The Spiritual Psychology of 12-Step Recovery
If you are affected by drug and alcohol addiction and are seeking recovery, there’s a good chance you’ve been to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Newcomers to AA and other 12-step recovery programs are sometimes surprised that meetings rely heavily on spirituality. These programs emphasize that an individual is exceedingly more likely to achieve long term sobriety if he or she is able to undergo a “spiritual” transformation. But what does that mean, and where did the idea come from?
What is a Spiritual Transformation in 12-Step Recovery?
What kind of “spiritual transformation” is necessary for recovery from drug and alcohol use? You may be surprised to know that, despite its emphasis on spirituality as the foundation of the AA program, Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t require you to adopt any specific religious practice. AA maintains that it is helpful to have any spiritual program or beliefs. As laid out in step 3 of the AA program, members are encouraged to turn their lives over to God as they understand God.
How Did AA Come to Rely on Spirituality?
Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a prominent and highly influential psychologist in the 20th century. Jung was interested in the religious experiences of humans. He pioneered ideas that psychologists today take for granted, such as the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is the deepest part of the human psyche that exists and is the same for all people, regardless of our experience in the world.
As early as 1931, Dr. Jugn was meeting with alcoholics to try and help solve their drink problem. His experience showed that when men were able to undergo a spiritual experience in rehab from drug and alcohol addiction, they were more likely to achieve sustained sobriety. In 1961, Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote a letter crediting Dr. Jung with introducing these concepts to alcoholics during the early days of AA’s founding, thereby bringing the concept of spirituality to the world of 12-step recovery.
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