What is Spirituality in Recovery?
You’re probably wondering if you have to be a spiritual or religious person to hear this. The short answer is no and we’ll talk more about that. If you are used to hearing about 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous then you have likely known that they push spirituality and religion into their program. Here at Live Rehab we do not do this. Your treatment should be unique to you and your experience so the purpose of this is to show you how you can incorporate spirituality into your treatment program in your own way. Recovery from addiction should not have rules or parameters.
Your Addiction Recovery treatment should allow you to explore your own behavior and spiritual beliefs and then you should be able to choose how you want to incorporate your practice into your daily life.
Your Worldview is Your Life Meaning
One aspect of spirituality is your worldview.
Your worldview is how you perceive and experience the world, the way you live your life, your point of view, your philosophy, principles, values, emotions, and ethics. It’s the human experience. All of this plays a significant role in recovery and substance abuse addiction treatment.
The reason this is important is that what you see and do is not how everyone else sees and views things. Everyone has their own unique worldview and spiritual belief and you need to understand that and figure out how to embrace your worldview to benefit your situation.
For example, you may view drugs, alcohol, or porn as problematic as it’s affected your life but your neighbor may view correlate these activities with positive emotions or a way to have fun and relax. Just because he sees it that way doesn’t mean he’s wrong, it just means it hasn’t affected him in the same ways as it’s affected you.
So as you work through this, you will run across people in your social network and on the internet who are going to have vastly different opinions on this topic. That doesn’t mean their opinions are wrong or you should ignore them but you will need to take some to self reflect on your values and ethics. What kind of person do you want to be and how has this addiction impacted that? Is it holding you back?
The Role of Spirituality in Addiction Recovery
According to Dr. Christina Puchalski from the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, “spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”
Spirituality and religion are big influences in a person’s worldview. A lot of people turn to their religion for support or embrace spirituality. Spirituality is not the same thing as religion so just remember that. You can be both spiritual and religious or you can be spiritual without a religious practice. It’s your choice.
Reflection can be obtained through actions like journaling, meditation or just being still and living in the moment. It’s important for you to come up with your own unique values and discover what is important to you and then begin to live your life based on your own rule book. This in itself can give you a spiritual experience and can improve your spiritual life.
So I encourage you to take time each day, it can be as little as 5 minutes per day or some people prefer longer sessions of up to an hour, to get to know your own self and from this moment forward, making sure your actions come from what you are and who you want to be. It’s a process and you will grow as time goes on and as you are able to increase the amount of time you spend on self discovery. You will overtime reap the benefits of your spiritual progress.
Do I have to be a spiritual person to hear this?
In a BACP article, Peter Hillan writes, “There is a wealth of literature, mostly from the US, on the relationship between religion, spirituality and problematic substance use. Much of the evidence seems to suggest that, as religious or spiritual practices increase, substance use decreases: ‘[the] widespread belief that spirituality is important in recovery is consistent with findings to date”.
So, again, do you need to be spiritual in recovery to hear this?
No, absolutely not. And that’s because spirituality and your worldview is not what you might think it is and in fact, it’s so broad you might surprise yourself and realize you’re more spiritual than you think. The official definition of spirituality is this: the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Now you might be thinking well I don’t believe in spirits so let’s break that down even further. If you look at the definition of spirit the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.
So we all have character, we all have attitudes or moods – things we can’t touch. So if you go back to the definition of spirituality it’s being concerned with those things you can’t touch rather than those things you can.
So really spirituality is what you make of it. It’s connecting with your inner self or higher power if you have one. And once you start to practice more self care and being in tune with your inner soul then you’ll start to really feel things you never knew you were capable of feeling which is super important when in recovery. Being in tune with your own self. So let’s dive into that topic – why spirituality in addiction recovery and sobriety is important
Why Spirituality is Important in Recovery
Spirituality – whatever that means to you – is very important especially if you’re tackling an addiction. Spirituality in addiction treatment programs provides hope and meaning. It gives you somewhere to turn when it feels like nobody else is really understanding or able to get you. It helps you get more in tune with your own self, feelings, and connections to the world. As humans we all have the desire to be connected in a non physical sense. When you’re in recovery or trying to beat an addiction, spirituality can help you get further and can help you stay grounded when times get really tough.
For example, if you have a solid spiritual practice in place – like meditation, prayer, video, yoga, exercise, deep breathing, journaling doesn’t matter what it is, but if you practice every day then if you feel triggered one day yet take that time to connect with yourself you’ll have a better chance at being able to overcome that trigger.
Spirituality in recovery gives you purpose and when in recovery it can be difficult to know what that purpose is – sometimes it starts with just a feeling and that’s why it’s important to try to understand your own spiritual connectedness so that you have something you can turn to whenever you need. Something that is always there, something that’s not physical or dependent on anything other than your own self and mind.
Spirituality VS. Religion
A lot of times when we talk about spirituality, people often mistake that as talking about religion. You can be religious and have a spiritual practice and you can be not religious and have a spiritual practice. But just because you are religious does not necessarily mean you are a spiritual person.
The official definition of religion is: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Now some people go to church every Sunday, believe in God, and practice a religion – whatever that religion means to them. At the same time, things like prayer and having that divine connection with God is what would be the spiritual side of religion.
But some of you may not practice a religion. You may not go to church or even believe in God – you can still have a spiritual practice though. You can connect with something higher than yourself or you can connect with just you – your inner soul. It’s whatever works for you.
So if you’re spiritual and you practice a religion – great. Faith is important especially in recovery.
