Without question, addiction freedom does require a spiritual transformation. And while Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) should be credited with uncovering that element, most participants fail to make an authentic spiritual transformation. I believe this can be mainly attributed to the false pretense that spirituality is somehow connected to religion. Spirituality and religion are distinctly and undeniably different practices. Religion is a community or group practice while spirituality is a personal journey. The practice of outward ideals and doctrines is not, nor has it ever been, a substitute for inner righteousness. Can one practice religion and spirituality? Yes, of course! However, one should not assume they are synonymous because they aren’t! Ironically, this is exactly what occurs in the Twelve-Step Program. Alcoholics Anonymous professes its independence from organized religion, but that’s a bit disingenuous since the majority of programming is sponsored by churches and various religious denominations. Moreover, two of the early, influential leaders of (AA) were deeply rooted in religion. Frank Buchman was a Lutheran minister, and Samuel shoemaker was a rector in the Episcopal faith.

While the end goal of both spirituality and religion is to establish a personal relationship with the divine, only spirituality can deliver on that promise. Religion is a community or group based practice, which usually follows a doctrine or set of ideals. When practiced correctly, spirituality is a personal journey that encompasses self-reflection, discovery, growth and a greater connection to ones higher consciousness and the divine. Truthfully, I have nothing against religion if it is practiced authentically. However, when it is not and is passed off as spirituality it becomes a grand facade that is completely counterproductive to addiction recovery. This is why many folks in (AA) trade masks or exhibit a behavioral transference. In other words, they transfer their addiction to (AA) or religion. Four of the steps of (AA) touch on self-discovery and selflessness, however, that valuable guidance is quickly quashed by the concept of powerlessness.

A spiritual practice must be born in the fire of liberation. One’s higher consciousness or spirit doesn’t exist in the realm of anger, resentment, jealousy, envy, judgment or fear. Consequently, to make that connection you must take the necessary action to relinquish your fears and insecurities. To put it bluntly, you must wipe the slate clean. It really boils down to looking your demons squarely in the eye! However, it’s hard to liberate or empower yourself if you’re being told that you are powerless! Think about it! Have you allowed others to usurp your personal power, strip your personal identity, or prevent you from following your true divine purpose? These issues can only be addressed in an authentic spiritual practice. If you’d like to embark on an authentic spiritual path, begin by examining you fears and self-limiting beliefs. Adopt a set of principles and stand firmly – no matter what anyone says or does. Take back your personal power by learning to say what you mean and mean what you say. Say no to others when it’s necessary. And, learn to speak your will in a calm and confident way.

In Summary, religion and spirituality can be practiced together; however, they are vastly different paths. Religion is a community path while spirituality is a personal journey. The path that is most beneficial to addiction freedom is spirituality.

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