A growing number of mental health and addiction rehab programs, including FHE Health, take a holistic approach to treatment. A person is not their addiction or diagnosis, and treating the entire person often leads to an increased likelihood of long-term recovery. One aspect of holistic treatment is addressing spiritual wellness. Learn more about how this can play a role in relapse prevention below.
What Is Spiritual Wellness?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration encourages individuals and providers to seek overall wellness for themselves and others. It provides a poster that defines the eight dimensions of wellness, which include:
Spiritual wellness is, perhaps, more difficult to define than some of the other dimensions. It’s not, as many might assume, the same thing as religion.
Publications from SAMHSA note that spiritual wellness involves searching for meaning and purpose in life. For some, this might relate to organized religion, but spiritual wellness steps beyond that to a greater understanding of the world and universe around us.
Spiritual Wellness: A Critical Dimension of Wellness
The Benefits of Spiritual Health for Addiction Relapse Prevention
SAMHSA encourages medical and mental health providers to talk to patients about spiritual beliefs, stating that patients with high spiritual wellness have a mortality rate that’s 18% less than the rest of the population. Those same benefits carry into the addiction space. Spirituality has been shown to help drive better coping mechanisms and reduce anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
Reasons People Relapse and How Spiritual Wellness Helps Mitigate Them
Spiritual wellness can help someone face many potential pitfalls during and after rehab, helping to ensure a more long-term recovery. Here are a few common reasons people relapse and ways spiritual health can help reduce their impact on sober lifestyles.
The End of Pink Cloud Syndrome
Pink cloud syndrome refers to the immediate time after becoming sober. It’s also called the honeymoon period because it’s often filled with a natural high from living this new lifestyle successfully. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever, and coming out of it into the “real” world can cause some stress. Eventually, living sober gets hard, and this is when many people turn back to drugs or alcohol.
Spiritual health involves proper lifestyle, connection with others questioning the meaning of life and transcendence, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health. All of these things combine to create a foundation that someone can stand on after the pink cloud syndrome wears off. That can help reduce the chance that someone turns back to substance abuse.
Stressful or High-Risk Situations
Stressors and triggers play a role in someone’s recovery for life. Life is never without some of these elements, which is why so much of rehab is about learning to understand root causes for your addiction and working to develop healthier coping mechanisms so you don’t start relying on drugs or alcohol again.
A healthy spiritual foundation, whether that comes from organized religion or something personal and less defined, can provide a basis for many healthy coping mechanisms. Recognizing that you answer to a higher power, whether you call it God or the Universe, also gives you permission to explore your own weaknesses while you rely on something outside of yourself for strength.
Many people actually end up dealing with addiction because they sought something outside of themselves and found drugs. Spiritual wellness ensures you seek something more positive and healthier.
Invitations to Abuse Substances From Others
Social pressures or being around other people who are continuing to abuse substances is a common reason for relapse. Spiritual wellness typically involves some type of accountability system, whether it’s to an organized rule set, a higher power or the innermost you. That accountability can make it easier to say no both to friends and to drugs or alcohol.
Relapse Prevention Strategies: Tips for Improving Spiritual Wellness
So, how do you improve spiritual wellness so you can benefit from it? Spiritual health is a very personal thing for many people, which means that providers and therapists can typically only provide some guidelines or help point you in the right direction. To maintain this important dimension of overall wellness, you have to be able to work on it for yourself. Here are some tips for doing so.
- Consider the AA/NA approach. The 12-step program integral to AA has spiritual wellness at its roots. During the steps, you recognize a higher power and realize that you must submit to that higher power instead of letting substances control your life. By the final step, you are called to experience a spiritual awakening that’s a slow, steady change that increases your spiritual health.
- Join organized religion. If this route appeals to you, join a church or other form of organized religion. Joining the right congregation can ensure you have a willing, helpful support network and pastors and other leaders ready to mentor you into growing your spiritual health.
- Practice prayer and meditation. If organized religion doesn’t feel like the right path for you, work to create your own path to spiritual health via regular prayer, meditation and other mindfulness activities.
How to Assess Your Spiritual Wellness
Asking questions of yourself, your world and your place in that universe are ways you can assess your spiritual health. Consider whether you feel like you have a purpose in life and can articulate it. Ask yourself whether you have any spiritual beliefs or rituals. Have you accepted and forgiven yourself and others, and do you reach outside of yourself via prayer or other methods to something greater in the universe?
If you can’t answer yes to some of these questions, your spiritual wellness may be suffering.
At FHE Health, we don’t treat addiction or other issues in a vacuum. We know that people are much more than one facet of their bodies and minds in this moment. If you would like to journey to comprehensive wellness as you work through addiction recovery, reach out to us today to find out more about ways we can help.