Spirituality and the 12-Steps: What You Can Gain in Recovery

A holistic approach to recovery means addressing the mental, physical and spiritual concerns that we have – because all three make up our human existence. Recovery is more than just addressing the physical effects of addiction; we all have so many unique aspects of our lives that need focused on – such as trauma processing, lifestyle changes, addressing mental illness and more. If you’re ready to open your mind and heart to forming a stronger sense of spirituality, you’ll find that greater purpose is found – and while you’re in treatment, you can get to know others who can support you in growing, too.

What is Spirituality?

The University of Minnesota defines spirituality as a broad concept:

“In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.”

Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, prophecies, ethics and more – and while spirituality can coincide with religion, they are two separate entities. Spirituality is subjective – and it’s truly up to a person to discover what it means to them and how to nurture it. A 2016 study published in the journal Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly found that for young adults in college, hope and coping were two spiritual elements that helped them move forward with their lives. There are a number of questions that a person may have that haven’t been answered yet in life, such as:

  •    Am I a good person?
  •    What is the meaning behind my suffering?
  •    What is my connection to the world around me?
  •    Do things happen for a reason?
  •    How can I live my life in the best way possible?

Last year, several individuals who’d been in recovery from addiction shared their various perspectives on what it means to be in recovery and how spirituality influenced them. One person stated,

“I had to look deep within my soul to make sense out of a senseless act.”

Another person explained,

“I knew in the midst of my sheer insanity that I had just had a spiritual experience and that I would be okay.”

Many times, substances distract us from our inner fears and deep-rooted beliefs. We may feel that we’re not good enough, that nobody loves us, or that we have nothing to offer to this world -and that’s where spirituality comes into play.

Spirituality and Addiction Recovery: The 12-Step Program

12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), guide individuals to really contemplate their sense of spirituality and, over time, to build it. The 12-Steps themselves help people understand just how much control we have over our lives as human beings – and, with that, how we can rely on God as you understand Him, or another Higher Power, to help us navigate this journey filled with ups and downs. A 2015 study titled, “The Role of Twelve-Step-Related Spirituality in Addiction Recovery” sought to explore individuals’ perceptions; researchers found that a number of spiritual elements have contributed to the effects many people achieve in recovery, such as:

  •    Feeling God’s presence daily
  •    Believing in a higher power as a universal spirit
  •    Serving as an AA sponsor

12-Step programs don’t need to merely talk about spirituality in order for a person to generate a stronger sense of what that means to them. The Steps themselves require that those in recovery acknowledge the pain they’ve caused others, and to even ask for forgiveness. This act of taking ownership builds a sense of spirituality in bringing a person’s focus back down to the level of “humanness”, which we so often forget.

By participating actively in 12-Step meetings, a person is making a contribution – an effort towards bettering their community and connecting with others. This spiritual sense of belonging is crucial for a person to soar in recovery, and 12-Step programs clearly facilitate this.

Last year, an individual talked about their personal spiritual journey with AA via the AA Cleveland website. They stated,

“Getting off in the right direction from the start was very important to any success I’ve had in A.A…Today, as a continue to practice all of the things I’ve learned in AA, it’s resulted in a peace of mind that was unimaginable when I first walked through the doors…”

There have been many success stories of people who incorporated 12-Step meetings into their treatment program – people who didn’t know where they fit in or what their purpose was in life. Through active participation and the application of the 12-Steps in every sense of the word, these people built their lives into something that truly matters to them.

Start Your Journey Today

Recovery is a process, but it only works if you get started and dive in. If you’re ready to make a profound change in your life, speak with a professional from Burning Tree today.

Burning Tree provides programs specializing in long-term residential treatment for clients with a history of drug and alcohol relapse. Our long-term approach and extensive aftercare programs help clients break the cycle of relapse and transition to healthier, more fulfilling lives. Contact us for more information or visit the websites of our two locations: Renewal Lodge, which offers a 30-60 day treatment program, Burning Tree Ranch, which offers year-long treatment.


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