There are two ways of looking at treatment for alcoholics and other addicts. The first way is based on medicine and psychology which look at addiction as a brain disease which have a genetic or neuro-chemical cause. Prescription medication and counseling are the treatment methods that are utilized and, in some cases, may be helpful. The other method of treatment focuses on healing the spirit for it is in the wounds of the spirit that addictions arise. By focusing on the spirit, an addict reviews his/her past, accepts the need for complete abstinence from alcohol or drugs or whatever the object of the addiction is, and receives help in basic recovery skills so they can remain free of the addiction. While there are other methods of treatment, the spiritual method is the most effective. If this method does not appeal to an addict, then other methods of treatment are encouraged.
According to Orthodox teachings in relation to treating the spirit of the addict, the main purpose and goal of life is unification with God and participation in His divine nature. Unity with God can only be achieved through Jesus Christ. From the Orthodox perspective on spirituality, unity with God comes about by way of God’s actions on the soul, not man’s actions. Orthodox spirituality is related to the origin of grace and in finding grace. Grace only comes from God. We can do our part to receive grace through daily, observing the sacraments, fasting and performing good works that benefit our fellow man. But we must remember that grace comes from God, not from any action on our part.
In order to achieve unity with God, there must be cooperation between God’s activity and man’s will. We surrender our will and accept God’s will in and for our lives. When we seek God’s will, we receive His grace which accomplishes what our souls desire most: unity with God. Addiction to alcohol, drugs or any other manner of addiction is the result of separation from God which, in turn, prevents us from receiving His grace. The addict becomes overwhelmed spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Spiritual recovery then becomes necessary to aide the addict in reunification with God.
Recovery occurs at the spiritual level when the addict regains the ability to make right choices in his life, and finds peace with his or her self and with God. The addict begins to use his “will-power” to work a program of recovery. This does not mean the addict can drink or do drugs normally again. That choice is lost forever. Recovery implies acceptance of this fact. He or she will no longer fight to regain control of the addiction and will trust that God will restore his sanity about drinking. He will become “God dependent” and will begin to trust in God’s grace and help.
The bridge between addiction and recovery is not an easy one to cross. The addict must be honest about his condition, admit that he needs help and be willing to receive that help from others and from God Himself. Without that “spiritual” experience, recovery is not only impossible to obtain, but difficult to maintain even if it is initially achieved. Belief in God and faith in God can help the addict navigate the difficult road to recovery. Those who cannot be honest with themselves, or want to escape the consequences of their addiction are not being open to the necessary steps to overcome their addiction. There must be a change of attitude towards their addiction, and there must be willing to grow spiritually. Personal honesty and a willingness to change are the two key elements of recovery.