8 Benefits of Spiritual Growth In Addiction Recovery
The topic of spiritual growth comes up often in recovery, whether you’re in an NA meeting, in an outpatient group session, or maybe even sitting one on one with a therapist.
Spiritual growth isn’t just about meditating every day or praying every night. Though these can be spiritual practices to some, there are ways of embodying and experiencing spirituality that go beyond these ideas.
Different researchers feel strongly that one element of recovery is more important than the rest. For instance, some believe that the social and environmental aspects of recovery are the most important to resolve in order to maintain sobriety.
Others believe that changing the cognitive thought processes is the most important shift to make.
Similarly, some people feel that fostering spiritual growth is what keeps people from relapsing. It’s safe to say that all these elements are incredibly important and are based upon each unique person’s individual experiences.
A study shared by the American Psychological Association revealed that for people in recovery from addiction, those who had religious faith or spirituality appeared to experience several different positive emotional and mental outcomes. These included greater optimism about life as well as increased resilience to stressors.
The study also revealed that those with religious faith or spirituality in recovery had increased coping skills. They also had less anxiety, and greater perceived social support.
Whether you identify as being spiritual or you don’t fully understand what spirituality means, there’s no denying that it is an integral part of recovery, just like the mental, emotional, environmental, and social aspects of it.
Read on to learn about what spirituality really means, and how you may already be practicing it without even realising it. Discover how spiritual growth can be an invaluable asset to your recovery and in preventing relapse.
What does it mean to be spiritual?
Spirituality is such a varied and abstract concept that it has different meanings for different people.
For some people, spirituality can mean cultivating your faith through practices such as meditating, earthing, and connecting with nature.
For others, it can be about connecting with other people, allowing a greater sense of purpose to drive your life.
Spirituality is all about being connected to yourself and to something bigger than yourself. This can be a God, but it can also be the Universe, a higher power, or a source energy, just to name a few.
Some people may identify the Universe as being God, or as being a separate entity from God.
Religion is a more structured and defined form of spirituality. Different religions typically follow their own set of belief systems and a specific deity or deities.
Spirituality is fluid, and doesn’t necessarily adhere to a set system of beliefs.
Rather, spiritual growth is about fostering a deep knowing and understanding of oneself and one’s place in the world.
Whereas religion typically focuses on looking outward for answers, spiritual individuals tend to go inward to find their answers.
They cultivate a deep sense of trust in the grand design of the Universe, higher power, or energy source.
This sense of knowing and understanding can inherently spill out into how spiritual people interact with the world around them, as they harbor a keen sense of connection with other living beings.
Why is spiritual growth important in recovery from addiction?
There are many reasons why spiritual growth is important in the recovery process.
Below are 8 reasons why spirituality is a powerful tool as you journey through your recovery.
1. You feel like you have a purpose in this life
Spiritual growth is important in recovery because it can help you feel like you have purpose.
Studies have shown that people in recovery who have a sense of purpose show greater treatment outcomes.
When going through recovery, something that’s so important is to understand your why.
- Why do you want to stop using drugs and alcohol?
- Why do you want to live a sober lifestyle?
Spiritual growth offers us a pathway to our why.
When we know ourselves on a deeper level, we can get in touch with our true desires and motivations. We can detach from anyone else's expectations of us.
A purpose doesn’t always have to mean a bigger-than-life mission during your time on Earth. Some people may feel compelled to stay sober so that they can be a source of influence and hope to other people who struggled like they did.
Others may want to stay sober so they can be present for their children, and raise them intentionally, lovingly, and while being wholly present.
The why offers us something to anchor to in the difficult moments. It helps us remember why we’re so committed to our recovery.
Having a sense of purpose will offer you perspective in the trying times and can help you stay focused and grounded.
2. You feel connected to other people
The nature of addiction is incredibly isolating. Active addiction places the substance at the top of our priority list, and we let our relationships with other people fall by the wayside.
Feelings of loneliness and shame are common in addiction, and can drive us into a dark place. When we’re alone, our problems become magnified in our minds. We feel like no one has gone through what we have gone through, and no one can possibly relate to how we feel.
Spiritual growth brings us to a point where we realise we are all connected. This sense of connection provides us with a sense of hope and relief that we may not otherwise have if we were facing our struggles alone.
In recovery, we realise that although all of our human experiences have been different, we share similar feelings. We all have pain, and we all struggle with grief, sadness, anxiety, or shame. We all have the same desires, and seek love, support, meaning, and happiness.
Being spiritual in recovery helps us to always remember that we are never alone. It keeps us rooted in our shared struggles, and reminds us that we can get through whatever we are facing.
3. You act in service to others
In connection with the previous point, spiritual growth inherently drives us to want to help others. An added bonus to helping others is that we help ourselves in this process. Research has shown that giving back to others in service helps people feel better about themselves.
Recovery can be filled with sticky feelings about yourself or things you’ve done in the past.
Working to help others can help you broaden your perspective of yourself. It can help you to remember that you are inherently good at your core, and the mistakes you have made in the past were a byproduct of your human pain or trauma.
