The parallel in division that we see between the multiple spiritual pathways and the multiple recovery pathways is remarkable. Perhaps it is no irony that spirituality and recovery go hand in hand for many people. The notion that there is only one path to reach the same destination is a concept deeply rooted in language and cultural variances. When I consider the rich diversity present in our world, I am filled with an overwhelming gratitude that there are so many different pathways to recovery. I think of how many more lives we would lose if there really was only one pathway to travel on along the journey away from the hell of addiction toward the destination of the beauty of recovery.
With the last name Feldman, people often make the assumption that I am Jewish. While it is true that I have Jewish heritage, I was not raised in the Jewish faith and therefore do not identify as Jewish. Growing up in a non-religious household left the door wide open for me to investigate my spirituality and piece together my own set of beliefs. From a young age, I found myself exploring and picking up little bits of wisdom along the way from religions or spiritual practices such Catholicism, Christianity, Buddhism, Kaballah, Taoism and more. I went from being “saved” by Billy Graham at Veterans Stadium to learning about mindfulness from reading Thich Nhat Hanh. The opportunity to discover for myself what was in alignment with my own inner truth was extraordinarily helpful in recognizing that there isn’t just one right religion or spiritual path for everybody. Instead I found enormous worth in all of the religions and spiritual practices I learned about, and I found even more value in the opportunity to take from them all and weave together a quilt made of threads that contained what felt right for me. I often struggled when faced with dogma or doctrine claiming that one particular way was the only way, and I always knew deep within that this was not true. I was able to recognize that it was impossible for any of these different pathways to be the one and only true path since all of them worked for so many people. I’m forever grateful for having grown up in this lesson because it helped shape my ability to be open-minded and transcend division among pathways.
As a person in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, I’ve experienced a parallel process much like that of my spiritual journey. With a foundation laid down in 12-step programs, people often make the assumption that I remain solely a 12-step program member. While it is true that I have experience with and have gained great insight, knowledge, tools and support from my involvement with 12-step programs, I do not identify as a member of a single one. I was 13 years old when I was first introduced to addiction recovery through treatment and mutual aid groups and went on to experience many different treatment interventions, mutual aid groups, philosophies and approaches when it comes to addiction recovery. Much like my journey through creating a quilt of my own set of spiritual practices and beliefs, I also came to knit together various threads of ideas, tools and practices to support my addiction recovery journey. Additionally, just as I found in my experience with a number of religions, I struggled when confronted with dogma or tradition claiming that one particular recovery strategy, program or pathway was in fact the one and only true path. I found the same inability for that to sit right deep within me for I was able to recognize that it was impossible for any of these different recovery pathways to be the only true path when all of them or components of them worked for so many individuals. I’m forever grateful for having grown up in the recovery process in a way that allowed for appreciation and incorporation of multiple pathways to recovery that transcends any division.
Consider the following example: There is a convention in Philadelphia, PA that attracts attendees from all across the country. Some attendees will be traveling by airplane, others by car, some by train and still others by bus. Some will travel long distances while others will be coming from only blocks away. Some will listen to music during the trip while others will be reading a book along the way. For every attendee of this convention, each has taken either a slightly or even drastically different pathway to reach the same destination. In the end, all are sitting as one in the same place regardless of how they got there. All are thankful that there was access to many airplanes, cars, trains and buses, for if there had only been access to one mode of transportation, many attendees would not have made it to the convention.
Recovery is like this convention. We want as many people as possible to make it to the destination of recovery and in order to do so, we have to ensure that there is a vast array of resources, strategies, tools, services and supports for individuals to self-select and choose from as they embark on their journey. There is no one right path, there is no one only path – there are many, many pathways for individuals to take. There are a multitude of threads that an individual seeking to initiate and sustain recovery can utilize as they piece together and sew their own recovery quilt made up of what works for them. It is time that we all transcend any division between pathways and instead aim to ensure that all of the different threads an individual may need are made accessible, available and supported so they too may find the beauty of recovery. Just as the convention needs attendees to arrive so it can actually become a convention, recovery needs all those who seeking it to arrive so that our world can truly recover.