Cover image for The soul of recovery : uncovering the spiritual dimension in the treatment of addictions
The soul of recovery : uncovering the spiritual dimension in the treatment of addictions
Ringwald, Christopher D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 305 pages ; 25 cm
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BL625.9.R43 R56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Millions of alcoholics and addicts recover through spirituality. In The Soul of Recovery: Uncovering the Spiritual Dimension in the Treatment of Addictions, author and journalist Christopher D. Ringwald tells how and why they seek and achieve these transformations. Ranging as far back as the Washingtonian Total Abstinence Society in 1840, Ringwald illuminates the use of spirituality within a wide range of treatment options--from the famous Twelve Step-style programs to those tailored to the needs of addicted women, Native Americans, or homeless teensnot ready to quit. Focusing on the results rather than the validity of beliefs espoused by these programs, he demonstrates how addicts recover through practices such as self-examination, meditation, prayer and reliance on a self-defined higher power. But the most compelling evidence ofspirituality's importance comes from those directly involved in the process. Ringwald traveled across the country to visit dozens of programs and interview hundreds of addicts, alcoholics, counselors, family members, doctors and scientists. Many share moving stories of suffering, survival, andredemption. A homeless man, a surgeon, a college student, a working mother-each describes the descent into addiction and how spirituality offered a practical, personal means to recovery. Ringwald also examines the controversies surrounding faith-based treatment and the recovery movement, from theconflict between science and spirituality, to skepticism about the "new age" brand of spirituality these programs encourage, to constitutional issues over court-mandated participation in allegedly religious treatment programs. Combining in-depth research with powerful personal accounts, this fascinating exploration of spirituality will provide a fuller understanding of the nature of addiction and how people overcome it.

Author Notes

Christopher D. Ringwald is a journalist who has written on mental health, religion, books, law and social policy for The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Commonweal and Governing. He was named the 2002 Albany Author of the Year, won a first place award from the Catholic PressAssociation, and is author of Faith in Words. Ringwald directs the Faith and Society Project at The Sage Colleges in Albany, N.Y., and is a senior writer at Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. He may be reached via email at or by phone at (518) 292-1727

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Last year's marvelous book Seeds of Grace: A Nun's Reflection on the Spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous told the story of one woman's recovery from alcoholism and how she found deep spiritual sustenance in the AA program. Now comes The Soul of Recovery: Uncovering the Spiritual Dimension in the Treatment of Addictions, a sweeping study that describes the role of spirituality in a number of treatment programs. What is special about this book is its broad ethnographic approach; author Christopher Ringwald traveled across the U.S. to seek out the stories of individuals from all walks of life who feel they have recovered from addiction through some kind of spiritual transformation. Ringwald also interviewed doctors, family members and counselors to understand more about the role spiritual belief can play in successful treatment programs. This is an encouraging, well-researched book on an important topic. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

These very different books share the premise that spirituality rather than pharmacology or will power underlies successful recovery from addiction. Both expand on the idea of spirituality beyond the doctrinal and ritualistic form to a wider range of thought. Mindful Recovery flows out of a Buddhist perspective that substitutes the authors' "ten doorways" for the more rigorous 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Based on research and professional experience, the book argues for "mindfulness," a quality of openness to life's experiences, as a lifestyle for the recovering addict. Presented here are both specific techniques and "practices" (e.g., journaling and meditation) for attaining mindfulness and composite life stories that illustrate various themes. Thomas Bien, a clinical psychologist and lecturer, and Beverly Bien, director of an agency that provides services to the disabled, have written a soothing and sensible self-help book that could be useful to open-minded individuals facing addiction issues. Based on interviews, research reviews, and visits to programs and conferences, The Soul of Recovery is rooted in the Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy, though Ringwald's perspective is more expansive. The author, a reporter for Newsday and director of the Faith and Society Project at the SAGE Colleges in Albany, NY, covers the theoretical relationship between addiction and spirituality; treatment programs (e.g., Hazelden) and specific modalities for women and minorities; the science of addiction and research on effective treatament; and policy implications for recent political initiatives advocating "faith-based" social programs. The result is an impressive, straightforward synthesis of diverse and controversial issues. Both books provide viable alternatives to the "broken brain" thesis of biological psychology/psychiatry. Ringwald's presentation is more analytical, comprehensive, and research based, making it better suited to public and professional libraries. The Biens' book would make a sound addition to specialized collections on alternative approaches to addiction. Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S., Evansville, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
The Soul of Recoveryp. 1
Chapter I Addictions, Spiritual Solutions, and the Insights of Alcoholics Anonymousp. 3
Chapter II The Middle Class and Mainstream Treatmentp. 29
Chapter III Women's Treatment, Women's Spiritualityp. 51
Chapter IV Native American Treatment and Indian Spiritualityp. 79
Chapter V Measuring Results, Measuring the Soul: Science and the Spiritp. 109
Chapter VI Our God, No God: Religious Methods and Secular Approachesp. 135
Chapter VII Harm Reduction: Challenging Tradition on the Street with Transcendencep. 159
Chapter VIII Treating Hard-Core Addicts: from Secular Practicality to Practical Spirituality in Therapeutic Communitiesp. 186
Chapter IX The Recovery Movement: Recovering God, Recovering Selfp. 214
Chapter X Faith-Based Solutions in a Democracyp. 239
Notesp. 271
Bibliography: Abbreviationsp. 289
Indexp. 299