When I first got to addiction recovery, I did not really feel as if I had any spirituality in my life at all. I was operating on a different level, almost in a sort of survival mode, in which I was selfishly driven to experience that next high at almost any cost. I was not thinking of spiritual matters, I was not considering how I might help others, and all I really thought about was how I could take care of my own personal desires.
So when I first got into addiction treatment, it took some time for this mindset to get reversed. Some people apparently have a single moment that serves as their spiritual awakening, where everything turns around for them, and maybe they even hear some sort of message from their higher power. With me, there was no such revelation, at least not suddenly like that.
Instead, I simply surrendered to the fact that I was never going to be happy again if I continued to chase drugs and alcohol, and therefore I decided to ask for help. I humbled myself and realized that I was truly baffled by my disease and that I had absolutely none of the answers. I fully admitted to myself that I had no idea how to live my life, how to make myself happy, how to be any sort of normal human being. I was lost due to my addiction and I had no idea how to live a life of recovery.
This concept of being in a state of total surrender, I think, is the whole key to unlocking your spiritual awakening. Before you can transform yourself into a spiritual being you have to hit ground zero. You must hit rock bottom. You must be willing to carve out your soul to the point that you are near total self destruction, which is the point that a desperate addict or alcoholic will reach right before they finally ask for help. In AA literature they call this “the turning point.” You throw all caution to the wind, cast aside your fears of rehab, of sobriety, of meetings–and you simply ask for help and do what you are told to do. This is real surrender.
Once you surrender completely you can start to rebuild and repair your life. This is where the spiritual development comes into play. I surrendered and my family directed me to inpatient rehab, which was the best possible decision I could have made. I went into treatment and I started to listen, to learn, and to humble myself. I knew that I needed a solution, and I knew that it had to come from outside of myself. In other words, I knew that I lacked the knowledge to create my own recovery. I needed advice, direction, and guidance. So I went to rehab and I made the decision to allow myself to be guided.
Once you are in the recovery process, your goal will be to extend your willingness that sprang from your state of surrender. In order to do well in recovery you are going to need to humble yourself, take suggestions from people, and actually implement their advice.
In the 12 step world, this can come through sponsorship or listening to your peers at meetings. My suggestion would be that everyone in recovery–whether they are following a 12 step program or some alternative–should have a mentor. I would take that a step further and suggest that you should also seek out a professional therapist or counselor as well.
Now you might be thinking: “What does all of this humility and taking advice from others have to do with my spirituality?”
In my experience, the answer to that is “everything.” If we are caught up in our own selfish thought processes then we cannot really get to a place in which we are being “more spiritual.” The only way to do that is to step outside of ourselves, to consider other viewpoints and other people, and thus expand our world in some way. When we are narrowly focused on only our own thoughts and our own problems it is pretty easy to lose sight of the spiritual experience.
Transformation happens when we start to actually reach out to others and do some form of service work, in my experience. Fairly early in my recovery journey, my sponsor in the 12 step program suggested that I start chairing a meeting that was in a treatment center. So every Friday night I was to take a message of hope into a treatment center, where people had only a week or two sober, and it was my job to try to give these people some hope. At the time, I had about a year clean and sober, and to these people, that was a lot. So just the fact that I had made it to one year sober was enough to give some people a certain amount of hope.
This transformation does not have to be limited to strictly recovery related events, either. In other words, while you can certainly surround yourself with meetings, therapy, and addiction recovery for the first few years of sobriety, you can also branch out into more holistic directions such as exercise, art, meditation, education, and so on. This is exactly what I started doing near the 6 month mark in my addiction recovery journey.
At the time, my sponsor suggested that I get a part time job and go back to college. I did not really think that I “could handle all of that” during my first year of sobriety, and I was afraid to take it on. But eventually I realized that he was right: Recovery had to be about more than just not drinking booze or abusing drugs. Life is for living, and I had some serious rebuilding to do, and that could not begin and end with daily AA meetings. I had to push beyond that and find new avenues to explore.
And so I started back working, I went back to college to finish up a 4 year degree, I started jogging and eventually ran 3 marathons. This was all part of awakening my spirit, just as much as chairing NA meetings or doing meditations in a Refuge Recovery meeting had been.
So the key here is that you need to take suggestions and advice if you want to awaken your spirit, and you need to do so in a holistic sense. That just means that every area of your life–including your mental, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual sides of your self–could all use some love and attention. This is how you take care of yourself in recovery–in a holistic sense, meaning that you take care of the “whole person” rather than just one aspect of your life.
The effect of this is that your life starts getting better and better over time, and the positive benefits from all of these various improvements begin to overlap with one another, and life gets really, really good. This is how to awaken the spirit and live the life that you were meant to be living. Good luck!