Spirituality fascinates me. I guess that’s because of all the years spent living in the darkness of my own addiction. For more than twenty years, the only spirit I ever felt came out of a bottle with the word “fine spirits” printed on the label. I emptied thousands of bottles looking for the spirit inside, but never was able to find it. All I ever got out of any bottle the next morning were feelings of sorrow, emptiness and pain. Ironically, those were the same feelings that caused me to drink in the first place. I wasn’t alone in my little black hole, though. Countless addicts before me have felt the same way, and there are millions more feeling the same silent desperation today.
There is a way to climb out of the darkness, though, using a spiritual approach. What, exactly, is spirituality? Simply stated, spirit and soul are said to be separate entities, yet connected. The soul is the essence of our inner being - it is the place inside us where inner peace and happiness are meant to reside. Spirit is the flow of energy that connects our soul with a universal energy. Some call this energy God, while others think of it as universal knowledge, higher self, or even an invisible, yet very real form of energy called love. Spirit is the high voltage power line that carries light (and love) to the soul. Many people, alcoholics and teetotalers alike, are often only vaguely aware that spirit exists, if at all. As a practicing alcoholic, I was completely in the dark. That’s because alcohol and drugs deaden one’s perceptions and block the ability to feel normal emotions like joy, peace and a connection with others. Emotions are a form of energy. If spirit connects us to the Great White Light in the Sky, then someone must have turned the light switch off inside me. Someone did, and it was my old pal, Budweiser.
On the other hand, addicts also use alcohol and drugs to block painful memories that have harmed our souls in the past. It’s a way to hide from the pain of emotional, physical, or other types of trauma we carry within us. It’s a band-aid approach, of course – a quick fix to escape reality, rather than face it. It’s only when the pain of addiction becomes greater than the pain we’ve been trying to escape that we’re forced to do something about it – or not, as the case might be. Some choose to continue on a downward spiral until there’s nothing left to save, including their own life. Others do choose to save themselves, on a physical and mental level, but stop at that point. While that approach does help us learn to control the urge to drink or get high, it doesn’t address the underlying issues that drive addiction. More effort is required to restore the inner peace, joy of living, and serenity that result through a spiritual connection.
This is where spirituality separates the men from the boys… or recovering addict vs. cured addict, in this case. A spiritual connection is a leap of faith. You’re simply putting your trust in the belief that a power greater than your own can, and will, help you to overcome addiction. It’s a very simple thing to do, but sincerity counts, and you have to mean every word of it.
But you also have to be willing to face yourself in the mirror, which is not easy. It requires courage. Fear is the biggest reason many of us are hesitant to make the leap. We’re afraid to face the pain, shame, guilt and other weaknesses within ourselves – and we’re afraid to bare our deepest secrets to an invisible power greater than our own. We fear we might be judged for it, rather than forgiven. For the first time, we must admit we can no longer handle our problems. And we must become willing to hand them over to something we can't see. It’s not a pleasant experience for anyone.
However, as anyone who has had a spiritual awakening can tell you, fear is the first thing to disappear. Fear, guilt, pain and other issues that drive addiction can be erased in an instant and replaced with a sense of calmness and faith that never leaves your side again. Once the negative emotions that fuel our addiction have gone, the addiction is also gone… permanently. Our spiritual disease disappears along with it. We are no longer fragile, recovering addicts, always just one drink or one puff away from relapse, ruination and death.
We become former addicts, cured of addiction – the same cure AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, spoke of on page 191 of AA’S Big Book, which was AA’s original message.