Of Addiction and Spirituality: Janet M. Lorenz [forwarded with permission to Shalomplace]
"In our quest for scientific understanding of human behavior and its consequences, both mental and physical, do we miss another piece of the puzzle?" asks today's columnist, businesswoman, yoga teacher, technical writer, and nurse, Janet M. Lorenz in her review of Addiction and Spirituality: A Multidisciplinary Approach , edited by Oliver J. Morgan and Merle Jordan. Furthermore, is it not also possible, queries Lorenz, that as "we embrace science, are we remiss in, or even dismissive of, consideration of the spiritual aspects of the human animal? Is there a strong case for changing addictive behavior that transcends the physical facts of chemistry, biology , and pathology in achieving long lasting recovery? According to the insightful essays in Addiction and Spirituality, the answer is not merely affirmative. The path of spirituality is imperative to sustainable recovery . Without love and wholeness, and relationship to God, self, and community, the aftercare of addiction recovery is placed at risk by the material gratifications and escapes of the external world. It is only through pursuit of Spiritus, the divine spark of life (Chapter 2), that one can begin to transcend the how did I get here place of addiction and move into the in what manner do I go forward space of recovery. In the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Twelve Step program and other modified versions of that program, the manner is in becoming humble and relinquishing individual power to the 'Higher Power.
To this end, "Addiction and Spirituality is a collection of essays promoting recovery spirituality from a multidisciplinary perspective," writes Lorenz. "Its editors, Oliver J. Morgan and Merle R. Jordan, have chosen the writings of psychiatrists, psychologists, pastoral counselors, recovery counselors, and spiritual directors in order to ground the book in experience with therapeutic and spiritually-based recovery processes. In the first chapter, Morgan sets the context for Addiction and Spirituality through a historical look at the programs, research studies, and innovators in addiction intervention that brought the spiritual element, the reduction of ego, and the emergence of a different center of authority (the 'Higher Power') into an holistic model of recovery seeking to achieve positive, sustainable outcomes."
-- Stacey E. Ake
Subject: A Review of Addiction and Spirituality: A Multidisciplinary Approach (Ed. by Oliver J. Morgan & Merle Jordan) From: Janet M. Lorenz Email: firstname.lastname@example.org>
In our quest for scientific understanding of human behavior and its consequences, both mental and physical, do we miss another piece of the puzzle? As we embrace science, are we remiss in, or even dismissive of, consideration of the spiritual aspects of the human animal? Is there a strong case for changing addictive behavior that transcends the physical facts of chemistry, biology, and pathology in achieving long lasting recovery? According to the insightful essays in Addiction and Spirituality, the answer is not merely affirmative. The path of spirituality is imperative to sustainable recovery. Without love and wholeness, and relationship to God, self, and community, the aftercare of addiction recovery is placed at risk by the material gratifications and escapes of the external world. It is only through pursuit of Spiritus, the divine spark of life (Chapter 2), that one can begin to transcend the how did I get here place of addiction and move into the in what manner do I go forward space of recovery. In the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Twelve Step program and other modified versions of that program, the manner is in becoming humble and relinquishing individual power to the "Higher Power."
Addiction and Spirituality is a collection of essays promoting recovery spirituality from a multidisciplinary perspective. Its editors, Oliver J. Morgan and Merle R. Jordan, have chosen the writings of psychiatrists, psychologists, pastoral counselors, recovery counselors, and spiritual directors in order to ground the book in experience with therapeutic and spiritually-based recovery processes. In the first chapter, Morgan sets the context for Addiction and Spirituality through a historical look at the programs, research studies, and innovators in addiction intervention that brought the spiritual element, the reduction of ego, and the emergence of a different center of authority (the "Higher Power") into an holistic model of recovery seeking to achieve positive, sustainable outcomes.
The book is divided into three points of view reflecting the professional training and expertise of the authors: Clinical Views, Pastoral-Clinical and Recovery Views, and Pastors and Spiritual Directors. The essays provide a readable blend of academic discourse on God and the search for true self, and practical, culturally sensitive models for bringing the spiritual path into the recovery process. This is a book of Western-based thinking and language about the image or feeling of God, the quest for self understanding, and the emergence of a new life path. Readers familiar with Buddhist teachings or the writings of the Bhagavad Gita can draw their own parallels from the material in these essays, but will not find a presentation of Eastern-based thinking on the discovery of self and a universal being (God). One exception is in Chapter six, where Charlotte Kasl opens the chapter with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: I claim to be a passionate seeker after truth, which is but another name for God. She later alludes to the philosophies of Kahlil Gibran when discussing building ego strength, Gibran's giant self. (In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness, and that longing is in all of you.) In some ways, the absence of eastern teachings is a disappointment in the reading. Western-based renderings on the search for true self would be complemented by an understanding of the corollary in the eastern view (e.g., the true self as Atman, the "spirit within," in the Bhagavad Gita). But that is a small criticism for a book that addresses an important concept in addiction recovery in a thoughtful and actionable way.
