Spirituality in Addiction Recovery for the Skeptic

Monday, January 30, 2023 | By Andrew Bramlett

What’s all this About Spirituality and Addiction? 

One of the topics which brings about the most confusion, and sometimes controversy in the world of recovery is spirituality. Not for people already in recovery, mind you. But people on the outside looking in or very new to recovery often ask what is spirituality in addiction recovery? What is meant by spirituality exactly? How does spirituality help someone who is addicted? Does this mean I have to go to church?

The questions are many, but we’re going to answer them all in this blog about spirituality and addiction. By the end, you should have a pretty clear idea about the role of spirituality in addiction recovery and why it is seen by many as an essential and necessary component in the recovery process. 


I know what Addiction Recovery Is, But, What is Spirituality?

Spirituality can be tough to define. It’s not inaccurate to say there isn’t a single, super-specific agreed upon definition. But in the modern parlance, and in the framework of addiction recovery, spirituality and religion are two different things. It’s important to get that out of the way early on. It is absolutely possible to be spiritual, but not religious. With that in mind, spirituality is the practice and trait of working to get closer to your own soul, the souls of others and to embrace a ‘higher power’ for yourself. 

A person who is working to enrich his or her life spiritually tends to focus less on the material rewards of this world and more on what is truly most important to them in their life. Spirituality almost always has a strong element of selflessness. Of learning to put the needs of others ahead of our own. It is about embracing our higher self or what Freud called the superego, where our morals, values and ideals reside. At this point it may be beginning to become clearer where spirituality fits in with addiction recovery. You might say that spirituality is dedicating yourself towards becoming the best version of you. But by “best” we mean the most morally sound, the most loving, the most giving and forgiving version of yourself. A version of you with more empathy, kindness and wisdom. 


OK, But I Don’t Need a Sky Fairy to Tell Me to Be a Better Person

Some people recoil at the term spirituality because they have strong negative associations with organized religion. For others it may just be a doggedly pragmatic and literal way of thinking. They embrace science but see open-minded thinking about the world we cannot see and the less easily explained phenomena as silly or even deluded. We’ll be honest, that can make the spirituality element of recovery more challenging to accept, much less adopt. But it’s still far more accessible than you probably imagine. Keep reading and try to maintain an open mind. 


Crossing Barriers to Spirituality in Addiction Recovery

Let’s take a different approach. Look at spirituality in addiction recovery from a purely practical and scientific standpoint. 


Begin by looking at what you know:

  1. You know you are addicted. You have a substance use disorder.
  2. That your best efforts and willpower alone have failed to keep you sober. 
  3. That  people have used spirituality in their recovery to successfully overcome addiction. 


Those three things are clear. You also know that:

  • Focusing on disproving the existence of said “sky fairy” is unlikely to keep you sober.
  • Your knowledge and understanding of spirituality in addiction recovery is incomplete at best.
  • Your addiction is slowly (or not so slowly) destroying you and will succeed if you do not change. 


If you can accept (however grudgingly)  all of the above as true and correct, then is it not reasonable to suggest that a solution to your problem is staring you in the face? That you’ve seen ample evidence of this solution delivering real results for other people in the form of long-term recovery and sobriety? Suppose you decided to table your misgiving for the time being. Bite your tongue when you’re tempted to talk about “sky fairies” or make other condescending remarks. What if instead you attempted some humility in light of your current predicament and your inability to solve your addiction problem through your own devices. Why not put your skepticism aside and your acerbic wit on the back burner for just a bit and go through the motions for a bit?


Why Spirituality is a Practical Solution in Addiction Recovery

We get it. You’re still hung up on the higher power thing. Listen, first of all you can (and should) choose your own concept of a higher power. It needn’t be ultra-specific and clearly defined. The only requirement is that it is something truly greater than yourself and virtually unlimited in its potential power. That means you can make the universe or solar system your higher power. Or the Earth or the Sun or Moon, or the ocean if you like. It can’t be your cat or a chair in your room or a stone you carry in your pocket though. It can even be the Flying Spaghetti Monster, if you want. But only if you’re taking this entirely seriously and investing in faith. If this is all a joke to you, it isn’t going to work. Choose whatever you like within the parameters. Just remember, it cannot be anything that can technically “fail” you or which can be taken away from you or destroyed.  


Challenge Yourself and Your Own Ideas for a Change 

It’s time to mix it up. We’re asking you to let down your guard a bit and turn that magnifying glass back onto yourself. Are you up to it? Apply the same scrutiny you do to spirituality to yourself and your own ideas. How well have they served you thus far with regards to your addiction? We’ll grant you this type of thinking is challenging to the science-loving, logic-demanding agnostic or atheist. But again, we submit that utilizing spirituality and the higher power concept in recovery is not anti-science and it is, in fact, perfectly logical. How? BECAUSE IT WORKS


At the end of the day, what really matters? Results. If your goal is to get sober and stay sober, then it’s time to accept the fact that simply removing the drugs or alcohol and relying on willpower isn’t sufficient. Clearly it isn’t if you have ever been to treatment for addiction or relapsed or you are using and drinking in spite of the fact that it is destroying you. The bottom line is, you’ve got nothing to lose. Let go and trust the process. Give yourself over to a program of recovery. Relinquish your ego and go through the emotions. Do exactly what you’re told for a while and watch what happens. You’ve already tried your way. Now try ours. 


Solutions for Addiction at JourneyPure Emerald Coast

No matter how far down the scale you think you or your loved one has fallen, there is absolutely hope for recovery. JourneyPure Emerald Coast wants to help you or the person you love overcome addiction to drugs or alcohol for good. But you have to make the first move. We can’t help if you don’t call. So pick up the phone and let’s get things turned in the right direction, together. Call us anytime, 24-hours a day at 877-958-5354

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