It is time for a radical shift in our understanding and thinking about addiction. The proponents and practitioners of the psychospiritual paradigm believe that they have answers to the crises or anomalies found in the allopathic medical paradigm. The caliber of solutions that the psychospiritual practitioners offer cannot come from the traditional medical model because they have a fundamentally different understanding of what it is to be human and how the body, mind and spirit interact if at all. The proponents of psychospiritual paradigm have different goals and treatment interventions to keep one healthy, vibrant, lucid, relaxed and joyful. These last states of being cannot be treatment goals in the allopathic model since it is based upon symptom abatement and myopic thinking-physical problems have no psychological and spiritual components.
I am proposing we embrace a new model. Symptom abatement cannot be the only goal of treatment. Increasing awareness and consciousness are the goals. With symptom abatement one can only hope to be in recovery. With the psychospiritual model of treatment, one can be recovered. As practitioners, providers of addiction services and healers, we will focus on those that are labeled addicts and walk through that referral door.
But our goal will ultimately be to improve the total health and consciousness of that individual. That is our contract with the client. Since addiction affects the body, mind, emotions and soul, these are legitimate domains for us. The addict needs cellular reconstruction work, physical fitness work, emotional healing and reintegration and balancing of all of his systems and finally reintegration back into his family and the community. We need more comprehensive holistic training. We need to change the parameters of scope of practice and/or we need to make it okay to use these practitioners in the treatment and healing process of our clients.
My goal is to share some of the perspectives, techniques and approaches that I have used and experience over 26 years. Addictions can be managed and used as a ground for the transformation and awakening of the individual's character and potential. Traditional approaches that focus only on symptoms may provide some relief but fail to nurture the spirit or feed the soul. There is a better way, a natural way based on clearing the stress and toxification from the physical body and strengthening the constructive emotions that give hope and courage to change. This process promotes the awakening of consciousness to relate to the inner soul for clarity.
There is a way to provide for self healing and ultimately for self mastery with application of tools that I have learned. It is possible to move away from the core thought in the addictions field-once an addict always an addict. One's core identity can shift from addict-slave, to a self realized human being-master. That is the resurrection process.
If I hold a television in one hand and the cord in the other hand and start shouting at the T.V. for not working, how does that look to you? You would say, "Stupid". What would you tell me to do? Plug it in. I say the same to you. Plug into your source and you will get the picture. All stations are playing at the same time. You have just dialed into a certain frequency and you are getting the picture broadcasting at that frequency. Tune into another frequency and you will get a different picture or reality. Herbert Benson, M.D. is the Director of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard. One of his chapters in his recent book, Timeless Healing the Power and Biology of Belief, was titled, "Wired for God". This is a radical statement coming from Harvard. I believe it is true and I believe that we can go direct to the manufacturer-The Source. It is not a question of His Presence. It is a question of access. You dial the right number and you will get an answer. Meditation and yoga have thousands of years of history in achieving and maintaining this connection.
The resurrection process is when you as a human being, a child of God can reconnect with your higher power-your Source and have the experience of that reconnection and hold it so that it is not a once in a lifetime event but a common occurrence. You have, in essence raised your frequency, energy, consciousness, whatever you want to call it, to the point where you are operating on all eight cylinders instead of 4 or 6. The purpose of treatment for the chemically dependent is to give each person the experiences and tools for their own transformation and resurrection.
Background of the Author
I graduated from the University of Michigan School of Social Work in 1969. Before I entered graduate school, I had to decide whether to major in the traditional clinical casework or community organization/administration track. I chose the later. This was the time of teach-ins and mass protest. I believed that I could do more if I got involved in changing systems than focusing on the individual or victims of the system. I knew that there were a lot of great clinicians but there were very few conscious administrators. I wanted to be a conscious administrator and hire great clinicians. I would be their support for both good clinical work as well as changing the systems that had negative impact on so many people.
It is my own personal story of self transformation that I believe is the foundation for doing the work I do. What I have to offer comes from my experiences working with the severely handicapped, mentally ill and chemically dependent for over 30 years. I have worked at the Battle Creek Institution for the Retarded, County Mental Health and Retardation Boards, 3HO SuperHealth-the only holistic residential treatment center to ever be accredited by the Joint Commission on Health Care Organizations and at a State Forensic hospital. Most recently I was the Mental Health Services Bureau Chief for the New Mexico Department of Corrections. In this position, I was in charge of the mental health delivery system in all of the prisons. Currently, I have designed a substance abuse program for inmates in a maximum security housing unit for the State Prison in Santa Fe.
I have had extensive experience as an administrator, clinician, program planner and developer, grant writer, educator and yoga teacher. I have worked in the medical model, prison custody model and in holistic treatment model. Effectiveness comes down to consciousness and awareness. Ultimately, the bottom line is not having one technique or even a collection of techniques to use that accelerates profound change. It is who I am as a person. How deeply my character can penetrate the defenses and hypnotic shells that defend the real emotions and power in each person. How well can I be present in each moment and each encounter to open possibility and hope, and to show the gap between consciousness and the actions of the addict?
