Many people struggling with a substance use disorder avoid treatment because they hear spirituality and addiction treatment go hand in hand. Some individuals may have also had bad experiences involving religion and now avoid anything involving it. However, some people don’t understand the difference between a religious recovery and a spiritual recovery from addiction.
Yes, some programs and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have a religious focus. However, spirituality isn’t a belief. Spirituality is a journey of self-exploration. Although belief in a higher power is beneficial in recovery, truly knowing yourself and your value helps in long-term recovery.
Are Spirituality and Religion the Same?
Can a person be spiritual and not religious? Yes, and in addiction recovery, this aspect is essential to understand. Some people fear religion for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s cult-like, and for others, religion doesn’t make sense. However, the spiritual recovery from addiction isn’t based on religion.
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality is a journey to discovering who we are and what life is about. It’s not about how we look or our physical health, but about our inner peace and well-being. Spirituality often involves asking questions about life, which include:
- What is the purpose of my life?
- What does being a good person mean?
- Does everything happen for a reason?
- Why do I suffer?
- How am I connected to the world around me?
- What is the best way to conduct myself in this world?
Because we all connect to ourselves, others, and the world in unique ways, we have different responses to spiritual experiences. For example, one person may find their inner peace in a place of worship. Another person may find their inner peace in nature.
There is no wrong way to practice spiritual recovery from addiction. What is important is finding what speaks to you and helps you find purpose and meaning. Furthermore, a person’s definition of spirituality can change throughout life.
Dr. Christina Puchalski, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, calls spirituality “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and the significant or sacred.”
Spirituality and Its Myths
Because spirituality means something different to everyone, it’s misunderstood and often linked to religion. However, this is understandable. Media often depicts spirituality in extreme ways that seem abnormal, but if you experience something meaningful, you have experienced spirituality.
At the same time, while religion is crucial to many people’s spiritual lives, spirituality is not tied to any religious organization or faith. To begin with, religion typically involves traditions and rituals in the search for truth. But spirituality is a broader concept. It’s a search for personal meaning and interconnectedness.
There are similarities between religious and spiritual recovery from addiction. Both involve:
- A belief in something bigger than oneself
- Comfort found in a belief system
- A search for meaning in our experiences
- Living by a set of values
Benefits of Spiritual Recovery from Addiction
Growing research and the NIH suggest that spiritual practices help people find meaning and purpose and improve overall health, including recovery from addiction. The benefits of spiritual recovery from addiction include:
Increases Compassion, Empathy, and Attention
Practices such as meditation, gratitude, and devotionals encourage inner reflection. This reflection provides an understanding of self and others. Spirituality can help you appreciate life’s little pleasures, which increases lifelong recovery.
Improves Your Sense of Connectedness
A great source of social support, community, and sense of belonging can come from churches, meditation classes, and yoga classes. Because of the shared values in the spiritual community, people build deeply fulfilling friendships.
Creates a Healthier Life
Spiritual health means treating the body with kindness and respect. This includes avoiding harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol. By linking spirituality and addiction, you are more likely to maintain lifelong recovery.
Helps You Work Through Negative Emotions
An essential part of spiritual recovery from addiction is letting go of blame, anger, jealousy, and frustration. Although these feelings are inevitable, keeping them in check can improve overall health.
Helps You Overcome Hardships
Spiritual recovery from addiction allows you to find meaning and growth in difficult situations. When struggling with maintaining your recovery, leaning on your spirituality can help you find the strength.
Types of Spiritual Recovery from Addiction
Addiction treatment and recovery are more than just abstaining from drugs and alcohol. It is a journey to recovering the person you are meant to be. For example, being sober isn’t enough to repair the damage of substance use disorder. But, spiritual recovery from addiction and holistic therapies heal the whole person, not just the addiction.
Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxing the mind and body to achieve inner focus and deep self-awareness. Meditation can involve deep breathing, focusing on a specific spot in space, or practicing mindfulness. Practicing meditation in your spiritual recovery from addiction builds compassion for yourself and others.
The 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that meditation practices in U.S. adults tripled between 2012 and 2017 (from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent). Furthermore, children ages 4 to 17 also jumped from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017.
Benefits of meditation can include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lowers heart rate
- Improves blood circulation
- Decreases anxiety and depression
- Increases feelings of well-being
- Less stress
Gratitude is simple. All it takes is feeling thankful for the positive experiences in your life. Although expressing gratitude is part of many spiritual and religious practices, it can be used in any belief system. All it takes is a few minutes a day to reflect on what made you feel grateful.
Gratitude is also extended to your feelings of gratitude for others. Everyone likes to hear how they positively affect someone else’s life, so send a card or a quick text to say they are appreciated.
