In chapter four of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, titled “We Agnositcs” the authors write that, “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”
When Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, there was no answer for alcoholism. Hospitals full of medical doctors had no answer to the insanity behind what compelled a man to drink. Despite his grave consequences like a dying brain and liver, the man would consume alcohol once more. Slowly, men started having spiritual experiences. By some miraculous act of a power greater than themselves, men lost their obsession, and compulsion, to drink. After one man had found a way, he would share his experience with the next man. Promising him that there was life without alcohol, the man would concede to try something other than what he had been trying thus far. Time after time this ‘spiritual experience’ brought great success. Doctors were baffled. Families were stunned. The alcoholics were relieved, and committed to a new way of living. This was the birth of recovery.
Why is Spirituality Important in Recovery?
Today, a vast majority of the recovery and addiction treatment industry is based on this philosophy. Indeed, Alcoholics Anonymous and the spiritual program that is the 12 steps is worldwide. Millions of people in dozens of countries in hundreds of languages trudge the same road to happy destiny. Mistakenly, people thing recovery and AA is about quitting drinking. Recovery is about so much more than that. It is, as the authors put it, about a “psychic change”.
There is an appendix in The Big Book titled “Spiritual Experience”. In it, the authors explain that the spiritual experience constitutes “the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism”. Spirituality is the guide by which we can find faith and hope in our ability to recover. How that spirituality looks is completely up to us. Believing in a power greater than ourselves teaches us humility, that we may not know as much as we think. We learn through spirituality to be open to learning, which is what we need. Like the men in the hospitals who are out of options, we open ourselves to experiencing a complete change in our personalities. We have tried what we have known up until now. The spiritual experience is a chance to try something completely different.