Discover the Value in Adding Spiritual Practices to Recovery
Does spirituality have a place in recovery? Can spiritual practices make a real difference? What does the value of spirituality look like in helping us in our sobriety? This article explores these questions to help you discover some answers.
The value of a spiritual practice in recovery cannot be overstated. Just as with all things that are spiritual in nature, the opportunities are endless. Unlike the traditions and sacraments of religion, nobody can tell us we’re doing it wrong. Ideally, a spiritual practice is a habit, something we do daily to consciously connect to our Higher Power (HP). It allows us to quiet our minds and focus on what’s most important to us in our daily lives. We tend to derive a sense of security out of structure and routine.
The practices I’ve seen be most effective tend to occur at the same time(s) of day, every day. For most it is first thing in the morning and/or last thing at night. This provides the makeup of the practice.
We’re also free to develop a number of habits that we use as needed:
- The Serenity Prayer
- Brief requests for strength
- A minute of deep breathing
- A phone call to a spiritual advisor
...anything that helps in the moment to reduce stress makes life more manageable.
Getting Past Fears
On some level, many of us are afraid we’re doing it wrong. We try things and it doesn’t feel like anything and so we reason that we’ve messed it up somehow. Meditation is a great example: Every time I’ve tried to meditate, I’ve fallen asleep. I didn’t just quiet my mind, it took me all the way.
I love talking with folks about what they believe and practice, especially in talking with their HP. I often find that people are afraid to ask for much if they practice prayer. It’s an aspect of recovery that tends to be long lasting: we don’t ever seek more than we believe we deserve. I’ve found comfort in being what religious folks would consider blasphemous when I talk to my HP. It helps me to overcome the rigid and terrifying lessons I received in Sunday school.
What It is and Isn’t
Spirituality does not have to incorporate the concept of a HP at all. We’re free to define it as we will. If one experiences spiritual growth simply in connecting to other good people, that’s a great benefit. The trick is to put it into practice optimally – in a manner that affords us the greatest benefit. Suggestions below are based on connecting to a HP in pursuit of the type of spiritual growth sought by most in 12 step programs.
The saltiest of “old timers” I’ve known in AA would advise their sponsees to place their car keys underneath their bed at night. The idea is that you have to get on your knees to retrieve them in the morning. While you’re down there maybe you say a few words to your HP. It has the added benefit of reducing the stress of trying to find your car keys at the start of your day!
I worked with a woman who had a beautiful and simple spiritual practice. Before getting out of bed each morning she would simply say, “Good morning, God” . When asked why she did this she replied in earnest, “...because I used to say good God, it’s morning”. Beginning the day with positivity and a conscious decision to acknowledge that her HP would be running the show today worked remarkably well.
Coffee and Cigarettes
Nobody decreed that prayer and meditation have to occur in a pious fashion. Some of the most successful people I know in recovery engage their practices over their morning coffee and smokes. For most of us, this is a time in which our minds either drift or consider the day ahead. To focus one’s energy on receiving our HP’s plans and living as She / He / It would have us, allows us a far greater sense of serenity.
Nature and Nurture
I’ve known countless folks who feel their best in the woods. There’s something about just being in any nature setting for them that facilitates feeling closer to their HP. Walking, hiking, even fishing offer them a sense of communing and restoration.
Combining exercise and spirituality is an undeniable win/win.
Hit the Books
Daily meditation and affirmation books are justifiably popular in recovery. Sometimes we require a jumping off point to focus on a spiritual axiom or experience. A short reading passage gives us something to reflect on and perhaps even incorporate into the day.
Write it Out
One of the most effective practices I’ve seen are 'gratitude lists'. Conscious reflecting on the day or recent past, we consider what’s good in our lives that we may be taking for granted or simply overlooking. Raising our awareness of how blessed we are helps us embrace the recovery adage, “I may not be where I want to be but thank God I’m not where I used to be."
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