What is a spiritual experience, why do we need to have one, are we going to drink if we don’t? Those who come before us talk a lot about Higher Power, spirituality, God, and the like. If you are anything like I was when I first got into treatment at Stout Street Foundation, you might find yourself getting irritated, annoyed, or downright pissed off about this.
Why is it so important for us to find some sort of “spirituality” in order to stay sober?
The Spiritual Malady
Okay, so when we are in active addiction, we are obviously mentally and physically sick. If you have experienced the depths of withdrawal and the insanity of chasing down a drug dealer or stealing from people in order to get high, you can comfortably attest to the fact that yes, we were not right in the head when we were using.
Something you may not have been aware of is that during our addiction, we are also spiritually sick. I don’t mean we stopped going to Church, or we were going to Hell or anything. What I mean is, in a nutshell; addiction is a disease of connection. When we are using, we are cut off from any deep, meaningful relationship with anything or anyone apart from our drug or drink of choice.
- We don’t trust anyone
- We don’t trust ourselves
- We don’t think anyone can help us
- We have no hope apart from the next hit
What is Spirituality?
This question will transform and grow with you as you grow in your sobriety – which is one of the coolest aspects of the whole deal. Spirituality can look different for everyone. For many of us, through what we have learned through books, the media, movies, etc., spirituality looks like a monk on a hilltop, fasting for days and letting nothing make them sad or angry.
For other people, spirituality looks like praying a rosary ten times a day, burning candles, and being an all-around “good person”. Again, for those of us who have never actually felt like spiritual people, the idea of it can seem like something that is forever out of reach.
However, when the program speaks of spirituality, they speak of being “other-centered”. In other words,
Thinking more about what we put into the stream of life than what we get out of it…
This ability does not come overnight, yet it is STILL a promise that through working the twelve steps, you WILL develop a sense of the spirituality that the Anonymous literature promises.
The Spiritual Promise
The twelfth step is worded:
“Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps… “
In other words, you are GOING to have a spiritual experience by this point of the process. Most people never have that “white light” or burning bush moment by the time they take their third step, so they assume they messed up somewhere or they are never going to be able to stay sober.
However, it has been proven, time and time again, that a majority of sober folks experience what is called, the “educational variety”, or, a spiritual AWAKENING.
Where many people think they should have had a burning bush moment, what they really experience are small, persistent changes in their behavior, their way of thinking, and their actions.
For example, I had a sponsee call me the other day because she had chipped a tooth in the night and her halfway house manager wouldn’t let her miss IOP to make a dentist appointment. The manager told her that she had the choice to play the victim or not. Long story short, she didn’t call me to tell me that she flipped out and had to make amends. She called me to tell me that she DID NOT flip out, that she changed her perspective, went to IOP, and rescheduled her dentist appointment.
To many, this may not seem like a big deal, but for her, it was a mind-blowing experience. Never before had she been one to hold her tongue when she felt insulted, but for the first time, she did it. She was able to take a few breaths, realize that what the manager said was ACCURATE and also realize that she was totally in control of rescheduling her dentist appointment.
The world didn’t end, she didn’t get high or drink, and she didn’t get kicked out.
All in all, at that moment, she stated that she finally felt a little “spiritual”, and she was only on her third step.
Why You Need It
We come in here broken, beat up, and hopeless. After what we have been through, of course, we would have a hard time believing that “something out there” actually wants the best for us. God, the universe, and all of its people have done nothing but give us the short straw for as long as we can remember.
Or so we thought.
There will come a time in your sobriety that you will realize, every single moment, every single overdose, every arrest, and every morning withdrawal wasn’t a waste of life. It was the tiny individual steps that brought you to where you are now.
If that isn’t the universe, I don’t know what is.
You’re probably going to struggle with the idea of spirituality at some point or another, and when you do, keep looking.
“We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God – as we understood him. Praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Think about it this way:
- Sought = explore, investigate, discover, dig deeper
- Improve = strengthen, refine, enhance, upgrade, boost
- Conscious = aware, responsive, feeling
In other words, if you are going to be sober for a long time, which, hopefully, you are, your idea and perception of your higher power is going to adapt, evolve, and grow with you. It will be one of the most powerful and meaningful aspects of your sobriety.
No one cares what you choose to use as your source of spirituality, as long as it is grounded in love, honesty, kindness, and truth. In the beginning, if all you can do is make the group your higher power at least it is something outside of yourself.
No matter what you choose, the point is that you utilize it. Having a sense of being other-centered, caring about your life and the life of those around you, and wanting to feel gratitude and compassion are just the stepping stones to the rest of your life.