Counselor's Corner: Addiction and freedom


Fred Cavaiani

According to James H. Berry, an addiction psychiatrist, “64,000 people died in 2016 from drug overdose. Since 2008, more Americans die each year from overdoses than from car accidents and firearms. From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million Americans died from overdoses. Approximately 88,000 Americans die from alcohol related complications every year and around 430,000 die from tobacco-related causes.”

As much as we can get upset about school shootings, and we should be upset by these, there is an even more serious problem that our culture avoids: Alcoholism and drug addiction which leads to so many deaths and so much damage.

We are an addicted society and we are afraid to look at this and admit this. I suspect that everyone who reads this article knows someone, relative or friend, who is either alcohol or drug addicted. Or it may be yourself who has an addiction disease.

When addiction gets hold of someone everything else in life becomes secondary. Spirituality and embracing our emotions openly and honestly are dismissed by the addicted person. The desire to become tranquilized away from feelings is the hallmark of addictive behavior. It is not solved simply by making the decision to quit drinking and quit drugging. That decision most often doesn’t last because of the deeper physical, psychological and spiritual state of the addicted person.

The best solution is most likely to have a spiritual experience with a group of people who can honestly admit their own addiction as a disease and are willing to come together to support one another in not allowing this dreadful disease to take over.

Many years ago, Richard Rohr wrote a book called “Breathing Underwater” that showed that the 12 step programs with their emphasis on powerlessness is the first foundation of a positive spirituality. He was thinking most concretely about Alcoholics Anonymous.

There are many addictive behaviors running rampant in our society right now. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, and addiction to our electronic devices can stifle a positive way of life.

How do we become free of this so that life can be lived in freedom and depth?

I believe we have forgotten about the power of relationships. The greatest high comes from a relationship with other people and with a God in our life. To do this I must make the effort to relate to other people. In this effort of relatedness to God, people, and everything in creation I reach out to something bigger than myself and discover my true self.

Drugs, alcohol and electronic devices seem to cause us to stop relating to others in an embracing and personal manner. The more I focus on another person, the more I discover myself. The more I focus on what is before me at this moment the more I am relating to something and someone.

Human nature is all about relating with others. Drugs, alcohol and electronic immersion is all about avoiding relating and connecting and is about remaining in fantasy and escapism. Watch people in a public place and watch children walking or sitting down and you will find most on an electronic device avoiding each other. All addiction is avoiding oneself. When this happens there isn’t much wisdom left in the world. This past Saturday my wife and I were at urgent care. I was in the waiting room for a total of 3-1/2 hours.
Rarely in that entire time was there anyone who was not sitting, head bowed, on their electronic device.

What is the solution? I think we all need a better awareness of the importance of relationships and relating to others. Anything that hinders this is not good. I need to internally realize that it is important for me to relate with you in a positive, loving manner. It is important for me to relate and see, in whatever is before me, that there is a presence of the Divine in everyone and everything. I need to connect to this Presence. This brings me more energy, more hope and more Love. Anything that stops me from doing this will quickly become an addiction. And it is most important to realize that when anything becomes an addiction I need to totally let go of it. I let go of addiction when I can admit my powerlessness and associate with others who can do this same. This is why 12 step groups become powerfully spiritual and renewing. We are all in this together. Let us help one another by relating to one another.

Freedom becomes real when addiction is overcome. We all put ourselves in prison when we let addiction take over our society and our personal life.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is