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The response to my previous entry reminded me that we have been in pursuit of our next program on the topic of spirituality and recovery from addiction for awhile, and I don’t feel I personally am making great headway identifying the right voice(s).

There are a million stories to tell, of course, which sometimes actually makes it harder to find the one right story to hone in on. What are the stories that matter to you? Who would you interview? Who do you read on the subject? We’re truly curious to hear your thoughts.


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28 Comments

I and several friends in the helping profession have been consistently nourished by reading the works of Henri Nouwen. I wonder if the Henri Nouwen Society might be some help in finding voices and stories that not only reflect the legacy of Nouwin's spirituality but also are witness of it in their own lives.

Kate - thank you for your loving tribute to your mother, and your own insights about these past three hundred and sixty SIX days (and counting... courage and joy to you). I've come to recognize your voice reading out excerpts on various SOF programmes these days, and will now associate your readings with some of the story you've shared.

I've read some of the things from Brennan Manning about his own relationship with addiction to Alcohol. I have only read a few of his books - and I know there are many more. One of the things that's always remained with me was his raw retelling of his own times when he fell to the bottom of things. Mind you, I have always remembered the Basil Brave Heart SOF story with particular clarity - his retelling of the period when he felt the presence of his ancestors was such an insight into his view of the hereafter - simple, earthy and beautiful.

Who would I interview? I wondered if Gene Robinson would be interested in speaking of his time in a treatment centre lately - it might help move discussion 'about' him and his orientation to conversation 'with' him as a human being who lives with giftedness and limitation. It would also be interesting to move the subject away from the fanfare of the 'what-to' about addiction (i.e. - what are you addicted to? alcohol, drugs etc.) to an exploration about the innate sense of attachment that many people identify with - the little (and large) addictions that all of us can experience - ones that are deemed acceptable, and ones that are deemed taboo. What is it in us that attaches (or addicts) itself to external things?

All that said - I'll look forward to the programme! Best wishes to you all as you search out fodder for a future broadcast. And, as always, many, many thanks to you and all the SOF team.

Pádraig,
Belfast.

(Whop!) I've been hoping SOF would consider this topic. But only one?

This being MN, you've contacts galore, but I'd like to see you NOT do a show that could be done by others with the same-old same-old voices. Not that they're not worthwhile, but I guess I'd hope for a bit more from SOF. I know where I'd start in order to get names, but then tradition 11 rears it's head.

It's hard for me to be cohesive in a blog setting, but a number of base topics come to mind, including "practical spirituality," and "cure versus healing." AA (and likely most of the other -As) takes a very pragmatic approach to spirituality...does it work? Is there any difference in the "spirituality" of the program compared to traditional (religious) communities? Does it matter?
You probably don't want to do historical, but Willmar is just down the road...I'll bet there're still some old-timers out there.

I sense a wide variety of solutions being employed toward spirituality in the groups I attend.
Some read the Tao, some go back to church, some seem content with meetings, some become enamored with particle physics. Personally, I read a wide variety of things: program literature (the "how-tos"), some sacred texts, E. Kurtz, and (currently) someone named Tippett.
"I am only an egg, Jubal."

I just noticed your mention of Wilmar--that is of course where Dan Anderson and others created the "Minnesota Model" of recovery, using peer counseling and the 12 steps of AA. My mother went through the Wilmar program in 1957...
Kate

Kate - thank you for your loving tribute to your mother, and your own insights about these past three hundred and sixty SIX days (and counting... courage and joy to you). I've come to recognize your voice reading out excerpts on various SOF programmes these days, and will now associate your readings with some of the story you've shared.
I've read some of the things from Brennan Manning about his own relationship with addiction to Alcohol. I have only read a few of his books - and I know there are many more. One of the things that's always remained with me was his raw retelling of his own times when he fell to the bottom of things. Mind you, I have always remembered the Basil Brave Heart SOF story with particular clarity - his retelling of the period when he felt the presence of his ancestors was such an insight into his view of the hereafter - simple, earthy and beautiful.
Who would I interview? I wondered if Gene Robinson would be interested in speaking of his time in a treatment centre lately - it might help move discussion 'about' him and his orientation to conversation 'with' him as a human being who lives with giftedness and limitation. It would also be interesting to move the subject away from the fanfare of the 'what-to' about addiction (i.e. - what are you addicted to? alcohol, drugs etc.) to an exploration about the innate sense of attachment that many people identify with - the little (and large) addictions that all of us can experience - ones that are deemed acceptable, and ones that are deemed taboo. What is it in us that attaches (or addicts) itself to external things? All that said - I'll look forward to the programme! Best wishes to you all as you search out fodder for a future broadcast. And, as always, many, many thanks to you and all the SOF team.
Pádraig, Belfast.

