Spiritual awakening, religious calling, and spiritual/ religious commitment are perhaps more common in late adolescence than at any other time of life. Young people can become plagued by questions about the infinite, and often they find answers by following both traditional and nontraditional paths. "Twice-born souls" are likely to make radical changes in their life course. Likewise, young people with a religious or spiritual calling are likely to make life commitments before the age of twenty. Some young people, on the same spiritual quest, may seek answers through drug experiences, finding truth in visions induced by drugs. This quest for meaning, then, can be expressed in quite different spiritual and nonspiritual ways.
CONCLUSION: CREATING CONTEXTS FOR CONVERSATION
It is important to see adolescent drug and alcohol use in relation to developmental tasks for several reasons. When we understand the adolescent's own meaning for dysfunctional behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse, we can better distinguish developmentally normal from developmentally abnormal drug and alcohol use. Furthermore, we can better address underlying religious and spiritual questions that, left unaddressed, may contribute to drug and alcohol abuse.
Religion and spirituality offer immunity against problem drug and alcohol use because they offer a context and pathway to declare independence, to search for belonging and to find personal or ultimate meaning. But how can we help our children, our brothers and sisters, and our friends to choose a positive path over negative alternatives? How can religion help young people navigate the transition to adulthood?
One answer lies in creating contexts for conversation. Effective religious/spiritual programs (and families) share several features across denominations: They welcome young people. They make it possible, even "cool," for young people to raise and discuss questions of religion and spirituality. They provide adults and peers who listen to and honor young people's questions. And they make it safe to not have the answers.
But what about those young persons who got hooked, who became addicted? Being addicted means being stuck: stuck in a bad habit, stuck in a way of life that is a downward spiral. Being addicted means sometimes feeling like two people. It means thinking you want to stop using, that you are a good caring person, but going out and using again and again, cutting school, hanging out with friends you know are up to no good Being addicted, being hooked, means knowing better but not being able to stop yourself. When sober, you feel bad, sad, guilty. You want to get high again, to feel better. It works for a little while, until you sober up again.
In faith based recovery programs (including AA, NA, Ala-teen, and residential programs) people are encouraged by a fellowship of which they are a member to have faith that a Higher Power will restore them to sanity. Spiritual (faith-based) recovery programs often provoke both spiritual awakenings and a depression that is a natural part of abandoning old, dysfunctional ways.