Why Abstinence Isn’t Enough
If you’re trying to stay sober and are wondering why everyone says spirituality is necessary, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with the concept of a higher power in recovery: you may wonder, “Why do I have to be spiritual? Can’t I just stop using or drinking?” Recovery is more than abstention from drugs and alcohol – it means recovering the person you are meant to be. Put simply, sobriety alone is not the same as recovery. Merely abstaining from alcohol and drugs isn’t enough to repair the damage done by years of substance use.
Addiction affects every aspect of your life: physical, mental, and spiritual. Your physical health has been compromised, emotions are at an all-time high, and the spirit has been beaten down. Through recovery, we seek to heal each of these damaged parts. This is considered a holistic approach to addiction treatment.
Removing these substances from your life will kickstart your return to physical health. Through the addition of proper nutrition and regular exercise, many of the negative effects of addiction can begin to be remedied. However, pursuing only the healing of the body is a precarious approach. This is called “white-knuckling” your sobriety, and it leaves its adherents particularly vulnerable to relapse.
Mental and emotional wellbeing is also vital to restore in recovery. Without addressing problematic behaviors and ill-formed coping mechanisms, many of addiction’s holdovers remain. For example, it may be challenging to cope with instances of severe stress, or to maintain fulfilling, supportive relationships. Old habits of lying or isolating oneself may still be your first instinct when times are tough.
Spiritual Recovery: What Is a Higher Power?
Chief among these forms of recovery is spirituality. After casting aside one’s consuming focus on drugs or alcohol, it is not uncommon to feel lost in the world. Substance use disorders make us feel alone, or like there is no reason to fight and live. Once you detox and begin to look ahead to your life in recovery, you may begin to have questions about your purpose.
Spirituality is not necessarily traditionally religious in nature – instead, it involves the acknowledgement of a higher power. For many people, this is the driving factor that inspires the faith that they can be happy and should maintain sobriety. This motivation is key; the relationship with a higher power helps many people to realize that they’re connected to something important. A study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse showed that patients were less likely to relapse if they had strong spiritual or religious principles guiding them. Much like the experience of having a sponsor, for those who attempted to maintain sobriety, regular spiritual practice such as attendance at religious services resulted in significantly higher rates of success.
Sometimes it’s simpler to describe a higher power than to name one, especially for those who have not been religious earlier in life. For some people, it is a god of a major world religion, while others consider the universe or nature to be their higher power.
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were some of the first to understand the importance of spirituality in addiction recovery – in fact, they coined the term “higher power.” In the Big Book, the founders wrote that they “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This is still a core tenant of 12-Step programs nationwide; the process of a spiritual awakening and surrender to a higher power is critical to the success of these programs.
Finding Your Higher Power
Many of those who undergo addiction treatment find themselves strongly drawn to a major world religion, while others experience difficulty with these faiths. Finding a higher power isn’t about making yourself believe a new religion – it’s about discovering something that brings you purpose, motivation, and peace. Many people don’t outright choose a higher power; they experience a spiritual awakening in their recovery, and feel connected to this aspect of their recovery.
Some search for this connection by praying, while they may not know to whom or for what. Regardless, they reach out and are open to feeling something. Others cultivate this peace and openness through activities like meditation or spending quiet time in nature. As they dedicate more of themselves to these activities, they feel a pull to something greater than themselves.
Spiritual Awakenings in Addiction Recovery
Spirituality is a key aspect of recovery, whether you pursue a 12-Step program or an alternative approach to sobriety. By pursuing a higher power, you nurture feelings of curiosity and motivation that will serve you well in the future.
If you or a loved one would like to learn more about how a spiritual approach to recovery can help you break free of addiction, contact Lakeside-Milam today at 800-231-4303.