Addiction and The Holy Hunt

Where there’s emptiness there’s hunger. Passionate hunger fuels a need for connection and completion. We are innately driven to fill emptiness in a self-transcendent way through whatever we can attach to that offers us the promise of fulfillment.  In our desperation, the longing for wholeness, cohesion, connection, power, and love may cause us to compulsively latch onto a drug, a thing or a person.  There may be a momentary illusion of wholeness that results, and that compels us onward to acquire more.  We get caught up in a relentless pursuit of that moment of ecstasy, ignoring the destructive consequences of seeking this addictive connection.

The late psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote to the founder of AA, Bill W, that alcoholism is a spiritual disease, which has at its base a drive for wholeness. In the misguided pursuit of wholeness the addiction becomes the primary connection. All other connections lose meaning and become inconsequential.  If we conceptualize spirituality as having to do with the experience of connectedness to whomever or whatever is most essential in one’s life, we can surmise that the addiction itself becomes a misguided spiritual quest. The object of the addict’s desire is the primary connection affording false hope and a magical sense of temporary cohesion/wholeness.

At first life seems manageable. The addiction is the magic formula that ends inexplicable pain. The addict succumbs to a temptation, which is greater than one can resist, and a power submission dynamic emerges.  In this dynamic the hidden wish  to not be responsible for choice, creates a relationship in which there is a denial of the soul’s capacity to move towards wholeness. The addiction hinders the soul’s capacity to choose and assume responsibility. In relinquishing the spiritual choice to align with the soul’s capacity towards wholeness, the addict finds less and less of himself and seeks out isolation as the best circumstance to enjoy his high.

Gary Zukav wrote, in “The Seat of the Soul”, “For the addict physical reality is not aligned with the reality your soul wishes to create. The suffering of the addict leads to a recognition of the need to release this form of learning and to choose the entrance of Divinity to shape one’s world. “ It is generally at this point of dark despair that a moment of Grace occurs. In AA this is known as a ‘bottom’. Freud referred to it as an “ego death’. St. John of the Cross, wrote of his “dark night of the soul”, whereby demystifying choice allows for a conversion experience. In this process Jung conveyed that opposite extremes are synthesized in a balanced way. The lower impulses inherent in the pursuit of the addiction are embraced and integrated so that more complete personality and an authentic sense of self results. It

is our very ‘shadow’, meaning the disowned parts of our selves, that potentially teach us what we need.

Framing recovery in the context of one’s place in the circular larger scheme of inter-connecting life helps make one conscious of one’s existence as a spiritual being, and catalyzes the grieving process in which memories of the soul’s abandonment becomes conscious. Our connection to the spiritual is only achieved as we come to see ourselves as extensions of God/Goddess and as channels for God/Goddess’s will. This involves choice. The notion of original sin in non-dualistic spirituality relates to our rejection of who we are as God’s children in God’s world. It is the notion of original sin that is originally sinful. Jung related that it is our alienation from who we are that is the source of our brokenness. Hence, in embracing, not dividing, we heal. Our sense of wholeness and connectedness reminds us of our sacredness. Its absence fosters the belief that we are disconnected from our divinity. This process of reclamation involves challenging and altering spiritual world-views, which reinforce addictive behavior. It is through self-knowledge of one’s shattered ness/separation that we are led to reclamation of self and wholeness.


Author: Rev Sheri Heller

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC.

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