By Valerie Minard
For many, John Coltrane is one of the great American jazz saxophonists and composers. He pushed jazz into new realms during the 1950s and 60s, playing with the likes of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. What perhaps is not so well known is how he kicked heroin addiction cold turkey and attributed his transformation to a spiritual awakening and the “grace of God.”
Biographer J.C. Thomas, author of “Coltrane — Chasin’ the Trane,” says, “With God’s grace, he believed, and his own determination, all things are possible. His readings in religion and philosophy had convinced him that he should now cleanse himself of physical and psychological impurities and dedicate his music to God, in whom he believed with increasing involvement each passing day.”
Heroin addiction has today taken center stage in the U.S., in light of the recent fatal overdose of actor Seymour Hoffman. It more than doubled from 2007 to 2012 and it is an “urgent public health crisis,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
Experts say there are several leading contributors to the epidemic. First, the higher purity of heroin gives a more intense high. Second, it’s cheaper than other hard drugs. But, thirdly, and probably the most important factor, is the increased use of highly addictive prescription painkillers. Once hooked, addicts look for a cheaper high and often find it in heroin.
While many people have been able to get clean through drug treatment programs, therapy, or 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous the process tends to be a long and arduous journey to rehabilitation. And it’s hard to shrug off the label of “once a drug addict, always a drug addict.”
But others, like John Coltrane, have found freedom in reconnecting with their spiritual core. They discovered what they truly craved, above drugs, was to understand their loving relationship to the divine. Once they glimpsed that, their freedom came quickly and was permanent. In referring to his transformation, Coltrane wrote in the liner notes to his “A Love Supreme” album, “During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a, spiritual awakening, which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.”
According to Christian theologian and author Mary Baker Eddy, this spiritual awakening brings self-control and inner strength to claim domination over addiction. She says, “The enslavement of man is not legitimate. It will cease when man enters into his heritage of freedom, his God-given dominion over the material senses.”
This approach — getting rid of the material impurities and discovering and developing God’s grace — has the potential to help individuals and communities arrest this health crisis.