Whether you have been to a traditional recovery center or not, you are probably no stranger to the idea held within the third step of “finding your higher power.”
But, is spirituality essential for recovery?
Religion Versus Spirituality
Although just 70 years ago, the terms religion and spirituality were used interchangeably, today the meaning between the two has diverged. For many, finding a higher power translates to finding God. Because the traditional drug rehabilitation center has a history of being centered in God, it’s easy to conflate finding a higher power with God, which can deter people who do not associate themselves with a religion.
Spirituality is defined as “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” This is an important distinction from a religious-based definition. In this interpretation, spirituality refers to an act of shifting focus from the material world to sojourn of the soul.
In other words, consider spirituality to be something that allows you to break away from focusing your attention on the material world. This would include everything from physical appearance to the kind of car you drive.
In the material world, what we “have” alters how we self-identify. The material world is ruled by sight and ranked by labels, brand names, sizes, etc. In truth, if we allow our identities to be defined by what the majority deems as quality, we lose sight of the unseen. The soul, our hearts, and the gifts we may give free of charge transcend a focus of possessions and appearance.
The world in its rawest form is magic. As children, we see beyond monetary value, and in a sense, live most closely to our spirits. As we age, we begin to discriminate based on a material scale.
How Spirituality Helps
When we act from a spirit center, we see beyond brand names, waist size, or other status markers. We gaze more clearly into the essence of humanity, both its strength and fragility.
By letting go of the physical, we might close our eyes and experience the world through the other senses. Closing our eyes, we might first notice the salmon light still filtering through the eyelids. Then, the world slips into a land of sound, touch, and smell. Depending on where you are, you might notice the sound of the wind, the feel of its soft flow on your skin, the smell of it, pulling up the richness of the earth. Your attention will slowly bring you to the internal, the rise of your shoulders as you breathe, the cool feel of the air flowing into your nose. With each breath, you might realize that whatever was ailing you doesn’t quite matter.
Words and phrases that get used in abundance can sometimes suffer the alternative effect, a weakening of meaning. Imagine a word or phrase as a balloon. Each time it’s used, a little of the air is let out of the balloon. After so long, the balloon is deflated.
In general, substance abuse is considered in the western world as a spiritual deprivation. If we take this to mean that substance abuse is related to an absence of religion, we create too narrow of an answer.
It is common in today’s world that there are a plethora of pathways that can provide a person with spirituality. It seems that everywhere you look, someone is claiming to have the answer. Take this meditation course. Buy these crystals, herbal remedies, or essential oils. There are even Himalayan rock lamps that claim to diffuse negative particles in the air.
As pointed out in a Psychology Today article, this way of interpreting spirituality can distract us from emotional or biological issues that are in true need of a remedy. It is not so much that we understand spirituality as something to be worn or that the answer is in a blog post. Spirituality is in taking the time to better understand and identify the core of imbalance and what resources are needed in order to help you live in alignment with your soul.
This is not to say you should disregard or avoid spiritual outlets recommended by others, but to just beware of spiritual bypass. Becoming vegan or attending weekly yoga cannot negate deeper underlying issues standing central to the success of your recovery.