For many people, spirituality is often the same as religion.
Some individuals rely on faith to provide awareness, cope with challenges, teach them to seek a calling, and show support for others in their community.
Spirituality can also be techniques to help you stay present, interact positively in the world, have a guiding purpose, and create an intention to be your best self.
In reality, being spiritual embodies all of these characteristics. The means by which they’re achieved simply differ from person-to-person.
A Powerful Tool
When someone struggles with a substance abuse disorder, it’s the center of all actions. Using spirituality to rediscover the authentic self apart from addiction is a powerful tool to:
- Help you navigate negative thoughts and emotions and regain peace
- Reintroduce the importance of love for yourself and others
- Provide a touchstone for understanding the world
- Promote happiness
- Reinforce your sense of purpose
The Power of a 12-Step Program
The short version of the Serenity Prayer is the cornerstone of many 12-step groups:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Believed to be written by pastor and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, there are actually two full verses of the prayer. In 1941, an Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) member in New York City saw it in a newspaper, clipped it out, and asked the group’s secretary to have it printed on cards, “like you could carry in a wallet.”
Members immediately embraced the concept of having this reminder at all times as an extension of support and guidance when they found sobriety to be difficult. It’s probably one of the most well-known connections of using spirituality in addiction recovery.
Is a 12-Step Program the Only Way?
Acknowledging a higher power’s ability to help restore wellness is often a key component of 12-step programs. Predominately a Judeo-Christian tenant, it’s sometimes difficult for people in the early stages of recovery to embrace the higher power and other concepts outlined in a step coping mechanism, especially if they’re not aligned with a religion.
But many participants of 12-step programs—more than two million around the world—stress that each individual can use the guidelines in ways that are meaningful to them.
- Buddy T. wrote a blog about how “12-step programs are spiritual, not religious…members only need trust that there’s a higher power ‘greater than themselves’ however they wish to define it.”
- Frank M., who is part of the AA Agnostica website, detailed in an online post how “even an atheist” can find solace and direction in an AA meeting. The group’s name comes from chapter four of AA’s “Big Book”—”We Agnostics”—and its mission is clear: “We do not endorse or oppose any form of religion or atheism. Our only wish is to ensure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in AA without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or having to deny their own.”
- Helana Hovitz detailed her 12-step experience in an article for The Fix: “Regarding the notion of God, one of the first things they tell you is you can be an atheist for all they care—you just have to believe in something that’s not you. You, who kind of made a mess of things. When I came in, I said, ‘My higher power is just the concept that everything happens for a reason.'”
How Mindfulness Helps You
The monkey mind addiction creates is one aspect of recovery that many people find difficult to tame. And this makes perfect sense: after all, without the crutch of self-medicating behavior, a person has to directly face the various thoughts and emotions. This can be overwhelming.
Using mindfulness as a spiritual practice is what expert Jon Kabat-Zinn calls “paying attention on purpose.” We all have the ability to be mindful of the present moment.
How does being present help you? Thoughts may appear, but you don’t dwell on them. You’re able to stay focused on one observation without falling down the rabbit hole of worry or challenging memories. Most importantly, you don’t immediately react—you stay focused on the current moment.
The Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota provides more tips on this practice.
Another aspect of spirituality is being grateful. There are many ways to practice this in your daily life, and you reap many benefits when you do:
- Reduced stress
- Better sleep
- Improves your awareness of taking care of your health
- Enhanced empathy for yourself and others
Make a list of what you’re grateful for, and say thank you for the positive results that haven’t happened yet. Also, change “I should” to “I want,” even when considering the most mundane tasks. So, “I should do dishes” becomes “I want to do dishes.” This allows you to focus on why doing dishes may be important to you, and why you’re grateful to achieve that goal.
At Willingway, we reinforce the reasons why cultivating spirituality, practicing self-care, and using 12-step programs are vital to the success of drug rehabilitation inpatient care. Thousands of people discover peace and wellness as a result.