Life Changing Story
In 1986, I was hired as a clinical social worker on a psychiatric unit at Patton State Hospital. The very first patient I was assigned to was Nancy. She killed her two children by drowning them in the bath tub because she was trying to save them from the Devil. She hardly spoke to anyone on the unit. I had never worked with anyone like that before. I did not have a clue how to approach her let alone work with her. I felt incompetent and impotent. What could I possibly say or do that would help her? So I went directly to the Source. I said okay God; there must be a place in me that has the same pain as she feels. Help me find it. I believe that we are all One and that the Universe is holographic. One point contains everything.
I was seeing a body worker at that time and I asked God to find the point in my body that stores that kind of pain. She was working on my right shoulder blade and she hit the point. I asked God what was that and how old was I when I felt that. The answer came back that I was five and my posture was I had my arms raised up to protect myself from getting hit from my father and my plea was daddy, daddy don't hit me I am okay. As soon as I raised my arms to that position, the tears came rolling down my face and I had a taste of what she must feel all of the time.
I went back to the Mental Hospital the next day and to see Nancy. I shared with her that I did not know what to say to her and that I asked God for help. I told her what happened the day before and I shared my pain with her. She was startled and said that is actually how she felt. I said to her that she gave me a great gift. She roared back and said I do not give gifts, I killed my children. I said that I was a better person after meeting her than I was before and that was the gift to me. This was the beginning of the therapeutic alliance.
This was a turning point for me both professionally and personally. There was nothing objective about what I did. What is in me is in others and what is in others is in me by the very fact that we are human beings. And in being human beings, we can access each other through the heart and soul-No Man is an Island unto himself. If I would have only objectified her and made judgments even good clinical judgments, I knew that I could not be of service to her. I would have all of the information that would constitute a professional psychosocial history but I would not have been able to reach her so deeply so quickly.
When one combines intuitive/subjective assessments with objective fact based assessment, one can create a depth of treatment alliance that is unreachable by objectivity alone. Opening up and allowing for a spiritual connection made it possible for me to be a conduit of connectivity to a higher source for both me and the patient. (This, by the way, produces a secondary benefit of minimizing burn out). When I would create a sacred space by intention, burn out was a foreign concept. Preparing for and allowing for guidance from a higher source is the hallmark of a psychospiritual approach. Sooner or later one comes to understand that you are not the one doing but that you are being guided.
At the time I was in graduate school, no one talked about how to reach the patient or client this way. It was all about the mind and how it functioned or didn't function. Carl Jung was one of the few psychoanalyst that dealt with metaphysics, spirituality etc. But the Social Work School did not teach students in his theories or practices. We have objective science that deals with what can be seen, felt, tasted, and heard but nothing about love, joy, compassion, kindness, truth-the things that provide meaning in ones life.
Do We Have a Problem?
It is estimated that 20% of Americans use about 50% of all illegal drugs in the world. This accounts for somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of all crimes committed in the U.S. (1) Almost 80% of inmates in State prisons are there because of substance abuse and dependence. Approximately 65 to 70 percent of inmates that go on parole are sent back to prison within three years. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994., June 2202, NCJ. CDC. The major reason they are sent back is that they return to their use of drugs and alcohol.
The Corrections budget in New Mexico where I work is $224 Million a year. The average yearly cost to house an inmate is $30,000 a year. The average length of time an inmate spends in prison once they are returned is 3 years. Each inmate returning then costs the tax payers approximately $90,000 excluding court costs. The Corrections budget for California is close to 4 billion dollars which equals the total New Mexico State Budget! California now has close to 200,000 in their state prisons. Six hundred thousand inmates are released from state and federal prisons and juvenile facilities to their communities every year. (CDC, IDU, KIV Prevention, August, 2001, Page 1). By 2010 it is estimated that close to 2 million men and women will be released nation wide.
- There are 13 million active addicts and alcoholics in the U.S. and they affect 130 million Americans. That is roughly half of the U.S. Population!
- Addicts have a 600 percent higher suicide rate over the general population.
- One third of all deaths are related to alcohol.
- Ninety percent of family violence is related to alcohol.
- Seventy three percent of motorists stopped by police in 1988 tested positive for drugs.
- One of eight alcoholics will die within 5 years of treatment.
- Fifty percent of people in recovery have a relapse within the first year.
- In thirty eight percent of child abuse cases, the perpetrator drank prior to the offense.
- In 1987, 600,000 were in Treatment for alcohol and drugs.
- In sixty one percent of assaults the offenders were drinking before the offense.
- Heavy drinkers have a mortality rate of more than twice the general population.
- Half of all admissions to hospitals are related to drug and alcohol use because of system breakdowns. These facts and figures were recorded watching the 12 Step Videos from Ambrose Publishing (Steps I-II). In 1992 the economic cost to the US society of drug and alcohol abuse was estimated to be $245.7 billion. Of this cost, $97.7 billion was due to drug abuse. The cost has increased 50 percent over the cost estimate from 1985 data. If we use the same percentage increase per year 7 percent, then in today's figures, the total cost would be approximately, $435 billion!
- It is obvious to the most casual observer that whatever we are doing is not working societally or individually. The relapse rates are too high. Learning about and engaging in a healing or transformative process for one's self as a clinician allows one to make use of other interventions that can facilitate the resurrection process for others. Epiphanies do happen as the story of Bill W and others attest to. We need to orchestrate the conditions for this to happen for more people on the path of recovery.