Spirituality: Simple But Not Easy
By Debi Anson
When newcomers first come into the rooms of any 12-Step program, spirituality and the higher power concept can sometimes be more difficult to accept than the idea of powerlessness. As many younger Americans move away from religion, the capital G-O-D word found throughout the 12-Step texts regularly pushes sobriety-seeking, secular individuals out the door.
The official literature is clear about what is required and what is not to work the steps successfully. Atheists, agnostics, and the deeply religious have all found recovery with the help of these programs and embraced spirituality. So, what is spirituality? It would be easier if there was an exact Merriam-Webster dictionary definition that applied and explained it all. Let’s take a look at what the famed dictionary has to offer.
spir·i·tu·al·i·ty | \ ˌspir-i-chə-ˈwa-lə-tē \
Definition of spirituality
1: something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such
3: sensitivity or attachment to religious values
4: the quality or state of being spiritual
I don’t know about you, but that vague definition does little to help me grasp the concept, let alone implement it in my daily life. So, again, what is spirituality? What does it even mean?
When I was in college, I saw my dad’s co-worker named Smitty at the grocery store. When I mentioned it to my father, he replied, “Oh yeah? Smitty is good people.”
Smitty was good people. He had integrity, honesty, compassion, and he had a heart for service. He practiced daily what the AA Big Book calls “spiritual principles.” Those traits are the core of what spirituality is. Whether we practice traditional mystic spirituality through a religious tradition such as prayer, worship, or devotional readings, or we practice non-mystical spirituality, the result is that we become better people because of it. I’ve known people who have rigorous religious practices and people who don’t. The latter often say they are most in touch with the universe as they sit silently and await the sunrise. Both are connections. Both are peaceful serenity. Let me share a story.
A little boy named Kyle went to fly kites with his grandfather. As Kyle tugged the string and fought the wind, his grandfather read nearby, paying no attention to the boy. The clouds suddenly became thicker and enveloped the kite. Kyle’s grandfather suddenly took notice.
“I don’t see your kite. I am afraid you may have lost it.”
Kyle flatly replied, “No, Grandpa, It’s still there.”
“How do you know it’s still up there?” asked the grandfather.
“Because I feel the string pulling me!” replied Kyle.
When we are in active addiction, we often become so lost that we can no longer hear our inner voice or feel the pull of the string. We can’t seem to connect with ourselves or others. The guilt and shame envelop us, and the isolation is all-encompassing.
Embracing spirituality in recovery is a lot like learning to feel the pull of the kite string again. We need to listen to our internal moral compass. To accomplish this, we need to learn how to quiet ourselves. We need to get right with ourselves, our Higher Power, the people in our lives, and the universe.
Those traits my father saw in Smitty correctly describe the essence of spirituality. Integrity, honesty, compassion, and service are the core principles of a spiritual person. It’s about keeping our side of the street clean, doing the right thing, and having gratitude for the things we have in our lives. It’s about transformation and person-to-person relationships. It’s about making our bed in the morning, brushing our teeth, getting proper exercise, and eating healthy because we want to take care of the gift of our bodies. Spirituality in recovery is truly “progress, not perfection” because, in sobriety, growth and change are constant. Embrace it, love it, and live it. However you choose to practice your spirituality is the right way because this is your recovery journey.
If you’re wrestling with concepts of spirituality and recovery, AspenRidge Recovery has a variety of treatment options for people at various stages of the recovery process. Our IOP program is available in-person, and we also have an online option called REACH. If you’ve already completed an Intensive Outpatient Program, we also have an Outpatient program designed for people stepping down from a higher level of care.
We have extensive experience treating substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. Speak with a treatment specialist today to assess your options in finding sobriety. Call 855-678-3144