Gary S. Fisher, Psy. D., C.A.D.C.

healing, integration, authenticity

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out:

Transcendence vs. Egotism

(I make use of a great deal of literature available in this area, more so than previous steps, for anyone needing a starting place to investigate the scientific research demonstrating the positive benefits and importance of prayer and meditation, both for those suffering from addiction, and the human race in general.)


It is one of the basic needs of human beings to seek a connection with something greater than oneself, whether that be an organization, a group of people, or a belief system (look at the way people identify with a sports team for instance), which coupled with the desire to find an altered state of consciousness, are what many feel is the essential driving force behind all addictions. This search for transcendence must be inherent as it cuts across races (Asante, 1984), religions, cultures (Katz, 1973), gender, and age (Chinen, 1986), etc., just as addiction does (which in many ways diminishes Western-based psychological and behavioral etiologies for addiction), and may be a natural part of the human experience (Weil, 1986).


Unfortunately for the addicted individual, the seeking of transcendence or altered states of consciousness, must come through some vehicle other than their addictive behavior. One way is through the continued practice of prayer and meditation (some of which has already begun through the working of the third and seventh steps), that the individual must learn to alter his or her consciousness, transcend their ego, and find God’s will for them, a state that has been equated with what has been termed, “true sanity.” (Laing, 1967, cited in Murphy, 1969, p. 24-25)


A large body of knowledge has been gathered in the last few decades concerning both the value and benefits of prayer and meditation. Over 150 studies, including double-blind (an experiment where neither the participants nor the people administering the study know which group is the experimental and which is the control group), randomized, controlled experiments, have found a statistically significant difference (meaning that it is unlikely something that would happen by chance) in the improvement of physically ill people who were prayed for, many times from a large distance and without the ill person’s knowledge (Chowka, 1996). In over 25 studies that were researched, there was a clear indication of improved psychological and physiological functioning through the use of meditation (Walsh, 1979). Increased energy, creativity, concentration, and overall productivity were some of the positive qualities brought about through participation in meditation in both clinical (Hospital Times, 1970, cited in Goleman, 1971) and non-clinical (Goleman, 1971) populations. Interestingly enough, it also appears that the experience of transcendence through meditation in and of itself, decreases alcohol and drug consumption in both addicted (Benson, 1969; Shapiro & Zifferblatt, 1976) and non-addicted (Tart, 1971) groups of people studied. Other clinical problems closely identified with addicted populations (e.g., narcissism) have also been helped through the use of meditation (Epstein, 1986).


When looking specifically at addicted populations, as far back as the early ‘60’s when Bill Wilson was experimenting with LSD, the use of psychedelic-type substances to produce a spiritual experience designed to free the person of their alcoholism/addiction, has been part of the medical research community. William James in his seminal book, Variety of Religious Experiences, illustrates the tremendous potential a transcendent experience can have on an individual’s life view and lifestyle, as does other more current research and literature (White, 1979; Katz, 1973).


In Hazelden’s follow-up study of patients who had completed their treatment program from 1973-75, researchers found a strong relationship between post-treatment prayer and meditation, and improved social and psychological functioning (Laundergan, 1982). Of significance to this population was both the reduction of negative emotions (e.g., fear) and the increase in positive emotions (e.g., joy, compassion) that appeared to be the direct result of transcendent experiences. In addition, the individual experiences a shift in their motivation and desire from a self-centered one of getting, to a self-transcendent one of giving (Walsh & Vaughan, 1993). It is apparent by much of the more contemporary research, that true psychological and emotional maturity is closely related to a shift from a self-centered, egocentric view of life, to one that is more focused on the well-being of others (Heath, 1983, cited in Walsh & Vaughan, 1993).


While it appears that meditation and prayer are vital to the continued recovery of the addict, there does not appear to be any one precise method needed for positive results. This leaves the individual free to explore any spiritual path (e.g., Transcendental Meditation, the stations of St. John of the Cross, Taoism, etc.) they so chose.