Spirituality and Recovery

By Douglas Withrow - 08/11/2021


What image comes to mind when you think, “Spirituality?” Religion? Incense? Meditation? Family? Judgment? Abuse? Ridiculous? When spirituality is mentioned as a core component of 12-step work, it can be incredibly uplifting resource, or a monumental obstruction. Having a basic understanding of spirituality can be helpful in gaining new insights for someone who already embraces the spiritual journey, and can open possibilities for someone who has negative associations with the concept.

Ideas that can be helpful in exploring spirituality include: What brings meaning and purpose to your life? Where do you feel connected? and Does this meaning make a difference?

First, what brings meaning and purpose? We can look to various faith backgrounds and find meaning within the teachings of the world’s religions that have given direction and hope to people for centuries. This rich history draws on the thoughtful reflection of men and women on the human experience as it relates to the Divine. However, for some, this association brings memories of emptiness, irrelevance, or even abuse. If this true, then meaning can be found in other beliefs or traditions, such as “love one another,” “being a world citizen,” “community,” or “caring for nature.” Whether the meaning is found in your faith tradition, or some of the previous statement, it can provide direction in life outside of yourself.

Second, where do you feel connected? For those with traditional religious traditions it is not enough to simply have a theology or belief system. It is important to have connection. In what ways does your faith help you connect to yourself, to others, and to God? Using prayer, meditation, religious services, small group experiences, can all play a part. Doing life in isolation is fertile soil for relapse. In non-traditional understandings of spirituality community is just as important, again, where in your life to you foster connection with yourself, others, and with something greater than yourself? Meditation, mindfulness, yoga can create more self-awareness. Step Groups, dinners with friends, game nights, and shared hobbies can be places where you connect with others. To connect with something greater than yourself can also be a recovery group, or maybe getting into nature for hiking, camping, or simply making time to walk your dog. Connection takes intention. Create opportunities.

Third, does your spiritual journey make a difference? Whether your path involves traditional or non-traditional beliefs if it does not influence you, you probably need to look deeper. Do you feel uplifted and valued, improving your sense of self? Do your beliefs and practices encourage you to continue to grow and learn? Do they move you towards empathy, compassion, forgiveness, honesty, humility? Are you living congruently? This requires an openness to allowing the purpose or meaning to have embraced and the connection you develop to shape you.

Starting your spiritual journey does not mean you have to embrace any particular faith. It is easy to discuss and even debate beliefs, theology, faith journeys. However, starting your path does not begin here. Creating space for different understandings of spirituality, creates space for people seeking sobriety and recovery. It is inclusive rather than exclusive. If you are starting this journey, and it is new for you, begin with what you know. It can aid you in your recovery and lead to rich life experiences.

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