What's Up With The Sunrise? (Exploring The Spirituality Of Addiction)

addiction spirituality Mar 03, 2023



The Journey is a rock musical I initially wrote to simply tell a story about addiction and recovery. But over the years it's evolved into an entire program that goes a lot deeper in terms of examining the spiritual aspect of addiction. 

Right out if the gate, the show opens with the image of a silhouette that gradually appears in front of a sunrise, and we hear the following narration:

As I stand in the East, and the first rays of sunlight dance upon the horizon, I feel welcome.

I feel connected.
I feel like I belong.

Yet I know that I will be leaving this place, as it is time for my journey to begin.

Just as the sun rises out of the East and makes its way across the sky, I know that I, too, have a Path. I don’t know what that path holds for me. There may be dangerous places along the way, there may be painful places. Yet just as the Sun must give itself away to the darkness that it may rise again, I know that I, too, will one day return to this place.

This place which feels like home.
This place which is the beginning of Life.

This place where the voices greet me, singing, "Welcome, for you deserve to be here."

Watch video: "Beginnings" (Opening scene from The Journey)



This short scene sets the stage for a compelling discussion on the relationship between addiction and the desire for spiritual connection. It starts by describing an almost blissful state of being:

"I feel welcome, I feel connected. I feel like I belong."

I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a pretty good place to be.

This opens the door for a discussion on the concept of "original wholeness." This would imply a state of being where all needs are met; we have no comprehension of what it would mean to have an unmet need. This is the magical place where Life comes from, the place of our original spiritual connection. 



But it goes on to say that we don't get to stay in this place. In other words, we're getting ready to have our human experience. We aren't perfect. We will struggle with issues of self-will, right from wrong, recognizing our own shortcomings, and so on.

We leave this place of feeling connected. We experience separation. In some ways this might be regarded as the original trauma we experience as part of our spiritual journey and subsequent recovery.



It's not a stretch to view the use of mood-altering substances or behaviors as perhaps an attempt to reclaim that original feeling of wholeness, of belonging, and... connection.

All of this is implied in the opening narration of The Journey. The spiritual journey of life is one that starts out in a blissful, special place. Eden. Paradise. The magical innocence of childhood. But we don't get to stay in that place. We experience a loss of connection. And we want to reclaim that connection. Unfortunately, in our attempt to experience the feeling of connection, it's not uncommon to fall into patterns of behavior that become self-defeating, and in some cases even self-destructive.

From a spiritual perspective, it's almost like the spiritual journey is one of divine tragedy. Our attempts to feel connected result in further loss of self. 



"Yet just as the Sun must give itself a way to the darkness that it may rise again, I know that I too, may one day return to this place." 

Just as the sun rises, so must it set. An integral part of spiritual journey is the move into the darkness. This would translate to a time of going within, to examine the darkness within ourselves. Ultimately we must "give ourselves away," which would suggest a letting go of the "old self" in order to experience the gift of renewal, which comes with the return to the sunrise. We return to the place where our journey began. 



"This place where the voices greet me, saying 'Welcome, for you deserve to be there."

Perhaps one of the most profound spiritual principles is the concept of light coming out of the darkness. Our sunrise metaphor shows that the spiritual journey is one that comes full-circle; by making it through the long dark night of introspection and letting go, we experience the return to the new sunrise and the miracle of renewal, or personal transformation. 

In my years of using this material in treatment groups, I can report that the phrase "Welcome, for you deserve to be here" is one that really resonates with treatment clients. They want that feeling. 

Relative to how deep I can go on the relationship between addiction and spirituality, this short post barely scratches the surface. I recently gave a talk where I go into much more detail about the symbolic meaning of the sunrise. You can view that talk here:

VIDEO: "What's Up With The Sunrise?"

The title of the talk is a playful nod to the fact that sunrise and silhouette images tend to be a pretty common theme throughout a lot of my material. I guess it's sort of what I'm all about...

So the other night I decided to hop online and give a little talk on the symbolic meaning behind the sunrise—both what it means to me personally, as well as how I've incorporated this into my work with adolescent treatment clients for over thirty years.

As I mentioned above, I can actually go sort of deep on this stuff...

In this talk I discuss:

  • The relationship between addiction and the desire for connection
  • Psycho-spiritual development, transition from childhood to adulthood, rites of passage
  • Personal transformation


  • The Medicine Wheel: Life is a continuous process of growth and change
  • The Hero's Journey: A psychological roadmap for personal development
  • Cultural mythology: The power of artistic expression for presenting a message of hope and recovery

I think you'll find this to be an intriguing perspective on how the addiction-recovery process relates to the overall process of psycho-spiritual development. 

Not to mention, you'll learn a lot about me and some of the gory details of my own recovery journey.... 

WATCH VIDEO NOW: "What's Up With The Sunrise?"




What's The Problem?

Addressing Early Stage Substance Use With Teens And Young Adults


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