Spirituality in Recovery: How to Overcome Addiction Spiritually

Amanda Stevens

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Many people equate spirituality with religion. But for some people, “spirituality” is less about worshiping a particular god and more of a transcendent connection with something higher and more significant than themselves.

This idea of transcendental unity and wholeness has equivalents in other spiritual practices: Ralph Waldo Emerson (who created Transcendentalism) called this the over-soul, and Hindus call this the Brahman.

Addiction is humbling because we are forced to confront our finite humanity when we don’t have the power to control it on our own. Integrated correctly, your personal spirituality is a powerful asset if you’re trying to figure out how to overcome addiction spiritually.

Key points:

  • Spirituality and religion aren’t the same and mean different things to different people.
  • Substance abuse and addiction sever the connection between spirit and body.
  • If you consider yourself to be a spiritual person, you may benefit from spiritually-focused interventions.
  • Spiritual treatment for substance abuse can be part of a holistic treatment program that includes inpatient levels of care down to outpatient and aftercare.

Spirituality and Addiction

When we’re experiencing the primary effects of drugs, alcohol, and substance use, we might feel infinite and untouchable. We might even feel a deeper connection to our body, the people around us, and the world at large.

But, once the high wears off, the damaging effects of addiction set in. Addiction severs the connection between spirit and body. Spirituality and substance abuse are not compatible. While searching for a transcendental experience may lead some to abuse substances, substance abuse does not lead anyone to spirituality.

Addictions are not a substitute for spirituality. The damaging effects of drugs can include depersonalization, anxiety, panic attacks, persisting hallucinations, mood swings, unconsciousness, numbness, paranoia, and depression.[1]

While spirituality can and should be a healthy part of your recovery, spirituality cannot be obtained through an addiction.

How to Use Spirituality in Addiction Recovery?

If addiction severs the spirit and body, a spiritual approach to addiction treatment necessitates reconnecting the spirit and body. Spiritual practices like prayer or yoga can be helpful to re-instill a sense of mindfulness lost to addiction.

Your spirituality can help rebuild your self-image and self-esteem if it’s been damaged by addiction. Our spirituality informs the way we think of ourselves, the way we relate to other people, and the way we relate to the world at large. Whatever higher power we ascribe to, a spiritual understanding of healing from addiction means we are connected to everyone else.

No person is an island. Your addiction may leave you feeling isolated, but your spirituality reminds you that your life has unique and inestimable value.

While spirituality and recovery are a powerful combination, they are best used in combination with other evidence-based practices, such as medication-assisted treatment and traditional behavior therapy.

Benefits of Using Spirituality for Addiction Recovery

Spirituality and addiction recovery are natural companions because they can produce mindsets and behaviors that are positively associated with long-term abstinence. Many spiritual practices revolve around mindsets like gratitude, forgiveness, hope, mercy, and grace:

Gratitude

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful for the things you do have rather than the things you don’t. For those already abstinent, having gratitude is positively associated with continued sobriety.[2]

Rather than constantly regretting lost time, injuries, or relationships, gratitude is an enjoyable quality for a person in recovery to have, and they will attract more supportive people who appreciate their positive attitude about life.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a deliberate process of love or mercy where a person lets go of bitterness, anger, and the desire to retaliate. Sometimes, this can be directed at other people who have wronged us, but in the case of addiction, we often need to forgive ourselves.

Sometimes, it is tempting to withhold forgiveness from ourselves, believing that it somehow atones for all the time we lost to the addiction, or the people we hurt, or the money we wasted. But, not forgiving ourselves is like drinking poison to spite ourselves.

Self-forgiveness helps people with alcohol or substance use disorders have lasting recoveries.[3]

Hope

Hope is the persistent belief that not only can you get better but that you want to get better, too. It is how a better future can be perceived and achieved.[4]

Hope is the rose that grew from concrete. Despite harsh surroundings and a bleak environment, having hope means you believe in your capacity to better yourself.

Mercy

“Mercy” is when you’re released from something you deserve (usually a punishment).

Sometimes, we come to believe we deserve our addictions due to the choices we’ve made. A merciful attitude can acknowledge the choices we’ve made in the past as sufficient self-punishment without letting those choices alone determine our future.

