The Soul of Recovery: Uncovering the Spiritual Dimension in the Treatment of Addictions / Edition 1

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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 teens not 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 of spirituality'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, and redemption. 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 the conflict 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An impressive, straightforward synthesis of diverse and controversial issues."—Library Journal

"An encouraging, well-researched book on an important topic."—Publishers Weekly

"A sober and well-documented look at some of the unquestioned claims of the burgeoning recovery movement. What makes 'The Soul of Recovery' stand out from the pack is the way Ringwald approaches the recovery movement as a journalist, not as an evangelist or protagonist. He understands the power of spirituality in treating substance abuse, yet still asks some hard questions."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Ringwald's book is a paradigm shifter, his clear presentation, and extraordinary research can't help but have the reader "thinking outside the box." If anyone is questioning the role that faith plays in the life of an addict this book is for you."—Counselor Magazine

"An articulate and extremely well-reported exploration of how nurturing spiritual beliefs can help addicts recover. As such, The Soul to Recovery is a much-needed and welcome antidote to the prevailing medical paradigm that chalks up troubled human behavior to 'abnormal brain chemistry,' amenable to a pharmaceutical solution. Ringwald shows that the paths to addiction are many, and that the most successful treatment programs are those that help heal the mind and soul."—Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill

"The unqualified best among recent 'recovery' books. Eminently readable."—Ernest Kurtz, Historian

"The Soul of Recovery captures beautifully the role of spirituality in the treatment and recovery of people with addictions. Not only is it immensely informative, but the writing style is captivating, passionate and powerful."—Harold G. Koenig, co-author of the Handbook of Religion and Health

Publishers Weekly
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) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
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 Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195147681
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,150,199
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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 Press Association, and is author of Faith in Words. Ringwald directs the Faith & 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

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2003

    The Real Deal about Addiction Recovery

    As a recovering alcoholic and addict for 19 years and a professional worker in the field for 16 years, this book was so refreshing to read. Most people who work with addicts will tell you that until they achieve some sort of "spiritual experience" often through a faith based program such as AA, NA, etc. they never achieve long-term contented abstinence. Even though the author is outside the field of addiction and is primarily a journalist, he does an astonishing job of surfacing the issues that are the "elephant in the living room" of addiction treatment and recovery. With all due respect to the medical and psychological research and literature, none of it speaks as clearly as this book about what "causes" recovery from addiction

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