Addiction and Spirituality

(This week’s Addiction & Recovery column is hosting a guest article written and contributed by Nicole Lewis.)

“We know perfectly well how to be spiritual.  It’s being human that we have trouble with.” – Renee Bledsoe

I used to be under the impression that addiction and spirituality were mutually exclusive.  In the midst of another self-destructive moment, I could easily scoff at the idea that someone…anyone, with an addiction, especially myself, could have an iota of spirituality in their body.

Fortunately, I was misinformed about not only myself and others, but about spirituality as well.  As someone who has several years of sobriety under her belt, I can stand on the sober side of addiction and say, unequivocally, that addiction and spirituality are inexorably intertwined.

I believe that we all feel the same deep sense of connection; a primal urge that pulls us toward community and fellowship, the desire to feel wanted and accepted by others, and the unwavering notion that there has to be something — more.  I believe this is our spirituality beckoning to us.  It is the part of ourselves which is connected to all of life.  It is the aspect within us which compels us to seek an answer which, at times, feels just beyond our grasp.  Addiction convinces the addict that this yearning is something within us which is broken.  We crave an end to the longing.  We await the feeling of relief which comes from the addiction, even if only temporarily.  Caught in the cycle of addiction, we strive only to fill—repair—numb.  It becomes easier to live in the certainty of the addiction than in the uncertainty of our spirituality.  And so, as the vicious cycle of addiction wreaks havoc on us, we are nonetheless comforted in the brief periods when we have managed to suppress our eternal knowing one more time.  We become strangely comforted by our despair and made whole by our torment, for they are certain.  It is when the numbness fades and the deep pull returns that we are thrust back into the uncertainty.  The cycle of addiction seeks to smother the very essence of what it means to be part of this amazing co-creative experience that we call life.

Through sobriety, I have learned that our spirituality is not something that can be quantified or measured.  It is our essence.  The longing within each of us is our shared connection to something grander than we can imagine.  Admittedly, this can be a scary idea.  Nevertheless, it is neither a void which needs filling nor a force which requires suppressing.  I have learned to embrace this aspect of myself and by doing so, have become comfortable with the feeling.  It is the exhilaration of knowing, at an innate level, that I am safe, connected and loved.  Ultimately, the darkness of my addiction could not stand the light of this revelation.

(Nicole Lewis is a life coach.  She is a grateful recovering alcoholic with 5 ½ years of sobriety.  To connect with Nicole, please email her at theinfiniteiamllc@gmail.com)

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  • Rick Dorociak

    Nicole, I am in awe of your writing. This is so personal and so relevant to so many in this
    day and age. You my friend are inspiration. You are what the world has been
    waiting to hear when it comes to this subject. Though my addiction was to food,
    I can feel your pain and your ultimate joy as you, as a human being, fought the
    many battles of alcoholism, but ultimately won the war of your soul. I commend
    you on five and a half years of sobriety. Though the darkness as you call it
    will always do its best to tempt us, it is ultimately the light that shines from
    our faith that will keep that darkness under control. I am reminded of the
    saying that says: Fear knocked at the door, faith answered, no one was there. Stay
    strong my friend in faith and thank you for this amazing column. Your next
    journey has just begun.

  • Caitlin

    Nicole–thank you so much for your article (the writing, by the way, I thought was wonderful). I was nodding my head as I read it, as I too was trying to drink, use, and in my case, eat, myself away from that which was uncertain, even though it felt much truer than addiction. While in sobriety, I have always stated that I was trying to “fill” my spiritual hole with something, but perhaps as you mentioned, spirituality is not something that needs to be filled. Perhaps it simply was allowed to BE when I began acknowledging its existence…Namaste.

  • Lauren Rourk

    Nicole-Thank you for your incredible insight on a topic that is so difficult to grasp for those who have not dealt with this before. Being on the opposite side of addition, it is very easy to think of it as something completely reversed from spirituality, but seeing the parallels is a new perspective. Thanks again for your wonderful contribution!