- Spirituality often varies in definition and in practice—however, it’s ultimately about connecting to something greater than ourselves to live a happier life.
- Doing so can help us cope during difficult times, which means spirituality can prove important to addiction recovery.
- Those in addiction recovery (and others) can practice spirituality and find a greater purpose by helping others.
- They can also feel fulfilled by dedicating themselves to a religion or finding a connection in nature.
- Finally, some find meaning and fulfillment in personal interests—such as art or their career—or in their personal relationships.
What Is Spirituality? How Does It Come into Play in Addiction Recovery?
Spirituality doesn’t have one universal definition; it varies in meaning, purpose, and practice. That said, it basically involves connecting to something greater than ourselves in order to feel fulfilled in life. Often, we turn to spirituality during difficult times—which is why it can be helpful to those in addiction recovery. Lin Anderson, LMHC, M.A., Ed.M. and Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC are psychotherapists with a private practice Family Addiction Specialist. They help to explain the functionality of spirituality in addiction recovery:
“Many believe that addiction not only affects individuals physically and mentally, but spiritually as well. Alcoholics Anonymous calls alcoholism a ‘spiritual malady.’ Subsequently, many have found that spirituality can play a fundamental role in addiction recovery. Spirituality is difficult to define, and in many respects is subjective in nature. In general, spirituality consists of connecting with something bigger than ourselves, and in many ways, is connected with having meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life.
Finding meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life is very important in addiction recovery, and really for all individuals regardless of addiction. It makes sense that if you have meaning, purpose, and fulfillment, it will likely diminish the urge to engage in addictive behaviors.”
Attain a Sense of Spirituality: 6 Methods
So, what can we do with the broad definition of spirituality? How can individuals in addiction recovery (and others) attain a sense of spirituality and use it to their advantage? Anderson and Sternlicht offer their guidance:
“One roadmap that many individuals in addiction recovery have followed to attain a sense of spiritual connection are the 12 steps. By helping others, individuals in recovery can find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment,” they explain. “Of course, there are various other approaches to ‘attain’ a sense of spirituality, such as faith-based approaches, meditative approaches, wilderness approaches, or finding these things through volunteer work, interests, hobbies, family, and careers.” Let’s delve into these approaches:
1. Helping others
You can find fulfillment in serving others. This might involve carrying someone’s groceries to their car, volunteering at a nursing home, or helping your coworker reach a tight deadline. As Anderson and Sternlicht mentioned, many people in addiction recovery feel fulfilled when they dedicate their time to helping others.
Others practice spirituality by dedicating themselves to a religion. These individuals find comfort in their faith and find meaning in living out a life that honors their god or higher power.
Meditation is a spiritual practice that many use to ease stress and feel a greater connection to the world around them. This involves training attention or awareness—journaling and practicing mindfulness can aid mediation.
Spirituality can also be rooted in nature, as mentioned previously. Those who don’t have religious ties or inclinations often find meaning in exploring and connecting to nature, which can also make one feel small—in a positive way that improves self-awareness and understanding.
5. Personal interests
Still, others look to their personal interests—such as art, exercise, or even their career—for personal fulfillment and purpose. These individuals throw themselves into their beloved activities and achieve a greater sense of happiness in doing so.
6. Social relationships
Finally, some people practice spirituality by dedicating their time and effort into building strong relationships with others: with friends, family, even strangers. These people find meaning in catering to these relationships and assisting their people with whatever they need.
As we mentioned above, spirituality can change in definition and practice. It’s all about finding the activities that bring you joy, help you cope with stress, and ultimately find a greater meaning and purpose in life. If you’re in addiction recovery (or you’re not) and you’re interested in tuning into your spiritual side, the above serve as great starting points.