There may be a misunderstanding amongst the masses about the importance of spirituality to addiction recovery. Addiction itself can rip the soul of spirituality, changing our emotions and perspectives toward negativity, creating dangerous, self-fulfilling prophecies. The process of detox and recovery must include the reintegration of spirituality into one’s life. But don’t get confused, spirituality does not require religious belief but something that already resides deep within.
Personal Defense Mechanisms Can Hide Our Core Truth
Human beings are innately spiritual – we feel. It isn’t just the process of feeling that sets us apart from other mammals. We take our feelings and dissect them into how the feelings came about, why they came about, and what to do with them next.
Spirit is active not passive. But with drug or alcohol addiction, our spirit loses the ability to intellectualize our feelings. Instead, those amidst substance abuse are often reactive. The abundance of chemicals inside the body and brain have numbed the senses, to include the ability to draw from our spiritual sense. What exactly is that?
Spiritual Sense Assists Empathetic Connection
When life confronts us with circumstances beyond our control, personal choices present themselves. We can choose to do the following with the situation:
- avoid it
- react to it
- accept it
- embrace it
Unforeseen life events, good and bad, can tap into our natural response system known as “fight-or-flight”. This can happen, even when we are pleasantly surprised. Think of your best friend giving you a surprise party. At first, you get that physical rush of adrenaline. Your body reacts while the mind is quickly trying to process and this is when you can decide to respond negatively, start screaming or bail out the front door and leave your own surprise party behind. Chances are that you’ll do neither (but those choices will run through you for a moment). Instead, you will accept the overwhelming gesture of friendship and happily greet your guests. Once you get comfortable with the element of surprise, you’ll embrace the entire event. But the above process isn’t so easy with traumatic events.
Trauma, Triggers and Honesty
Unless you’ve lived in a bubble or under a rock, trauma, on some level, has been a part of your lifetime. Looking back, before addiction took hold and became normal, there was undoubtedly a life event that scarred you emotionally. To avoid opening the scar and delving into the heartache, the mind can shelter those recurring thoughts with defense mechanisms. These are newly acquired coping skills that become a person’s go-to over time. Often, the addiction itself is the coping mechanism used to avoid the resurgence of pain.
Each time there is a direct or indirect reminder of the initial traumatic event (conscious or subconscious) the natural response kicks in. The cycle goes to fight-or-flight but doesn’t go beyond that. These reminders are known as triggers. Trauma and triggers, unaddressed, can block our internal spiritual sense.
Part of the recovery process during addiction treatment is to have the wherewithal to be honest. It takes inner strength, courage, and acceptance of imperfections. This is where learning how to love oneself starts. Spirituality is the essence of true self.
It Hurts to Feel
Ask an opioid addict why they have a compulsive need to take prescription pills or inject heroin and there may be a myriad of reasons given but the bottom line is pretty much rooted in the same phrase. “It hurts to feel anymore.”
Cycle of Pain
Then I do drugs or drink alcohol and then
Then I do drugs or drink alcohol and then….
Once a person, whether amidst addiction recovery or not, discovers their personal spirituality, positive life-change happens instantaneously.
Science Behind Spirituality
Various studies have been conducted measuring aspects of the addiction recovery process and the affect that 12-Step programs and associated beliefs related to life’s meaning plays on patients. Results indicate a beneficial connection between spiritual affiliation (belief in something greater than oneself) and better quality of life. According to an article published in the U.S. National Library of Public Health from the National Institute of Health, examining spirituality amongst chronic illness and addiction, “Life meaning is an inherent part of the spiritual pursuit.” Lower levels of quality of life were evident in participants who were not spiritual, compared to those who practiced a form of spiritual belief.
Beyond 12 Steps, Spirituality Is Who We Are
Long are the praises for 12-Step programs that provide a guideline for sobriety to millions of those in addiction recovery. Many have heard the references to the bible, teachings of Christ, and a seemingly direct alignment with belief in God. But what about those who have no defined belief in a deity?
Spirituality, like addiction recovery, is a practice. To learn ideologies and immerse them into one’s lifestyle takes time and commitment. Many of the covenants of the 12 steps are based on common sense philosophies and ethics that have been passed down through centuries, from various cultures, that bear no religious correlation.
If you believe that most people are born intrinsically good but that bad things happen, then understanding how to find one’s spirituality isn’t difficult but merely the journey to a personal road once forgotten. It’s always been there. It’s just a matter of finding your way.
Addiction Is Personal, So Is Spirit
There is no judgement in spirituality. It exists in the present, whenever one calls upon its power, it is. Spirituality is comfort and kindness, love and inner light. It shines within each of us and, when shared, grows human consciousness.
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