In his voluminous work THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLIA first published in 1621, the author traces the historical understanding of melancholia or depression as we know it today. Already back in the 16th century this alchemist and physician rightly spoke about depression being a disease of the spirit and that a spiritual solution need be sought for relief.
Paracelsus held the conviction that God has to be part of the healing as melancholia for him was a spiritual disease and so needed a spiritual cure. And now the insight and belief put forward by Paracelsus in the present time is being echoed in our own time by Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and all those who are availing themselves of the spirituality of the Twelve Steps. All members of Twelve Step fellowships who are acknowledging the importance of a belief in a power greater than themselves have the guiding star of hope and meaning in their daily lives.”
The experiencing of those dark symptoms of depression and the hopelessness that they present, can best be understood as a painful dis-ease of the human spirit. The human spirit is filled with anxiety, a hollowness and a lack of purpose or meaning. It is this dis-ease of the human spirit which is the impetus to seek a remedy that will bring an equilibrium of meaning and purpose back into one’s fragmented life.
How often has David Karp, sociologist at Boston University writes about the number of participants in his study of depression, who speak about the benefits of a spirituality in their quest for a remedy to their sadness. The author of Speaking of Sadness was surprised at how many of his interviewed respondents gave credence to a spirituality of their own and how it buoyed their spirits and was a source of light and hope amidst the darkness.
Bill W., also depended on a Higher Power for help in bringing sobriety into his own downward spiral of alcoholism and saving his life. He makes no apologies for his belief in a Power greater than himself. And like Paracelsus, as mentioned above, saw that the cure for melancholia, a spiritual dis-ease, as that of a faith in a Power greater than oneself. As stated in the 3rd Step of Depressed Anonymous “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God to be.”
For me personally, it was only after I had hit bottom with no where to go but up, that I admitted my life was out of control and I prayed to God to help me. That is when I walked into a 12 Step Group meeting and found what I was looking for. Help and wholeness.
SOURCES: Copyright (c) I’ll do it when I feel better. Hugh Smith (2016) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. pgs. 84-85.
Copyright (c) Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression (2017) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.
Today, I celebrate a personal victory. Today, on Veterans Day (USA) 29 years ago I overcame my addiction to cigarettes. I was smoking two packs everyday. Then on the night of the 11th of November, 1985, I had a frightening dream. I dreamt that if I was to continue smoking it would not be long till I developed tongue cancer. Was the message from a Higher Power? Was it my fear come to fruition in that relaxed frame of mind which sounded a warning? Whatever it was and whoever it came from I really didn’t care–all I know is that day I needed to make a decision to quit smoking. By 7pm that evening the decision was made. And from that day forward my life went on without a smoke. I am grateful for the dream that paradoxically, woke me up. Was the dream a manifestation of the “Power greater than myself” that spoke to me in my sleep. How could a dream do what I could not do for myself? Believe me, I tried for years to quit–without any lasting results. I think what occurred that night in my dream enabled me to have a “spiritual awakening“, where my Higher Power did something for me that I was not able to do. Smoking two packs of cigarettes a day is definitely insane. God saved me from myself and for that I am most grateful. I think what got the ball rolling many times before my powerful dream was the fact that I admitted that I was helpless over my addiction. Three years before this event I had made a decision to join a 12 step fellowship recovery group and learned the importance of believing in a power greater than myself. I was ready to follow the prompt of this power 29 years ago.
“The Wright brothers almost childish faith that they could build a machine which would fly was the mainspring of their accomplishment. Without that, nothing could have happened.
We agnostics and atheists were sticking to the idea that self-sufficiency would solve our problems. When others showed us that God-sufficiency worked with them, we began to feel like those who insisted the Wrights would never fly. We were seeing another kind of flight, a spiritual liberation from this world, people who rose above their problems.” Bill W.
Somehow each of us, in our way and in our own time, may come to the fork in the road. We have to decide whether to take the well trod road or take the “road less traveled.” The Wright brothers chose the road less traveled. They believed that they could fly with a machine that looked like a bird. Kittyhawk will always remind us of the childish faith of two brothers who put wings on their dreams. Because of their faith in their dreams, they experienced a spiritual liberation, a spiritual flight if you will. Believing in a Power greater than themselves that places no barrier in the minds and hearts of those who believe, they achieved in their dream that humans can fly.Step Two of Depressed Anonymous tells us that we “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” In my experience with depression I felt that I was going crazy. My mind was a fog. I couldn’t remember a thing. No retention of words I had just read. No memory power at all. I was always feeling that deadly jitteriness in my gut. Sleeping all the time. Feeling so worthless and lacking any self-confidence. Feelings of guilt and shame. Thinking only of what I didn’t like about myself. Beating myself up for past mistakes. All of these gradually squeezed out any hope of feeling different. I felt that I was in a prison –locked into a solitary isolation.
Then came the “spiritual liberation of “believing in a power greater than myself.” Instead of relying solely on self-sufficiency I relied on God-sufficiency. I joined a group of and women who came to the belief that whatever they tried to give them life (addictions to substance, behaviors) and these didn’t work–they came into the fellowship of the Twelve Steps of recovery. For me, I believed that Depressed Anonymous, a Twelve Step program of recovery might help me. In time and with work, and prayer, I found myself gradually breaking out of my prison–brick by brick. People, like myself in the group which I attended, gave me a new map, a map of hope, based on a promise of spiritual liberation. Because of regular attendance at my meetings I saw the light. Others believed in this Power greater than themselves and so did I. I was no longer alone. I believed! The Wright brothers were right!