You may have heard of the importance of spirituality in addiction recovery, but what exactly does that mean?
First of all, we have to define what spirituality actually is.
We might consider spirituality to be the Connection – with a capital C – that most of us have with something bigger than ourselves. For many of us, it’s God, the Universe, and other living beings, especially the ones we are closest to. It’s like there’s a hardwired need to get outside of our own demanding egos and let go of our illusion of control, that there really is something out there. Yet strangely enough, we also feel as if that “something out there” is also connected to us on the inside, however fleeting it may be.
Before our addiction took over our lives, many of us tried to access that “something” by going to church, going on a retreat, prayer, meditation, or some other spiritual practice like yoga, tai ch.i or mindfulness. For one reason or another, however, it never really went anywhere and we gave up…it just sort of fizzled out.
And when you’re in the grip of addiction to a substance or even a behavior, gradually, you lose more and more of your connection to that “something” and especially other people as the brain changes to serving its own self-absorbed needs.
The other aspect of spirituality besides Connection is about Meaning. Meaning in life, our purpose, the reason for getting out of bed in the morning. And just as addiction erodes away at all our connections with people, so too does it insidiously erode our sense of meaning. We care less and less about the people and things we used to care about as our drugs of choice become the only thing that now give meaning to our very lives.
Whether or not you realize this, by the time you are fully in the grip of addiction, you’ve most likely lost two of these most fundamental possessions—Connection with others and Meaning in life.
Of course, you might not realize this at the time because by now you might not really care about anything any more except your drugs but afterwards, there’s often that sense of emptiness on the inside.
However, once you enter recovery and your brain starts to heal, you begin to notice that longing, that need to connect to something bigger than you. One of the most powerful aspects of a 12-Step program—that it starts to provide you with a way to feel connection again. In fact, the entire 12-Step program is designed to restore both of these wonderful faculties back to you…Connection and Meaning. That’s why it’s called a spiritual program.
At the same time, 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous don’t always appeal to everyone. Some folks are scared off because they feel it smacks of religion and religiosity.
Let’s face it, walking into an AA meeting for the first time is a scary idea for many people, not to mention all the misconceptions they may have from TV and Hollywood but the fact remains that for many alcoholics and addicts, it gives them a spiritual foundation and a daily practice of spirituality.
If that’s not the route you choose, does that mean you can’t restore or awaken your own personal spirituality? Of course not!
Many recovering people find their sense of Connection and Meaning through nature—hiking on trails, exploring the outdoors and right here in New Mexico, there’s plenty to choose from.
Or it could be through service to others…volunteering to help others who are dealing with addiction, working with the homeless or some other form of community service…anything to get you out of your own demanding ego that tells you that it’s all about YOU!
Or how about family daytrips, re-connecting with your family, and making amends for the damage your addiction did to them?
Or following a daily spiritual practice like mindfulness, meditation or prayer. Step 11 of the 12 Steps says: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Whatever direction you choose, know that you will be one step closer to walking down the Spiritual Path, one that will help restore Connection and Meaning to your life and the lives of those whom you love.