Though spirituality may be discussed in recovery, spiritual gifts typically are not. Gifts of the Spirit—abilities to hear, see, sense and experience the spiritual realm—and the often misunderstood experience of having these gifts may have a substantial role in active addiction and subsequent relapse.
Spiritual gifts are not necessarily unique to any one group or individual. We all have them, but many shut them down as a result of fear or shaming—both of which play a big role in active addiction. As such, people often use substances to quiet or silence these experiences/gifts, seeing them as a curse instead of a gift from God or a Higher Power. Without an understanding of these gifts, the experiences can lead to relapse.
Of course, some may scoff at the idea of possessing spiritual gifts. But, indeed, everyone has them. However, many may simply not be fully aware of these abilities or recognize very common experiences as gifts of the spirit.
Gift or Curse?
Often times simply referred to as “a gut feeling,” intuition is a spiritual gift—the ability to know or sense a truth without first experiencing it. Being an empath—having the ability to feel the energy and emotions of others, possibly even sensing their thoughts—also falls into this category. Additionally, there are abilities to see, discern, hear, sense and experience the spiritual realm through prophetic dreams, visions, cognitions, auditory encounters, etc.
Though some individuals may ignore or dismiss their gifts, there are those whose spiritual gifts are so strong they are unable to do either. For these individuals, the experience with these gifts likely began in childhood and, given the response of others, may feel more like a curse. In fact, they may have been harshly judged, shamed, questioned or further distorted for sharing or having them—a painful experience of spiritual abuse.
The latter experience coupled with the fact that spiritual gifts that present with this level of intensity cannot simply be shut off creates a desire to numb, silence or suppress these gifts. This is often where the use and abuse of substances come into play, typically leading to active addiction.
Unfortunately, because spiritual gifts are typically not discussed or addressed in recovery, this becomes a setup for relapse even if or when treatment is sought. Once the maladaptive coping skills (addictive substances and processes) utilized to suppress these gifts are removed, the experiences return without any evolved understanding or a new method of managing them.
But, it’s not just those whose gifts have been active since childhood who are at risk of experiencing them as a curse and self-medicating accordingly.
Individuals who go through a spiritual awakening may begin to experience an influx of spiritual gifts without any memory of ever possessing them and without any knowledge, insight or guidance with regard to understanding them. This often creates an intense fear response in the individual and can lead them to either utilize substances to self-medicate or seek therapeutic assistance for what they believe is psychosis. However, even if therapy is sought, unless the helping professional acquired is not well-versed in spiritually transformative or transpersonal experiences, this can lead to misdiagnosis, institutionalization, unemployment, loss of parental rights and more. Of course, the level of judgment, distortion, and shame that accompanies this scenario is even greater and certainly easily leads to substance abuse and addiction.
Clearly, any misunderstanding with regard to spiritual gifts can be detrimental to holistic wellbeing. Whether you’re going through a spiritual awakening or seeing yourself in the scenario of shamed, judged or distorted experiences, you are not alone. However, seeking the assistance of professionals who have a deeper understanding and experience with the spiritual aspect of your existence and the universe itself is key to embracing these gifts.