Can Addiction Be Cured?
In today’s world, most addiction treatment professionals view addiction as an incurable disease, which can only be managed and controlled using ongoing aftercare programs. In other words, every addict will always be a recovering addict, and cannot hope to become a former, or cured, addict.
Bill Wilson, founding father of Alcoholics Anonymous, told a different story. In regards to a conversation with his friend, Ebbie, Bill wrote the following –
Then over and over Ebbie would say something like this: "Bill, it isn't a bit like being on the water wagon. You don't fight the desire to drink — you get released from it. I never had such a feeling before."
Such was the sum of what Ebbie had extracted from his Oxford Group friends and had transmitted to me that day. While these simple ideas were not new, they certainly hit me like tons of brick. Today we understand just why that was . . . one alcoholic was talking to another as no one else can. Two or three weeks later, December 11th to be exact, I staggered into the Charles B. Towns Hospital, that famous drying-out emporium on Central Park West, New York City. I'd been there before."
Of course, I'd once hoped to be among the small percentage of victims who now and then escape their vengeance. But this outside hope was now gone. I was about to hit bottom. That verdict of science — the obsession that condemned me to drink and the allergy that condemned me to die — was about to do the trick. That's where the medical science, personified by this benign little doctor, began to fit it in. Held in the hands of one alcoholic talking to the next, this double-edged truth was a sledgehammer which could shatter the tough alcoholic's ego at depth and lay him wide open to the grace of God.
In my case it was of course Dr. Silkworth who swung the sledge while my friend Ebbie carried to me the spiritual principles and the grace which brought on my sudden spiritual awakening at the Hospital three days later. [Dec. 14, 1934] I immediately knew that I was a free man.
According to Bill, his addiction was cured. Vanished, erased, gonzo. Bill’s spiritual awakening was an experience he wanted to share with other alcoholics, which is the reason he, Ebbie, and several others founded Alcoholics Anonymous and wrote the 12 Steps. They wanted to tell the world that they had discovered a spiritual cure for a spiritual disease, which is how Bill defined alcoholism – as a spiritual disease.
A.A. is a truly wonderful organization, which has helped untold numbers of people suffering from addiction. But somewhere along the way, A.A.’s original message, which is that people can be cured of addiction, has been lost. Instead, we are told that addiction is a wolf always waiting just outside the door, ready to devour us. Bill Wilson’s empowering message that we can, indeed, become freed from addiction has been replaced with a victim mentality. We’re told that without ongoing, lifelong aftercare treatment programs, we are sure to fall prey to addiction. Relapse and ruination are certain, we’re taught, because we suffer from an incurable disease.
I’m not sure quite how Bill W’s original message was lost in the shuffle, nor why attitudes have shifted away from the original view of addiction as a curable disease. But in my personal experience with addiction, one thing is certain. A.A.’s original principle that a spiritual disease can be cured using a spiritual approach is true. I know this approach works, because it worked for me, using 3 of Bill’s 12 Steps. A spiritual awakening followed, which literally removed my own twenty-year addiction overnight. Sixteen years have since passed and the overwhelming urge, which drove me to drink for two decades, has never returned.
While there are many roads to recovery, and a spiritual approach might not be for everyone, I’d love to see the addiction community return to its founder’s original principles, which teach that not only can addiction be controlled, it can also be cured.
Author – Three Steps to Recovery