Alcoholdrugsos.com - Jan Edward Williams Blog.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
Through this site, Addiction Recovery offers free addictions information, a free blog open to anyone and professional services based on their 37 years of experience as a licensed addictions counselor and 39 years of personal recovery.
This is my 40th Christmas in recovery, and I have a great deal to be grateful for. However, I can’t help but think back to my first Christmas sober. I was in a halfway house in York Pennsylvania, in a lot of emotional pain from many losses from my alcoholism, with very little hope for the future. I had not yet discovered that prayer, even to a Higher Power I didn’t believe in, would, over time, produce results that proved to be almost miraculous. What I did have was the willingness to pray, attend meetings, not drink or drug, and ask for help from others in recovery. And that IS the message of this blog post: All that is necessary for one’s early recovery journey is willingness to do the simple things I just mentioned. So, God bless all of you at the beginning of, or well into, your recovery journey; Merry Christmas (even if all you have is a few days of recovery and some willingness); and KCB (keep coming back).
The term humility is frequently discussed in 12 Step meetings (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), often those involving Step 7, “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings” ; humility is, in my view, broader than this, and is essential to the individual’s ability to embrace the goal of the 12 Step Programs, namely, to find a spiritual way out of the bonds of addiction. In my experience, until an individual with the disease of addiction has reached the point that he/she has exhausted all efforts to control use of alcohol or other drugs, and to stay stopped from such use, and failed, that individual in most cases will be unable to succeed in 12 Step recovery. In other words, humility in this context refers to recognition of inability using one’s own efforts to cease use of alcohol or other drugs, or, in 12 Step language, “admission of powerlessness (Step 1).”
In this writer’s personal recovery journey (over 40 years of continuous abstinence), there are many examples of humility in action; perhaps the most humbling experience was the discovery that, contrary to enduring beliefs that there is no God or spiritual source of strength, willingness to seek such a source through daily prayer, 12 Step meeting attendance, and, of course, abstinence from use of alcohol or other drugs, resulted in a profound awareness of a heretofore absent faith in a spiritual source of strength which led to ongoing abstinence and perseverance in recovery efforts. Put simply, the result of following suggestions to pray, go to 12 Step meetings, not use, among other suggestions, resulted in a profound internalization that “I was going to be ok”, a new feeling that over time translated into a faith, based on experience, in a spiritual source of strength. Humility, basically, is the understanding that sobriety and the ability to be relatively stable emotionally regardless of life events, stem from a relationship with a Higher Power, God, or other source of spiritual strength.
Doctor Bob, AA co-founder, presented remarks on humility in a talk in 1948, a few years before his death. He had 13 and a half years of sobriety at the time:
“Another thing with which most of us are not too blessed is the feeling of humility. I don’t mean the fake humility of Dickens’ Uriah Heep. I don’t mean the doormat variety; we are not called upon to be shoved around and stepped on by anyone; we have a right to stand up for our rights. I’m taking about the attitude of each and every one of us toward our Heavenly Father. Christ said, “Of Myself, I am nothing – My strength cometh from My Father in heaven.” If He had to say that, how about you and me? Did you say it? Did I say it? No. That’s exactly what we didn’t say. We were inclined to say instead, “Look me over, boys. Pretty good, huh?” We had no humility, no sense of having received anything through the grace of our Heavenly Father.
“I don’t believe I have any right to get cocky about getting sober. It’s only through God’s grace that I did it. I can feel very thankful that I was privileged to do it. I may have contributed some activity to help, but basically, it was only through His kindness. If my strength does come from Him, who am I to get cocky about it? I should have a very, very humble attitude toward the source of my strength; I should never cease to be grateful for whatever blessings come my way. And I have been blessed in very large measure.” (Dr. Bob’s Last Major Talk, Detroit, Michigan, December 1948 -transcribed from tape, AA Grapevine, Inc, June 1973; from http://www.silkworth.net/aahistory/drbob1948.html).
As always, comments are invited. Jan Williams, November 29, 2017.
Although there is in the 21st Century much research defining alcoholism (addiction) in terms that can be useful, in my view, researchers often ignore the spiritual aspect of addiction and recovery. In addition to the mental-emotional and physical-medical-neurological-aspects of addiction, the spiritual effects of the disease of addiction must be addressed. Alcoholism is a “spiritual malady” per the basic text of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 64). There is a growing body of research examining the role of spirituality and religion in the development (or not) and treatment of addiction. This blog post, however, will just briefly look at the anecdotal (based on experience, not scientific research) evidence suggesting that the alcoholic or addict may have an innate spiritual deficit disorder.
Abraham Twerski, a noted psychiatrist and researcher in the addiction and mental health field, has said:
“When a person is not feeding his spirit properly, it is not like an iron deficiency or a Vitamin A deficiency. They suffer from SDS‚ a spirituality deficiency syndrome. *** Spirituality means being the best human being you can be. *** My work with alcoholics and drug addicts has convinced me they cannot recover without spirituality…(speech, 11/02/2009, Saint Peter’s University).”
Based on my years of counseling alcoholics and addicts and my own personal recovery, it is clear to me that most alcoholics and addicts trace feelings of personal alienation and emptiness to times in their lives that predate their use of alcohol or other drugs. Indeed, many seem to have felt they were “on the outside looking in” from their earliest memories. Some of the other words used to describe this spiritual deficit include these: a hole in the soul; soul sickness; alienated; numb; empty; fear-filled hopelessness; fear of impending doom. If I were a philosopher, I might say that all human beings have an emptiness or existential pain (angst) that they strive to fill with activity (jobs, careers, hobbies), sex, relationships, and the like. Fortunate individuals are able to develop a personal relationship with a God, Higher Power, or other source of spiritual strength early in life and the willingness to nurture that relationship throughout their lives.
