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April 24, 2011

And Spirituality Is For People Who Have Already Been There

I have come to understand that a spiritual awakening was the key that unlocked the prison of my substance abuse addiction and released me into a new world of discovery and recovery.  There have Spiritually (2) been many awakenings since and they continue to happen to me on a weekly and sometime daily basis now that I have the eyes and the heart to perceive them.  But there was a beginning.. and it occurred three days into my treatment for substance abuse as I drifted from one counseling session to another unable (and perhaps unwilling) to focus on what I was hearing from counselors and other patients alike.  It came when three long time members of a well know 12-Step program met with the in-patient men to share some of their experience strength and hope. 

They took turns telling us what had been important to them when they were early in treatment and recovery. The last to speak was a man about my age with 10 years of recovery who later became my first sponsor.  He spoke briefly about his background and then shared two things that I will never forget.  The first was how important it was for anyone, who wanted to recover from addiction, was to find a "higher power of ones own understanding".  And the second was that "AA, NA, CA were not religious programs but spiritual programs."  He then went to quote what I know now is a often used phrase that "Religion is for people who are afraid they are going to Hell and that Spirituality is for people who have already been there."  Both statements had an immediate and profound effect on me...the first because I had no higher power and the prospect of defining it myself was both intriguing and mystifying at the same time.  And the second, about spirituality, spoke to my heart and soul, describing exactly the "purgatory" I felt I had lived in since the death of my son from addiction two years before.  I didn't realized it then but the foundation of my recovery had been laid with these two concepts as the cornerstones.

Recently I have become curious about the origins of the phrase "Religion is for people who are afraid they are going to Hell and that Spirituality is for people who have already been there" and while the genisis is indistinct a quick Google search demonstrates that the phrase has many devotees from addiction professionals..to  philosophers...to celebrities in recovery...to common 12-Step folks like me. I can, however, appreciate that some may find the first part of the phrase about "Religion being for people afraid of going to hell" personally offensive and of course at best it is a gross over simplification.  But for me and for the many others who came into 12-Step Recovery with a strong disaffection with organized religion....it is the spiritually part from which we gain our strength and hope in recovery.  It is spiritually, not religion, that has opened the door to our new life and leads us to new awakenings of recovery everyday. 

Rabbi Abraham Twerski -Hasidic philosopher and psychiciatrist specializing in substance abuse addiction said recently "After half a century in psychiatric practice, I know without a doubt that the source of addiction is spiritual deficiency. Irrespective of whether we are religious or atheist, all human beings are spiritual by nature and spirituality is the cornerstone of our recovery."

AMEN Rabbi.... :-)



Flickr photo by Alicepopkorn

April 24, 2011 at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack