According to surveys, at least 80 percent of Americans believe in some sort of higher power, whether that power is the Abrahamic God, nature, or another. Therefore, it follows that most addicts will either be spiritual to some degree or will have a history of spirituality before the onsets of their addictions. In fact, the founder of the twelve-step recovery program once famously suggested that an alcoholic is an individual who tried to find meaning, purpose, or spiritual fulfillment at the bottom of a bottle. Additionally, there are cultures elsewhere in the world that use mind-altering substances as a vehicle for spiritual experiences, further cementing the idea of usual substance abuse to satisfy a spiritual deficit.
There’s growing agreement that an individual’s recovery must address needs of the mind, body, and spirit in order to successfully achieve a long-lasting sobriety. While most rehabilitative programs incorporate treatments for the mind and body, many lack an emphasis on patients’ spiritual recovery needs, but is the present focus: The following is a concise overview of the role spirituality can have in the recovery process.
How Addiction Affects One’s Spirituality
Although addiction is most well-known for how it grabs hold of one’s body, it soon begins affecting the mind and spirit as well. Individuals who are developing or have developed addictions tend to keep them a secret from others, which involves increasing levels of dishonesty and deceit. In the early stages of chemical dependency, addicts try to live what is essentially a double-life, appearing normal to their loved ones while abusing dangerous, mind-altering substances behind closed doors. As the disease continues to progress, the facade begins to break down. Loved ones may ask the addict what he or she is going through, met with lies that accumulate and affect entire families. In short, living in active addiction results in the entrenching of one’s spirit in negativity, dishonesty, and desperation. For these addicted individuals, the choices and behaviors to which they resort in the name of addiction make them feel immoral, guilty, shameful, and like mere shadows of their former selves.
Recovery & Spirituality
The decision to get help for one’s addiction doesn’t result in the immediate, instantaneous restoration of one’s spiritual integrity. Much like the development and progression of alcoholism or drug addiction is a process that takes place over a period of time, spiritual recovery is likewise a process that entails a very slow, incremental return to a state of spiritual wellness. After adjusting to the shock of raw, unfiltered emotion that sometimes accompanies the detox process, individuals are able to begin the process of reassembly. Most addiction treatment programs cover an individual’s bodily and mental recovery needs by default, but spiritual components of treatment are not always part of the core curriculum. However, an increasing number of alcohol and drug rehabs offer patients the option of spiritual or religious-based programming, prayer groups, guided meditation, and sometimes even a number of holistic therapies that can have an underlying spiritual basis.
The Twelve Steps
Used both as a primary means of recovery as well as a supplement to treatment programs at rehab centers, twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and numerous others offer individuals a step-based blueprint for physical and spiritual recovery. Emphatically designed to be spiritual rather than religious, individuals of any faith can utilize the twelve-step method, which is a cumulative process that includes admitting one’s addiction, taking a moral inventory of character defects, and making amends to individuals one has previously wronged. According to twelve-step literature, working the steps allows an individual to have what is essentially a spiritual awakening, which will give him or her the fulfillment and purpose that was lacking when the addiction developed. Additionally, once members have worked the steps themselves, they’re encouraged to be mentors, or so-called sponsors, to newcomers, allowing them to help others achieve spiritual wellness and sobriety by sharing the twelve-step method with those in need.
Benefits of Incorporating Spirituality Into the Recovery Process
There are many benefits to identifying and addressing one’s spiritual recovery needs when overcoming an addiction. Studies have found time and again that people who are actively spiritual or attend some sort of religious services regularly have a significantly higher quality of life, a more positive outlook and demeanor, and are eight times less likely to resort to substance abuse. With recovery being such a long process that takes a lot of energy and dedication, having a strong sense of spirituality can provide those in recovery with the strength to persevere and reap the benefits of moral restoration. Spirituality and spiritual practices also tend to involve group-based activities such as worship, scripture study, or even just prayer or meditation groups, offering individuals a means of networking with others who are similarly spiritual and could become part of one’s support network; in short, spirituality can sometimes be a social experience.
Although spirituality may not be a central part in every individual’s life, evidence indicates that the majority of the population is spiritual or religious in some way. Therefore, it follows that spirituality needs to be a major part of the recovery process for most addicts. For more about addiction treatment, spirituality in recovery, or other useful information, contact The Hurt Healer. Don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions or concerns; we want every individual struggling with addiction to heal his or her hurt of mind, body, and spirit.