Addiction and recovery

What is Addiction?

In his TED Talk, Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream, offers one of the best working definitions for this epidemic: "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection." Addiction is the result of finding a temporary solution to the psychic pain of life; in someone with certain experiential circumstances and biochemistry this "solution" becomes its own overwhelming problem. The war on drugs has not worked, chastising addicts and separating them from community will not teach them the lesson needed to get well, in fact it is drawing them into community and meaningful connection that is the only thing I know that can.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality can be defined as "the abundance of connection." Spirituality encompasses the whole person and no longer makes me a "disease."

What is Recovery?

Therefore, I believe recovery is the abundance of spirituality in daily life. I have spent decades learning about the building blocks of spirituality and how to use them to help people recover their humanness and holiness. These are some of the foundational elements I have found most important:


In the Bible, Genesis 2:18 proclaims: It is not good for man to be alone - Every human being needs a "help meet" someone to support them when they are doing well and to offer resistance when they are not.

In Genesis 3:8, God calls to Adam, "ayecha" (where are you)? And Adam is hiding! How are you still hiding from God? Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches that God is searching for us. Yet, we still hide. The solution is to say "hineni" (here I am); no matter where you are currently. Taking our rightful place as responsible citizens requires that we announce where we are. We cannot move forward without accepting the truth of our current circumstances. We cannot live in recovery if we are hiding.

Our souls are endowed with a sense of indebtedness and wonder; awe and fear unlock that sense of indebtedness. Allowing ourselves to live in wonder gives us the question that our living must be the answer to: How can I reciprocate for the life I have been given?

In his book God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel also teaches, "Among the many things that religious tradition holds in store for us is a legacy of wonder. The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted. Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin." Sin is not a state of being, it is an action that I can undo!

I firmly believe that recovery is about redemption, t'shuvah. It is a threefold process requiring that we return to our authentic selves, repair any damage we have caused to others or the world around us, and are able to respond differently because we have fearlessly faced our mistakes, owning the damage we have caused, and committing to living differently.