In rehab facilities across the country, you’re likely to find references to religion, spirituality or a “higher power” in treatment programs and 12-step groups. This causes people to ask the question: Why does it seem like everyone treats spirituality and recovery as two essential parts of the same message? Is spirituality in recovery really so important? Does recovery truly need to involve religion to be effective?
The answer is, yes, in most cases. With this in mind, it’s usually more complex than simply “finding God.” As it turns out, it’s not as important that a person conform with religion in recovery; it’s more important that they get in touch with themselves and find a deeper meaning in life — a “higher self.”
In this piece, we’ll break down what spirituality is, the difference between a higher self and God and how embracing a concept of spirituality that resonates with you can be the key to a lifelong recovery.
What Is Spirituality?
Spirituality means different things to different individuals, but at its core, it means being concerned with matters of soul and spirit rather than material objects and physical things.
For some, this is a conventional idea of God, like the one that Judeo-Christian religions worship, or those gods worshipped by polytheistic religions around the world — a true “higher power.””
But for others, spirituality revolves around looking inside yourself and experiencing life in a more profound and humble way.
The Benefits of Spiritually
The benefits of paying attention to a spiritual side of yourself mean finding the meaning in your life beyond yourself.
It can be easy, especially when you’re struggling in recovery from substance abuse issues or a mental health condition, to wonder what the point is of everything you’re doing. It’s natural for us to take a selfish and myopic view of the world — one where we come first. Essentially, we are “the main character” in our lives, and if we can’t see the objective directly in front of us, everything we do can seem pointless.
Engaging in spiritual activities forces us to look at different perspectives and see ourselves as a small part of the bigger picture. It enables us to view our roles in life as supporting a higher purpose. This comes regardless of whether that’s a conventionally religious “higher power” or simply a mission of helping people and making a positive impact wherever we can.
As a result, religion and spirituality has been linked with a number of health benefits:
- Better sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Better relationships
- Overall increases in physical and mental health
The Benefits of Spirituality in Recovery
But what about spirituality, specifically when it’s applied in a treatment setting?
In addiction recovery, the concept of spirituality hints at the difference in effectiveness between a one-dimensional approach to recovery and a holistic one. Research has found the time spent in a comprehensive rehab program is significantly more effective than detox alone — in fact, the latter may increase the risk of overdose death due to the body’s inability to adjust to sudden withdrawal and subsequent relapse in a short time period.
Treatment that focuses on the mind, body and soul has been found to be much more effective in creating the foundation for long-term sobriety. Spirituality and recovery are inseparable when we think about effective treatment addressing the whole self, rather than just the physical part of addiction or the acute emotional symptoms of a mental health condition.
When Alcoholics Anonymous established the principles of what a modern 12-step program looks like, it was rooted in Christian values. Over time, it’s been reinterpreted to be a more flexible set of guidelines. Some 12-step programs still hold firm when discussing Step 11 — Deepening Your Connection With a Higher Power — while others interpret it more broadly, requiring that clients find a greater purpose in life that puts their experiences in context.
Tips to Improve Spirituality in Recovery
On the most basic level, all it takes to be spiritual is to connect with your higher self, freeing your mind of selfish, material things and replacing them with reflections on your greater purpose. For many, though, this is something that’s easier said than done.
Here are five ways to facilitate spirituality in your life.
Church or Religious Meetings
The first is the most obvious: While there’s a difference between a higher self and God, that doesn’t mean religion has to be separate for those who feel comfortable with it. It’s very easy to get into a spiritual mindset while in a place of worship or discussing interpretations of scripture with other like-minded people.
Mindfulness and Meditation
The purpose of meditation is to free your mind of all earthly things so you can focus on your inner being. This is spiritual because the objective of meditation and mindfulness is becoming “one with the world around you” and being aware of your circumstances and your greater purpose.
There are even programs based around the concept of mindfulness that have been shown to help people prevent relapses after they’ve gone through substance abuse treatment.
There’s a reason yoga is often used as a therapy in addiction and mental health rehab facilities: It helps. Using the ancient techniques of yoga does more than just provide physical benefits. It lines up your body’s energies to be more in sync with the world around you, taking you away from the present circumstances of life and putting you in a place of peace and spiritual health.
Convene With Art/Nature/Music/Anything That Provokes Reflection
To be spiritual, you don’t have to take part in any organized activity. For some people, it helps to attend a worship service or take a yoga class, but it’s not necessary. To find more spirituality in your daily life, go for a hike, spend a few hours at an art museum or sit in your backyard without your phone, book or podcast — and just think. You might be surprised at the places your mind takes you and how that can reveal something that was otherwise obscured by the daily chaos of life.
Spirituality and Recovery With FHE Health
With our clients, we focus on healing the body, the mind and the spirit because we realize how important it is to approach mental health and addiction with a holistic approach. This is one of the reasons we believe spirituality is a critical part of a successful treatment program. To learn more, contact FHE Health today.