What do you think of when you hear the term “spirituality”? Maybe it’s a church, a type of psychic medium, yoga, or any world religion. Maybe it seems like an elusive, unrealistic concept to some, and a saving grace support system to others. But no matter what your perspective of spirituality might be when it comes to addiction recovery, it’s often commonly talked about. From support groups to church recovery programs to sober homes, there’s a general theme of confession or at least seeking some sort of higher power for inner guidance. However, if we put it simply, sometimes spiritual belief can be as simple as having some sense of life purpose. No matter what you believe, there are ways for anyone to find help from some kind of spirituality in recovery.
Can Spirituality Be Defined?
Obviously, this is a concept that means something completely different to every person. But one of the overall things about spirituality is that it leads people to find some sort of meaning or purpose in life. It serves to sum up a potential “universal” connection with a higher power or source of life, love, understanding.
The tricky part is, though, every single individual on the planet has their own unique perceptions, experiences, and modes of interpersonal connection. What seems beautiful and meaningful to one person might seem completely ridiculous and impossible to another. Whether it’s a supernatural experience, a deep appreciation of art or music, or a connection with other people in a blissful way, the definition of spirituality is quite honestly unique to each of us.
Another thing to notice about spirituality in recovery is that it usually changes, grows, and adapts as an individual does. Depending on the experience, perspectives, and life events in one’s life, their sense of purpose, meaning, or life’s “truth” can change many times. It’s not a single definition we can all fit into one umbrella for humanity.
How Can Someone “Be Spiritual”?
The honest answer to this question aligns with the above idea that this is a uniquely personal thing for everyone! There’s no way to “make yourself” spiritual– everyone can be spiritual because it’s personal to all. Even though there are all kinds of spiritual frameworks to go around, they tend to have similar themes.
Common themes in spiritual thought include:
- Wondering why suffering happens on earth
- Defining what it means to be a “good person”
- Forming connections with the self, others, places, experiences, and nature
- Feeling an inner connection with the earth, God, a set of principles, or a higher power
- Questioning the purpose of life and death
- Discovering some type of theory for the question, “does everything happen for a reason?”
- Forming a set of personal morals or how to carry oneself through the daily world
- Tying together the motivation for personal growth and the perceived end result of putting effort into something one feels is important
Spirituality in Recovery and Sobriety
Now that we know spirituality is essentially a list of worldviews, morals, and personal perspectives of what’s meaningful in life, it can be easier to understand why spirituality in recovery is such a popular thing.
Anyone recovering from drug or alcohol abuse will likely start to question their past worldviews. Morality comes to the forefront of life because, without substances, our minds become clear. We have time to really confront our actions, our feelings, and our “why?”s. Whether those be past actions we want to make right, present behaviors we want to improve to live a better life, or future habits we aspire to grow into, the spiritual mystery of what we truly believe starts to become a bigger focus.
In recovery, or any other lifestyle humans engage in, our belief systems often dictate how we think, react, relate, and process life’s ups and downs. As long as someone isn’t exactly aware of what he or she believes, they operate from an instinctual (or “subconscious”, as some psychologists define it) pattern. These patterns often stem from our past. But thankfully, they are patterns that can be adjusted and replaced by developing an awareness of what we personally believe. Becoming mindful about ourselves is something that can impact the quest to change any spiritual– or lifestyle– beliefs that no longer benefit.
What Do People in Recovery Do to Grow Spiritually?
One of the main goals in many addiction treatment programs and support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, is to surrender to a higher power. Whether this is called God, Universe, a sense of love, or something unknown, it can be comforting to trust in something bigger than ourselves. This isn’t required for recovery, of course, but many people seek it out as a foundation for trusting there’s a bigger reason for all of life’s phases and colors.
Actions that feel spiritually important differ from person to person. Some of the ways people practice spirituality in recovery are things like:
- Prayer or personal communication to a higher force
- Dedication to community and supportive fellowship
- Meditation: the act of intentionally extending total acceptance of thoughts and feelings that come up, without judgment of oneself
- Forgiveness (both giving and receiving past hurts)
- Being open to learning new realms of belief, thought, and wisdom
- Learning from mistakes and gaining insightful perspectives from others on the addiction recovery journey
- Gaining new hobbies, talents, and experiences, substance-free
- Discovering one’s unique gifts & strengths through trying new things
- Community involvement, such as volunteering or giving back
- Yoga, dance, or any type of consistent physical movement to clear the mind
- Therapy, or working through past traumas with a professional with the aim of overcoming limiting pain and personal setback
- Mindfulness practices, like breathwork, visualization, healthy eating, and more.
What About People in Recovery Who Aren’t Interested in Spirituality?
Not everyone finds it meaningful or necessary to define themselves with any particular worldview or spiritual belief, and that’s okay! Everyone has a right to their own opinions and perspectives of reality. Again, all of us relate to the world differently. One person might believe in a specific deity without a doubt, while another cannot fathom any possible phenomena beyond the physical world. It’s not about being “right or wrong” spiritually, here. It’s simply about being mindful of ourselves and having a deep motivation to continue on the recovery process toward a better life.
For support groups and 12-step programs, there are options for non-faith individuals in recovery! Check out this helpful article where we explore alternative options for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to a faith.
Living Out Your Values
A simpler, broader version of finding spirituality in recovery can look like living out your newfound values in life. In other words, “practice what you preach”. Embody your philosophy. Be bold in your courage to seek recovery, change your life around, and come out the other side a new person. You don’t have to go to church, practice any yoga routines, or wear crystals to be “spiritual”. It’s more about what you feel inside, who you are deep down, and what values you wish to be known for in the world. The great thing about spirituality in recovery is that it is so different for everyone. That way, all of us can find hope and encouragement in the ways that best suit us for finding even further inspiration to continue this lifelong journey of being drug-free and wholly focused on continual progress.
Remember: Progress, Not Perfection
There’s no such thing as a perfect recovery, a perfect belief, or a perfect life. But no matter what your spiritual stance is, all of us in recovery seek continual progress! Many times, having a spiritual transformation can help us in our healing experience. Other times, it’s more about overcoming negative beliefs in order to adopt a new healthy lifestyle.
One major benefit of 12-step programs is that it offers us a set of values we can work towards, at least temporarily until we know what it’s like to live sober. From there, as we continue to explore ourselves with a sober mind, we can refine that value system in ways that work better for us. And this is one of the first steps to forming a foundation for living our purpose in life, whatever that may be.
If you’re trying to find a way out of drug or alcohol addiction, reach out to us at Opus Health today.