Individuals can implement many methods to maintain their sobriety. Some people incorporate spiritual practices into their recovery journey because they feel it benefits them. Spirituality differs from religion, but both play an equally vital part in their journey for some. Everyone is in a different place with their spirituality. Some embrace spirituality through religion, while others embrace it through mindfulness-based practices.
Deciding whether or not spirituality should play a significant role in your recovery journey requires some self-examination. You must understand the difference between spirituality and religion and learn different ways to engage with your spiritual side. Thankfully, this process can be experimental. Trying other things and seeing what works is the only way to learn what spiritual practices feel right for you and which do not.
What Is the Difference Between Spirituality and Religion?
Spirituality and religion are related but different. Differentiating between the two can be challenging. Many religions emphasize spirituality, though people can be spiritual without belonging to organized religion. The concept of faith itself is hard to define. There are so many beliefs and practices in the world that determining what is right for you can be easier said than done.
According to The College of Student Affairs Journal, the line between faith, spirituality, and religion "can become fuzzy." The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion defines religion as "systems or structures consisting of specific kinds of beliefs and practices."
The best way to differentiate between spirituality and religion is that religion is a more structured set of beliefs and practices within a community or organization. Spiritual people can be part of a community or organization; spirituality is more of an individual journey. It focuses less on what you practice and more on how it affects your life. For example, spirituality brings some people more peace, gives life more meaning, or helps them better accept life's hardships.
Despite the difference, some people find similar comfort in their religion for two main reasons – community and guidance. For some people, being a part of a religion means being a part of something bigger than themselves. The higher power they believe in helps guide them throughout their lives and brings them together with other followers to offer them a sense of community. Community is vital no matter where you fall on the spirituality-religion spectrum, especially when struggling with an isolating condition like substance use disorder (SUD).
Spirituality and the 12-Steps
Spirituality is a big aspect of the 12-Step program. Step three of the Twelve Steps involves turning our "will and lives over to the care of God" or whatever higher power you believe in. Believing in and giving hardships to a higher power can help people cope with their addiction.
Additionally, this concept does not have to include religious beliefs. They can be spiritual, and each person's higher power may look different. Your higher power could be nature, the earth, a celestial being, or the power of positive thinking. Whatever you believe, it adds value to your life. Believing in something other than yourself can help in treatment too.
Benefits of Spirituality
We already mentioned some of the benefits of spirituality, such as offering community, guidance, and the chance to feel part of something bigger. But are there others areas of life that can be improved by being more spiritual? Individuals with and without SUD alike ask this same question.
Some research investigates religion and spirituality's effects and clinical implications on mental and physical health. An article from ISRN Psychiatry examines the impact of religion and spirituality on SUD, anxiety, depression, and other conditions. According to their research, religious and spiritual practices are "commonly used by both medical and psychiatric patients to cope with illness and other stressful life changes." Additionally, they found that individuals who practice spiritual or religious concepts may "have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health problems."
It is hard to say what causes this improved state of mental health. Some may argue that when you believe in a higher power, it becomes easier to let go of what you can not control. Doing so may help reduce the pressures of life. It does not erase the problems but may make managing them easier.
Spiritual Practices in Recovery
Another part of the 12-Step program is realizing that we are powerless over our addiction. This is true to some extent. We can not control the fact that we have SUD, but we can make choices to cope with it well. Spiritual practices can help you cope. Whether you follow a religion or partake in other spiritual practices like meditation and yoga, you can achieve overall wellness. The better you feel physically, mentally, and spiritually, the more equipped you will be to manage cravings, triggers, and other SUD symptoms.
Spirituality is not for everyone, but it may help you or a loved one maintain your newfound life of recovery.
Life post-treatment comes with several challenges that may threaten your newfound life of recovery. Despite these challenges, there are practices you can implement into your everyday life to help you maintain sobriety long-term. For some, that includes prioritizing nutrition and fitness or spending more time with friends and family. However, another thing you can try is spirituality. Spirituality is a great way to accept your troubles, feel support in recovery, and let go of things you can not control. Unlike religion, spirituality is an individual journey that can help you achieve wellness. You can learn more about spirituality and seek further support in recovery by calling NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.