Spirituality. It seems to be a word that is used more often today than 10, 15, or 20 years ago. This term, that invokes different thoughts and feelings for everyone, has become quite the buzzword today. But what exactly is spirituality? How is it different—or the same as—from religion? And more importantly how is spirituality related to long-lasting recovery, joy, and peace of mind?
Spirituality, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, is ‘something in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or cleric; the quality or state of being spiritual.’ And spiritual is defined as ‘relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit.’ The spirit is also known as one’s soul.
Understanding the Differences between Religion and Spirituality
So what is the difference between religion and spirituality? While there are many religious people who are spiritual and vice versa, these two sometimes incorrectly interchanged words are not the same. Someone can be religious and not spiritual and a person can be deeply spiritual and not religious.
The more common definition of religion is a set or institutionalized system of texts, practices, and beliefs related to God or the supernatural. When people think of religions generally churches, faiths such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Isalm, etc. come to mind.
Spirituality is about an individual’s relationship with basic human transcendent questions. Transcendent is something that is beyond the material world, for many this is God. Spirituality can be highly personal and not conforming to one set of religions or religious beliefs.
For many in recovery, both early recovery and those with years of sobriety, spirituality is a fundamental part and building block of not only staying sober but of having a life with peace of mind, happiness, and joy.
Recovery and Spirituality: Understanding the Connection
The spiritual experience or spiritual awakening is not a new concept in recovery. In fact, when Alcoholics Anonymous began in the 1930s, the spiritual principle was a fundamental part of this movement now found in more than 180 nations with an estimated membership upwards of 2 million.
This vital spiritual awakening, is what one of the founding members, Bill W., credited with saving his life and halting his alcoholism. As Bill sat at his kitchen table talking to a friend in recovery, he put aside his former beliefs about God (which included doubt and scorn) and became willing to believe simply in the concept of a power greater than himself or as it’s now more commonly called a Higher Power.
For Bill and so many more, this belief in something greater than themselves opened the door for a spiritual experience and began the road of long-lasting, joyful recovery. This initial concept of a Higher Power and spiritual experience has become a vital part of sobriety and recovery for many seeking a life free from the bonds of alcohol or another substance.
There are many who believe that AA is a God-based program and while for some in AA this is what they lean on, there are many too who have formed their own concept of a Higher Power and are just as successful in recovery and life.
So what is it about this spirituality and recovery that seem to work so well for so many? For many who have alcohol use disorders (AUD) or substance use disorders (SUD), they have been running their lives (and often the lives of their loved ones) solely on their own will, agendas, and often with self-centered motives.
This type of ego-driven life can actually wreak havoc on one’s mental, spiritual, and ultimately physical health. Relying on one’s own will, resources, and plans can be exhausting, stressful, and ultimately unhealthy for the body, mind, and soul. Living life in this way means an individual is always trying to run the show, often resists changes or when things aren’t going as he or she wants, and has a hard time accepting when others don’t do or behave in expected or desired ways.
All of these experiences can often cause anxiety, irritability, restlessness, anger, and depression. All states of mind and being that propel many to not only first pick up a drink or drug but also to continue to rely on substances to ease these uncomfortable feelings and states of mind.
AUD, SUD, and Letting Go
In order for many—most everyone—to begin the road to recovery and sobriety, acceptance of being powerless when it comes to their alcohol or substance addiction is the first step. This first step is the most crucial to recovery according to many experts.
An honest look back on life when using and abusing alcohol and other substances usually is quick to reveal that the power to stop, cut down, and have good consequences happen is out of one’s hands.
One way to check this is to make a list of all the ‘mishaps’ and negative experiences incurred since you began drinking heavily or regularly or using a substance. For some, this list will include broken relationships, legal issues, and health troubles. There are those too who function at very high levels even in the midst of an AUD or SUD. Maintaining high profile occupations, keeping families intact, nice cars in the garage, boast-worthy vacations and accomplishments may all be on the list, however, it’s vital to look at the feelings you have been feeling during these times. For many high functioning individuals, the outside life doesn’t reflect the inside feelings.
