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UTTER DEFEAT AND THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE: Healing from heroin and alcohol addiction

For the person seeking recovery from addiction or alcoholism, the term “spiritual awakening” can be unpalatable and enthralling at the same time. Consequently, the spiritual life grabbed me by the throat the same way addiction did—with a lighter touch, of course.

The spiritual life is a 180-degree turn from a life driven by the disease of addiction. “Driven,” in this case, doesn’t mean merely “nudged” or “pushed.” “Driven” means to sit in the passenger seat and let go of the illusion of choice. And so begins our progressive descent into the Darkness.

A spiritual disease

So it’s by circumstance, rather than virtue, that I was driven to recovery. Then and only then did I discover the fatal nature of what I was truly up against. The juggernaut of a “spiritual disease” controlled my every thought, word and deed.
Before I could accept that a spiritual awakening was, in fact, my solution, I had to first accept the stark fact that I was suffering from a spiritual disease—a disease so horrific in nature that it requires a continuing spiritual experience or awakening in order to allow a person to recover. This fact of my existence was my devastating weakness. Yet, when I accepted it, it became my chief source of strength and underpinned the foundation of my recovery.
So did I truly understand and accept that I was suffering from a spiritual malady? Well, one good look in the mirror was the only answer I needed!

Right idea, wrong higher power

Spiritual experience continually unfolds an individual’s personal awakening. Identically so, the continuous fall through the “experience” of addiction led to the “awakening” of my utter defeat. See, the thing is, I always had the right idea, but the wrong higher power. I turned my life over to the care and concern of Prince Heroin and King Alcohol. In return, the King and his faithful Prince took and took and took more and more from me. Yielding nothing in return, my body, mind and spirit lay in warped ruin and waste. Now, if I was to expect recovery, it was required that I turn 180 degrees from the King and his Prince to a Higher Power and/or a spiritual way of life. I had to learn to turn my life over to the care of a Power that doesn’t take, but instead gives and gives and gives. I’ve found that this Power’s function is to breathe life back into my mind, body and spirit—with breath that I denied myself. Being convinced of this vital issue: suffering from a spiritual disease that requires a spiritual awakening in order to recover, I was ready to propel myself into a life of spiritual action. One of the most powerful things that has ever been said to me was, “Scott, if you do what I do, you’ll never have to pick up a drink or drug again in your life”. What I heard when this man spoke was, “Scott, you no longer have to live in self-constructed torture.”
Torture: That word holds all too well. He was right.

Destruction of the shadow self

To receive this gift of freedom, I had to take hold of principles that had seemed to slip through my fingers: honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, perseverance, brotherly love, justice, spiritual discipline, awareness of Spirit and so on.

A spiritual awakening will enable the sufferer to do, see and feel that which they denied themselves behind the curtains of false belief.

A spiritual awakening means simply letting those attributes of character and spirit take form within your life. They give you the courage to glance once again into the mirror and contemplate the reflection that once made you shudder. Trembling will be no more. Where utter defeat once stood, enduring strength will take up its rightful place. A spiritual awakening will enable the sufferer to do, see and feel that which they denied themselves behind the curtains of false belief. They’ll take up their mat and walk again. That all sounds pretty, right? Pretty as it may be, a price must be paid. The price is the destruction of the self that is causing defeat. Saint Paul talks about “Dying Daily". In order to crucify the self that was mangling my life, I had to first get acquainted with its looming shadow. In effect, a spiritual awakening involves slowly but surely letting a little light shine on that shadow’s dark and gloomy nature. The love affair has got to go!

Spirit: The problem and the solution

Sanity can be termed as soundness of mind, body and spirit. Sanity sounded pretty to me. However, she wasn’t interested in me, no matter how hard I courted her. If spirit is the problem, then spirit must be the solution. The broken mind can’t fix the broken mind. The broken body can’t fix the broken body. The broken spirit retrieved from the King and his faithful Prince, placed in the hands of a loving Higher Power, is the solution. So it’s from experience, rather than opinion, that I shout from the rooftops to those who still suffer. When I sincerely took this position, the conviction came that all would be well and the problem was beginning to be solved—by letting go.

Today I woke up and I haven’t heard a peep from the King and his Prince, and I’m OK. It never was that way before! However, never let anyone tell you what a spiritual awakening “should” look like or what it’s not. Be wary of the “spiritual professionals.” There are no experts on the shifty ways of the spirit. Like the wind, it comes and it goes, shifting and ever-changing. We know not from what direction it comes or where it’s headed. We’re only blessed that it may grace us with its movement through us. And when it moves, it becomes my sole vocation to co-operate with its movement. Then again, what the hell do I know?

Scott Russell is a recovering addict who has experienced his share of torture under the weight of the disease of addiction. He’s passionate about sharing hope through writing about his experience. Scott is the founder and CEO of From The Grave Clothing, co. His aim is to bring spirituality to the front lines via clothing. Ten percent of all profits fund addicts who are receiving treatment.


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