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AA and Spirituality Go Together Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

by | Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Latest News, Recovery, Research, Spirituality

Home Addiction AA and Spirituality Go Together Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

Some people avoid AA altogether – and the 1.2 million existing members — for fear of the “higher power” concept. Atheists and agnostics alike flee in the opposite direction to avoid opening their minds to the concept that an omnipotent, intangible force exists in the universe.
What many people don’t realize is that AA encourages alcoholics to foster a relationship with the God of their understanding only – and that can range from anything to “mother nature”, to Alcoholics Anonymous itself. A devotion to “God” (replace with the term of your preference) is a key component of AA’s 12-step program, not only because no human power can restore alcoholics to sanity – but because conscious contact with a higher power has proven to be an effective venue through which recovery has been made possible over the years.
A plethora of studies have revealed that AA increases spirituality. Until recently, less research had been conducted on the odds of spirituality contributing to long-term sobriety. CNN’s December 14th, 2010 article within the Health section entitled Alcoholics Anonymous as a Spiritual Experience highlights recent findings. Herein, our longstanding suspicions have finally been confirmed. The article’s author, Elizabeth Landau, states that “spirituality may actually play a role in successful recovery from alcoholism, says research in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.” Landau goes on to draw a parallel between the experiences of military unit members, pledging fraternity brothers, and the like – and Alcoholics Anonymous members. These and similar types of experiences result in a shared sense of suffering. Unity perseveres and members approach issues from a group standpoint. Since all parties are in the same boat, they bond with one another, exchanging empathy in an intense manner. Ultimately, this helps them stay true to themselves and the program at hand – with AA as no exception.
“How can someone make AA, or anything other than God, their higher power?” You might be wondering. Abolish the vision of a man with a long grey beard and a cane perched on a white puffy cloud, and consider the situation. AA’s uncanny capacity to inhibit connections across age, gender, race, and ethnicity – points to the miraculous powers underlying the meetings. “Someone will say something profound that everyone can connect with beyond themselves, and it can be very moving,” says Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University who was not involved in the study but also researches the effects of Alcoholics Anonymous. “That is a spiritual process,” he says in Launder’s CNN article.
AA emphasizes the uniqueness with which every AA’er can choose a God of their understanding; many look at the term “God” to mean “Good Orderly Direction” or “Gift of Desperation.” It is not allied with any sect, denomination, religion, or political background. Members are diverse, and their differences are welcomed with a smile. One of the aspects of spirituality that creates for a successful program – above and beyond any other sobriety venue on the market — is spirituality’s infinite depth. In other words, members aren’t clinging onto the image of a celebrity, or any other mere mortals. Their beliefs are not tied to a human being, a tangible thing, or an accessible place. Their beliefs are linked to a supernatural force with which they trust. The impact of a spiritual awakening does not dissipate when the meeting ends. Such profound connections supersede time and circumstance.
Many AA’ers claim their “spiritual awakening” occurred in the rooms of AA during which a speaker paralleled the person’s experience, or touched the counterpart of their heart in such a way, that they became spiritually inspired and transformed. Recovering addicts and alcoholics with a sense of spirituality thrive and prosper, given a statistically significant likelihood of sustaining sobriety as compared to their reticent peers.
Launder quotes Humphreys as he further describes why spirituality boosts the effectiveness of recovery programs:
“Certainly the basic frame is about minimizing selfishness, minimizing grandiosity, giving to others, accepting character flaws, and apologizing when you’re wrong. Addiction to any substance, be it alcohol or marijuana or harder drugs, raises common issues prompting spiritual questions, Humphreys said. These experiences include loss of control, terror, doing things you’re ashamed of, and being close to death, he said.”
Launder hits readers in the heart, touching upon a very raw and rewarding process. Religion and spirituality allow recovering addicts and alcoholics to “let go” of self-will, and let “God” into their hearts. Throughout the process, the recovering addict or alcoholic experiences relief, happiness, and peacefulness. Surrendering control is part of the healing process. What better entity in which to turn your power over to, than the hands of God as you understand Him?