Spirituality in Alcoholics Anonymous: Essay

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SPIRITUALITY IN ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS: A VALUABLE ADJUNCT TO PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE Alcoholics Anonymous dates back to 1935 when Bill W, a layman, experienced a spiritual reawakening that led him on a path toward recovery from alcoholism. Since that time, countless addicted people have attributed similar relief to this movement. AA is called a spiritual fellowship by its members, but we are only now beginning to understand the mechanisms that underlie this aspect of recovery. The validation of spirituality, a seemingly enigmatic term, must ultimately be based on psychological and physiologic findings. An initial aspect of this task lies in defining spirituality in empirical terms, as was succinctly done by Puchalski et al. as “that which gives people meaning and purpose in life.” They amplify on this by pointing out that it can be achieved “through participation in a religion, but can be much broader than that, such as, belief in God, family, naturalism, rationalism, humanism, and the arts” (1). The use of this term with this connotation is of surprisingly recent origin. Anthropologists have typically applied the word “spiritual” to much more concrete aspects of religious and shamanic practice. Its current usage can be understood to have derived from a number of sources, some of them particular to recent trends in American culture over the last half century. Acceptance of an ecumenical religious orientation has led to an appreciation that the formalities of ritual practice may be less important than the values that many religious denominations hold in common. Acceptance of the cultural basis of practices like meditation, with its relationship to Asian philosophies, and complementary medicine, has added another dimension to this concept. The emergence of AA itself as a potent vehicle for personal transformation has also been influential, as it has

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