If Addiction Is A Disease Why Is The Answer Spiritual?

If having an addiction is a disease, why does everyone say the answer is spiritual?
In the world of recovery, there are different factions or groups out there. Every group has different beliefs about what an addiction is and how you fix it.
Some factions of the recovery world believe it is purely a brain illness, and you treat it with medication. Some people think it's a brain illness, but it's also a spiritual abnormality. Then another section of people said, "it's just individuals being bad, and need to act right."

We're going to find the intersection of all those things and find exactly where the crossover is because there's a little truth to each.

One of the first recovery models

One of the first recovery models that had success is the 12-step model. That's why it still exists today.
The 12-step model was born out of a religious model. If you look at the history of AA, which is alcoholics anonymous, you'll know that Bill Wilson, an alcoholic, became interested in a religious movement at the time.
Through his study of that movement, he found the foundations of what is now known as AA. He referred to alcoholism as an allergy. There was reference and understanding of the biological aspect of it, but all of the solutions to the problem were spiritual.

Now, what do I mean by spiritual?
What I mean is you have to have a heart shift. That heart shift could be changing your thinking, changing your mind, and maybe even changing who you are a little to beat addiction. That's the old school model, which, to this day, is probably the most widely accepted and widely used model of finding recovery.

Is addiction a choice? 

Throughout time and history, there's been the idea that people who struggle with addiction are making bad choices and need to get their act together.
Well, there's a little truth to that. We didn't make those bad choices to become addicted, but we made some bad choices that resulted in addiction. Similar to how we choose to speed driving down the road.
That doesn't mean we choose to get in a car wreck, but we make those choices knowing our risk of getting in a car wreck goes way up.

These days there's a shift from those two models of thinking. It's a hard shift over into this new school line of thinking, which is more along what they call the disease model and understanding the brain changes that occur when the brain is addicted.

If you want to know more about brain science, watch this video.

The new school of thinking only focuses on neurotransmitter changes.
How do we fix that with the medical piece of the problem?
That shift in thinking has been beneficial because it's given us more options and newer ways to think about addiction, and it's gone a long way to help de-stigmatize the problem.
However, with most things in life, we tend to over-correct.
We have to figure out the middle ground.

I think most addictions start with bad choices. That's part of it, but that doesn't mean a person is bad. We all make bad choices. Just like we've all chosen to speed while driving. I think that level is in there, and we have to take responsibility for our choices. When we make those choices enough times, it causes a change in our brain.

The disease of addiction

This is the part that people call the disease of addiction. For years and years, I called it the disease of addiction. Now, I'm a little unsure.
I'm mostly over on that side, but not one hundred percent over on that side. You have these brain changes that occur after you make not-so-great choices over a long period of narratives that you're addicted to. We start going after it more and more, and in doing so, we develop problems.
Meaning people start to get upset with us. We experience the consequences of our actions. Things in our life fall through.
When that happens, we feel bad about it, but we also feel very defensive. When we get into our defensive way of thinking, we start to cover up all of that shame and guilt by blaming external situations or people or rationalizing or justifying the behavior.
All of our thoughts and behaviors begin to shift and change because of the addiction, it will change who we are.

Addiction will change you, and not in a good way. Addiction will make you more selfish, make you more defensive, and rationalize and justify your decision. It will make you blind to how your behaviors impact other people around you. Never mind that some of those brain changes occur to make it harder for you to weigh the consequences of your decision.

Can addiction be treated psychologically?

Now that we're putting these three pieces together, the choice, the disease, the spiritual abnormality, let's figure out how to fix this issue.
The first thing that you have to do is restabilize your brain chemistry. Sometimes, medicine will help with that. I'm not against doing that, but if you only medicate, you will have a problem. If you only fix the brain withdrawal part of the issue, you haven't done anything to correct the psychological and spiritual changes that have happened along the way. If you don't address this, the chances are high that you'll go back out there and do it again.
If you don't shift your heart and deal with that shame, guilt, and resentment, guess what will happen? You're going to make another bad choice, and that bad choice will start the whole brain thing again, which will lead to more behavior shifts and thinking shifts, and ultimately a spiritual shift.

You have to restabilize your brain chemistry and go through the psychology one way or the other, figure it out, and get yourself back on track. Back to a place where you're proud of who you are, back to where you like and care about other people, and where you can put other people's needs ahead of yours.

The takeaway

Some of you may have heard me say in the past that I'm a non-denominational recovery.
I like it all, and that's what I mean when I voice it. I don't necessarily think there's only one way to do that. As long as you address all three of those pieces, I think you'll be in good shape!

If you are working on this process, or know someone working on this process, here's the link to a free download called the nightly questions. These are questions that I suggest you ask yourself every day.
These questions will help you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally get yourself back in a good place.

Amber Hollingsworth

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