Perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects to addiction recovery is the element of spirituality. In fact, some people put off recovery because they have heard that there is a spiritual component to treatment that they aren’t ready for. The 12 Steps focus on a higher power, which can also be confusing for those who don’t have a religious background or believe in God. This misunderstanding can be harmful, unfortunately, because it deters people from seeking treatment.
While we don’t expect people to change their mindset overnight, we do want to point out that spirituality and religion are two very different things. Religion is a particular system of worship and faith. Spirituality, on the other hand, is about finding purpose in life. Anyone can be spiritual, regardless of their beliefs.
The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality
It’s understandable why religion and spirituality are closely tied together. Many people who are religious call themselves spiritual, but the fact is that anyone can be spiritual without being tied to an organized religion. And, unlike religion that has certain rules, laws or beliefs that must be followed, spirituality is personal. It is a belief in something higher than yourself, and this higher power can be anything that fits within your belief system. Some people choose to believe in a god, while others simply set out on a quest for knowledge.
At The River Source, we practice the 12 Steps and believe in the power of spirituality. We often start by asking recovering addicts what spirituality means to them. Some will answer, “Getting in touch with God or Jesus.” Others reply, “Being in touch with the universe.” There is no right or wrong answer. Spirituality is personal, individual and private. It is a unique path that is all your own.
Why Spirituality is Important to Recovery
Being spiritual is important for all living creatures, but it holds even more meaning for recovering addicts. Addiction is an isolating disease that strips you of your self worth. As you sink deeper into the disease, this continued unhappiness perpetuates the addiction further. You withdraw from family and friends. You feel depressed or anxious without your drug. You forget what your purpose in life is, and you can’t see beyond your own troubles.
How can you break the cycle? By seeking treatment.
Through recovery, you learn to connect with something greater than yourself, whether it’s God, many gods, the life force, the universe, the Source, or something entirely different. By connecting with this power, you begin to see that you are important and have a purpose in life. This is why some recovering addicts choose to give back to the community by working with other addicts – it’s their calling and sense of purpose. They choose to take an unfortunate circumstance or experience and channel it into something positive and rewarding.
Spirituality also allows you to:
- Discover your own unique gifts and talents
- Practice forgiveness for yourself and others
- Gain new insights from your experiences of addiction
- Give back to the community
- Connect to who you really are
- Appreciate your true self
Don’t Let Addiction Strip Away Your Purpose
Addiction is complex, and it takes a myriad of elements to come together to allow for true healing. Unfortunately, by the time an addict starts treatment, addiction has already stripped them of their true self. It’s common for addicts to feel that they have no purpose, or sense of worth. And the dark parts of who they are – who they’ve become – continue to take hold and make recovery difficult. You can probably relate.
The good news: Spirituality is a ray of shining hope.
It’s not to be feared or avoided just because you are not religious. By being open to spirituality, you’re saying, “I believe that life has purpose and meaning.” You can then set out to discover what this purpose and meaning is through your own personal beliefs and experiences. As you begin to shape your unique understanding about the meaning of life, you can choose how you want to live your life. Feelings of fear, unhappiness and anxiety will be replaced with joy, love and happiness.
The most important thing – do not delay treatment for fear of being spiritual. Spirituality holds something for everyone, and it is a key component to achieving long-term sobriety.