October 6, 2022
For newcomers in recovery and those contemplating recovery, spirituality can be a very difficult concept to grasp, let alone apply to your daily life, I know it was for me. The good news is that over time, you will gain your own personal understanding of spirituality, and develop ways you can use it in your everyday life to help you stay grounded in your recovery.
Spirituality by definition is “The devotion to things of spiritual nature, not a worldly nature.” To me, this means having faith and trust in things that are unseen. For example, believing that things can and will get better even when everything and everyone around seems to tell you differently. This takes an act of courage and trust which can be extremely difficult, especially early on in recovery. Another part of spirituality for me comes in the form of my actions and the principles I try to align my daily living with such as honesty, compassion, patience, and tolerance. If I ever question spiritual behavior, all I do is insert said behavior and ask myself a simple question. Is this spiritual? Would a spiritual person lie? Steal? Cheat? I don’t personally believe they would, so just this simple question can help me align my thinking and actions to spiritual living on a daily basis.
The most common misconception in recovery is that spirituality=religion, which for me is definitely not true. Early in recovery, religion and the mention of God, or a Higher Power can close a lot of people off. A lot of us have resentment toward God, religion, or anything closely resembling a “Higher Power.” I know I did early on. I always asked, “If there was a God, who supposedly cared, why would he allow the things that have happened in my life to happen?” The most simple explanation that made sense to me was something a counselor said during a meeting while I was in treatment. She said, “Religion is for people who do not want to go to hell, spirituality is for people who have been to hell and want to come back.” Really to me what spirituality boils down to in the simplest of terms, is having hope and living life like a better version of myself than the person I was yesterday.
My journey of spirituality began when I hit my bottom. To explain my journey, I will use the mention of what I believe to be God in my life, however, please do not let that discourage you in your own personal journey. As I said previously, many of us came into recovery angry at anything closely related to a God or “Higher Power,” including myself. If you have read my earlier posts you may know a little of my story, but for those who haven’t, I will explain again.
I really had no interest in recovery or getting sober before my sobriety date, April 7, 2019. I was completely okay with the self-destructive path that I was headed down until I was met by the reality of how my addiction impacts others, including people I don’t even know. In the early morning of April 7th, I was involved in an automobile accident while blacked out from drugs and alcohol, which resulted in the tragic death of an innocent person. When I finally came to, I was in jail and the officers explained to me what had happened. My world came crashing down. The facade that I had been putting on was over and the desperate reality of my situation struck home. I was absolutely devastated, but in my sick selfishness, I blamed God and everything but myself. I cursed God and questioned if there was anything close to a “Higher Power” that was supposed to care for me, my well-being, and the well-being of others. How could he let this happen? I was so devastated by what happened, I made a decision internally that I was going to commit suicide. At that moment, it felt like my only option and the only way out of the pain. I was feeling the hurt my actions caused others. I’ll never forget the phone call I made to my Mom, and told her that it would be the last time she would ever hear my voice. I can only imagine the pain and fear my parents must have been going through at that time. I had made my decision to do it that night, however, whatever force was watching over me that day had other plans. Call it a Higher Power, call it God, whatever you want, today I am certain there was something watching over me.
I stepped back into my cell after the phone call I made to my mom, and my bunkmate shut our cell door behind me. In my mind, I have no idea what was going on. I thought he was ready to fight me or something because normally when you’re in jail and someone shuts the cell door, it is never good unless it’s lockdown time. My bunkmate came and sat down on my bunk, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I don’t know you, I don’t know what happened or what you’re going through, but what you’re experiencing is spiritual warfare and whatever you’re planning to — don’t do it.” I looked back at this man I had never met in my entire life and broke down into tears. I immediately got down on my knees and began to pray. I didn’t know who or what I was praying to, I just asked for help. I admitted my helplessness and hopelessness and simply said, “God help me” over and over again.
