Friday, August 5, 2011

The Need for Faith

There's a fellow who visits the new ITR Addiction magazine at In the Rooms and has taken to spamming any post about rehab with various diatribes about how rehab and "the recovery industry," etc, don't work and are actually killing more people than they help. Needless to say, he admits he was forced into rehab (my guess is by the courts--often addicts are given a choice of either jail or rehab), and from the sound of it, it wasn't necessarily a good rehab and/or he didn't quite possess the attitude to make it work for himself. All this aside, his main issue with AA and 12-step programs in general is the spirituality portion of the program; he found better success getting clean and sober with Rational Recovery, which is a cognitive-behavioral therapeutic (CBT) approach to addiction.

I do wonder why he's going to an AA-based model website to push his own agenda (Rational Recovery has plenty sites of its own), but my experience with RR way back when was the opposite of his: I didn't get what I needed. I kept drinking. I was unable to use my own force of will to stop.

So my view is "your mileage may vary." I've blogged before about how AA alone didn't get me to stop; Rational Recovery, Moderation Management, and SMART recovery didn't get me to stop; for me, it took rehab. Most rehabs (not all) are based on the 12-step model. I had trouble with the spirituality part myself. I'm not an atheist, but there are plenty of reasons I have big problems with organized religion (I'm gay; I'm a feminist; you can figure out why I had problems). And I've blogged before about how I came to settle the question for myself: for me, I'm able to embrace the idea of some kind of universal spirit or loving force operating in the world that has higher hopes for me than my sitting there staring into the bottom of a shot glass all day long. I put my faith in THAT. And that was enough, because it was NOT ME.

All of this is a long-winded way of my getting around to what Carl Jung's view of spirituality was. Jung felt that human beings as a species are inclined to spirituality; we have a natural hunger for the transcendent. In his experience with patients, he found that an alcoholic's cravings for alcohol mimicked the human craving for the Divine. So he wasn't surprised to discover that replacing one craving (booze) with another (God) would often fill the hole in the alcoholic--in other words, get rid of the craving for booze. There's an interesting letter Jung wrote to Bill Wilson that discusses this here.

Attach to this some work that was done in the 1990s by Hamer, a behavioral geneticist, in which he posed the idea of a "God gene." He found some evidence that our genes can predispose us to faith (what faith will depend on your cultural background and so forth), but the need for the divine may have biological roots. It's an innate hunger, a desire, a want, perhaps even a need that, in some of us, must be filled for us to feel complete.

For me, some kind of simple faith brings me relief. All the pressure is off ME to fix every last thing that goes wrong, so I am at much greater peace accepting that I don't control everything, indeed that I couldn't even if I wanted to. Thus, anxiety eases, and serenity enters. If I feel lost, I can pray for guidance--whether it will come, who knows, but sometimes it seems to--usually through some sort of meaningful coincidence (Jung would call it "synchronicity") such as an old friend re-entering my life, or a colleague confiding something in me, or my opening a book, and voila! There the solution is. Faith also gives me comfort that, even when things are falling apart and I'm feeling grief or pain, I will recover and I will grow and I will end up better than I was before. Faith is a glue that keeps me together sometimes.

This last paragraph will drive anyone who runs solely on the fuel of rationality absolutely bananas. They'll say I'm using faith as a crutch and things like that. But faith DOES work for some of us. For some of us, it is as necessary as breathing air. You either have that hunger for the Divine or you don't. And understanding faith is kind of like what Louis Armstrong said about defining jazz: "Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know."


Becky said...

Call me a coward, but I just couldn't stand my serenity rocked anymore by this dude. He managed to chase me away from sharing my writing on Addiction and from ITR's... I've just worked too hard for it in the past 24 years, and I thought it best to take my message elsewhere. Wasn't really certain who was reading Addiction either. It is very hard to find on the ITR site. When the energy is poisonous I've learned to move away and into a better energy flow! I will check on your articles from time to time! Love this post.... If you gotta ask - you'll never know! I would add and you'll never know if you don't leave even the tiniest space for possibility.

Joyce said...

You mean the DeConstructor guy? He's got a mission and an agenda, that's for sure. And of course, he'll get nothing but frustration at ITR because so many of us have been helped by various recovery programs that are 12-Step based. I wonder if they'll eventually develop a way to block certain commenters who are basically Internet trolls: most sites have their trolls who like to post stuff just to be contrary and start arguments. They can make a place tough to want to visit because of all the negative energy. (I wonder if maybe that isn't his agenda.) I figure I'll just ignore him from here on out. If we all stop engaging him, maybe he'll get bored and go away?

Joyce said...

Spam is removed by the blog owner. Thanks.