Thanks for these suggestions. And for the kind words. Really.
I will do some looking into them. I agree that the phenomenon of addiction itself is less interesting to me, than, frankly, what it means in a spiritual life, on the ground, so to speak. This is why so few of the "tell all" memoirs about addiction are interesting. They just relay the "drunkalogue" and never get to the deep material of what it does to the spirit. And, even when they're not sheer frauds, like whatisnames--James Frey's--they're just not substantive.
Please, keep the ideas coming!
Kate

As you know, the 11 step of AA suggests that people in that recovery program pursue a spiritual practice. I have heard the Buddhist meditation teacher Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock speak eloquently about AA and such Buddhist meditation.

Consider Damian McElrath as a guest.
There's a decent bio of him on the Hazelden website.

One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps
By Kevin Griffin

I am in recovery myself. I found this book to be a fantastic help.

I will look into this and the Kornfield book mentioned above by mbweiner. I had not heard of this one. Sounds intriguing.
Kate

I'm so glad you got Kevin. I'm looking forward to the show tomorrow!

Robert

Samaritan Inns. Church of the Saviour. Washington D.c.

Actually, you know, we've thought of Church of the Saviour for a show in several contexts--they do so much community based work in D.C. --but I had not thought of it specifically in the context of focusing on their work with addicts. That would be a GREAT program for SoF.
Kate

Hello,

How about a show about religion helping overcome religion? I know that I consider myself a "recovering fundamentalist." I spent nearly 30 years as a die-hard fundamentalist Baptist-but now I am a Episcopalian. I can say that the journey was one of blood, sweat, and tears. Moments of ecstasy and moments of doubt. There are probably many other stories of people moving from the fundamental incarnations of their faith to incarnations that are more honest and open. I look forward to whatever you decide to do with this topic.

the 11 step in AA suggests that people take up a spiritual practice. I've heard the Buddhist meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock speak eloquently about the intersection of AA and Buddhist meditation.

The 11 step of AA suggests that people pursue a spiritual practice. I've heard the Buddhist meditation teacher Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock speak eloquence about the intersection of such meditation and recovery.

Addiction is an artery to a higher calling. Addiction speaks to you about what you long for deeply and are not encountering or nurturing in your life. I have spent many years addicted to food and compulsively overeating and binging. It is only recently that I have started to understand my compulsive behavior as a desperation to be mothered, to be nurtured, to be nourished. I can' t ever get enough because I don't know how to experience satisfaction for something I have never known. In exploring the bottomless appetite, the insatiable desire for sweetness, I have encountered a longing so powerful and shattering that it is almost mystical. But only when I set aside the compulsive abusive behaviors and allow myself to experience the longing in my body. What a ride it has been!

What a great description of living through addiction. I experience the longing in my body through yoga as a new and healing energy after years of compulsive behaviour. Thanks again.
Kate

Kate
Here's a book that fits perfectly into this dialogue and exploration: Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of addiction by Linda Schierse Leonard.

Rella, I actually have read that book, but you're right it might be very useful, and I hadn't thought of it in this context. Thanks for the thought.
Kate

I would interview Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx. He's recently opened a meditation center in LA and is doing a retreat on spirituality and recovery in April with Kevin Griffin.

The Big Book of AA, Addiction and Grace by Gerald May.
Open Open Mind, by ?Thomas Keating
Father Thomas Keating has great insights on addiction, I practice Centering Prayer as a method to apply the 11th Step in my life.
He would be a great guest.

Kate,
Great topic. Not only are those addicted touched by the illness, but the families. Medody Beatty is a writer who has published several books on codependency, which is the flip side of addiction...those people who love the addicted person. She would be a great person to interview. Also, come to Akron and hit the conference they have here every year in the town where AA was born. You will see an amazing cornucopia of people from every strata of society. Interviews on the street and walking the places where it all began may give you and your listeners a look at how and why we have come so far in the treatment and understanding of addiction. Best of luck to you in your work. Peace and Blessings. Deb

Kim Chernin, author of "The Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity" and "The Obsession : Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness" would be a fabulous guest on your show to address issues related to the food addictions so many suffer from , either overeating or starving. Her voice is powerful and strong in this arena.

This topic was the subject of my meeting this morning. It is a meditation meeting focusing on the eleventh step. We have an introduction to what the meeting is all about, just like every other AA meeting, and then we have twenty minutes of silent meditation. After the meditation we are introduced to the speaker for the week, and they give a short talk about their story as it pertains to the eleventh step. The eleventh step calls for the AA member to use prayer and meditation to consciously improve their connection to God - as we understand Him.