Addiction is characterized as a triple disease: one of the mind, the body, and the spirit. As Robert H. Albers discusses in his essay on Unconditional Surrender (Chapter 7), humans are not divided, but, rather, are unities of body, mind, and spirit. Each author upholds this tripartite characterization and addresses how approaches to treating addiction that exclude the spirit are incomplete and not lasting. Spirituality, broadly defined as relationship and connectedness, is the key to long lasting recovery. It works best when inclusive and self-determining, not dogmatic. This means that spiritually-based recovery programs cannot speak to just one way of recognizing God and connection. Spiritual recovery needs to be placed in cultural contexts that honor differences in gender, race, and religious and national heritage.
One of the strengths of the book lies in its cross-cultural orientation. While setting out to revive the discussion on spirituality and (indeed convince you of) its critical role in changing addictive behaviors, editors Morgan and Jordan do not promote one brand of spiritual transformation, but do give credit where credit is due. For example, the success of AA and its Twelve Step program is a consistent theme throughout the book. But the twelve steps are also presented as a benchmark for modification and a spring board for other multicultural approaches. Instead of saying that AA is the model for recovery, AA is looked at critically for its principles and how these principles can be applied to other approaches where the perception of a white, Christian male device for redefining self and reaching for recovery creates resistance.
Chapters 5 and 6 (Clinical Views) will be of particular interest to those seeking to parlay the success of the Twelve Step program into a revised cultural format. Chapter 5 discusses the adaptation of the spiritual aspects of AA to acceptable language and connotation by other cultures. It is an excellent "how to" chapter that offers an uncomplicated view of the cultural pitfalls in AA's language, and, through real life examples, shows how the fundamental spiritual concepts that underlie the success of AA can be adapted for other groups.
For example, the concept of surrender can invoke a negative response in African Americans who feel a sense of individual or cultural powerlessness, past or present, and have no desire for further surrender. Native Americans= , who embrace cultural concepts of personal stoicism and self-reliance, may, too, reject notions of surrendering to a higher power. Authors Smith and Seymour contend that "the whole fabric of successful treatment needs to be woven around cultural realities" and "points of resistance." The chapter highlights the Black Extended Family Project and how it has evolved the language of the Twelve Step program to appeal to African Americans in recovery.
In Chapter 6, Kasl continues the theme of cultural adaptation from a feminine viewpoint. She examines the usefulness of the Twelve Step program through her own journey of self-discovery as a woman overcoming depression and as a doctoral prepared treatment counselor. Kasl found what she describes as "parallels to patriarchal norms" (e.g., turning your will over to a powerful male God and ignoring internal wisdom) disturbing in the AA approach. For women, seeking surrender may be keep the doors to recovery locked whereas building ego strength and positive feelings about self may be the cornerstone of recovery. As in Chapter 5, she questions the utility of powerlessness for women in recovery who may interpret this principle as failure and bottomed out self-worth. Kasl seeks to energize the journey to recovery through love, self-truth, and self-acceptance within the context of life's ups and downs. In this regard, Kasl works from a perspective of abundance versus rules. She has developed
a list of empowerment principles that underlie Twelve Step. From these, 16 steps for discovery and personal empowerment are presented that are both abundant and practical in their consideration of the way life flows within us and around us.
An interesting aspect of Kasl's essay is her criticism of western society's ambivalence towards the truth (or maybe honesty as different from truth). Kasl offers examples from childhood where seeking and/or exposing the truth can have learned, negative consequences. A child's excitement over the self-discovery that there is no Santa Claus is met with reprimand that another child's false perception is now ruined. Perhaps she means to warn us that the commandment "thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is quite different from the journey of seeking self-truth.
Chapters 2, 3, and 4 within Clinical Views focus on setting the context for addiction and recovery. They address cultural perceptions of addiction, repeating patterns of behavior in clinically-based methods of recovery, the (ill effects in) pursuit of happiness external to the self, and the process of spirituality that is the way to achieve sustainable change. Chapter 4's discussion of God as the most underutilized resource in family therapy is obfuscated by perspectives from Nietzshe, Freud, scientists, and Greek mythology that lack direct linkages to the workings of family therapy.