Feelings of hopelessness, loneliness (even in the midst of friends), and despair are common for anyone struggling with addiction issues. This, for many, is where spirituality has radically changed their journey. However, for many, this isn’t an easy first step.
Admitting powerlessness over these feelings and alcohol or substances isn’t an easy feat. Often being powerless is misconstrued for being weak. When it comes to recovery, this simply isn’t the case and this is where spirituality comes into play.
When an individual realizes they are truly powerless in these areas they are able to look at relying on a power greater than themselves to give them the power needed to begin to recover from an AUD or SUD. Letting go of the reliance solely on oneself is the first step. Who or what an individual wants to believe in is personal and they are the only ones who need to know about this and define it for themselves.
Today, many do rely on God, however many others have formed their own concept of a Higher Power and this has been enough to get them started in recovery and sustain them for many years in long-lasting recovery, happiness, and peace of mind. All it takes is the willingness to believe in something greater than one’s self. The rest will fall into place with the right addiction treatment program, honesty, and the courage to begin recovery.
There are aspects of both religions, spirituality, and long-lasting recovery that are the same. Many of these are concepts and practices that can immediately improve one’s life and well being. If you think you may have an AUD or SUD, are living with feelings of loneliness, fear, and helplessness, or just want to improve your life and happiness, consider incorporating some of these spiritual practices into your life today.
Five Spiritual Practices for Long-lasting Recovery, Peace of Mind, and Happiness
Being grateful and giving thanks are fundamental parts of all religious and spiritual practices. Having the humility and graciousness to not only see the blessings on one’s life but to also thank the Universe, God, or a Higher Power for these not only promotes happiness, but it also opens the door to receive more to be grateful for on a daily basis. When you are truly able to see the good in your life, your life will begin to look better.
- Meditation or Prayer
Most every recovery support group, like AA, Refuge Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and more, promote the use of either meditation, prayer, or both. The regular practice of one or both of these helps to settle and calm the mind, facilitates a greater sense of peace and serenity, and enables one to look for guidance outside of the self and ego. All of these lead to happier, healthier lives.
- Connection to a Higher Power Within
Both religions and spiritual leaders tell us that the Universe, the Divine Creator, God, or whatever power one believes in is something that is a part of us. Religions such as Christianity often refer to the Holy Spirit being part of us here in the world and spiritual leaders tell us that the Universal Source or Life Source is also within us. Taking time to connect with our ‘higher self’ is vital to overcoming ego-driven agendas which often lead to pain and fear.
Living in the present moment is being mindful or living in mindfulness. From the simple awareness of what your hands and feet are touching and the sounds you hear to becoming aware of what thoughts are running through your mind, the art of mindfulness can quickly diminish anxiety, depression, and fear. There is a quote which states, “If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace you are living in the present.’ The ability to stay connected in the present moment reaps tremendous rewards of peace of mind, happiness, and gratitude. This is also reflected in the well-known AA saying, “One day at a time.”
- Giving Back
When it comes to recovery as well as any other gifts of life such as wealth, it is said you have to give it away to keep it. Giving back is a key component of both long-term sobriety and living a fulfilling, happy life. When you are able to give of yourself, your talents, and your time to others, it will satisfy you in a way nothing else does. And with this sharing of love and kindness you, in turn, will also be the receiver of more of those same things.
Whether you believe in God, Buddha, the Divine Creator, or a Higher Power of your own these five basic practices can help you in the early stages of recovery and sustain long-lasting recovery and a happy life. And while spirituality can be a powerful part of recovery, taking the first step and asking for help is all that is needed to begin the journey. If you or someone you love is living with an AUD or SUD Futures Recovery Healthcare offers help and hope. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 561-475-1804. Recovery, serenity, and happiness await you.