Dealing with Addictions

Dealing with Addictions 620x413
Many of us have developed addictions of one kind or another, as a way of relieving stress. Some, like drugs, alcohol and smoking are socially sanctioned. Others, like drivenness, perfection and workaholism are often highly praised in a materialistic society. Still others, like sex, pornography and gambling are so readily available on the internet, that they’ve practically become socially acceptable.

None of us are immune to addiction, and there are even several well-known Baha’is in the history of the Faith who have struggled with addictions such as alcoholism, and they’ve reported on the transformative power of the Faith for being able to overcome this addiction.

By the time Enoch [Olinga, Knight of Baha’u’llah and Hand of the Cause] came into contact with the Faith in 1951 his personal life had assumed an entirely new aspect; he was now married and had his first children; he was a gifted translator working for the government, but also a somewhat disillusioned man who had become a very heavy drinker, a fact of which the government service that employed him had become aware and which led to his dismissal, in spite of his marked capacity and relatively long record of service. Unfortunately the reports on this serious impairment to the discharge of his duties had already gone through when Enoch accepted the Faith and upon his enrolment gave up all alcohol immediately.1

Another example of a well known Baha’i dealing with addiction is Angus Cowan, who played a pivotal role in introducing the Baha’i Faith to Canada’s aboriginal peoples and served as a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors for the Americas. Prior to becoming a Baha’i, he had a serious drinking problem, and the following story relays what happened:

Angus had started drinking when he was in the Air Force and his drinking progressed as he became more successful… Jamie [Bond] suggested he try something – he take one verse from “Communion with God” and read it before he got out of bed in the morning… Jamie said to do that every day for one month and see what happened. Angus had tests with alcohol. He failed one and passed the rest and the desire left him. He didn’t have to fight alcohol or go to Alcoholics Anonymous. He wasn’t even bothered going into beer parlours with fellow salesmen, or going into cocktail lounges with his staff. He would drink pop when he went in and this didn’t bother him. He knew that this wasn’t natural, that there was something new that had happened to him. The only thing he was doing differently was reading the prayers. He knew there must be a power in the words. He could think of nothing else… soon after he signed his card… Angus found out it wasn’t that easy to follow the laws… it was between the interview and being accepted as Baha’is that Angus took a drink, rationalizing it, saying “Well, we’re not Baha’is yet”, and went and had a beer. He recalled: “It was when I was doing that, that I realized I couldn’t beat liquor. That’s why, when I did pass the test (of alcohol) – it was such a confirmation to me – because I realized it wasn’t me. The desire had left me completely. I never had to fight it; so therefore I know there was a power beyond me that was involved there, and that’s what really confirmed me in the power of the Cause.2

Some Baha’is wonder if it’s OK to turn to 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA); Narcotics Anonymous (NA); Alcoholics Anonymous (Al-Anon) and many others for support. In fact the 12-Steps and the 12-Step Slogans of AA have lots of parallels with the Baha’i Writings. The Universal House of Justice has said:

There is no objection to Baha’is being members of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is an association that does a great deal of good in assisting alcoholics to overcome their lamentable condition. The sharing of experience which the members undertake does not conflict with the Baha’i prohibition on the confession of sins; it is more in the nature of the therapeutic relationship between a patient and a psychiatrist.3

There is also the Baha’i Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions and Abuse (BNASAA), which is a committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, and the committee has been providing yearly workshops, plenary sessions and sharing circles for nearly 25 years at Baha’i schools throughout Canada and the United States, and they’ve played a major role in transforming the lives of many – including myself – which you can read about here.

There are also some great books by Baha’is on the subject of addiction. Baha’i author Grace Reed for instance, has written two books about dealing with addictions:

In her book Negotiating Shadows, Reed traces her life from birth into poverty and an abusive childhood, into her womanhood as an addict. We accompany her on her dark journey as she negotiates the conflicts of life (via Alcoholics Anonymous and the Baha’i Faith) on her way to her spiritual awakening.

Her second book entitled Needs was written after her two year exposure and research with addicted at-risk youth (aged 13 to 17) on the streets and in the juvenile justice system of the US. It’s an important book for those teaching junior youth!

