Addiction treatment should address spirituality. Here’s why and how…

The biggest challenge with which I’m faced as a substance abuse counselor is the idea of spirituality both while in active addiction and while in recovery.  In my opinion, the reason people cower at the idea of spirituality is that it immediately brings to mind religion.  But, religion is NOT spirituality, although there can be a relationship between the two.  From my perspective: 1) Religion is the set of rituals and beliefs of a specific “faith” community; and, 2) Spirituality is the care and maintenance of that which is sacred to a person.  Furthermore, religion is communal, while spirituality is personal.

These concepts are not really interchangeable, especially from an addiction treatment perspective.  When a person is actively maintaining his addiction, the only thing sacred to him is his drug and the “hustle” through which he goes to get it.  This singular sense of value allows for any form of malevolent behavior because the drug is all that matters and nothing or no one has any value in comparison to the drug.  When we factor in the physical impacts of the drug’s pharmacology, we can see that the malevolence really can develop into something evil.

For example, heroin addiction provides abundant material for the study of malevolent spirituality.  I’ve written at great lengths about the relationship between heroin addiction and demonic possession and I have no doubt that heroin addiction really can open a “portal” through which pure evil can enter a person’s humanity.   That’s not to suggest that heroin addicts are evil, because they aren’t.  However, heroin creates the perfect storm for the emergence of malevolent spirituality.  Even if a person doesn’t believe in “spirituality,” it’s not hard to see how a heroin addict becomes inhuman with those who love and care for him.  Lying and stealing are the domain of the addict; however, heroin’s short half-life and intense withdrawals exponentiate the lying and stealing for the drug.

What’s needed is the create a healthy and benevolent spirituality as a part of a treatment program.  Each layer of humanity must be addressed, including the re-initiation of healthy sense of the sacred.  “Conscious creativity” is at the core this the re-initiation process. The idea behind “conscious creativity” is that a vision of a healthy life must be defined before it can be attained. Therefore, conscious creativity seeks to evoke both the reasons and the vision for developing a healthier life. When it comes to Addiction Treatment, there are two (2) things about Addiction that I feel make conscious creativity effective: 1) Addiction, by definition and by nature, is driven through unconscious processes. That is, once an addict (for lack of a better label) is triggered, he will seek his drug of choice without much conscious thought. It’s as if the addict switches to “auto-pilot” and doesn’t see anything else but the drug; and, 2) Addicts, to me, are quite susceptible to energy and often turn to drugs in order to “dampen” what they sense. The amount that they sense leads to over whelming feelings that mimic anxiety. Several people who I’ve worked with have been hyper-sensitive to their surroundings and then want to numb out how much they sense and feel. They may be “creative” in some ways; I’ve known several musicians, for example, who are great songwriters and performers, but they drink and drug quite heavily. However, if they approached their art from a conscious drive toward health, they would be less inclined to reinforce the feelings that evoke the darkness within themselves. To me, then, the idea of conscious creativity disrupts the unconscious drive towards a drug and can redirect overwhelming adverse emotions and coping mechanisms.

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