From the earliest days of mankind, spirituality has served as a search for meaning and understanding. It helped our ancestors to explain natural disasters, motivate communities and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It shouldn’t be surprising that spirituality remains integral to our daily lives, especially for those in recovery – mindfulness, self-care and the acknowledgement of a higher power are all referenced in almost all popular approaches to addiction treatment. Today, we’ll explain the key differences between spirituality and religion, while providing some tips about how to integrate a spiritual approach into your recovery.
The Difference Between Spirituality and Religion
While these terms are often considered synonymous, key differences exist between spirituality and religion.
Religion, by definition, is an institutional system of religious attitudes, practices and beliefs that exists to explain the service and worship of a higher power, which may take the form of one (or more) gods. Most major world religions are based on the teachings and beliefs of historical or symbolic figures, such as Jesus Christ, Moses, Buddha or Muhammad. There isn’t much room to customize a religion – it often exists in a prescribed format, with concentration on rites, rituals, scriptures, observances and houses of worship.
Spirituality, in contrast, refers to the general experience of connecting to something more than yourself; it can involve seeking and exploring one’s meaning and purpose. It is more closely related to practical appreciation of spiritual teachings and personalized experience. This journey is inward in nature and focuses on awareness, rather than the performance of rituals or activities.
- A heightened state of awareness, perception or being
- Informing, empowering and connecting an individual
- A relationship with one’s self (and resources beyond the self)
- Values and qualities of character
- Changed, intentional lifestyle choices
- Motivation and catalytic power to make a change
Why Spirituality Helps Us Recover
During active addiction, your purpose in life is commandeered by drugs and alcohol. Your day-to-day life becomes consumed by obtaining, using and recovering from your substances of choice. Simultaneously, friends, family, hobbies and career obligations fall by the wayside. All resources are redirected to drugs and alcohol.
Because of this, you have to begin searching for your purpose anew once you leave your life of substance use behind. Many people who leave treatment experience a disturbing revelation: “I’m sober. Now what?” Spirituality is a key tool for answering this question. It encourages introspection and personal development while also promoting an attitude of gratitude and curiosity. This active state of inward exploration is vital to the recovery process – without seeking to understand oneself and one’s motivations, lasting change is nearly impossible to achieve.
Taking a Spiritual Approach
Many individuals in recovery describe spirituality as a turning point in their journey: a perspective they uncovered after a near-death experience (such as an overdose), troubling diagnosis, traumatic event or incarceration. However, you do not have to have a major life event to begin experimenting with spirituality. We have compiled a few tips for integrating this mentality into your daily life.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is at the root of spirituality. Develop an awareness of your inner self by sitting quietly and acknowledging the thoughts that arise. Avoid judging these thoughts or banishing them. Feel the ground beneath your feet and listen to the little noises around you. By slowing down and checking in with yourself, you’ll begin to build a regular spiritual practice.
- Walk in nature. Spending time in the great outdoors, particularly in the context of a state park or expansive forest, reminds us that we are a part of something greater than ourselves. Banish feelings of isolation and keep your problems in perspective by connecting with nature on a regular basis.
- Remember to be grateful. Gratitude is another fast-track to spiritual awareness. Keeping track of your blessings helps you to focus on the positives in life.
- Make a contribution. Helping others is a spiritual activity because it helps us to positively impact those in our community. Whether you’re reaching out to newcomers in at a meeting or organizing a volunteer day at your local food bank, dedicating your time to others is something that will boost your spiritual growth.
Spirituality in Recovery at Cumberland Heights
At Cumberland Heights, we understand that spirituality and recovery go hand-in-hand. Our spiritual care services are diverse and include sessions with our Spiritual Directors, experiencing the labyrinth and practicing mindfulness meditation. To learn more about our spiritual programming, contact our admissions staff at (866) 899-5231.