Another Baha’i author dealing with this topic is Dr. Abdul Missagh Ghadirian, who has also written two books on addictions:

In his book Alcohol and Drug Abuse: A Psychosocial And Spiritual Approach Dr. Ghadirian examines how families, communities and even entire nations are harmed by the individual’s choice to use illegal drugs, and he looks at the spiritual dimensions of both prevention and recovery in light of the Baha’i Teachings.

The book Substance Abuse: A Baha’i Perspective provides accurate, up-to-date information about diverse addictive substances including alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. It is a book for both the general public and for professionals. While its styles is clear and easy to understand for those who are directly affected by substance abuse, it will also be useful to communities and institutions dealing with substance abuse issues and policies on the local, national, and global level.

To end this article, I’d like to share a prayer given to us by Abdu’l-Baha to release us from our addictions:

O Divine Providence! Bestow Thou in all things purity and cleanliness upon the people of Baha. Grant that they be freed from all defilement, and released from all addictions. Save them from committing any repugnant act, unbind them from the chains of every evil habit, that they may live pure and free, wholesome and cleanly, worthy to serve at Thy Sacred Threshold and fit to be related to their Lord. Deliver them from intoxicating drinks and tobacco, save them, rescue them, from this opium that bringeth on madness, suffer them to enjoy the sweet savours of holiness, that they may drink deep of the mystic cup of heavenly love and know the rapture of being drawn ever closer unto the Realm of the All-Glorious. For it is even as Thou hast said: ‘All that thou hast in thy cellar will not appease the thirst of my love—bring me, O cup-bearer, of the wine of the spirit a cup full as the sea!4


  1. In Memoriam, Baha’i World, Vol. 18: 1979-1983, p.618 []
  2. Pat Verge, Angus from the Heart, p.25-26 []
  3. The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Feb 7, Issues concerning community functioning []
  4. Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 149-150 []

About the Author

Susan Gammage, MES, Certified Life Coach, author, educator and researcher, maintains an active Baha'i-inspired life coaching practice, which focuses on applying Baha'i principles to day-to-day situations. She is the author of "Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies", a compilation of quotes from the Baha'i Writings and is currently working on several other books including a Baha'i Perspective on "Overcoming Anxiety and Depression"; "The Courage to be Chaste in a Sexual World"; the "Baha'i Marriage Manual" and "The Spiritual Roots of Disease". Visit her Bookstore; get your Free E-Books ; sign up for her Newsletter; and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

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Discussion 12 Comments

  1. Susan, have you read my book, Love, Lust and the Longing for God? I write extensively about 12-step programs and many of the issues surrounding addiction. Though it is not a “Baha’i” book, it is written from a Baha’i perspective. You might find it interesting.

    1. Have we all not met extremely capable people who were/are addicted to something? One of the chief remedies to addiction is to become so passionately involved with something productive that there simply isn’t time to think about the addiction. How important then is it for young people to find their passion! How important is it for friends and family to support them in the development of their passion!

  2. This is a good article. I like the references to Baha’is who have had to overcome alcoholism. It certainly dispels the stigma of being an alcoholic that still exists in some Baha’i communities. Interestingly, although many alcoholics have been able to recover using Baha’i prayers and teachings alone, I still think 12-step programs have a place of importance. I have known some alcoholics that are Baha’is who needed the simple tools presented in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) before being able to comprehend prayer, how it works, how to go about praying, etc. According to some of the research I have run across there are many different types of alcoholics; some were maintenance drinkers, some were periodic drinkers, some had the obsession removed soon after they stopped drinking and others for whom the obsession lingered for several months or years. I don’t believe that there has yet been biochemical research done with a large sample of alcoholics that fully explains the nature of these differences or why they exist. What is truly remarkable is that for the first time in history, (excluding the Washingtonians in the 19th century who were broken up due to political differences), millions of alcoholics have a viable means for arresting their alcoholism. Although there are alcoholics in AA who relapse into their disease, large numbers of AA members have been able to maintain long-term sobriety (for as long as 40 to 50 years in some cases). Education is still needed in the area of how an alcoholic needs to protect him- or herself from relapse after a major surgery where central nervous system (CNS) depressants are used to control pain. I have seen many alcoholics who after a major surgery, relapse because they don’t know how to wean themselves off the heavy CNS depressant medications that are required post-surgery. There are some new medical protocols for medicating alcoholics post-surgery, which can contribute greatly to relapse prevention, and when these techniques become widespread, we could we see a decrease in the number of people who relapse into drinking that is out of control. It becomes important for Baha’is to know about this when, for example, a Baha’i with long-term sobriety relapses after a surgery. If they are flagrant about their drinking, they could, with good reason, be reprimanded for violating Baha’i laws. However, the way such a case is handled would probably be different for the Baha’i recovering from a surgery and a Baha’i who is an alcoholic that has never stopped drinking. I believe an Assembly would need to take into account, this sort of difference, when planning to meet with an alcoholic whose drinking is interfering with community life. Perhaps that is why there is no “cookie cutter” solution for dealing with violations of Baha’i law, in general, as well as in the case of alcohol abuse. There are even more areas where further knowledge is needed for fair application of the Baha’i law and compassionate treatment of the alcoholic, or for that matter, any Baha’i who presents with other illnesses that impact relationships with people and the community. I have not heard of much discussion about these sorts of complexities, but believe that we need to start talking about them if we are to deal effectively with problems in the Baha’i community related to alcoholism and other addictions or unacceptable behaviors. Thank you for providing a forum for this sort of discussion to take place.

