Innocence in Spirit Among Addicts and Alcoholics

During my time at a solution-based addiction treatment center, I came to understand how deeply I was affected by feelings of unrelenting shame and guilt. I also found I was not alone in these feelings; many of my peers also suffered from self-loathing and regret from past failures, mistakes and transgressions. Further complicating matters was our feelings of guilt over having developed an addiction in the first place. Over the course of our addictions, we committed even more acts for which we were sincerely regretful. And so guilt and shame grew exponentially. Which begs the question: "Are we truly guilty of purposefully and intentionally wrecking our lives?"

I recently read a book loaned to me from my psychologist called The Tao of Sobriety by David Gregson and Jay S. Efran, Ph.D. After reading the first few chapters, I began to see more clearly the patterns of my addictive behaviors. Specifically, in the second chapter, I was enlightened by a revelation that perhaps there was an inherent innocence among addicts concerning what some outside observers to our lives might declare an intentional destruction of our lives by means of addiction. Here I would like to quote the "Discovery" exercise entitled Innocence in Spirit from chapter 2 of this book:

Recall whether you ever woke up one morning feeling truly happy and at peace with the world, and then decided something like "Today is a perfect day to mess up my life with drugs or alcohol!" Now that you have taken time to think about it seriously, did you ever truly make that kind of decision? If you did, perhaps you are guilty after all. Otherwise, it seems to us that you are innocent of willfully and purposely screwing things up.

So, concerning how drugs and alcohol have affected our lives, I do not believe any addict began using with the intention of becoming addicted or committing reckless deeds that harmed ourselves or others. Although each of us has unique experiences in these matters, we share much common, sacred ground, and this innocence in spirit is perhaps a part of that ground. From my interactions with peers during my stay at that treatment center and my visits to aftercare, I know in my heart none of us would wish to repeat our mistakes, or see others struggle with similar issues. The authors of the book state "Who would intentionally go out of their way and freely choose the hell of chemical addiction?"

However, with this newfound awareness of the "innocence of spirit" comes new responsibility. Now knowing the nature of my addictions and how they affect various aspects of my life, I must commit to a new lifestyle which involves new patterns of behaviors, thinking, and decision-making. This inherent innocence, as I call it, empowers me to move forward, free of shame, so that I may be fully present in each moment and of service to others. The foundation that was poured for me during my inpatient addiction treatment was reinforced by this simple, yet profound principle, and has become the lens through which I gaze upon my past, observe my present, and dream about my future.

source: Associated Content