Religious Symbolism

by Ned Wicker
(Wisconsin)

The Pieta

The Pieta

“Recovery is not complete until we become spiritual.” Those words began the presentation by Ashok Baldi, MD, at the 42nd annual Spring Conference of the Wisconsin Association of Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction. He added that healing does not come from doctors, healing “comes from the hand of God.”

From there Baldi shared from his experiences with patients at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital (Wauwatosa, WI). He called addiction a “search for the spirit.” Addicts, said Baldi, need to search for the spirit within themselves and the universe. He desires to teach them to get “high on life.”

Addiction and God needs to make the connection between the “ego and the soul.” The task of the healer is to get to their story, and he added that we need to become the “fly on the wall,” to observe our own behavior in the moment. What does a person feel when something happens?

He talked of the three states a person is in—awake, asleep and dreaming. What happens in between these states, or as Baldi put it, in the fourth state, the void? Baldi drew on the spiritual to fill the void.

Baldi drew from his Hindu background and understanding to make a connection with the patient’s Roman Catholic background. These two seemingly opposite worldviews came together in a significant way to help the patient through addiction and God. Addicts hope for healing and Baldi used the image of the famous sculpture by Michelangelo, “The Pieta,” as a metaphor for self-care. In doing so, Baldi helped the patient make a vital connection between a childhood experience and her present day struggle. Baldi was helping the patient see the sculpture as “holding the body of the addict” until healing comes.

Pieta, c. 1498-1500

Baldi’s sensitivity to the addict and his understanding of the need for the spiritual connection, were key in producing a successful outcome. He talked of our intellectual quotient (IQ), our emotional quotient (EQ) and our spiritual quotient (SQ). The EQ related directly to sobriety, while the SQ centered on our connection to the divine. Understanding of the spiritual component to recovery opens the door to that process.

We are body, mind and spirit. All three need to be addressed. Baldi understands that and brings illumination to the third step of the 12-Step process, when it refers to God, as “we understood him.” Baldi worked with the patient’s understanding of God, did not impose his own, and helped the patient make the connection between the ego and the soul.

The power of the spiritual cannot be overlooked in addiction and God. Medicine can go only so far. Therapy can only go so far. Healing on comes, as Baldi says, from the hand of God.

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