The chapters in Pastoral Clinical Views help us understand more deeply the connection between spirituality and addition - the in what manner do I go forward piece of recovery. These essays explore themes such as relationship with God, learning to love, and self-esteem, and do so in an engaging, open-hearted way. In Chapter 7, Albers addresses how we get to a new concept of "what we are like now" through Christian-Judeo concepts of reconciliatio= n with God, others, nature, and self, and forgiving (not forgetting) the past= . He persuades us to see spirituality in two ways: as essence and expression. The essence of spirituality is grounded in relationship with God while the expression of spirituality is experienced in community.
In Chapter 8, Larsen focuses on learning to love as the key action inherent in recovery. "Our starting point is simple: In human well-being all there is, is love and love denied. Where love is denied there is a wound." From this wound a line of vulnerability is created along which progression to addiction occurs. This essay has a strong undercurrent of responsibility for self. Larsen believes life's consequences are not accidental; that our self-definition creates consequences. And no one can outperform their own self definition. A process for discovering the self-definition is presented , and may be a useful tool for a psychotherapist or clergy member trained in psycho-analytics and discovery. Although it reads simply enough, it is probably not a process that any lay person could just think through themselves.
Most of the essays in Addiction and Spirituality address alcohol or other chemical addictions, but Chapter 9 looks at gambling and its road to recovery. Ciarrocchi dismantles the popular concept of self-esteem and supports the assumption that understanding differences in self-esteem (low rollers versus high rollers) is useful in framing spiritual issues in recovery. There is much discussion today on the perils of low self-esteem. The defeated individual behaves passively, pessimistically, and believes he or she has little influence on life's outcomes and makes poor choices or follows the crowd (low rollers). But is there such a thing as too much self-esteem? Yes, according to Ciarrocchi and the work he references. Inflated self-esteem is a pattern of egotism that can lead to aggression and risk-taking (high rollers). When egotism is threatened, aggressive and violent behavior may be the result.
The author contrasts low and high rollers to help us distinguish the recovery sides of the esteem paradigm: low rollers need to learn not to avoid risk-taking as high rollers must learn not to embrace risk-taking. Low and high rollers each must learn spiritual devotion as a process by which they learn to stand outside of the self. Low rollers must find empowerment. High rollers need private meaning in life over public acclaim. Through the spiritual process, a gambler's defensiveness around self-worth can be reduced.
Chapters 10 and 11(Pastors and Spiritual Directors) focus on the demoniac angle in addiction, whereby a pattern of chaos characterizes the addiction experience. It is the place of being in sin. Teachings from Mark's Gospel are used to illustrate the transition from demoniac to ex-demoniac, and Jesus is used as the symbol of divine "tough love." For those who study the bible or relate to a Christian positioning of spirituality, these essays defend spirituality from a traditional, religious viewpoint. For those who are not familiar with the demoniac angle, Chapter 10 may feel a bit like being brought into the middle of a discussion already in progress.
Chapter 11 examines the value of a spiritual director in the recovery process. The spiritual director assists the addicted person in spiritual awakenings by helping the addict integrate the realities of past suffering into the rhythm of a new life. The guidance within is akin to the modern teachings of Buddhist nun Pema Chdrn, who guides her readers in practices from the Mahayana school of Buddhism: recognizing current pain (stemming from past experiences and behaviors) and moving forward from this moment to integrate the past with understanding from the present.
The final chapter in Pastors and Spiritual Directors is the religious corollary to chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 12 specifically addresses a Jewish translation of AA's steps to recovery by exploring the relationship between Twelve Step and Teshuvah: two different systems of symbolic language used t= o express the common idea that improvement of behavior comes about by the inclusion of a God in one's life. Author Carol Glass translates Twelve Step to the steps of Teshuvah according to Maimonides, and the steps of Teshuvah by Rabbenu Yonah. Those of and not of the Jewish faith will appreciate the embellishments and thoughtfulness behind the translations as they broaden the language of the Twelve Step program.
The editors conclude the book with a salient summary of the themes in spiritual recovery. The reader may want to read it first and, again, last. The essay reiterates why for the addict understanding these themes are critical to long-term recovery outcomes. The addict's dark struggle cannot be overcome by correcting the addiction and some perceived behavioral problems. The integrative road to recovery includes recognition of relationships, a definition of God, and a productive, healthy understanding of the struggle with self (the core human struggle for growth and integrity
- a struggle both the addict and non-addict alike experience as human creatures.
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re: Kasl found what she describes as "parallels to patriarchal norms" (e.g., turning your will over to a powerful male God and ignoring internal wisdom) disturbing in the AA approach.