Ever since I started going to meetings I have had problems with the extensive uses of "God" & "Higher Power". I'll tell a bit about myself to let you know why. I grew up in a conservative southern baptist home. My father is a deacon of the church. My mother has held many non-paying positions of leadership in the church (Women aren't allowed to lead and get paid for God's service, only men). I was a leader in the youth group. I attended church functions at least three times a week. When I graduated High School I went Southwest Baptist University (Same school where my parents met) and studied Christian Ministries. Four and a half years later, I graduated with a bachelor's degree and began work for the Southern Baptist Home Mission board as a missionary. I say all that to say that I now am a devout agnostic.

It was impossible for me to see "God" in the leadership of churches. I tried other sects, and denominations, I tried two universalist churches, catholic churches, methodist, and Episcapalian. I simply can no longer believe in "God". The closest I can get to my particular belief would be Dr. Richard Dawkins, or maybe Bart D. Ehrman. It does not matter what I believe though, you are looking for the "right voice" for AA.

As I was saying this morning were at a meditation AA meeting and there was a woman there that said she is certain that God always wants the best for us. Another woman followed her up with a comment that she had a book that said take solice in the uncertainty of things, and that she was sick and tired of not having anything to believe in, so she now CHOOSES TO BELIEVE IN GOD. I have attended these meetings for two months now. The entire time I have chosen to remain silent while those around me share their feelings, beliefs, struggles, and words of encouragement with one another. I attend about five meetings a week and I chose to make this one all about listening. However this morning I could not remain silent. I have sat around and heard person after person in meeting after meeting speak about their "faith" in God, and that it is the only thing you need to remain sober.

I say hogwash. I have been sober for a little under six months now and I most certainly do not believe in a universal conscious being. I do not believe in a spirit that dwells within my own person. I do however believe in the power of the program. I believe that it has helped literally millions of people who suffered from the effects of alcohol to overcome their addiction, and live better lives. I have faith that if I remain sober, and follow the principals set forth in the "twelve steps" I will become a better person.

When I first started going to AA meetings I was shocked by the likeness the "program" bore to what I had been taught and observed about how to run a church. They have thier own text, doctrine, leadership/profits, mantras, dogma, etc. Bible = The Big Book. Doctrine / Dogma = 12 and 12 (as well as about a thousand other books about AA for sale world wide.) Profits = Uncle Bill Mantras = step 11, 5, the serenity prayer, the lord's prayer, hell, there's even a book of prayers for AA's. I am not being critical. These are mere observations based on my own experiences, however I see more of the teachings of Jesus, the Budda, the Dalhi Lama, Ghandi, and Muhammad in the lives of AA members than I ever saw in those who attended church.

In AA meetings people are able to open up and be fragile around perfect strangers,without the need to fear ridicule or persecution. You can admit to doing ANYTHING in a meeting and people will not judge, but rather they will tell you that it is ok and ask you if you learned anything. This is a beautiful thing! There is no gratitude like that of a sick and dying person being given a second chance at life. That is what we are. In meetins we do not judge, condemn, hate, slander, belittle, attack, or in any way allow others around us to do so, because there are more important things we are about.

We must always be about helping others live. When we first get to a recovery program, we are a mess. We don't even know how to take care of our own bodies, much less our lives, our mental state, or our relationships. Through this beautiful wonderful program we are learning the tools to help us become the full potential of what human beings can be. I just wanted you to know that there is not one voice of recovery. There is not one opinion about how to recover. Everyone must work their own program and allow those around them to work theirs. Do I believe in God? No. Do I believe in the program? You bet. I used to be dead to the world and now I have been resurected by a program. The program teaches that you must come to know the God of your Understanding. It does not tell you what to understand. Sometimes it gets sticky when I am working my steps 6&7 in particular, and talking with my sponsor about my issues with the G word. Am I going to stop trying? No. It would be the death of me. Besides, I have had my eyes opened to the beauty around me and I would never want them to be hidden again.

Ever since your first program on addiction & recovery I've wanted to recommend a very short short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Lost Decade", that is so eloquent & elegant about... being present...
Another, longer piece of beautiful writing but more generally about the physicality of life & spirit is his "Absolution."

And, a belated Thank You for all your programs!

Thanks, all for your suggestions here! BTW, we are closing in on a our new program on recovery. Actually it is a remake of an earlier show, but we are including an interview with Kevin Griffin, who was recommended by Robert C. below. This programis scheduled for May 15th. I may actually blog about it again on the main page because it rasied some fascinating issues around anonymity, etc.
Kate

I loved the Basil Braveheart interview with Krista but can't find it on the same recording. Where is it?