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Spirituality as an Antidote to Addiction

Heal

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When you look at the evidence, spiritual practice may help us break free from the things we wish we didn’t want.

This article appeared in our October 2003 issue. I remember vividly an advertisement I saw two decades ago. It depicted a Garden of Eden scene with a happy couple in harmony with creation. Filling the blue sky above them, beneath the sun and rainbow, was a gigantic bottle of liqueur, and underneath it all the words “Paradise Found.” Alcohol had literally been placed where God was supposed to be, promising fulfillment of the paradise that always somehow eludes us. As in most ads for drinking, smoking, gambling, and other addictions, the truth is quite the opposite of the promise. Alcohol and tobacco do not render a person more sophisticated, affluent, healthy and fit, physically and sexually athletic, or socially skillful. The devilish reality of addiction is that the euphoria offers at best a compelling but temporary illusion of happiness and well-being, a euphoria that fades with time and tolerance until the person must use just to get back to neutral. In the language of psychology, addiction is a progressive displacement of everything else in life. The addict spends increasing time with the add …

William R. Miller, Ph.D., distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, has researched the psychology of change. He is the author of scores of articles and books, including, with Janet C ’de Baca, Quantum Change: When Epiphanies and Sudden Insights Transform Ordinary Lives (Guilford Press).


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