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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


What is the Difference Between Religion and Spirituality?


Dear Dr. Steve:
My boss has had it with me. He’s not saying that I have a problem but he sure believes whether or not I drink too much, that my job performance has suffered because of my drinking. So he’s giving me exactly 60 days to straighten out or he’s going to fire me. This would be the third time in the last 10 years that I’ve lost a job. I pretty much get the same thing at home from my wife. She’s been on me for years to quit drinking. At least with her, she no longer threatens me. I’ve tried quitting for real at least twenty-five times over the last few years, but I must admit nothing that I’ve tried seems to work for very long. My wife goes to Al-Anon and so she thinks that everybody’s problems can be solved by a 12-Step Program. I keep telling her that Al-Anon may work for her and A.A. may work for some but I’m not going anywhere that they shove that religion crap down your throat. I’m simply not a religious person, never have been, never will be. I don’t want to go to some place where they hold secret meetings, talk in this bizarre language of slogans and corny expressions, and talk about God. What can I do to save my job?

As far as your job goes, it sounds like you believe the best thing for you to do is to quit drinking. As far as how best to quit drinking, well, you sound like a man more in search of a method of abstinence that you’re comfortable with rather than a method that has been demonstrated to work.

Your objection to A.A. is a commonly voiced objection. There’s a perception that A.A. is a cult, that members are brain washed with a bunch of silly little slogans, and that the focus of the meetings is on God and religion. However, I think that if you objectively look at your objections to at least investigating what A.A. is, you’ll discover that your objections are reflective more of your fears than the reality of what A.A. is and the role that spirituality, not religion, plays in Recovery.

What is religion? What is spirituality? What is the difference between spirituality and organized religion? What role does spirituality play in any 12-Step Program? Whenever I attempt to answer these questions I find myself at a lost for the words that can most effectively capture the essence of what spirituality is but I’m going to try. Spirituality is like oxygen. Oxygen exists. I know that oxygen exists even though I can’t prove it to you. Even though I can’t touch it, taste it, or feel it, without the presence of oxygen, I know that I would be unable to continue living. Spirituality is much like oxygen, it’s a building block of life—it’s life creating, it’s life supporting, life affirming, and life sustaining.

Religion adheres to creeds, doctrines, and dogmas. Religion purports that the way to God can be found through particular ceremony(ies) or practice(s). Spirituality is unencumbered by such intellectual, emotional, and dogmatic baggage. Spirituality is an attitude towards life that involves your mind, body, and soul. The attitude is that you are the creation of a sacred or divine energy and, as such, are not only more than you ever imagined yourself to be but more than you can ever imagine yourself to be. Spirituality is the direct connection to and experience of the sacred and supreme values of life. A spiritual practice empowers one to experience that which is most central and essential to their life. The ultimate aim of spirituality is awakening—that is to know your true and authentic Self.

So am I splitting hairs? Am I asking you to indulge me in a silly word game? Is there a difference between organized religion and spirituality as it is practiced in any 12-Step Program?  I don’t think so. Please let me explain further.

Spirituality as practiced in any 12-Step Program is a very individual and private matter that is not dependent on your belief in a God that you don’t acknowledge but is a process that enables you to [re]connect with your own source of creation as you understand that source to be.

Spirituality as practiced in any 12-Step Program is not dependent on your belief in somebody else’s values and beliefs but a process in clarifying what your values and beliefs are.

Spirituality as practiced in any 12-Step Program is not an exercise in enslaving yourself to somebody else’s vision of who you are and how you should be but a process that empowers you to evolve in to your best and most authentic Self.

Spirituality as practiced in any 12-Step Program is not an exercise in internalizing messages that are toxic to your spirit and soul but a process that enables you to uncover your voice and honor that which is important to you.

Simply put:

Any 12-Step program is a spiritual practice in [re]connecting with the divine energy that created you as you define and know that divine energy.

Any 12-Step program is a spiritual practice in uncovering who you are beneath the layers of addiction, alcoholism, codependency, sexing, binging and purging, ego, willfulness, grandiosity, shame, entitlement, self-loathing, denial, intolerance, blame, lies, secrets, and alienation.

Any 12-Step program is a spiritual practice in healing the wounds that exist between you and the people in your life.

Any 12-Step program is a spiritual practice in empowering you to make choices that are congruent with your authentic Self.

Any 12-Step program is a spiritual practice in detoxifying the resentments that exist within you and between you and the people in your life and your Higher Power.

My hope for you is that you will open yourself up enough to investigate further what A.A. is and how it may be able to help you with the circumstances that you are confronted with. At the same time, my fear is you’ll keep fishing for a solution that suits you best. Whatever your choice, I wish you well and trust that you will do well.


Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) Alcoholism is a disease of the mind, body, and soul.
2.) The 12-Steps are a spiritual practice, not a cult or religion.
3.) A spiritual practice is used to heal your mind, body, and soul.
4.) Books are available that explain in great detail the 12-Steps and spirituality.
5.) Commit to attend at least six meetings before making up your mind about whether A.A. is for you.

G.B.U.

Steve



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