Until 2015, my work was in community mental health, with a specialty in substance use disorders. As a licensed clinical social worker and certified alcohol and drug counselor, I witnessed many clients suffering from behavioral health concerns and addiction issues cycle through the "system" from one clinician to the next, year after year. Some clients sought out or were prescribed medication to quell their anxiety, depression and/or to regulate their mood. Still, many experienced unhappiness and at times despair as they tried to navigate their lives. These clients desperately hoped their life would change, that somehow through an external source, a clinician, medication, inpatient treatment they could find relief somewhere, out there. Of course, all the treatment options mentioned are helpful however it seemed something deeper needed to be engaged for any treatment to be effective.
In private and non-profit settings, I've observed untreated substance use disorders as a common cause in those seeking mental health assistance. Often those affected by addiction are unable to admit their inner turmoil, the daily sadness they feel with their family, friends, or themselves. This emotional state holds them captive until something changes…
Mysteriously, in the midst of addiction or alcoholism, a person with addiction will somehow "surrender", and a willingness appears, on openness to try something different. This unexpected readiness most often occurs during a major crisis, such as the loss of an important relationship or employment, a serious illness, a criminal arrest. In the midst of this upheaval, a portal opens, and a willingness previously unknown appears.
As a recovered alcoholic, I recognize alcoholism as a spiritual malady. My untreated alcoholism created a deep selfishness, a self-centeredness, a dishonesty that filled me with fear. I was blocked. My desire to help others, including myself was non-existent. Before recovery, I moved through my days, full of resentment and deep sadness, I was, as stated in the Big Book of AA, “restless, irritable and discontent.” I was fueled by my own angry willfulness. My depression so great finally I turned to behavioral health therapy for depression and thankfully, my intuitive therapist pointed me toward Alcoholics Anonymous. Slowly, when a small amount of willingness (grace?) appeared, I accepted the Twelve Steps of Recovery. I learned within the twelve codified proposals, that a personal self-appraisal was needed to find the root cause of the problem. Little by little, I accepted my troubles as spiritual in nature and my alcoholism as symptomatic of a deeper spiritual malady. With the support and guidance of a recovered alcoholic, who had worked the Twelve Steps, as presented in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I invited a Divine Presence into my life and together, we addressed the years of deep resentment and fear. With a fervent longing, the fear and anger faded away and was replaced by acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness for myself and others. A true miracle of healing.
In 2011, upon completion of the Contemplative Clinical Practice Certification Program at Smith College, I considered contemplative guidance as important to my clinical practice and slowly envisioned a deeper offering apart from the mental health system. In 2015, I opened a small private offering, Inward Grace and have found those who appear are ready to consider asking for help to Something Greater than themselves. Then, this year, in 2019, I returned to spiritual studies and completed the Contemplative Spiritual Director Program at the Alcyon Center in Seal Cove, Maine, an amazing program for those seeking a deeper connection with the Divine and its many disguises.
Now, with the support of caring friends, a loving family, and connection with spiritual advisors, the path continues with Inward Grace, a heart open, contemplative resource for those who seek connection with the Divine Source woven throughout this universe and beyond. Love was the answer all along.
*The word 'spiritual' does not refer to religious matters. All activity which drives the human being forward towards some form of development-physical, emotional, mental, intuitional, social-if it is in advance of her/his present state, is essentially spiritual in nature and is indicative of the livingness of an inner divine entity.