Today looking back at that day, I firmly believe God or a “Higher Power” whichever you prefer, spoke to me through that gentleman in my cell. Without those words from that stranger, I may not be writing on this piece of paper today. That event really catapulted my journey in spirituality and belief that there was a force out there that was looking out for my best interest and did care about me. I know that many of you reading this will not have such a prolific experience as the one I just described, but I am just sharing this with you to give you some hope for the development of your own spiritual foundation. Who knows, maybe through the words on this post, I can do for someone what my bunkmate did for me as a complete stranger and help to begin a journey of spirituality in someone’s life.
After my spiritual experience in jail, I was given the opportunity to go to treatment and start my journey in recovery where I built on my spiritual foundation and learned more about what spirituality is and how it helps in recovery. Early on in recovery, it was easy for me to confuse spirituality with religion, and think that just because I was reading the Bible and was strong in my faith due to my previous experience in jail that I was being spiritual. However, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by mentors and counselors with way more sobriety time than me, who gently explained that this was not the case. I learned that spirituality was more so a way of life through your actions, combined with prayer whether it be to God, a “Higher Power,” or whatever name you want to give it. A mentor of mine broke prayer down into very simple terms and he is not a religious man by any means, yet he still prays.
He said that on his way to work, he would pray for guidance, for help not to be an asshole to anyone, and that if he was an asshole to anyone, to give him guidance to make things right. That made prayer seem so simple to me. It wasn’t some extravagant thing that had some secret format and you don’t even have to put a name on who you are praying to. This helped me early on to just speak out loud and ask for guidance in my daily life and to help me in my sobriety. Over time, it became a habit to pray morning and night. When I prayed, I felt better, almost like releasing my worries to God or the universe if that suits you better. Simply stated, I was putting it out into the open.
Spirituality as a way of life
As mentioned before, spirituality is also a way of life based on your actions which I learned from others in recovery, and from my AA sponsor. You do not necessarily have to believe in God to be a spiritual person. A spiritual person can also be someone who lives their life based on certain principles, for example, love, honesty, trust, faith, open-mindedness, and willingness to name a few. For me, one of the most important aspects of being a spiritual person is always being available to help others and give back in any opportunity made available to me. On a daily basis, I try to align my actions with principles that align with the right living. As mentioned earlier, these include compassion, tolerance, love, kindness, honesty, and patience. It is quite easy for me to identify when I am not in tune with spiritual living. Am I being short, rash, unfriendly, dishonest, close-minded, unwilling, intolerant, or impatient? These are all behaviors and attitudes that I need to examine and try and correct when they pop up. Do not get me wrong, spiritual living and abiding by spiritual principles is not something that comes overnight, it takes practice and also requires asking others for help and guidance.
When we are actively drinking or using, “living spiritually” may be the furthest thing from our minds, however, when we make the decision to get sober and start our own personal journeys in recovery it becomes our responsibility to try our best each day to incorporate spiritual principles into our lives.
Today, having just shy of four years of sobriety, my spirituality has evolved a lot from what it was when I first started my journey into recovery when I was alone and broken in that jail cell, having nowhere to turn. It did not come easy for me, especially the “relationship with a Higher Power” part. Like I stated in the beginning, when I first came into recovery I was angry at God and believed that if there was a God out there why did he let horrible tragic things like my situation happen? Over time, slowly I was able to start praying and having hope that things would get better. When I say slowly, I mean slow. The hope that things would and could get better came from the fact that I felt it was almost impossible to get worse. I was able to form my own relationship with a Higher Power, that today I call God. It has evolved and continues to evolve from the initial belief that things could and would get better, as long as I was open to asking for and receiving help. Today it is easy for me to identify when I get “off the bean” so to speak, I am able to identify where I need to improve, I say a quick prayer asking for guidance, and try to correct my actions as necessary.
I am currently incarcerated in the Georgia Department of Corrections for the accident I mentioned previously and I am spiritually free. It is almost an indescribable feeling. In a place where darkness overwhelms the light and people are not living by spiritual principles. I am able to shine my light on the situation by living the way I have learned in recovery. I have peace in a place of calamity and it is all due to spiritual living and a relationship with a “Higher Power” that I did not know at the beginning of this journey.
I truly believe that if a spiritually bankrupt person like me can find hope and faith and a new way of living through spirituality anyone can do it.