When we are actively using drugs and alcohol, it is said that we are suffering from a spiritual malady, and that this is the root of our problem. Because we abuse drugs and alcohol over an extended period of time, we are generally also suffering from both an emotional problem (we tend to use drugs and alcohol to mask our emotions) and also a physical addiction (we are chemically addicted to our drug of choice).
So there are at least 3 levels in which we are being affected by addiction: Spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
If we consider someone who is in recovery and happens to relapse and take a drink or a drug, what is the process by which they arrived there? The path that they took was that they first relapsed emotionally before they actually took the physical drugs or alcohol into their body. And before they relapsed emotionally, they must have relapsed spiritually as well.
So we need to consider this spiritual level and see how it can protect us from relapse.
What is the spiritual experience as it pertains to recovery?
Most people believe that the spiritual experience in recovery has to do with a higher power and prayer and meditation and things of that nature. This stereotype can be misleading as the spiritual experience is actually must broader than that.
As it pertains to recovery, the spiritual experience is anything that results in a personality change sufficient enough to overcome drug or alcohol addiction. That’s it.
The spiritual experience is a personality change. Of course, whatever creates this personality change has to have the ability to make it last over an indefinite period of time. It has to be substantial.
The hierarchy of change
So we need to stop putting drugs and alcohol into our bodies on a physical level.
In order to do that, we need to change the way we deal with life on an emotional level.
And in order to change our personality enough to change the way we deal with things emotionally, we need a spiritual experience.
If we manage to stop drinking and drugging, we have 2 more changes that we need to make. The first is the emotional change, and the second is the spiritual change.
The emotional change
The emotional change that we need to make is when we start taking responsibility and stop running away from life by self medicating. It is the decision to confront someone and deal with conflict instead of running off and getting drunk or high over it. It is a maturing process.
This emotional change can happen in an instant. It is just a matter of follow through.
The spiritual change
The spiritual change that is necessary might happen in an instant, but that was not my experience in recovery. Instead, this shift in personality happened gradually over time as I was seeking a higher power, practicing gratitude on a daily basis, and reaching out to try and help others.
It was a combination of these efforts that produced a personality change (in me) sufficient enough to overcome my compulsion to use drugs and alcohol.
“Finding a higher power” is an important piece of this but it is not as critical to long term sobriety as traditional programs might have you think. It is one piece of the path, but it is not the path. More specifically, the path of recovery for most people looks more like this:
1) Holistic growth in many areas of life.
2) Finding purpose in life and living with passion.
3) Meeting goals and thus increasing self esteem and self worth.
In other words, why settle for a “spiritual experience” when you can go far beyond that and engage in “holistic growth and development?”
Don’t settle for finding a higher power…..take action and become a true instrument of success in recovery and in the world. Reach out, help others, and make use of your gifts and talents in recovery. This is the spiritual change that we should be driven towards.