Treatment For Addiction – Spiritual or Scientific?

Friday, December 4, 2015

My library is filled with books on natural healing and allopathic medicine. I enjoy reading texts running the full spectrum from alternative healing to, shall we say, the anti-alternative healing camp. Each camp can be insular and shut off from any ideas from the other. But I think that the concept of health itself runs the gamut from the scientific to the mysterious and unexplained.

There is an issue I have been following for a while now concerning the cause and treatment of addiction. The skeptical, scientific group insists on looking at brain waves, activities in certain parts of the brain and believes that the right medication is the only way to correct addiction. In this sense, they believe that addiction happens because the machinery in the brain is faulty. In other words, it is a mechanical problem.

The alternative group looks at everything from energy work to crystals to natural herbal medications and meditation. It appears to me that they believe that addiction is a spiritual problem.

What is the right choice if you are suffering from addiction? I think we have to look at the history of that addiction and the circumstances surrounding your unique case. So, right off the bat, I am aligned with the alternative people because I don’t believe every addiction has the same cause and therefore, will not have the same treatment.

Can you get addicted because you began smoking at 15 and now at age 50 you are struggling with breaking the habit merely because your brain says it needs nicotine? According to the scientists, yes. But I would look at why you are smoking. What are the circumstances under which you pick up the cigarette? Based on that information, I think we (you and I) would have a better idea whether a medication approach, a meditation approach or a combination would work better for you.

I do not mention addiction lightly. At the age of 12, I acquired an eating disorder that has accompanied me throughout my life. At first, it was compulsive eating, then anorexia, then bulimia, then binging and purging, back to starvation periods and polluted ideas about food. I felt uncomfortable around food and with my own hunger. A belly that felt full after a meal communicated to a part of me that I was “fat.”

I am sure that if I’d gone to a doctor I would have been put on anti-depressants and whatever medication they thought I needed based on brain studies. But the problem of the desire to binge, or starve, or even the perverted ideas about eating in general would not have been resolved.

What created that hunger that said “eat sugar and the pain will go away”? What created the belief that I could binge and subsequently starve myself for two days and that “everything would be okay”?

It was that thing that needed to be addressed. Until that pattern was resolved, I would not be healed. Any medication would be like putting band-aids over leaking holes in a dam. I preferred to rebuild the dam.

Today, I am healed. I eat normally; I recognize what “full” feels like. I am not fearful around food because I trust myself to make the right choices. Those attributes would not be available to me had I settled on medication only.

In summary, I think if one is diagnosed as having an addiction we need to look at the person as an individual and consider the spiritual aspect of their diagnosis as well as the structures of the brain. There is not a clear-cut treatment path in the treatment of addiction. Individual history, fitness levels, willingness to face the problem head-on and a supportive environment will also play vital roles in healing.