Programmes such as the 12-step are based on the idea that alcoholism is a type of spiritual disease. The notion is that the individual is powerless to overcome his or her own addiction problems and needs a higher power to help them escape. Spirituality here does not mean having to be connected with any particular religion, and the higher power does not need to involve any particular idea of God.
Is Alcoholism Really a Spiritual Disease?
Treating addiction as a spiritual disease is a way of explaining what is happening to those who become trapped in addiction. The important thing is not so much that it is ultimately true; however, viewing things this way helps many break free of addiction. All theories of addiction are just different ways of looking at the same problem, and their value is always in their ability to work. If a person is not able to benefit from treating their alcoholism as a spiritual disease, it just means that it is not true in their particular case.
The Benefit of Treating Alcoholism like a Spiritual Disease
A common reason why many fall into addiction is that they may feel unable to cope with life. It is common for those in this situation to describe feeling as if they have a ‘hole in their soul’. There is something missing from their life, meaning that these individuals feel unable to cope, and this missing ingredient is often a feeling of connection with something bigger.
The benefit of treating alcoholism like a spiritual disease is that it allows the person to tap into something more powerful. The individual can then use this additional strength to pull him or herself out of addiction. It means putting faith into something bigger; leading to a boost in self-efficacy (the belief a person has in the ability to achieve something).
A real problem that many have when they become sober is that life can appear to be lacking in meaning and purpose. This means that there does not appear to be any real reason to remain free of alcohol or drugs. Belief in something bigger provides a sense of meaning, encouraging the individual to commit to long-term recovery.
Sober living involves dealing with life on life’s terms. There are going to be challenges and sometimes these obstacles will appear too much for the individual to cope with. If this person has sufficient spiritual resources, he or she can gain strength to go forward and deal with whatever comes in life.
Spirituality for Non-Believers
It is not necessary to follow a religion or even to believe in God in order to be spiritual – admiring the beauty of nature or looking at the stars can be described as being spiritual. This is why in groups like AA they prefer to talk about a ‘higher power’. This can refer to anything – even the power of the group. The only important thing is that the person believes there is something bigger and that it is going to be possible for him or her to benefit from the strength of this source.
Is it Necessary to Become Spiritual to Break Free of Addiction?
The spiritual approach to recovery does work for some people, but it does not work for everyone. Some just seem to be more drawn to spirituality than others are. It is possible to benefit from the social aspects of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous without getting involved with any of the spiritual stuff; they say that the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking.