Why Some Have a Spiritual Crisis in Recovery

When a person gets sober, life turns upside down. You uncover aspects of your life that you’ve forgotten, and you let go of parts of your life that are unhealthy. Everything is different. And because of the grand change that takes place, some recovering addicts might go through a spiritual crisis.

Interestingly, there’s a saying in the mental health field that addicts are very spiritual people, but that they are knocking on the wrong door. Perhaps some addicts found a connection to the transcendental through drugs and drinking, and if all that needs to come to an end, then how is someone to experience that kind of spiritual connection again?

Some of the symptoms of a spiritual crisis might include:

  • Life feels meaningless.
  • Fear of losing one’s identity.
  • Fear of “going crazy”.
  • Life feels unreal or like a fantasy.
  • Feelings of great anxiety.
  • Fear of death.
  • Feelings of being a stranger in the world.
  • Urges to connect with a higher being or a transcendental source.
  • Depression.
  • Feeling the world to be threatening.

You might define a spiritual crisis as a time in life when you question yourself, your beliefs, and your view of the world. You might experience a significant change in your identity, which can leave you feeling disoriented and lost. You might go through a dark night of the soul or feel like a different person. You might not only feel like a different person, but you might not know who you are at all. This lack of identity can feel like a spiritual emergency.

In fact, many studies reveal that spirituality plays a significant role in one’s healing and transformation. For this reason, more and more treatment centers are including meditation, yoga, and other alternative type of practices to help foster meaning and purpose. In fact, a study done by Florida Atlantic University showed that the lack of certain spiritual factors (such as meaningful relationships and a connection to a higher power) is associated with alcohol abuse and drug addiction. According to the study, these same factors are also associated with other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as well.

If you feel like you are undergoing an identity crisis and a spiritual emergency, there are some resources available to you. First of all, you’re not alone. This experience is not unheard of among those in recovery. So, you can feel safe to talk about your experience at a 12-step meeting or a recovery group. Here are some additional steps to take if you feel like you are experiencing a spiritual crisis:

  • If you have a sponsor or therapist, talk to them about your experiences. They would want to know what is going on anyway.
  • Spend time with others, such as friends and family. You may or may not feel comfortable sharing your experience but at least the presence of others can keep you safe.
  • Visit a doctor for a medical checkup. You might be having symptoms of an illness.
  • If you’re not seeing a therapist, contact a mental health provider to be sure you’re not experiencing symptoms of a mental illness.
  • Talk to your priest, rabbi, or spiritual teacher.

In addition to the above, keep in mind that, in many cases, having a spiritual crisis is a stepping stone to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.


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