I found this mini-critique of AA a curiosity. So, I did a little digging to see just what Kasl was about. I will share some of it below.
above quote from Life Ring: Secular Recovery --- booktalk
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above quote from from
AA plus alternatives
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These links led me to a whole counter-movement that I was unaware of at Deprogramming From Alcoholics Anonymous
from url above
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So, johnboy asks those who might be in a better position to know:
Is there any truth to some of these criticisms?
Is there such a thing as a 12-Stepaholic ?
Is there any fallacy in some of these criticisms, such as the fallacy of misuse, which is to suggest that the abuse of something (in this case the AA Program) is never a valid argument against the proper use of something ?
Now this counter-movement critique has got me more curious than the original book review, which seemed to me to be generally supportive of AA. Just from reading the book review, do the editors and contributing authors seem to take a balanced approach? or a biased approach?
Inquiring minds want to know
My guess is that the program, in order to be followed most efficaciously, does need to incorporate many of the measures suggested from valid research vis a vis certain corrective critiques. But isn't that true for any process or group? And this program has certainly helped far more people, in much greater numbers, than any who have been harmed by the misuse and abuse of same. Any mainstream secular or religious or spiritual movement has its fundamentalistic and cultic elements. Those fringe elements don't indict these movements in their entirety.
What are some steps one can take to ensure they haven't become part of any given movement's lunatic fringe? How might one recognize when one's approach or one's group's approach or one's sponsor's approach is dysfunctional? One thing that occurs to me as a quick, but certainly not infallible, litmus test for too much rigidity or cult-like affinity to any system of beliefs is whether or not one has an immediate, rather powerful negative visceral reaction to even the slightest criticism and thus offers kneejerk and cursorily dismissive retorts to any critique from an overly defensive posture, without weighing the critique logically and based on its merits.
pax, amor et bonum,
M. Scott Peck, M. D., in his 1993 best-selling masterpiece, Further Along The ROAD LESS TRAVELED
from AA: the Catholic Connection by Kathy Shaidle
For the percentage of people suffering from personality disorders, there may be some real risk of the victimization leading to further fragementation which the author speaks of. IMO, without a fairly resilient ego, surrendering to the transcendental can exacerbate this condition.
I'm wondering if the folks in AA and other recovery groups who seem to become more rigid from their participation aren't trying to cope with this effect i.e., the rigidness serves a protective function for degrees of vulnerability which threaten an ego system not ready for this sort of thing. There is that widespread joke: "We liked him better when he was drinking" which may symbolize some of this dilemma.
The tendency to overidentify with the group to the point of fanaticism may also indicate this risk of fragmentation. When I did a chemical dependency internship during graduate school, there was little individual work being done along the lines of psychodynamics and cognitive behavioral therapy, both of which, I believe, can make the 12 Step process safer and more effective (If for no other reason than being able to identify certain risk factors masked by the addictive behavior, or the group behavior for that matter).
But for someone with a resilient ego i.e., able to regulate affect, sense inside the body, identify emotions, grieve without falling apart, recognize projections, etc . . . the traditional 12 Steps can be quite beneficial. Otherwise, turning your life over to God can be as self-degridating as turning your life over to cocaine, with the latter often more gratifying.
The developmental model I use would consider to what extent the addiction is functioning as a transitional object for attachment needs. Until the client is given a relationship that supports healthy attachment, and learns to tolerate his primitive reactions to the vulnerabilities involved, then he won't be able to build an ego relationship to the yearnings which are involved in the behavior. This relationship to the longings which addiction attempts to resolve (without the vulnerability of increased awareness) involves the ability to contain and soothe painful emotions that most of us take for granted.
Unfortunately, most treatment for addiction centers almost completely around drug therapy and 12 Step programs, with little funding for the ego building processes.
Thanks for your usual substantive response, w.c.
The overidentification with the group phenomenon seems to be pretty widespread, pervasive. In addition to those afflicted with various personality disorders and/or other psychological dysfunctions, it seems to me that there are those who are otherwise relatively healthy, psychologically, but who remain at very early developmental stages of moral and faith development, even while obviously not stunted in cognitive development, for instance. How all of these developmental stages intertwine with good personality development seems to be a very overdetermined situation, too many factorals to analyze.
I suppose some of these dynamisms account for nationalism masquerading as patriotism, for religiosity and piety in the place of spirituality, for ideologues pretending to be principled, for totemism, whether that involves rallying around a flag or a crucifix.
Yes, I've read one of his books. I'm not quite sure which one. Good stuff, though.
