Spirituality is not required to get sober. Every person has a unique recovery journey, and many people prefer not to incorporate a spiritual component into theirs. Others, however, feel that it is immensely helpful to their sustained recovery to look beyond their daily lives to a higher purpose and power.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality can include religious beliefs, but overall it is about recognizing that there are things beyond our understanding in the universe and that life may have greater meaning than the day-to-day struggles we face. Spirituality can be focused on holistic views and seeing the connections between people and between people and the world. Spirituality is generally viewed as more basic, inclusive, and universal than religion, with fewer prescribed rules and rituals. There is generally more room in spirituality to customize your individual beliefs and practices. 

How Does Spirituality Connect to Recovery?

If you join a 12-step group, like AA or NA, you will most likely find a high degree of spirituality among its members, in no small part because several steps of any 12-step recovery program reference God or a higher power and because the other tenets of the program, like service and unity, fit well within a spiritual framework. AA or NA members aren’t expected to believe in a particular denomination or religion, but spirituality is important within the program. For many who participate in these recovery meetings, their spiritual life becomes an integral piece of their sobriety. 

Backed By Science

Scientific studies also seem to support the notion that spirituality can be beneficial to overcoming not just addiction, but hardship in general, by:

  • Improving emotional well-being
  • Increasing access to positive social relationships
  • Providing a buffer for stress
  • Increasing overall life satisfaction
  • Improved coping skills

Spirituality and Mental Health

Because substance use disorder is so frequently found alongside mental health conditions, it is also important to consider how spirituality can improve the mental health of a person who is recovering from addiction. For example, spirituality can provide:

  • Better coping skills
  • Greater sense of optimism
  • Higher perception of social support
  • Lower levels of anxiety

Professional Endorsement

The impact of spirituality on recovery is so profound for some individuals that the Association for Addiction Professionals trains counselors working with people in recovery on ways to incorporate spirituality into their practices so that they are better equipped to support clients.

How Spirituality and Recovery Blend

If you would like to include spirituality into your recovery, there are a number of different ways that you can do so:

    • Mindfulness, meditation, or yoga – All of these practices incorporate the mind, body and spirit.
    • Intentional gratitude – This could include keeping a journal of things for which you are thankful.
  • PrayerConnecting with a higher power, silently or through spoken word, can be powerful. It is not always necessary to do so within a church, though this is an option. Some people like to pray in the privacy of their own home or surrounded by the beauty of nature. Chanting and mantras are other ways people engage in prayer.
  • Creative work – Creativity can take many different forms, such as painting, poetry, drawing, or photography.
  • Fellowship – Having a spiritual community helps some people feel better able to connect with their higher power. 
  • Studying – For some people, their spiritual journey involves reading and considering spiritual or religious texts.

What if I Am Just Not Spiritual?

Just because spirituality is helpful to some people who are fighting addiction, it might not be for you. If you want to be part of a recovery group but are concerned about the spiritual component, you may feel more comfortable in a secular recovery group, like SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, or LifeRing. 

If you are unsure how spirituality fits into your long-term recovery plan, Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, has a team of professionals who can offer personalized planning around the goals you have for your sober journey. They can share what they have seen work for other people and help you find the best options for your unique life.