Spirituality and Recovery

Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is a physical and psychological process. For many patients, it can also include an aspect of spirituality. In a number of ways, spirituality and recovery are closely linked. Explore how spirituality can play a big role on the road to addiction recovery.

Spirituality in the 12-Step Program

One of the world’s most popular strategies for addiction treatment is the 12-Step method. The 12 Steps were first published in 1939, at a time when the scientific study of addiction was limited. Nonetheless, the philosophy has been wildly successful, and effective, for decades. A big component of the program is reliance on a higher power.

Some of the steps include acknowledging a higher power and asking that higher power for help in recovery. The higher power, however it might be pictured, is a critical part of the process.

Unfortunately, many people decide that the 12-Step program won’t work for them because they aren’t religious. In reality, the idea of a higher power is not necessarily religious.

Letting go and letting God, for example, is a major slogan in AA and in groups where the 12-Steps are taught. At first glance, this might seem overtly religious. The message, however, can be applied to anyone. It simply asks individuals to stop worrying about the day-to-day details, since stress is such a big contributor to addiction and to relapse.

Comparing Spirituality and Religion

The words spiritual and religious are often used interchangeably, but they don’t always mean the same thing. There are a number of faith-based recovery programs, and some are connected with specific religious groups. However, a recovery program with a spiritual component is not necessarily religious.

Religion is typically an organized belief system. It might include Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism or Islam. If you already align yourself with one of these belief systems, then your version of spirituality might be a religious one. That can be one way to address the spiritual component of addiction treatment.

On the other hand, you can embrace spirituality without being religious. Spirituality is a much larger umbrella that covers religion as well as yoga, meditation, mindfulness and a desire to find fulfillment and belonging.

Spirituality can be your way of finding a place in the universe. You might feel spiritually full when you are outside spending time in a scenic destination, or you might feel spiritually full when you are listening to orchestral music. Whether your spirituality includes church or a walk in the woods, it can have a place in the recovery process.

Finding Fulfillment in Everyday Life

Total health and wellness isn’t just the absence of disease. It is also about finding fulfillment and purpose in life. Spirituality is one way to do exactly that and it can help prevent relapse by giving people real things to live for.

Physiological needs are the most important to health and survival. Then, things like safety are necessary. While these factors provide sustenance and lay the foundation for happiness, they aren’t enough for fulfillment.

People also need community, a sense of belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. With all of these elements, it will be far easier to go through life in recovery and not be tempted by relapse. Spirituality is one way to include these elements in your life.

Spirituality can remind people of their place in the world. They can feel like they are worthy of time, effort and love. They can feel a sense of belonging if they join a recovery group, a religious organization or just a club contemplating mindfulness or sobriety.

Spiritual development can also greatly reduce stress and the desire for control. Rather than worrying about every detail the future holds, individuals can learn to focus on the present.

Meditation as a Means of Mindfulness

One of the holistic therapies used in addiction treatment is mindfulness and meditation. Often, addiction makes it challenging for an individual to know how he or she really feels and what they are truly craving. A desire to abuse drugs or alcohol might be hiding a desire for something else entirely. Spiritual development can often include meditation and mindfulness training.

A major goal of addiction treatment is to prevent relapse. Patients are often taught that a great way to address relapse risks is to learn the acronym HALT. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Believe it or not, simply addressing the four basic human needs can often prevent relapse.

Mindfulness is a way of learning how to identify each of these triggers. Hunger and thirst, for example, may be ignored in the throes of addiction. In recovery, individuals have to relearn hunger cues and what foods are filling, nutritious and ideal for blood sugar stability.

Being tired, lonely and angry are also major causes of relapse. Each is a form of stress, and stress is the precursor to countless relapses. If you can start to identify these issues as they arise, you will have a much better chance of preventing relapse.

Mindfulness and meditation can also be a time of stillness and reflection. Many people struggling with addiction don’t make time for this and being alone with their own thoughts isn’t appealing. In recovery, patients will learn that reflection is often a positive option that leads to better mental health and positive changes.

Finding Something Outside of the Individual

Whether you believe in a god, multiple gods, the idea of a higher power or the wonder of nature, finding something outside of the individual is a huge part of recovery. Addiction can be isolating. Many individuals feel as if they are on their own. Spirituality is a reminder that each individual is a part of something bigger and it fosters a sense of belonging.

Recovery from addiction has to include scientific, evidence-based approaches. However, a spiritual component can also be beneficial. When spirituality is a part of the recovery process, many patients enjoy increased awareness, serenity, and fulfillment in their everyday lives.