Spirituality and addiction.

Addiction runs in my family, as does conservative Christianity. I have always found this coexistence interesting to reflect upon. I grew up Church of Christ, which is a small, predominantly southern, evangelical church tradition. It preaches a strict adherence to the bible. People in the church are not supposed to drink or use any substances; they are to be devoutly pure in body, mind, and spirit, often to the point of asceticism. However, many of relatives, all from the Church of Christ, have abused substances and alcohol, though it remains a family secret.

My maternal grandfather struggled with addiction throughout his life and attended AA meetings on and off. My mom grew up with her father as an addict and would accompany him to some of the meetings. She reflects now that learning about the 12-step process impacted her views of life and spirituality. She considers a belief in a higher power to be pertinent for healing; she treats difficulty as learning experiences; and she seeks to maintain relationships and connections with others through forgiveness and grace beginning with the self.

In thinking about her beliefs and the AA program, I appreciated the class article applying these 12 steps to those who may not consider themselves to be overtly “religious.” People who are uncomfortable with the idea of a higher power can still experience the benefits of connecting with the “otherness” of the world, things outside of their control. This can lead to fighting isolation that often accompanies religion and brings people into community.

I think that the 12-step program can be extremely effective for certain addictions, like alcohol, but I have heard it abused in other situations. For example, I have heard of variations of the 12 steps being used in “issues” of sexuality. In doing so, people find themselves treating something as intimate to themselves as sexuality as something “bad,” an addiction to be fought. They have to pray to a higher power that appears judging and as one who does not want their “addiction” to be part of them. This can be extremely harmful and unhealthy to people’s orientation.

In broadening the ideas of the 12 steps to other situations, perhaps other therapies can be more effective. Mindfulness seems to be a bridge that connects people to something outside of oneself without instilling guilt that certain beliefs in higher powers can bring. It also can be calming and centering, while their world seems chaotic.

I am looking forward to our class discussions on these topics, as they relate to me very personally.

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