What does it mean to work a spiritual program of recovery?
We all know that the spiritual side of the program is the key to our recovery. So how can we be more spiritual? And how can we know when we are working a good spiritual program?
The following are some of the key elements that I’ve found that I had in my life when I was working a balanced program of recovery:
Reaching out and helping others – twelve step work is especially powerful. Supercharge your recovery by volunteering to chair a meeting regularly, or simply offer to help out other addicts and alcoholics in any way that you can. What’s amazing about this is that you can start immediately, even with very little time sober. Reach out and help others, and you won’t just feel more spiritual–you will actually be living the spiritual program. Twelve step work (helping others) is spirituality in action.
Constant vigilance and humility – Here is one danger in attempting to be spiritual and live your life according to spiritual principles: if you deem yourself to be making great strides in trying to be spiritual, then it is easy to fall victim to spiritual pride, and you start living your life out of ego. I went through a period in my early recovery when I thought I really had my spiritual program together. I was working the steps and following my sponsors advice and doing lots of prayer and meditation. As a result, I felt that I was superior to others in my spiritual progress, and it wasn’t long before I figured out how dangerous that was. Luckily, life dealt me a couple healthy doses of humility, and I quickly returned to a mindset where I realized that–spiritually–I knew only a little. Open-mindedness returned, and I started making progress again. Luckily, most of the twelve steps have some element of humility and ego-deflation built into them, so that us alcoholics and addicts never get “too big for our britches” if we are properly working the twelve steps.
Forgiveness – You can’t be spiritual if you are walking around with a big chip on your shoulder, holding grudges against people, or just generally harboring a bunch of deep resentments. It just doesn’t work. Free up some of the energy (hate and anger is a big drain) by forgiving others. You might also want to look at overcoming resentments. Forgiving others and letting go of your resentments is a huge step towards living a spiritual life….simply eliminating these negatives will do wonders for your spirituality.
Literature – Those who are seeking a spiritual path are usually trying to read spiritual books. This can be the Big Book of AA, the Basic Text of NA, various recovery literature such as the “Just For Today” daily mediation book, or any spiritual text that falls outside of the recovery universe as well. Recovery literature and books regarding spirituality are an area where the law of diminishing returns applies. In other words, just get some literature, read a little bit every day, and try to apply the principles in your life. Even a small but consistent effort here will pay you tremendous dividends. If you’re not sure what to read, then ask for suggestions at a meeting or from your sponsor.
Stop Measuring and Comparing – we have a tendency to measure ourselves against others. For example, we might consider our sponsor to be a spiritual guru compared to us. Instead of putting yourself down in this way, realize that we are all spiritual beings, and we all have the opportunity to be in tune today and connect with our higher selves. None of us are perfect, including those that you look up to in recovery. Give yourself a little credit–you are a spiritual being!
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