship with God, can come to see our past pain as a gift.

When you pass through the fires of your own painful experiences, pain becomes a gift, because you begin to see that without it, you would not be the wise, compassionate, non-judgmental, kind person that you are today. When an addict sees that and is then able to bring that message to others once they are healed, (Step #12 Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others.) they can learn to live and accept their past much easier, because of the beautiful lives they built in partnership with God.

Having Conversations with God

Part of evolving into a spiritual being to help overcome addictions and dysfunction is prayer. People in 12-step programs are encouraged to pray in the morning and evening everyday minimally. Prayer is a beautiful vehicle to spending time in the presence of the divine. Prayer knows no boundaries. Prayer will heal you emotionally and physically. Having time to pray is not an issue, unless you make it one. The only requirement for prayer is a sincere and open heart.

You don't need to be in a church or kneeling down next to your bed at night to make prayer effective. Though going to places that you find sacred can enhance your prayer experience, you can pray when you shop, do the dishes, pump gas, iron, get a manicure, during exercise, or taking a moment at your desk in between phone calls. You can do it with your eyes open or shut. You can do it by yourself or with others. Incorporating prayer into your life will change it dramatically. You will bring your life to a whole other level. You will feel the gift of God's presence. Through feeling the gift of God's presence an addict will be encouraged to stay clean and sober by the fact that they will feel that they are being helped by the powers of Heaven.

There is no right or wrong way to pray. The most important element of prayer is faith. God does not grade you on your style or on the elegance of your chosen word. Telling God how you are feeling in this moment is prayer. Inviting Him into a situation is prayer. Thanking Him for your many blessings is prayer. Just start talking and sharing and the rest will follow. Tell Him what your heart desires. Tell Him your fears. Ask for help. Ask Him to see you through another day. Pray for others. Surrender to His will. Many times what God has in store for us is far more magnificent then what we may think we want. In the best of circumstances, addicts will take that truth and hold it close to their hearts in times of uncertainty, in times when they are tempted to start using again.

A very important element of prayer is adopting an attitude of gratitude. There are always things to be grateful for no matter how bad things may seem. Many times when we get caught up in our daily struggles we forget how blessed we actually are. There are blessings hidden even within a drug addiction. Do not overlook the ability to witness a beautiful sunset, smell a flower or hear a child laugh with all their heart and soul. These things are nothing less then miraculous. Miracles occur every day, we just don't choose to see them as such. Heaven is much closer then you may think. Albert Einstein said, "There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other as though everything is a miracle." Overcoming an addiction is a miracle to those that have been through it. There is nothing the matter with asking for a miracle. Miracles are natural occurrences in the heavenly realm; we just need to ask more often.

Persistence with prayer is also important. Addicts should not give up if they don't feel their prayers are being answered. They need to keep praying. Delay does not equal denial. Many addicts have more then one slip along the healing trail. I know that my mother quit smoking three times, before she really felt that she never pick up another cigarette again, though she does admit to thinking about smoking every day. In Matthew 7:7-8 it says, "Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone, who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks."

Forgiveness & Self-Acceptance

Forgiveness is a tool that will get you through the process so you can begin again. Forgiveness doesn't mean that any misdeeds against you are O.K. It just means that you don't want them to have power over you anymore. There comes a time when you have to say to your past, "thank you for your lessons, but I'm bigger then this and it is time I move on." According to Dr. John Grey, "Forgiveness is letting go of our tendency to hold others responsible for our situation in life. By releasing others of any obligation to make amends or change themselves, we also free ourselves to move on and make our own dreams come true." Everybody deserves to make their dreams come true. So addicts must find the courage (and it is not easy) take a deep breath and walk on through the pain. Even if they think they are letting them (meaning anyone who has hurt them as I spoke about before) off the hook by doing so. It doesn't matter. They must look themselves in the mirror and say, "You are a grown up now." They need to make it about them, not about their father, mother, spouse, children, work associates or whoever may have recently hurt them.

It's fine if they can't forgive those who have hurt their hearts in one full swoop. But they need to learn to love themselves enough to not allow them to break their spirit. The support of a good therapist and people in the 12 step program with them would be helpful during this process. Some things seem unforgivable for sure. I know because I have experienced them. But addicts must come to clearly know and understand that the only person they are hurting by holding on to their anger is themselves. While we can't necessarily change our circumstances all the time, we can change our perception of the experience. We can choose to be fully accountable for our life experience. We can choose to not blame others for our unhappiness. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to heal. We can choose to look for the gifts hidden within our pain.

A great forgiveness meditation I use is to imagine a sacred room, in which I bring in a spiritual guide and the person I need to forgive. The guide can be Jesus, Buddha, an angel, or whatever works for you. We then all join hands in a circle. Then I tell the person whom I need to forgive how they have hurt me. This is the time to let it all hang out. Feel the anger, pain, and sadness. I imagine that they are listening to me, understanding me, and hearing my true feelings. I imagine that they are accepting my pain and not pushing me away. I allow myself to feel the spiritual guide strengthening and supporting me in this room. I then ask the spiritual guide, to help me to release them and to help me find it in my heart to forgive them. I pray for the courage to love myself enough to not allow anger to taint my life anymore. I listen for any wisdom the guide may want to share with us in this safe and blessed room, and then I trust that I will be given the courage to let go and move on. That's it. By releasing the feelings you free yourself to move on. Very simple, but very powerful.

Many people will forgive everyone that has ever crossed their path, yet still have a nagging feeling that they forgot someone. The person usually in need of the most forgiveness is the one staring back from the mirror. We can be our own worst enemy. No one can do a job on us like us. We beat ourselves up. We put ourselves in emotional prisons. We withhold love.

Before an addict can truly move forward they need to forgive themselves. Forgive themselves for not knowing better. Forgive themselves for poor choices. Forgive themselves for staying. Forgive themselves for going. Forgive themselves for hurting others and for abusing drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, or whatever their addiction may be.

Loving yourself deeply is a prerequisite to a happy life. In order to evolve towards a life filled with love of self, you must forgive. Therefore we all need to give ourselves permission to let go of past injustices. We all do the best that we can do in the moment. And as the wise Maya Angelou says, "when you know better, you do better."

In self-forgiveness, we find self-acceptance. Most of the anxieties in life come from not accepting ourselves. Human beings tend to live from the outside in, instead of the inside out. When we learn to accept ourselves as is, just like God does, we grow closer to becoming the person we are meant to be. When we don't accept ourselves we tend to work against ourselves. People who are addicted do not accept themselves, and they are trying to fill the hole in their spirits with a substance or thing. And that is why self-acceptance is key to reliving an addictive behavior pattern.


In summary, forgiveness, prayer, trust, being true, taking full responsibility for our actions, self-acceptance, surrendering to our Higher Power, faith, and love are the cornerstones of spiritual healing from my perspective. As it says in the AA Blue Book "no human power can relieve your alcoholism. God can and will." Without God in your life it very may be impossible to release your past or make sense of it. If you believe in a Higher Power, you can overcome anything, including addiction.

To change our outside circumstances, we MUST first change what is happening inside of us. Our universe is holographic. What happens within, is reflected on the outside. So allowing the spirit of God to flow through every cell of your being, will be reflected in your life experience. Who wouldn't want that? How could that not heal you on a spiritual level if you allow it to?

Spiritually is the answer to addiction. It is the answer to all that is not working in life. It is our true home.

� 2001 by Kerry Cannava
the founder and creator of Embracing Your Spirit