Big or small, there are so many ways to act in service to others. You can share your story to give others inspiration and hope that they can get through their own struggles. Perhaps you can volunteer in your community. If you’re in a recovery group you can hep by mentoring others.
Additionally, you can perform small acts of kindness for neighbors, friends, or family members.
Acting in service helps you get out of your own head and away from your own insecurities. It might even help you to put some of your own struggles into perspective.
4. Spiritual growth helps to foster mindfulness
Spirituality is all about being connected to ourselves. This connection happens when we travel inward.
When we travel inward, we become aware of our feelings.
When we travel deeper inward, we become aware of our thoughts.
Then, when we travel even further inward, we become aware of the experiences we’ve had that have contributed to our thought patterns.
We notice that things in our lives have happened in repeated patterns and cycles.
Spiritual growth allows us to foster the mindfulness we need in order to experience a long-lasting recovery from addiction.
It allows us to become aware of how we are feeling. This is incredibly important in recovery, because our emotional state can lead to a relapse. The thing is, our emotional state isn’t random, and is usually prompted by the types of thoughts we have been having.
Mindfulness allows us to step outside of ourselves and observe our own thoughts.
When we develop this ability, we are able to challenge the negative thoughts we’re having. We have the opportunity to replace them with more supportive, helpful, and positive thoughts instead.
This ability also allows us to be less vulnerable to triggers.
When our mindfulness allows us to shift our thoughts, we then change the way that we feel.
When we feel good, we make better and more supportive choices. We treat ourselves and others with kindness.
Being mindful is a powerful asset to have as you go through recovery.
5. You revel in gratitude
Spiritual growth all helps us to believe that everything happens for a reason. It provides us with a deep sense of gratitude for life.
Gratitude allows us to be thankful for everything that we have. If we’re feeling low or struggling emotionally, shifting to gratitude offers us a beautiful reminder of something good that we have, and prompts us to shift our perspective.
Being appreciative of the things that we have helps us feel better. When we feel good, we are better able to navigate recovery from a grounded and stable-minded place.
Turning to gratitude while in recovery offers a new, optimistic lens through which we can view life. Practising gratitude offers an opportunity to be thankful for not only the good things that we have, but also for the difficulties that we have faced and overcome.
We become more and more resilient as we face our challenges head-on. Gratitude allows us to understand that we can find meaning and purpose, even in the most difficult of times. We can be grateful for our struggles because they make us strong and more able to face whatever lays ahead.
As you develop in your spirituality, you will feel more connected to the little things. You’ll be grateful that you are alive and able to witness the beauty of a sunset or sunrise. You’ll be grateful for the things that make you laugh, and for what those moments of joy feel like.
Additionally, you’ll even be grateful for the interactions you have with other people, for the roof over your head, and for the food on your table. Practising gratitude daily is a constant practise in feeling good and focusing on all that you do have as opposed to what you don't.
6. You hold yourself accountable
When you believe in something bigger than yourself, it prompts you to hold yourself accountable to whatever it is that you believe in. This can mean holding yourself accountable to God, the universe, or to your own moral standard that you want to embody.
Holding yourself accountable means being honest, first and foremost, with yourself. It means being able to admit to yourself that you’re struggling - if you’re struggling, or that you’re in pain if you’re in pain.
It also means being honest with your loved ones, and the people who support you.
Even if the feelings and thoughts you experience aren't pleasant, you’ll feel a weight off your chest by admitting them.
7. You can draw strength
When you believe in something outside of yourself, whether it’s the force of the universe, the power of God, or the connection of nature, it provides you with something to draw strength from. We can draw strength from these things in the moments where we feel low and when we are struggling.
Being spiritual means believing that there is something outside of you that is helping you. It means believing that it is ultimately acting in your favour, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
This falls back on the idea that everything happens for a reason. A simple example of this would be not getting a job promotion. We can view this as a bad thing, but maybe this wasn’t a career field that we were ultimately really unhappy in. In not getting that promotion can propelled us to start a new career in which we can really thrive.
Spirituality offers us the security and support of knowing that even when we can’t see it and even if we don’t understand it, things are always working out in our favor.
It’s like the saying goes, things are always happening for us, not to us.
8. You can navigate your emotions
When we are spiritual we know that we are spiritual beings living a human experience. With that knowledge, we’re able to understand and accept that part of being human is experiencing a wide range of emotions.
Because of this, when we experience a difficult emotion, we’re able to be more gracious and patient with ourselves.
This is invaluable in recovery as many of us default to beating ourselves up over struggling or of having fleeting thoughts of using.
The ability to know that difficult emotions are normal can really help us as we go through recovery and learn how to navigate our emotional center.
A final note on the importance of spiritual growth in recovery
Remember, spirituality isn't about following set rules and guidelines.
It looks different for everyone, and can be fostered through practises like meditation and prayer. Similarly, it can be obtained through acts of being kind to others and being honest with ourselves.
Whatever form your spirituality comes in, there’s no doubt that developing a deeper sense of connection with yourself will be invaluable to your recovery journey.
Author - Thurga