  3. Here’s a prayer that may be relevant to this discussion. I like it because it’s short and I’ve been able to memorize it.

    O my Glorious Lord! Help me to refrain from ever irregular inclination; to subdue every rebellious passion; to purify the motives of my conduct; to conform myself to that meekness which no provocation can ruffle; to that patience which no affliction can overwhelm; to that integrity which no self-interest can shake; that I may be qualified to serve Thee and to teach Thy Word.

    It’s found in a Dutch prayer book, attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Unfortunately, “no original found and its authenticity is in question.”
    (See http://bahai-library.com/uhj_dutch_prayer_book)

  4. Paul Vreeland, In looking on-line for this prayer, this is what I found: (4)
    O my Glorious Lord! Help me to refrain from ever irregular inclination; to subdue every rebelious passion; to purify the motives of my conduct; to conform myself to that meekness which no provocation can ruffle; to that patience which no affliction can overwhelm; to that integrity which no self-interest can shake; that I may be qualified to serve Thee and to teach Thy Word.
    (Some Bahá’í Prayers, no. 72, p.77; attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, no original found and its authenticity is in question)
    I found the above quote in: English Sources and Authenticity of Fifteen Prayers in the Dutch Prayer Book Bahá’í Gebeden by Universal House of Justice 2001-10-22

  5. Note: Typo in above quote. Rebelious should be rebellious

    I found the quote I just posted at the following url: bahai-library.com/uhj_dutch_prayer_book‎

    I hope you find this helpful. All the best, Nona

  6. Thanks for this interesting article.
    I am interested in the exploration of the other addictions mentioned in the article, such as “workaholism”, or “Perfectionism” or as another comment mentioned, addiction to food…
    I guess in these cases, the ideal to strive for is moderation … would value hearing others’ thoughts of these other forms of addiction. OR would gladly be pointed to further reading materials 🙂

  7. Thank you Susan for promoting my books on alcoholism and the after effects and for the wonderful comment by Lynn Star and all—poverty (of mind and body) seems to be the root of the reason people turn to addictive substances. I am still doing creative expression research on the subject and writing my next book. We have started a Friendship Table downtown Portland on SW 10th at Behind the Museum Japanese Tea and if interested e-mail me for details. Love to all—Grace Eagle

  8. Beautiful article,

    I also think much more of an alarming addiction that is not well written about is the addiction to food.
    Obesity rates and NCD rates are appalling in the world.

  9. Hello,
    Please contact me.
    I am a so we Bahai, and would like any help in contacting other sober Bahai’s. I’ve struggled with sponcers in AS, because they are not Haha I, and when I talk about the faith, we end up talking about that and not my recovery. …Go figure.
    Any help will be much appreciated.
    Damien G.

    1. Dear Damien
      My name is Mogens Christian Jørgensen and I saw your blog.
      I too struggle and find as does seem to cut it though I firmly believe that it has a beautiful set of God given
      Principles.
      I certainly would like to share my
      Struggle with a fellow Baha’i who also can relate.
      The faith is very dear to me and I love it with all my heart and soul.
      Please feel free to call me at
      623-522-9300.
      Allah’u’abha!
      Mogens

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