Gratitude in your spiritual recovery from addiction can:
- Increase positive emotions
- Improve sleep
- Enhance empathy
- Builds quality friendships and relationships
- Improves physical health
Devotionals are a practice that helps people feel connected to a higher power. It could mean going to church in religious practices, reading passages from a holy book, singing songs, or praying. For others, spiritual recovery from addiction and devotions can include listening to music, spending time in nature, or walking through an art museum.
Benefits of devotional practices may include:
- Calming the body and mind
- Evokes feelings of hope, comfort, and gratitude
- Lowers stress levels
- Improves concentration
- Improves your resistance to cravings
- Lowers anxiety
A spiritual practice that began in India, yoga is an integral part of many religions. However, yoga is also practiced outside of any religion. In western cultures, yoga typically involves stretching, breathing, and a series of poses. However, it’s part of a greater philosophical system which includes:
- Selfless acts of service
- Moral rules to being a good human
Both the physical and mental aspects of yoga improve physical health, quiet the mind, and increase the awareness of how all things are connected. Other benefits include:
- Reducing stress
- Increases relaxation
- Improves mood
- Increases strength and flexibility
- Improves coordination and balance
- Improves reaction time
- Improves lung function
- Weight loss
- Prevents relapse
Journaling is one of the best ways to experience spirituality and addiction recovery. Taking time every day to reflect on events can help you reconnect with your inner life. It also gives you a better understanding of your thoughts and feelings.
Journaling can also help you sympathize with others. Instead of taking it to heart when others hurt you, journaling allows you to consider their motives. Journaling in spirituality and addiction can help you track your triggers and what coping skills work along with all your successes in recovery.
Journaling in spiritual recovery from addiction can help:
- Understand difficult experiences
- Manage anxiety
- Cope with depression and other mental health disorders
- Reduces stress
- Prioritize fears, concerns, and problems
- Identify negative thoughts and behaviors
- Gain an understanding of self and others
The Journey of Spiritual Recovery from Addiction
The causes of substance use disorder are as complex and unique as the people who struggle with it. People often develop an addiction from trauma or a place of emptiness. However, there are many reasons an addiction begins.
Spiritual recovery from addiction allows people to reexamine their beliefs and start living a more meaningful life. Without a spiritual journey in recovery, a person may not have the coping skills to prevent relapse. 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) outline a step-by-step spiritual transformation journey which includes:
- Admitting your powerless over drugs and alcohol
- Believing that a power greater than yourself can help you recover
- Deciding to put your life in the hands of this greater power
- Taking an honest, moral inventory of yourself
- Admitting the wrongs you’ve committed to your higher power, yourself, and another human being
- Allowing yourself to be ready for your higher power to remove the wrongs you admitted to in the previous step.
- Humbly asking your higher power to remove your shortcomings.
- Making a list of all the persons you have harmed and become willing to make amends with them
- Making amends with the people mentioned in the previous step, whenever possible.
- Continuing to take a personal inventory and be willing to admit when you are wrong
- Improving your contact with your higher power through prayer, meditation, and other spiritual practices
- Passing the lessons you’ve learned through the 12 steps on to other people struggling with substance use disorder and continuing to incorporate your new values into all that you do
Many people believe the “higher power” to be God. But for others, a “higher power” isn’t rooted in religion; it is rooted in a oneness with all things. Although they are not the only way to bring spirituality and addiction together, 12-step programs are the most common.
Benefits of Spirituality and Addiction Recovery
Although spirituality is beneficial for all people, it’s particularly useful for those in recovery. People often use drugs or alcohol to cope with the difficulties in life. But with spiritual recovery from addiction, individuals gain meaningful insight to help cope with the struggles of recovery.
Benefits of spiritual recovery from addiction include:
- Improving self-worth and self-esteem
- Feelings of joy and peace in daily life
- Finding the greater meaning and purpose of life
- Healing from past experiences
Spiritual Recovery from Addiction at Harmony Ridge Recovery Center
Spirituality and searching for the meaning of life are essential aspects of treatment at Harmony Ridge Recovery Center. Our goal is to help our patients understand the causes of their addiction and rebuild a life free of drugs and alcohol. Our holistic and spiritual therapies help build a solid foundation to encourage a lifetime of recovery.
Spiritual recovery from addiction may include:
- Nutritional therapy
- Exercise therapy
- Nature therapy
- Art and music therapy
Get Help Today at Harmony Ridge
Our comprehensive treatment programs can help if you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder. Our team is waiting to answer all your questions and help you on your path to recovery. Contact us today and find out more.