Addiction & Grace

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Addiction & Grace

There seems to be little evidence f addiction in ancient literature. There are numerous references to drunkenness, or obsession, but these are not addictions. The first clear references to addiction appear in the 18th century. Thus addiction appears to be a modern disease, one which is growing with alarming speed in the 20th century.

Addiction in its broadest sense affects practically everyone in Europe and North America today. What lies behind this epidemic?

The Problem

Since the early Renaissance, human consciousness has been rapidly evolving toward individualism. The primary positive effect of this growth has been the development of free will. The negative aspects have been a growing sense of isolation from nature, society, and the spiritual world. The growing tide of self-centeredness, materialism, and egotism have created an environment which breeds this disease.

The Nature of the Beast

Alcoholism (addiction) is called "the lonely disease." As the disease progresses, the victim becomes increasingly isolated from the world. This, however, is not a symptom, but part of the basic cause of the disease. If you view the biographies of many alcoholics, you will find that most suffered from a sense of "apartness" from early childhood on. Alcohol afforded a way out of the "self," which quickly faded to a sense of emptiness both within and without. Bars are full of lonely souls. Deprivation of the soul's needs, however, is not the primary cause of addiction. The addict's emptiness is the same as that of most of mankind: it is the hunger for communion with God. Addiction is the consequence of humankind' s violation of the First Commandment: "Thou-shalt have no other gods before Me."

We would have any god before God: self, money, sex, drugs, alcohol. Alcohol has even often been personified as a being: Bacchus, John Barleycorn, "spirits." The literature of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to alcohol as "cunning, baffling, and powerful."

A Disease, Not a Condition

If we accept the premise that the root cause of addiction is spiritual, now can we call it a disease? Recent developments in brain anatomy, genetics, and biochemistry have, at last, provided material scientific evidence of alcoholism and addiction as pathologies. Material science was the last to make this recognition.

From the 18th century to the mid-20th century, "authorities" considered alcoholism to be a condition of moral degeneracy, or, at best, a weakness of will. They were observing symptoms, not causes. One of the most baffling aspects of alcoholism is the will. The alcoholic, in a sense, suffers from too much misdirected will. ("Not my will, but thy will be done. ") The belief that the individual can, by his own will, stem the tide of his disease is often the main barrier to recovery. It's like trying to stop a hemorrhage with the will. The proof of this is in the only proven course of treatment for the disease, the Twelve Step Program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Solution

The twelve steps are, in a sense, the ten commandments for our modern age. As a therapy, they are unique in that they evolved from the experience of the sufferer rather than the observation of "experts." They were initially developed by the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.

Many believe that, like the Ten Commandments, they are God-given. The steps begin when the individual breaks the cycle of denial and becomes able, of his free will, to turn his will and life over to a "higher power." (steps one, two, and three.) The individual then begins a process of self-knowledge and acceptance (steps four, five, and six.) Having begun the process of rectifying his relationships to the Divine and to himself, he works on his relationship to his fellow human beings (steps seven, eight, and nine). Steps ten, eleven, and twelve are called " maintenance steps," in which the individual continues working on those relationships. The twelfth step is paramount. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.)

These steps cannot be worked alone. A.A. is also a fellowship designed to fight isolation and egotism. Within this fellowship is a system of spiritual friendship in which each person becomes his brother's (or sister's) keeper.

Grace

When Christ saw the faith of the centurion, he was amazed. Similarily, there is hardly more faith and love in any church, intentional community, or group of spiritual seekers as that seen in Alcoholics Anonymous. The reason is simple. Everyone committed to the program of A.A. has experienced a moment of divine grace while living in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Brought to their knees by their illness, they were given not only a chance to survive, but a chance to live a spiritually fulfilling life. They had learned humility. Many would tell you that if not for the blessing of their disease, they would not have entered upon the path of spiritual development that was its healing process. They would have remained only half alive.

LILIPOH Publishing Inc.

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By James Ferguson

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