Drug and Alcohol Use: A Pagan Perspective

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Pagans and Alcohol Use

In general, the Pagan population tends to have a very liberal attitude about the reasonable use of alcohol. It's not uncommon to have wine at a ceremony, although there are a number of covens dedicated to serving people in recovery, and those groups naturally have alcohol-free rituals. Most Wiccans and other Pagans will tell you that as long as you can maintain responsible behavior, the use of alcohol is a matter of personal choice.

It's nearly universally agreed upon, however, that abuse of or dependence upon alcohol is something not to be looked at favorably. That's not to say that a Pagan gathering won't have some late-night mead-fueled revelry -- but consumption to the point of losing control is nearly always seen negatively. For one thing, it takes you out of control of your own actions. For another, it can put the well-being of others at risk.

Jason Mankey over at Patheos says, "My chalice is full of alcohol because it honors my gods and my pagan ancestors. Wine is a gift from the divine, and gifts from the gods are not to be taken lightly. Alcohol is a gift with a dangerous, even fatal, edge. It may have helped create society, but it’s also destroyed families and lives. It is a sacred substance not to be trifled with, and as such, it has enormous meaning to me. I don’t drink wine during ritual just because “it tastes good,” I drink it because it’s a part of my faith."

Pagans and Drug Use

As to the use of illegal drugs, while there are certainly people who indulge in them, no reputable coven will endorse the use of drugs in a ritual or ceremony (one notable exception to this would be the case of Native American rituals involving peyote). In fact, drug use is one of the big red flags to look for when seeking out a coven to join -- if someone tells you that getting baked is part of "honoring the Goddess", head for the door.

Pagans are big on the concept of personal responsibility -- and that means that if you choose to engage in negative, illegal, or harmful behavior, you need to be ready to accept the consequences of your actions.

Recovery Programs and Pagans

Just like in the non-Pagan community, sometimes Pagans find themselves battling addiction and treatment. However, many popular recovery plans are often aimed at those who follow a Judeo-Christian philosophy. Often, asking God for assistance is included in the process, as well as atonement for "sins," which people on a Pagan path may not find valid for them. If you're a Pagan, you may find yourself feeling less than comfortable joining a support group that follows the Judeo-Christian ideologies -- and let's face it, it's hard to find a Pagan recovery group. However, they are out there. There are also several books and websites dedicated to Pagans battling addiction (more on those in a moment).

Because most Pagan spiritual paths encourage balance, harmony, and personal responsibility, for some Pagans, recovery is more than just "getting better." It becomes a part of the spiritual practice itself. For a lot of Pagans fighting addiction, the problem lies not in the twelve-step program itself, but in the interpretation of how those twelve steps should be followed.

There are a number of books available for Pagans in recovery from dependence and addiction as well. You may want to check some of these out for ideas:

For online resources, check out some of these Pagan-focused support groups:

In addition, more and more hospitals and medical facilities are offering Pagan chaplaincies, so you may wish to find a local Pagan hospital chaplain who can refer you to the treatment program which bests suits your needs.

Finally, many Unitarian Universalist Churches offer Pagan-friendly recovery support group meetings.

Check with your local UU Church to see if this is an option in your area.

12 Steps for Pagans

A Pagan author named Khoury, of The Sybilline Order, has taken the traditional Twelve Steps and revamped them into a Pagan-friendly form. While this version may not work for every Pagan, or every person in recovery, she's done a nice job with them, and they're worth exploring. She says, "What most do not realize is that the 12 Steps, when suitably reworked to remove Judeo-Christian bias, form an almost foolproof method of spiritual progress, self-knowledge, and attainment of True Will." Check out Khoury's work here: The 12 Steps for Pagans.