The responses to spirituality, among those who are reaching for long-term sobriety and a successful sober living experience, vary widely. Of course, the road to recovery may not always include a spiritual component; it does appear that some form of an inward searching practice is necessary. For instance, if you’re going to change the way you behave, an honest examination of your thoughts and feelings are required on some level. In a way, this alone could be considered spiritual contemplation. It is a means to becoming a better human being, and more importantly, it is a path towards living a healthier life.
For instance, step four of the 12-step model asks that a person make a fearless moral inventory of oneself, inviting the exploration of one’s inner thoughts and beliefs that might inhibit recovery. This might be an acceptable task, even for those who are not spiritually bent, but more than half of the 12 steps invite communication or relationship with a higher being.
William James who is sometimes referred to as the “father of American psychology,” was also a philosopher and a physician, and he once noted, “psychology is limited in its ability to help heal the addictive mind.” In order for an individual to make a change, they must undergo some form of spiritual transformation. Sure, there are ways that people have changed with the use of pure will power. But with a force as strong as addiction and its self-perpetuating cycles in the brain, the individual often needs to connect with an intelligence greater, larger than himself.
For many AA participants, there’s a reason why spirituality exists in the 12-step model – a relationship with a higher being facilitates a greater sense of power within oneself versus the powerlessness that led to addiction in the first place. The 12-step model includes at its core a culture, a community, and conversations about developing a relationship a higher being, and it has longevity and high recovery rates on its side.
There are various models that can treat an addiction, that both include and don’t include spirituality. Although some individuals who suffer from an addiction might be opposed to spirituality as a part of a recovery program, for many, it’s what makes the AA model so effective. At the same time, there are those who keep their distance from spirituality throughout the many years they attend meetings, and they continue to work through the 12 AA steps regardless. Some have started the road to recovery years ago and have remained sober neither needed nor wanted the spiritual component. Their disbelief in anything spiritual kept them far from it. And still, others who remained at arm’s length to the spirituality of AA, for example, later found that it was an essential part of their recovery process. Certainly, spirituality may not be what a recovering addict is looking for. He or she may discover that spirituality is not what he or she needs on the sober living path.
Spirituality is undoubtedly a big factor for some recovering addicts. However, it doesn’t have to be the primary contributor to your long-term sobriety. In fact, mental health professionals have narrowed the success of sobriety and sober living down to two factors: you’re not alone and support for your decision is at your fingertips.
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