O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned. It is, however, mandatory that the use of opium be prevented by any means whatsoever, that perchance the human race may be delivered from this most powerful of plagues. And otherwise, woe and misery to whoso falleth short of his duty to his Lord.
O Divine Providence! Bestow Thou in all things purity and cleanliness upon the people of Bahá. Grant that they be freed from all defilement, and released from all addictions. Save them from committing any repugnant act, unbind them from the chains of every evil habit, that they may live pure and free, wholesome and cleanly, worthy to serve at Thy Sacred Threshold and fit to be related to their Lord. Deliver them from intoxicating drinks and tobacco, save them, rescue them, from this opium that bringeth on madness, suffer them to enjoy the sweet savours of holiness, that they may drink deep of the mystic cup of heavenly love and know the rapture of being drawn ever closer unto the Realm of the All-Glorious. For it is even as Thou hast said: ‘All that thou hast in thy cellar will not appease the thirst of my love—bring me, O cup-bearer, of the wine of the spirit a cup full as the sea!’
Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pg. 150
It is that time of year–the holiday season is over, and the personal toll of excessive spending and consumption of substances has become obvious. Many people feel a tremendous amount of remorse, sadness, despair and even anger as they assess the damage done to their wallets and bodies. Some will seek help through therapy, treatment and/or consultations with spiritual advisors. Many others will continue the behavior that has caused considerable grief in their lives.
In the report Changing the Landscapes (published by Sacramento County Health and Human Services on January 1, 2005), 60% of the population in Sacramento County consumed alcohol 30 days prior to the survey, and 16% reported binge drinking activity during the same period. An average of 22% of Sacramento County residents in nearly all age categories* consumed alcohol in the 30 days before the survey. Disturbingly, the report cites that students in the 7th, 8th and 9th grades have consumed alcohol during the reporting period. Some of the youngsters also reported binge drinking during those thirty days.
The report also notes that the number of people using drugs (based on admissions to treatment centers) in Sacramento County has increased from 5, 467 in 1998/99 to 7, 670 in 2003/04. The most frequently used substances in the county are as follows:
- Alcohol (19%)
- Marijuana (17%)
- Methamphetamines (16%)
- Cocaine/Crack (11%)
- Others (7%)
- Hallucinogens (6%)
- Opiates (4%)
- PCP (2%)
Alcohol and drugs are not, however, the sole source of addictions. In his book, The Addictive Personality, author Craig Nakken states that addiction is a process that people engage in avoid the natural cycles of sadness, loneliness, despair that are very much a part of life. These cycles are mostly uncontrollable, the author explains, and human beings are obliged to “…either accept these cycles and learn from them or fight them, searching instead for elusive happiness.”
Nakken offers the following statements as one definition for the addiction process:
Addiction can be viewed as an attempt to control these uncontrollable cycles. When addicts use a particular object, such as a substance or an event, to produce a desired mood change, they believe they can control these cycles, and at first they can. Addiction, on its most basic level, is an attempt to control and fulfill this desire for happiness.
The Addictive Personality: understanding the addictive process and compulsive behavior. Craig Nakken, pg. 1.
The substances or events in which people can use to produce a desired mood change has become numerous, as our society has become more complex and people become overwhelmed by stress and other emotions. A list of addictions, which is in no way comprehensive, includes: food, sex, gambling, work, debting/spending, exercise, binging/purging, hoarding, cutting one’s skin, video and online gaming. All of these addictive activities represent a desire to control perceived “negative” events or emotions, and produce an unrealitically extended amount of “happiness” in life.
In 12 step programs, anyone who has identified him/herself as addicted to a substance or event is asked to follow these suggested steps to recovery:
- Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
- Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
- Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
- Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
- Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
- Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
- Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
- Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
- Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
- Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
- Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
According the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, the addict who practices these steps is promised that:
(i)f we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace….We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
This process, which is not exclusive to Twelve Step programs, can be described as detachment, which is a spiritual principle that has been emphasized in the Holy Books of every major religion. Detachment does not involve engaging in esoteric practices so that one can prove “enlightment” by becoming immune to pain, hunger, cold, or cold or shunning human contact. It involves prayer, meditation and study of spiritual texts so that God is a constant companion and guide in a person’s life. This conscious effort to make contact with the Divine Will of God is promised to create an acceptance of life’s inevitable upheavals, and a dependence upon God instead of substances and events for strength and renewal through trials.
That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’u’lláh, pg. 264-265
*Exception: 11.5% of 18-24 year old in Sacramento Country reported drinking in the period prior to the survey.