Former addicts, whether they be alcoholics, drug addicts, or gambling addicts will often tell you that they did not truly recover until they discovered the spiritual aspects of recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Gamblers Anonymous (GA), all have a twelve-step program which calls on a “higher power.” Both 12-Step and non 12-step rehabilitation programs like those listed here encourage spiritual connections.
It is important to note, that the programs define themselves as “spiritual” not “religious.” A higher power can be anything of your choosing, so long as it is spiritual in nature. Being spiritual means believing in something greater than yourself, while not necessarily committing to a specific deity, its church, and its dogma. For some people it may be God or Allah or Buddha, for others it may be the power of nature or the universe, and for still others it may be a group or their sponsor.
Spirituality is important in recovery, because a large part of addiction is denial. If one is truly spiritual, denial needs to be thrown out the window. For example, if you believe in God, you also probably believe that he or she knows when you’re lying, even if you think you’re doing a terrific job of it. This is part of the reason why spirituality is often more important than family support in recovery… because while you may still be able to lie to your family, if you become truly engaged with your higher power, you will no longer be able to lie to yourself. Honesty is a huge step on the road to recovery.
Another aspect of recovery that spirituality encourages is fellowship, or the gathering of like-minded people, with similar world views and beliefs. Addiction often causes addicts to isolate and become so self-absorbed that they lose many of the values that they grew up with. Becoming involved with a higher power and group settings allows the addict to regain his or her values and build a support system which will aid in lasting recovery.
It also also important to note that spirituality cannot be forced. Dragging an addict in your life back to church on a regular basis, will not force that addict to start believing; nor will piling self-help books on his or her doorstep. Trying to ram religion or spirituality down an addict’s throat, will often have the opposite effect, and can cause an addict to become resentful and push back against anything spiritual in nature. True spirituality must come from within the addict, and will only occur when the addict is truly ready to stop using.
This concept may be hard for family members of addicts to digest; because they only want to help. However, in the world of addiction, sometimes the best help a family can give is removing actions or behaviors which enable an addict and promote continued use. Spirituality often starts when an addict is at his or her lowest moment, sometimes called a “bottom.”