When I ask people to guest post, it’s usually because they have a point-of-view that I don’t. I’m not suggesting anything overly radical, but they just have a different way of looking at addiction and recovery. Often, that means people with strong spiritual connections and beliefs. Morality usually plays a big part in spirituality, especially in terms of religion. And, in terms of religious addicts, morality often plays a role in their addiction and recovery.
Let me state up front that I don’t draw a correlation between morality and addiction. I do not believe that it is good or bad people who become addicts. It’s just people in general. I’ve met too many different types, both demographically and belief-wise, to draw any conclusions. Good people don’t become bad in addiction; they become ill. People who made bad choices in addiction, and make better choices in recovery, suddenly aren’t better people. They’re just healthier.
There are some people who condemn the religious for their unbending beliefs, often tying morality to addiction and recovery. And there are those in religion who seem to believe that without an unyielding adherence to their belief system, you’re doomed. Guess what? You’re both wrong.
My Life in Spirituality
I have to remind myself that this website is in it’s fourth year of existence and because I said something in early 2019 doesn’t mean anybody remembers it, or read it in the first place. I was raised Catholic and was an inquisitive kid who asked a lot of questions that were not answered. If you were buying a house or car and the owner couldn’t answer most of your questions, would you buy it? Of course not. I wasn’t buying.
So I made jokes most of my life that I was a “non-practicing atheist” because it just didn’t matter to me. There’s a quote from somewhere about how believing in God is like a blind man going into a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there, but swearing he found it. I’m butchering it, but I now think there are multiple interpretations of that saying.
It wasn’t until my early recovery, including time spent at two inpatient rehabs, in the rooms of 12-step groups, in jail and while writing my first book that I felt the need to reckon with my system of beliefs. The result? I’m one of the most faith-filled people I know. I just don’t like the G word…God. I believe everything happens for a reason even if it’s unclear in the moment. I believe there’s a balancing power somewhere out there. And I believe there are difficult questions we will never, ever be able to answer.
Those With Beliefs
My parents are devout Catholics although there have been a few things to happen over the last 20 years that has made them a little less devout. But I recognize they got something from church that I didn’t. A lot of people do. And I think that’s the first place that the non-religious need to start. These people aren’t faking it. They believe and they believe in the results and that doesn’t make them weak or stupid.
There was a show on several years ago featuring a study done of monks somewhere in Asia. I think it was about proving God exists. They hooked up their brains to different sensors to measure them during the day. They wanted to see the difference between their normal state and their prayer state. It was impressive. There was such a radical difference in their brainwaves that the scientists reached the conclusion that it was almost secondary if God actually exists. These monks believed it and no science was going to prove otherwise. It raised the question, “Does it matter if God actually exists if people believe so strongly that they can’t conceive of the alternative?”
Years ago, I would have said yes. My answer now is no, or at least as long as there is no harm being done to others. If believing in God is what helps you to get through the day, fantastic. It’s better to have a feeling of support from something than nothing. I just call it the Universe. Again, because i’m allergic to the G Word.
Those Without Beliefs
To the religious, and even spiritual – it’s OK if someone doesn’t share your belief system. As long as they are not hurting you, it shouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, history shows that religion is the cause of the biggest pissing matches of our time, like the Crusades. Even today, there are parts of the world where religious wars are so strong, it often doesn’t seem like the 21st Century when you see those places on television.
Yes, the “we’re right, you’re wrong” mentality among religions is ludicrous, especially if you believe in none. It’s even further silly if you think spirituality is just as bogus as religion. It’s like fighting over who has the best imaginary friend to those of us not involved, but for those in the thick of it, they see it as an attack on their values, their morals and their way of life. And most will retaliate. Unfortunately, there are some who don’t believe in God that also want to be in on that fight. Why?
I’m cool if you don’t believe. I’m sure I could take a fine-toothed comb to your life and find many examples of faith and believing in something other than science. You don’t call it religion or spirituality, but it’s something. It’s also very important to recognize that some of the most moral, well-adjusted, healthy people in this world have no religious or spirituality-based core. There are many people in this world that function perfectly fine without religion on spirituality.
Let’s Talk About Addictions of the Flesh
There are plenty of rules in just about every religion about sex and gender. Unsurprisingly, most aren’t all that different. Even less unsurprisingly is how statistically, there is largely no difference between the religious and non-religious when it comes to acting-out sexually. Intercourse addiction is intercourse addiction. Porn addiction is porn addiction. Exhibitionism and voyeurism are exhibitionism and voyeurism. It has almost nothing to do with beliefs systems, or lack thereof.
Among Catholic and LDS (Mormon) church members, statistics show higher cases of porn use than the secular world. Perhaps members feel they meet a threshold of addiction faster, but this should at least illustrate that religion is not a blockade for addiction. Never has been. Never will be.
I’m not going to get into a semantics discussion about God, but for whatever reason, if you’re a religious person, you still became a sex or porn addict despite your beliefs. If you’re not religious, you became addicted despite being a theoretical absence of beliefs.
In the end, who cares? You’re both addicts. And you both can get better… with or without God.
Since religion may have a CEO that is otherworldly, but run by humans here on Earth, it’s easy to find a lot of hypocrisy. But hypocrisy is everywhere in this world. And just because you believe in nothing, it doesn’t mean you can’t be just as much a hypocrite.
We know that addiction is a brain disease and the science works exactly the same no matter what your spiritual beliefs, just like every other disease. You can’t pray away disease. If you could, nobody would die of cancer. And moralizing disease proves nothing. Are cigarette smokers who get lung cancer worse people than those who become addicted to pornography? If yes, why? If no, why? Didn’t those cigarette smokers take their lives in their own hands?
Is cheating on your spouse wrong? Yes. Is arranging an open marriage wrong? For me it would be, for others no. Is swinging wrong? It really depends. Are sex toys immoral? More immoral that masturbation? Should masturbation invoke shame in the participant or is it a much healthier expression of sexuality than many others? I believe these are questions that nobody can answer for others, nor should they try.
If I don’t need a Higher Power to find sobriety, it doesn’t make my sobriety count less. If I lean on a religious or spiritual belief for sobriety, it doesn’t make me feeble-minded. Does having God help people get clean? It appears to help in many. Does not having God harm recovery? I’ve yet to see anything that proves this.
Congratulate, Don’t Castigate
Your religion, or lack of, doesn’t make your recovery mean any more or less than someone of the other side. Is a religious person by nature stronger than one who is not? Is an atheist who fully recovers more or less strong than someone who is spiritual or religious?
Again, these are opinions, and it doesn’t matter. Really, who cares how someone recovers? Want to believe in God, Budda, Allah, Jesus, or Keith Raniere? Go for it. Want to shun anything unprovable. That’s fine.
If I don’t care…you don’t have to care. If you don’t want somebody to attack your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, don’t attack theirs. Recovery is an amazing process, an amazing accomplishment and shouldn’t be judged or downplayed in anyone, by anyone.
God is not the only way. Neither is science.