Addiction and Spirituality: three modern classics.
O Blessed Night. (Nemeck and Coombs.)
This book was like reading my own spiritual diary, except that it is lucid, comprehensive and flows from a depth of spiritual experience which is still beneath me. However, as a person who has been led into the great adventure of recovery from addiction, I felt that I was being shown a film of my life: a life full of questions, chaos, uncertainty, conflict and pain. I am familiar with failure, jobs half-done and relationships in pieces and repeated attempts to write my own history for myself so that every chapter has a Hollywood ending.
The authors, one a hermit, the other a priest are outstanding spiritual directors. This book looks at addiction drawing extensively on the writings of St. John of the Cross and Teilhard de Chardin. While I learned much about both, the book was, above all, very reassuring for me. The “darkness” of the Blessed Night was so well described I recognised myself in it – for which I am very grateful. I understand much better what is happening to me and, for all my intellectual doubts about my spirituality, I know with a profound certainty that this journey in, through, with and to God is all that I want and that all of Life is for this.
I read “The Phenomenon of Man” in my teens and its ideas still enthral me and astound me with their prophetic completeness. They have not aged at all. The rest of Teilhard’s works were a struggle at the time but they have aged like fine wine. Or maybe we are all being laid down in the great casks we live in, being matured as we get on with living. I am being aged.
This, of course, is the crux of recovery. We don’t do it to ourselves.
Breathing under Water (Richard Rohr).
Richard Rohr is always good, solid bread and butter spirituality: something interesting to chew on, easily digestible and a hearty Franciscan companion for the spiritual journey. In this book he sets the recovery from addiction, using the 12 steps as a framework, in a scriptural context.
I read it last year and I liked it very much but it hasn’t stayed with me as “O Blessed Night” surely will. I wonder if this is because of the huge number of books being published in his name right now? I like reading them all, but they don’t stay with me. I digest each one and move on like grazing sheep. I am sure this book will help to explain the twelve steps to those who are not familiar with them and it does so faithfully.
Addiction and Grace Gerald G. May.
Dr. Gerald May is a psychiatrist who has worked extensively with people with chemical addictions. Like the previous authors he sees addiction in one form or another in many aspects of human behaviour and believes that few of us are immune while almost all of us are scarred in one way or another by our own or somebody else’s addictions.
This was the first book I read on addiction and spirituality. The book is a wonderful blend of science and wisdom and I know it opened up my understanding of the nature of addiction considerably. More than this, it introduced me to a host of terms and concepts which have helped me put words to experiences which I have had on my journey of recovery. Just one example, “Grace threatens all our normalities.” I suppose “Addiction & Grace” helped me feel more normal in showing how abnormal is our acceptance of the normal. In the end I no longer feel being normal matters or even means anything, unlike experiences of Grace.
“We admit we are powerless……and that our lives have become unmanageable.” First Step AA.
The journey begins here.