The word “spirituality” is a complex one, with multiple interpretations attributed to it. Some will equate spirituality to the practice of a particular religion, such as Catholicism, Judaism, Protestant faith denominations, Islam, or evangelical non-denominational Christian. To others, the term spirituality refers to a relationship with the universe or other divine entities, such as New Age spirituality or Eastern practices. Regardless of our personal understanding of spirituality, the practice of belief in something other than our selves is an intrinsic aspect of a sustained recovery.
The most notable practice of integrating spirituality into recovery is the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The founders of A.A. developed a recovery system of benchmarks driven by the relationship a person has with God or their Higher Power. Exactly what or who the Higher Power represents is not defined, purposely left open to interpretation by the individual engaged in the very personal process of recovery.
Although a significant source of support and fellowship, it is not necessary to participate in A.A. to practice spirituality in recovery. Some may be attracted to different recovery communities whose program or theme differs from A.A.; finding a good fit based on personal preferences is essential for sustaining recovery efforts. Whether it is a 12-step program or an alternative, practicing some form of spirituality is advantageous in recovery.
Why is Spirituality in Recovery Important?
Emerging from substance use is often destabilizing. Letting go of the unhealthy habits and embracing a new life in sobriety begins the process of redefining our purpose and meaning. Connecting with some form of spirituality will help support this journey. Where substance use was about disconnecting from reality and from people, nurturing a form of spiritual practice rekindles the sense of connection.
While it is possible to approach the recovery process without practicing spirituality, excluding the spiritual element loses an important piece of the journey. Spirituality helps us get outside of us. Where substance use was focused on self, a healthy recovery needs to transcend the self and expand to reshaping the ways that we relate to others. Through our meditations or prayers we improve our relationships while finding renewed purpose.
5 Spiritual Practices to Consider in Recovery
For some people, practicing spirituality is an intuitive act that is familiar to them. They may have been raised in a faith community as a child, or maybe they are active participants at a church in their hometown. Turning to prayer in recovery feels like a comfortable and familiar gesture. For others who do not associate with a given religion or belief system, practicing spirituality may feel awkward and foreign to them.
The good news is that in recovery, there is no right or wrong way to go about your spiritual or religious practices. What matters most is that an effort is made to reach beyond the here and now of the material world and explore a deeper meaning for your life. There are a multitude of ways to practice spirituality, including:
- Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is now included in substance use recovery programs as an essential treatment element. Mindfulness meditation is a helpful coping technique that allows us to redirect distracting negative thoughts towards the present moment in a nonjudgmental manner. Mindfulness helps to arrest the temptation to ruminate over negative thoughts and worries and to remind ourselves that this too shall pass. These gentle reminders keep us from allowing negative thoughts to take control and threaten recovery.
- Religious traditions. Many are familiar with the Judeo-Christian collection of religious belief systems. These include a multitude of Christian denominations such as Catholicism and the various Protestant faith communities, Judaism, Islam, and Eastern Orthodox. In addition, there are Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. These faith beliefs adhere to the practice of prayer and a set of unique teachings, traditions, and rituals.
- New age practices. The New Age form of spirituality has grown significantly since the 1970s. New Age religions or practices usually center on a connection with the universe, nature, and philosophy. The spiritual core of the New Age movement focuses on personal transformation and emotional healing.
- Journaling. Keeping a journal in recovery is an excellent tool for daily spiritual practice. Jotting down newfound spiritual insights, keeping an ongoing list of blessings and expressions of gratitude, and writing down personal prayer petitions is a way to remain connected with our spiritual side.
- Volunteerism. Many people who might otherwise consider themselves as agnostic or atheist regarding religion may find themselves attracted to volunteerism. The act of helping others through works of charity is, in essence, a form of spirituality in practice, without adhering to any particular faith beliefs.
Practicing spirituality in recovery can nourish immense personal growth while giving us a sense of belonging and purpose. As we develop a deeper awareness of the divine in our daily lives, our interpersonal relationships—and the overall quality of our lives—will benefit.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.