Why is spirituality important in recovery?

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” –Isaiah 43:2

This is one of my favorite Bible verses. It’s not overtly about overcoming addiction, but it has that meaning for me. Being addicted to alcohol often made me feel like I was lost, alone, and completely hopeless. I felt like I was drowning, struggling against my urges to drink and, more often than not, giving in to them. Until I started to speak to God daily and ask for help, I was out of control. Once I developed a daily spiritual practice, not drinking became much easier. That isn’t to say I didn’t still struggle sometimes. I definitely did! However, once I started getting spiritual, I started to realize that there was this amazing force that could help me stay sober.

This all sound a little familiar? If you’ve ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, then it probably does. That same mentality of admitting you’re unable to control your addiction on your own, surrendering to a Higher Power, and asking for help is a central part of the AA program. I’m not currently active in AA because it’s not possible to attend in-person meetings and I’m not a fan of online meetings, but I still rely heavily on AA strategies and I am in contact with some of my old friends from previous attempts at sobriety. One thing that always stood out to me when I was active in AA was that spirituality supports sobriety, but a lot of people bristle at the idea of spirituality. I was one of those people! But I slowly realized that spirituality is not the same thing as religion.

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So what is the difference between religion and spirituality? Religion is a system that guides your faith and worship practices, such as Catholicism, Buddhism, or Judaism. Religion takes part in a group and it is usually highly regulated. On the other hand, spirituality is an independent way of exploring one’s purpose, engaging with God, nature, or another higher power, and seeking peace. You don’t need to be part of a religion to be spiritual. You can practice spirituality in the privacy of your own home, in any way that seems beneficial to you. For example, you might find that doing something totally devoid of religious influence is spiritual for you, such as reading poetry, spending time in nature, and doing guided mediation, or you might do something that is more in line with a specific religion, such as reading the Bible, singing hymns, and praying.

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Addiction isolates people and leads to feelings of hopelessness. For me, life felt meaningless when I was at the height of my addiction. Spirituality helps me to feel connected to God, to other people, and even to my surroundings. It helps me to feel hopeful and find meaning in difficult situations. As part of my spiritual practice, I also spend time focusing on gratitude daily, which gives me a sense of fulfillment and peace, no matter what challenges I am facing. Other benefits of having a spiritual practice include:

  • Developing empathy for other people and letting go of resentments
  • Navigating difficult emotions and experiences
  • Finding your sense of purpose in life
  • Providing a healthy daily routine to help you stay focused on your recovery

How do you get started with a spiritual practice? I started small and simple and this is what I would recommend for anyone hoping to create a spiritual practice that they can maintain over the long-term. Choose 2-3 short activities that you will do at about the same time each day. I recommend reading and writing as 2 of these activities and I also suggest including a form of internal self-reflection, such as prayer, meditation, or yoga. Keep the reading short, such as a single Bible verse or passage from another religious or inspirational text. Hazeldon’s 24 Hours A Day is another good one!

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Then, reflect and write a few lines in a journal about the passage. You can always write more later on, but keep it short and sweet in the beginning. This will help you to form the habit. When I was just starting my daily spiritual practice, I only wrote 2-3 sentences of explanation about the verse I had read. Now, I usually write 1-2 pages and sometimes 2-3 pages.

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Finally, end your practice with some prayer, mediation, or yoga. This helps to quiet your mind and reflect on what you’ve read and written about. I always make sure to express my gratitude for the positives in my life as part of my morning prayers. This helps to put me in a positive mindset and sets a good tone for my day.

That’s it! Like I said, keep it short and simple for at least the first 30 days. Then, once you are in the habit of doing this daily, you can build on it!  

My spirituality has been a huge part of my continued sobriety. It’s something I look forward to doing every morning after I wake up. I have gained so many interesting insights from my daily readings and journal entries, and I feel like I am a much more positive person because of this practice.

What spiritual practices do you engage in to help you stay sober? If you don’t have a spiritual practice yet, what activities do you think would be the most helpful for you?

Thanks for stopping by and reading! 🙂

“You don’t need to be part of a religion to be spiritual. You can practice spirituality in the privacy of your own home, in any way that seems beneficial to you.”

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