Grace

Grace is bestowing unmerited favor on someone or something.

A graceful mindset will help people suffering from addiction spend less time thinking about themselves and more time thinking about how they could bless other people struggling with the same problems.

Spiritual Recovery Practices

Spiritual addiction recovery practices are numerous, so we’ve shorted this list down to some of the most common ways people use their spirituality to recover from addiction:

Prayer

Prayer is a form of meditation that involves a conversation with a higher power and requires self-reflection and humility.

It’s hard to be proud when you are in the presence of something or someone greater than yourself. When people pray, they must practice humility.

Prayer is less about talking and more about listening. While there are multiple physiological benefits to prayer, It also helps free our thought patterns from the undesirable ruts they get stuck in and instead contemplate something outside of ourselves.[5]

Community

The power of embodied relationships within the context of spirituality in recovery cannot be understated. Being in contact with people who share your spirituality is invigorating and empowering. A sober, supportive community reduces the risk of relapse.[6]

Yoga

Yoga combines both the spirit and the body. It’s a practice of mindfulness–being aware of your thoughts and feelings on a moment-by-moment basis. While some yoga is practiced as worship to Hindu gods, even if you aren’t Hindu, you can use yoga for its spiritual and physical benefits.[7]

Intermittent Fasting

To begin, we warn that intermittent fasting should not be pursued by those recovering from eating disorders.

However, people have used intermittent fasting for thousands of years to maintain focus and as an act of spiritual worship. Some people in recovery find it helpful to withhold food from their body for short periods of time. These people say that their surplus thoughts of obtaining/consuming food are instead directed to their spirituality, which they say has a positive effect on their recovery.

Intermittent fasting also has surprising health benefits.[8]

Praise

Praise is the natural outlet for an uncontainable eruption of delight. When we delight in something, we cannot adequately express our delight unless we praise it.

Praise helps refocus our attention from what’s going wrong in life to what’s happening in the world around us. Depending on our spirituality, we might praise the very person of God or the way God manifests presence in the universe.

Nature

It’s said that nature is God’s cathedral, and we agree.

Nature has always had a profound spiritual effect on people. People have profound revelations and spiritual experiences when they escape to the wilderness. Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the wilderness before returning to his disciples.

Nature feels like a return to our roots. It’s the antidote to the stressors of modern life and triggers for addiction. It is a place where we can slow down, contemplate our surroundings, and stay in the moment.

Returning to nature has profound physiological benefits.[9]

Spiritual Recovery Therapy

If you’re looking to incorporate your spirituality into your addiction recovery treatment, we want to be your guide.

We, Recovery Unplugged, believe in hope and healing from addiction. We offer a 6 to 10-week faith-based therapy course if you want to take full advantage of your pre-existing strengths. We have experienced and credentialed therapists who can recontextualize your spirituality to empower and inspire you.

Check us out today.

Sources


[1] Stimulants, Depressants, Cannabinoids, Psychedelics, Opioids, Dissociatives and Empathogens. Drug facts – alcohol and drug foundation. (n.d.). https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/#wheel

[2] Krentzman, A. R. (2017, July). Gratitude, abstinence, and alcohol use disorders: Report of a preliminary finding. Journal of substance abuse treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5501091/

[3] FP;, M. B. G. (n.d.). Self-forgiveness, shame, and guilt in recovery from drug and alcohol problems. Substance abuse. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24159911/

[4] M;, A. T. (n.d.). The importance of hope against other factors in the recovery of mental illness. Psychiatria Danubina. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28953841/

[5] Andrade, C., & Radhakrishnan, R. (2009). Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials. Indian journal of psychiatry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802370/

[6] AJ;, B. R. L. M. (n.d.). Effectiveness of a peer-support community in addiction recovery: Participation as intervention. Occupational therapy international. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844242/

[7] Woodyard, C. (2011, July). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International journal of yoga. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/

[8] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/research-intermittent-fasting-shows-health-benefits[9] Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021, April 30). Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A review of the evidence. International journal of environmental research and public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8125471/

About the Author

Amanda Stevens is a highly respected figure in the field of medical content writing, with a specific focus on eating.

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