What is Spirituality in Recovery?

What do you think is worse, being told you have an incurable disease that will slowly kill you, or being told that the only solution is a spiritual lifestyle? 

For pretty much everyone else on the planet, the answer is obvious, but for those of us who suffer from addiction and alcoholism, this is our truth, and it is a truth we really struggle with. 

Most of us have tried every imaginable way to regulate and enjoy our highs, to only drink or use when it is appropriate, but all of us have learned, through countless trial and error, that we are stuck. 

It is only when we realize that in our disease the medicine is practicing spirituality in recovery and that it is completely free, that we start to realize how lucky we actually are. 

So why do so many of us still struggle with the idea of spirituality in recovery? 

For me, I struggled with it so much in the beginning because no one had been able to break it down to me in a way I could understand. While I was attending inpatient treatment, I heard people say surrender, I heard people say turn over my will, but I had no idea what that meant or how to do it. 

So, if you find yourself in a similar predicament, where you truly WANT this spiritual, sober life, but don’t know how to actually DO it, keep reading. 

For starters, stop overthinking

I had an utter inability to get over the fact that I could not describe my higher power to myself. I knew I didn’t want what I was raised believing in, but for a long time, I believed that if I couldn’t define my HP, I wasn’t going to be able to “make contact” whatever that meant. I figured I would never be able to obtain spirituality in my recovery. 

One morning, I was walking my dog before work. I was grumbling in my head about being up early and having to spend the day at work and being all-around ungrateful until I was jerked to a halt. 

My dog had stopped in her tracks to sniff a butterfly on a flower. In that most precious moment of her being absolutely adorable, I saw how much of a brat I was being. I looked at her, she looked at me, and it made me realize that I forgot how to literally stop and smell the flowers. I looked around and saw the sun was rising, everything was really quiet, and there was a nice warm breeze. Everything was simple and exactly how it should be. 

It might seem simple, but that was my first sober experience with a higher power. From then on I realized, I just had to keep it simple. 

A day of Spiritual Living for Addicts

Listen, most of us are never going to be gurus who can meditate for hours. We got sober to live rich, full lives, and while meditation is an essential aspect of that, it wasn’t necessarily what Bill Wilson had in mind. 

If you look over the steps, you can see that they circle back in on themselves. 

  • Steps 1-3 are getting right with HP
  • Steps 4-7 are getting right with ourselves
  • Steps 8-10 are getting right with others
  • Steps 11-12 are staying right in the circle 

These steps are not one and done tasks. We do a big inventory on step four so we can be slapped in the face with where the problem is coming from, and we make a big round of amends upfront to right our wrongs as quickly as possible. 

Then, every day, we work 10, 11, and 12. 

Step 10 is those little, throughout the day spot checks. When we get irritated, when we lash out, when we are ungrateful, we do a mini inventory on it, find out what’s really going on, ask our HP for the right thought or action, and then immediately see who we can help. 

spirituality in recovery

Step 10, when performed all throughout the day, is a culmination of all of the other steps combined. 

That, in it’s simplest form, is spirituality in recovery. 

What is Meditation?

When the original 100 sat down to write the Big Book, they didn’t know all that much about the practices of Eastern Religions and how to meditate for Nirvana and all of that. 

Webster’s Dictionary from that time defined meditation as “concentrated thought”. Which, for many of us who worry that we’ll never be able to completely silence our mind, and therefore avoid meditation because of it, will find comfort. 

If we are using meditation as taking moments to channel our thinking, rather than trying to completely silence our thinking, we are going to find much more progress in it. For those that enjoy and are successful with silent meditation, my hat is off to you, because even after multiple years of spirituality in sobriety, my brain is difficult to quiet. 

For those that feel the same way I do, it can be comforting to know that your form of meditation doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, it can be entirely what you want it to be. The only requirement is that you feel some sort of contact or connection with your HP in the process.

If you are struggling with finding a form of meditation, think outside the box. I personally have used:

  • Dancing around the house with music on
  • Making art
  • Hiking
  • Walking the Dog
  • Journaling on spiritual principles
  • Sitting in Silence 
  • Rock Climbing

These might just sound like everyday activities because they 100% are, but it’s the intention behind it that counts. When I am engaging in these activities with an open heart, some gratitude, and a willingness to feel a connection to my higher power, literally every activity can become a form of meditation. 

It doesn’t have to be rocket science. 

A Spiritual Awakening as the Result of These Steps

In the twelfth step, we are promised that at this point, we are guaranteed to have had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps. What many of us get hung up on are those burning bush moments. We think that if we haven’t had a completely overwhelming and mind-boggling situation in which we felt god or a “white light” experience, we didn’t do it right. 

In reality, a spiritual awakening is more like a collection of small moments, slow and steady learning, in which we have achieved a “personality change” significant enough bring about recovery from alcoholism. That is what Appendix 2, Spiritual Experience, talks about. 

This personality change does not mean we are saints, it does not mean we are perfect, what it means, is that we are a hell of a lot better than we used to be. Such as:

  • We are able to clearly see ourselves
  • We are able to change our behavior 
  • We are able to pause and respond rather than immediately react
  • We are able and willing to right our wrongs and make amends
  • We are willing to be of service to our fellow man
  • We try our best to align our thinking to an altruistic and spiritual recovery

Spirituality in recovery is 100% tangible when we realize that it is simply working towards being our ideal of spirituality. The beautiful thing bout being a human is that we will probably never be perfect, but as long as we are willing to work towards it, we are going to continue to find it.