The life of an addict or alcoholic is a destructive one. They can be violent and destroy relationships with friends, family members, and other loved ones. They are prone to self-harm and other behaviors that harm their personal health or safety. Learn finding spirituality in sober living.
An addict’s life tends to revolve around two simple feelings, pleasure and pain. There’s the pleasure of the high, which is relentlessly pursued. And there’s the pain of withdrawal when the addict’s substance of choice is gone. Everything else in life — love, career, personal ideals — is but an afterthought if it’s thought about at all.
It should come as no surprise that many people look back on their days of addiction as days of spiritual bankruptcy. The concept of spirituality is an important one for many addiction recovery programs. In an age when most mental health disorders are treated with science-backed methods, this may come as a surprise. But there is actually a great deal of evidence backing up the cultivation of spirituality as an effective addiction treatment.
The word “spirituality” might seem loaded too many readers, but it doesn’t necessitate belief in any specific religion or concept of God. Fundamentally it refers to a collection of ideas and practices designed to reduce one’s egoism and selfishness. Alcoholics Anonymous, the model from which most 12-step programs are derived, pioneered this approach to addiction recovery.
In fact, AA’s primary textbook contains medical advice citing prayer and spirituality as possible tools for recovering addicts. The 12 steps as outlined in the program of AA are designed to help addicts come to terms with their personal powerlessness over their addictions. Instead, they are guided along a process of coming to rely upon the support of others — and a higher power of their own choosing.
When people hear the words “higher power” or “god,” some tend to balk. Atheists might assume that membership in a 12-step program requires them to turn to Christianity or some other religion. In fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. A higher power just means a power greater than oneself.
This concept can be interpreted by anyone however they choose. Many atheists in recovery choose to understand higher power to mean the supportive community of Alcoholics Anonymous. Others choose concepts like nature, love, reality, or even science! Atheists are considered to be practicing spirituality as long as they’re taking steps to get out of the constrictive bondage of their own ego.
It is common for people with unhealthy dependencies on drugs and alcohol to also have other mental health problems. Individuals with substance use disorder and other mental health disorders are considered “comorbid” by medical professionals.
Comorbidity implies that mental health disorders don’t merely exist simultaneously in the same person, but influence and exacerbate each other. An example would be the addict who suffers from depression due to her addiction and uses drugs and alcohol to cope with her depression. Comorbid addicts are notoriously difficult to treat because it is necessary for them to get multiple issues treated simultaneously.
More and more research is showing the benefits of spiritual practices on mental health. Recent studies have shown that spirituality provides protective benefits for patients who experience suicidal ideation. Despite the stigma surrounding religion and spirituality in the field of psychiatry, there has been a dramatic increase in publications citing statistics that show that spirituality reduces stress and severity of depression.
This only goes to show that the spiritual aspect of treatment isn’t something to be abandoned as more evidence-based approaches emerge, but something to be merely refined and improved upon.
The philosopher William James, who many considered to be the first American pioneer of psychology, argued in his “Variety of Religious Experiences” that religious experiences, beliefs, and practices are useful tools for living. His pragmatic understanding of religion was essentially that religion helps people live better, healthier lives.
Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was deeply influenced by William James. The 12 steps of AA are based on the idea that if people can learn to live following spiritual principles, their chances of relapse markedly decrease.
The majority of modern treatment programs and sober living homes are informed by this philosophy as well. At a structured sober living home like Design for Recovery, alcoholics, and addicts attend regular 12-step meetings and learn to leave egoism behind.
By learning to live with others cooperatively, examine and root out personal moral failings, and change destructive patterns of thinking and behavior, residents of Design for Recovery can hopefully maintain long term sobriety.
If you’re interested in a new way of life, contact Design for Recovery today to learn more about our program of recovery, which is based on spiritual as well as scientific principles.