I’m not really sure how to begin. These subjects are so important to me and I want to make sure I write in a way that isn’t boring or too one sided. I won’t lie, it will be hard for me given my own personal experiences. That’s why I will lean on research and statistics until it all comes together. This will probably be a two part post. There is so much to all of these subjects that it’s hard to for people to read a 1,ooo word post.
The reason I decided to write about these topics is due to a post I read stating that “Addiction is a disease of Spirituality”. When I read the post I found myself becoming angry and confused that so many could still think this way with all of the scientific research that’s been done. So I’ll go through a shortened version of their reasoning.(If possible)
Addiction as a Spiritual Disease
Addiction is explained as a thirst, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in your life. Addicts have an initial void of spirituality, a higher drive for a spiritual connection.
When speaking of spirituality the author states it’s not a religion. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life along with a connection to the Universe outside of our self.
Types of connections such as nature, love, friendships, understanding the Universe, meditation, and mindfulness are all connections we probably experience, but may not understand what they mean.
- Moment of clarity
- Sense of inner peace or calmness
- Feeling connected to the world around us
- Being in the moment
- Feeling like your true self
- Unconditional love
The author of the post sites a Collegiate Study of 200 people focusing on the reasons why they use alcohol. They had a list of reasons and had to put a check next to the box that applied. 100% of the people checked the box for “I like the feeling”. Not surprising. The author of the post talked to people who were either actively using or in early recovery and came up with a list of their own feelings. The following is what they had for responses.
- Everything makes sense (Moment of clarity)
- I relax and don’t worry about life (Inner peace)
- Everything is better, food, people, jokes (Euphoria)
- I understand people better (Interconnection)
- Content in the moment (Being present)
- Freedom from self criticism (True self)
- No judgement about anyone (Unconditional love)
This in turn leads us back to Spirituality.
The American Medical Association declared Alcoholism to be a disease in 1956. Years later the American Society of Addiction Medicine proclaimed all addiction as a disease.
Scientific evidence showed that addiction is rooted in distinct brain changes, similar to mental illness. For 25-50% of people with an addiction problem it is a progressive relapsing disease.
People with addiction do make a choice whether or not to take a drug or drink, but they do not choose how their brain and body will respond to the drugs or alcohol.
Choice doesn’t determine a disease. A person with Heart Disease or Diabetes may sometimes choose a diet or lifestyle that has lead to these diseases. A disease is what happens in the body and/or brain as a result of those choices.
- Genetic predisposition
- Specific brain characteristics
- Psychological factors
- Exposure to physical/emotional/sexual abuse or trauma
If one or more of these are present it doesn’t mean someone will be an addict it just means the odds are greater.
People with severe mental health problems are more likely to have addiction problems. Most likely due to many not getting a diagnosis for years or the incorrect diagnosis. Instead they self-medicate which can make psychiatric symptoms worse.
Some of us with what are considered “severe mental illnesses” and addiction tend to experience the same problems:
- More severe psychiatric symptoms
- Physical health problems
- Increased stigma
- Financial problems
- Aggression or verbal hostility
- Some time spent in jail or trouble with the law
- Increased suicidal feelings and behavior
Our brains also look similar when viewed by Neurologists or other Doctors in the same field of study. There is often a hyper-intensity on one side.
I personally do not think this has anything to do with Spirituality. I had two wonderful parents. I do come from a long line of alcoholics and mentally ill people. The amount of both is astonishing. You can’t chalk that up to Spirituality. FIFTEEN of us in my immediate family have addiction/mental illness problems. Sorry, make that fourteen. My Uncle Jimmy died after a long battle with HIV first (from a needle) then AIDS. He was Schizophrenic and homeless. He chose to live on the streets just like he chose not to take medication. He was well over six feet tall and very handsome when he was young. I don’t know where he’s buried. I do know that not many spiritual people showed him any kindness. My mother and I would bring him food and clothes while she was alive.
My cousin Rhonda has been missing for years. She took off one day from her real estate job and was living in the woods. No one can find her. She is also Schizophrenic like her mother. I tell a million stories, one sadder than the other but there is no point. Addiction is a disease/illness, just like Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder are illnesses. There is nothing to make me change my mind about that. When your brain wants you to die and you don’t even know why it isn’t a question of faith or spirituality. It’s a question of survival.