Some individuals, however, fill their spiritual vacuum with alcohol or other drugs, or other addictive behaviors. These individuals describe their early reactions to use of alcohol or other drugs something like this:
“For perhaps the first time in my life, I felt normal, unafraid, beautiful or handsome, smart, able to be social and interact with others.”
This reaction to drugs or alcohol can be overwhelmingly attractive for someone who has spent life in fear of being crushed by a cosmic rock at any moment, resulting in an ongoing effort to continue to achieve that reaction through drug or alcohol use, resulting in addictive disease. In a loose sense, the alcoholic or addict has found a “reason for being” through use of alcohol and other drugs. Tragically, seeking meaning in life through addiction often leads to spiritual bankruptcy and, for some, actual death. In my experience and the experience of many in the addiction field and in the 12 Step communities, addressing the spiritual aspects of addiction is essential to long term recovery.
So, perhaps it may be helpful to look at the alcoholic or addict (or potential alcoholic or addict) as an individual who has a spiritual deficit disorder that needs to be addressed.
What is the goal of the 12 Step Program known as Alcoholics Anonymous? The answer that may immediately come to mind is abstinence from use of alcohol. But, abstinence alone is not enough. Most individuals with the disease of alcoholism have been able to achieve periods of abstinence; only to relapse into alcohol use despite knowing that such use will restart the destructive cycle of addiction. Ceasing to drink based on will power, the help of other human beings, including medical science, will, in most cases, not suffice. Paraphrasing the words of the basic AA text, “… no human power could relieve our alcoholism…”
“Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that’s exactly what this book [Alcoholics Anonymous] is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 45).”
So, the goal of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help the alcoholic to find a source of spiritual strength, reliance upon which will ensure long-term, emotionally balanced abstinence from alcohol use. Many alcoholics have enjoyed years of sobriety, facing the usual life problems (e.g., illness, loss of relationships), without the escape of alcohol use. The key to such long-term sobriety is reliance upon a source of spiritual strength.
The author of this post will have, God willing, 40 years of continuous sobriety in August of 2017, through reliance upon spiritual principles.
For years, I worked in the addictions treatment field and taught graduate courses in addiction at a local university. I also was, and still am, a strong, impassioned proponent of ongoing involvement in 12 Step Programs (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous) as an integral part of the traditional modalities of addiction treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and other research based interventions. However, until about ten years ago, the only evidence of the effectiveness of the 12 Step Programs was dismissed by academics and mental health professionals as “anecdotal”, that is, reports based on stories by those directly involved in recovery such as 12 Step Program members, or on non-scientific surveys of AA or NA members, or statistics from treatment centers. Therefore, for the past 40 years or so, the only evidence of effective addiction treatment based on adequate and well controlled clinical investigations has supported treatment that did not include 12 Step Program involvement.
Happily, there is now increasing evidence, based on studies using valid scientific methodology, that the most effective treatment for addiction will include ongoing, significant involvement in 12 Step Programs, along with the traditional interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and other evidence based interventions. For an excellent summary of the evidence for the effectiveness of 12 Step based treatment, please go to this resource published by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, entitled, Recent Research Offers Compelling
Support for the Effectiveness of Twelve Step-based Treatment
Comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, www.alcoholdrugsos.com, 05/11/2017.
A recent study in Nature Medicine suggests that THC might reverse the deterioration processes in the brains of the elderly from the aging process.
Quoting from the report on the study:
Memory performance decreases with increasing age. Cannabis can reverse these ageing processes in the brain. This was shown in mice by scientists at the University of Bonn with their colleagues at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel). Old animals were able to regress to the state of two-month-old mice with a prolonged low-dose treatment with a cannabis active ingredient.
This study, though done in mice, is worthy of serious consideration because the researchers laid a solid scientific foundation for exploring the role of THC in the ageing process in the brains of mice. For example, the report on study stated:
This treatment success is the result of years of meticulous research. First of all, the scientists discovered that the brain ages much faster when mice do not possess any functional receptors for THC. *** THC imitates the effect of cannabinoids produced naturally in the body, which fulfill important functions in the brain. ‘With increasing age, the quantity of the cannabinoids naturally formed in the brain reduces,” says Prof. Zimmer. “When the activity of the cannabinoid system declines, we find rapid ageing in the brain.’
(quote continuing) To discover precisely what effect the THC treatment has in old mice, the researchers examined the brain tissue and gene activity of the treated mice. The findings were surprising: the molecular signature no longer corresponded to that of old animals, but was instead very similar to that of young animals. The number of links between the nerve cells in the brain also increased again, which is an important prerequisite for learning ability. “It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock,” says Zimmer.
The next step, of course, will be to conduct this type of study on the ageing brain in humans. Clearly, one should not rush out to urge old geezers like the writer of this blog post to start smoking ganja (one of many names for marijuana) for many reasons, including danger to recovery and serious side effects of THC in some users (exacerbated in the elderly), to name a few. It is of interest to note that the researchers in this study used a low dose of the THC to prevent an “intoxicating effect.”
Comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, 05/10/2017.
Read Full Article
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.