Real good stuff by Scott Peck, Brad. If you're ever looking for a very energizing and provocative read, try People of the Lie, on the psychology of evil. Those accounts of exorcisms he attended are also very interesting and in some ways disturbing.
I think W.C. has put his finger on a few issues related to some of the criticisms of 12-step groups. And I think JB's mention of a fallacy of misuse applies in some cases. There's no doubt that 12 Step groups are doing lots of good and that a lot of people owe their sobriety and even their lives to such groups and to the program. I don't know what to make of the study about self-image being inversely related to time spent in the program; I'd have to read more about that. In some ways, that makes sense, as I'll describe below:
A few observations I have about 12 Step groups and the program which might shed some light on some of this.
1. Lots--maybe most!--people in 12 step groups--don't really do a good job working the Steps. They do a little bit, just enough to feel better, then they stop. If they really worked the Steps as they're meant to be worked, they'd get better . . . much better! In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if someone asked me what was better: to work the Steps without a group, or to attend a group without working the Steps, I'd say to the first. Obviously, doing both is the best.
2. Almost all addicts have multiple addictions. So while AA or NA might help them stay off of alcohol and drugs, they might find other addictions intensifying: e.g. smoking, workaholism, gambling, sex addiction, relationship-addiction, etc. Ideally, they'll eventually work the Steps on these, but too often they don't. Nevertheless, their lives are still probably better than when they were drinking and drugging.
3. Once one gives up addictive fixes, what one has is a more direct encounter/experience with one's brokenness. This might account for the growing sense of low self-esteem among some who hang out in the program. While that's unpleasant, it's more authentic than the inflated self-image that addicts often have.
4. These are often people who come from severely dysfunctional families. Expecting a 12 Step program to transform them into fully-functioning, highly-productive, deliriously-happy individuals is unrealistic. Criticizing the program because it doesn't do that is idiotic. Let psychotherapists compare their own successes in working with very broken people with the successes of 12 Step groups and let's see how things come out.
5. There's no either/or in any of this, of course. Psychology can work hand-in-hand with 12 Step programs, and that's often the best way to proceed.
6. I don't think people can really recover from inner brokenness without spirituality. 12 Step programs provide a non-religious access to a powerful, transformative spirituality.
7. I also don't think spirituality works very well for very long without religion, as I've mentioned on that evolution thread. In most cases, 12 Step programs actually help people recognize this and become committed to a religious group/tradition. Many don't, however, in which case the teachings around the Steps become something of a religion to them. That's not what they were intended to be, but that's what happens. Ho hum, close the whole thing down, right? There are 12 Stepaholics!
And fundamentalist Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus, Democrats, Republicans, etc.
Yawn . . .!
w.c. , PSR and Scott Peck have spoken. They said it. I believe it. That does it.
And there is no smiley graemlin --- winking or sticking its tongue out --- because I'm being quite serious.
Muchas gracias and
Merci beau coups,
Real good stuff by Scott Peck, Brad. If you're ever looking for a very energizing and provocative read, try People of the Lie, on the psychology of evil. Those accounts of exorcisms he attended are also very interesting and in some ways disturbing.
Thanks for the reference. If I remember correctly, the book I read was all about his attendence at one of those "talking 'round the circle" seminars.
Phil....very good points about AA and other type programs. I have a bit of indirect experience as my uncle is an AA counselor that travels the country doing conferences and such...and I have a nephew who can't seem to stay sober unless he's attending AA. It's interesting in how I saw both of them in your statements there.
My uncle HAS practically made a religion out of AA and he credits the program with literally saving his life. In some ways, it is the center of his entire existence, which I find a bit troubling. But on the other hand, he was killing himself with alcohol before (quite literally) so I can't say it's bad.
My nephew, who has an addictive personality, period, finds himself at odds sometimes with the program because he is a Christian and has been told he must open his mind to ALL types of spirituality or else he is being close minded and will hinder his recovery. However, he usually manages to stay sober as long as he's on the program. In his case, your statement about spirituality without religion doesn't usually last long (hope I paraphrased that correctly), is very true. Religion has helped him to move beyond the low self esteem aspect and understand that he has needs that only Jesus Christ will fill.
All in all I think AA is a great program..but I think you hit on some very real things that are important to address as well. Anyhow..my 2 cents worth .
Experiences like your uncle's are pretty common, Terri. And I think your perspective on this is very good! Who is anyone to say that his life isn't better off now that he's an AA-aholic than when he was an alcoholic, even if he should also happen to be struggling with self-image more than when he was into alcholic grandiosity and Ego-inflation. There's probably more authenticity now, low self-worth and all. That's where most people find themselves, at any rate, so in that sense it's "welcome to the human race."
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