If you’re not a religious person there’s no need to feel like you have to be religious for the sake of recovery or fighting an addiction. Just do what feels right for you. Let’s talk more about that – how to find what feels right for you.
Practice What Feels Right For You
A spiritual journey is a process and definitely not one size fits all. For some of you, your spiritual practice may be digging deeper into what you already do – for instance if you pray to God or a higher power, it’s honing in on that and stepping up your commitment during your recovery. For others it may start from scratch, figuring out where you fit in all this. It’s okay to take it slow but it’s important to do spiritual work every day. It may be going to church or church group, maybe more prayer, you could focus on meditation more. If you’re unsure where to start, start with some youtube videos and maybe something will click or something will resonate with you. I once had a student who said they weren’t spiritual – they were atheists and they only believe in science. I challenged them to watch more science and nature videos, documentaries, and then gave them the task to go outside and connect with the world – the trees, the sky, the clouds, the sun. After a few weeks they were amazed at how they thought that the whole spiritual piece of this wouldn’t fit but in reality because they had the flexibility to do it on their own terms the way they felt they could benefit, they realized that their spiritual practice was connected with science. And you can do that too. It’s important to make sure that whatever you decide to do doesn’t feel forced or fake in any way.
If you’re new to spirituality then try a lot of different things until something clicks. Like you could try different churches, different types of meditations, yoga classes, youtube videos, whatever works. And it’s always okay to abandon something if it stops working or doesn’t feel good. Spirituality is about the process and not about the to-do list – it’s not like I’ve meditated today, check, when in reality you’re just meditating to get it over with. If that’s what you’re feeling then try something else.
The reason it’s important to understand your worldview is so that you can be more in tune with yourself. When you are more in tune with yourself you will be able to then in turn have more empathy for other people and this is a big step in being able to navigate your social relationships. These are the benefits of spirituality.
How You Can Be More In Tune With Yourself and Your Behavior
Being in tune with yourself isn’t easy and definitely doesn’t come naturally. It takes work and the ability to be self-aware. One thing to think about is whether or not you’re actually living in the present moment or are you constantly thinking about your past or what comes next? Think about this very moment. ARe you listening to my voice or are you thinking about your to-do list – housework, stuff going on at work, your friends, family drama. LIving in the now, in this moment, is a good first step to being more in tune with yourself.
Think of this as like getting to know someone that you don’t really know. Now is the perfect time to do this. As you progress through your recovery you are going to be a different person and you need to get to know that person – what do you really like? What are you passionate about? What irritates you? What do you love?
Start today by recognizing when your mind starts to wander and bring it back to the present moment. It sounds easy but as you move on through the day I think you’ll be surprised how difficult this little task actually is. This is especially true when you have a lot going on around you. I know most people are busy with work, school, parenting, friends, family and so on. Being on auto-pilot is naturally how humans progress through the day. It takes concentration and determination to train your mind to live more presently but once you are able to do this often, you will see how big of an impact this can have on your overall physical health, mental health and ability to control social situations.
Incorporating Meditation into Your Life
One way to help speed up the process is to start a meditation practice. You can find free videos on youtube, spotify or itunes. But if you take time out every day you’ll learn how to incorporate the now into your everyday life. Hundreds of thousands of people have used mindfulness meditation as a tool to combat negative emotions. Meditative practices have been proven to help regulate emotions which is helpful in reducing triggers and managing impulse control. Meditation doesn’t have to be long or hard. You can start by doing 5-10 minutes per day and then work your way up. If you can swing an app, that’s usually very helpful so you can track your progress. Most people tend to have preferences when it comes to their meditative practices and just like what we’ve been talking about here, it’s about this understanding that not everyone needs or wants the same things. So you may prefer short guided meditations while someone else may prefer longer unguided meditations. You’ll never know your own preferences unless you try a variety of methods. I usually tell my students to take the first two weeks and try different things; different meditations, laying down, sitting up, eyes open, eyes closed, walking meditations etc. and you’ll find your own preference that provides you with positive mediational effects as you explore. Meditation can help you explore meaning in life and has also been shown to help with mental health disorders and help physically like lowering blood pressure and increasing the quality of sleep you get.
Your Recovery Journey
Thanks for being here and pushing through this topic. It’s not an easy discussion especially for those in active addiction and definitely very sensitive as everyone has the right to feel the way they want to feel and believe what they want to believe, or what’s true to their own heart. Spirituality in recovery is just about that – it’s connecting with the divine or your true inner self. Knowing that everyone else has a slightly different worldview can also be helpful when confronting family and friends and can be impactful in avoiding conflict and creating empathy. Remember, context is everything in situations and unless someone is literally inside your head knowing what you see, what you’ve seen, and how you think they will likely not ever be able to get the full picture and being okay with that is an important part of recovery. It’s how you grow as a person and how you are able to create space between your thoughts and feelings and your actions or what you say to people. I know it’s easier said than done but like everything else the more practice you put in the better you will get at being able to control the things you say and do in a way that positively contributes to a healthy recovery.
If you are looking for an addiction and recovery treatment program that isn’t 12-steps like Alcoholics Anonymous then check out Live Rehab. We use a holistic approach towards sobriety and kicking addictions. If you struggle with a behavior addiction or substance use disorder like alcohol addiction and want something that is flexible, our program offers just that. Not everyone needs or is able to attend a traditional in-patient or outpatient formal treatment center. Live Rehab is an opportunity for people who struggle with drug or alcohol treatment and need more of an individualized treatment and aftercare plan.