Faith in Recovery Pt. 11

Redemption In Drug Recovery And Religion Are More Similar Than You Think

I don’t believe the world’s a particularly beautiful place, but I do believe in redemption.
Colum McCann

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.
Bernard Meltzer

Addiction destroys lives in a multitude of ways. Relationships are shattered, finances are ruined, and health is put at risk. The path to recovery can be made difficult by facing the decisions that were made when under the influence. Additionally, seeking help from those who might have been hurt makes it even more arduous.

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The word “redemption” is commonly used when describing recovery. Redemption is defined as “the means to free someone from bondage.” It comes from the Latin root “to be whole.” The word is used to explain both the process and the result of healing from addiction. It expresses the regaining of power an addict has from creating new patterns of behavior.

This word also appears in another body of work, religion. The word redemption is defined differently by religions, but there is the universal principle of recovery as a theological issue or as part of one’s spiritual journey. The intersection of how redemption is viewed by religion and addiction treatment is the focus of Part 11 in our series Faith in Recovery.

For Christianity, redemption is about forgiveness and saving from sin. This can be interpreted as the original sin of Adam and Eve and deliverance from that by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. At the time the Bible was written, the word redemption meant “to buy out.” This word is used to demonstrate humans are slaves to sin, but the love of God allows Christians to receive freedom. When addicts speak of their preferred substance they use similar imagery of being held captive or ransom by their use. Some will personify their addiction as a dominant figure in their life.

This closely aligns with the Jewish understanding of redemption. The Encyclopaedia Judaica defines redemption as “salvation from the states or circumstances that destroy the value of human existence or human existence itself.” This has to do with freeing of the Israelites from bondage by Moses and God. The Hebrew word for redemption is Ge’ullah. It is a blessing said each day to thank God for freedom from slavery. A daily thanks are also used by members of AA and similar 12 step programs who use a daily affirmation like the Serenity Prayer as a thank you to themselves or to a higher power for being sober. In our interview with Scott Weeman, he explained the 24-hour progress for sobriety as an important measurement for dealing with recovery. The phrase “one day at a time” is familiar to many people and is especially applicable to those going through popular treatment programs.

Abstaining from use is related to Islam, where the emphasis is on not engaging in any behavior that would sever a practitioner’s identification with Islam. While sinners can look to a merciful God and carry out good deeds to improve their connection to their deity, any substance use even in moderation, is labeled Haram (forbidden) and cannot be used. Most treatment programs emphasize not using any substances. Because of the powerful nature of addiction, it is important to stay away from any use, even ones that were not previously addicted to, because of the threat of relapse.

World Religion News has written about the use of meditation and completion as a part of treatment, either included as part of a larger use of treatment or exclusively. This is a fundamental part of Sikhism. The purpose of Sikhism is to build a close relationship with God. Inner reflection is a tool to assist with this progress. An inner reflection is also a tool for healing in from dependence on substances. Both are focused, Sikhism on one’s relationship with God and for someone afflicted on how their life is better sober and what they can do to continue on their continued path.

Jainism comes from the word “jina” which means to conquer. While acknowledging that addiction is a lifelong affliction, many people seeking sobriety speak of “conquering” addiction. The use of yoga in Jainism and Hinduism are designed to align the body to the mind and the spirit. The idea of balance and achieving inner peace is also connected to addiction therapy and shifting of priorities.

Confession is a part of redemption. One must be honest with oneself to be able to move forward and know what to be accountable for. Two religions that you would not associate together, Buddhism and Scientology, both promote this. For Buddishm, the first step to redemption is a confession. The Buddha himself confessed all his misdeeds as a foundational step for achieving enlightenment. For Buddhism, the idea of salvation is connected to personal words and deeds. Buddha said in his last address to his followers: “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” Part of that work involves constantly being mindful of actions and confessing to others about misactions. For Scientology, personal responsibility is expounded about for rehabilitation. An individual must take responsibility and make amends. But for that to occur Scientology’s Justice codes are based on honesty in admitting transgressions or faults. An individual’s responsibility for redemption is also part of Hinduism, where the path to spiritual redemption is based on the behavior one has.

Forgiveness is part of redemption, usually after an honest accounting of one’s actions. It is the eighth step in AA, where you make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them. In Islam, forgiveness is the prerequisite for peace. “Although the just penalty for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by God. He does not love the unjust.” Christ’s last words are “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The practice of removing unhealthy emotions is connected to the delaying of spiritual fulfillment and sobriety.

The key difference between the redemption sought by religion and secular is the intervention of the divine. Both articulate the necessity of hard work, personal reflection, and daily affirmation to break the chains of captivity. Some religions don’t believe in the idea of redemption because they are based on the process of learning from one’s mistakes. Wiccans do not believe in salvation, but in doing good deeds. For Satanists it is about learning “When a Satanist commits a wrong, he realizes that it is natural to make a mistake – and if he is truly sorry for what he has done, he will learn from it and take care not to do the same thing again.”

A recent study argued that “the only difference between religious-based and science-based addiction treatment paradigms was the rhetoric and rationale used to support each.” The notion of redemption is complicated and divergent for each religion. Yet there are universal ideas. Forgiveness, honesty, hard work, abstaining from bad behavior, and self-reflection. These closely mirror many of the steps toward recovery for addiction. All seek to free themselves from whatever oppression they are in.

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