In my previous post to this site, we discussed how addicts who struggle with the concepts of God and organized religion can find a Higher Power they’re comfortable with. With that handled, the next step is finding a way to commune with that Higher Power.
For some addicts, this process is relatively simple. They simply attend and participate in the services and practices of the religion of their choice. For these individuals, having a shared belief system, a place of worship, others with whom to worship, and perhaps a spiritual leader to guide them as they connect with their Higher Power feels both comfortable and comforting. If that is the case for you, go for it, and don’t let anyone try to tell you that you’re doing spiritual connection the wrong way. If you feel connected, you are connected.
Occasionally, recovering addicts are happy with a specific religion, but they struggle to understand certain spiritual practices within that religion. We think it’s wise to view this not as a roadblock to spirituality, but as an opportunity to learn more about it. At our Seeking Integrity Treatment Centers, when a client is finding it difficult to accept spiritual suggestions, we sometimes share what a priest once told a new parishioner who was questioning parts of a religious ritual:
I can tell you the formal history and theological reasoning behind everything we do here—lighting a candle when praying, crossing oneself, giving something up or taking something on at Lent, and all sorts of other things we do—but I invite you to instead learn about these practices by doing them. Try a practice for a few days or a week and see what speaks to you about it. There’s likely something about almost everything we do that you’ll find personally meaningful and helpful. Then, after trying a particular practice, if you want to talk about it or read up on it, we’ll chat. But consider trying it first.
We think this is wise advice. If you’re curious, try something. See what you like (and don’t like) about it. See if you can find personal meaning in it. And feel free to talk about it with others, especially if they have experience with whatever it is you tried.
If it turns out that organized religion and established spiritual practices are not your thing, you can still borrow practices and rituals that resonate for you. You can even borrow practices and rituals from fellow recovering addicts who have the type of sobriety and recovery you seek for yourself. If your sponsor says the third, seventh, and eleventh step prayers every morning and then stares at a statue of Buddha while drinking his or her morning coffee, try that and see what happens. If someone in your 12-step meeting that you admire writes a ten-item gratitude list in his or her journal every morning, do the same thing for a few weeks and pay attention to how this affects your sense of connection with your Higher Power.
The good news here is that there are as many ways to connect as there are addicts trying to connect. Prayers can work. Mantras can work. Meditation can work. Creating a quiet space in your home where you can simply sit and think and perhaps talk aloud to whatever is out there listening can work. Spiritual readings can work. Gratitude lists can work. Try them all, and then try a bunch of other stuff as well. And if something helps you feel connected, even a little bit, incorporate that into your daily spiritual practice.
At this point, we want to place some emphasis on the word practice. Connecting with your Higher Power requires a spiritual practice. This means you must actually do something to facilitate the process of connection. You can sit around hoping to feel connected all you want, but it’s not going to happen until you at least reach out your hand and say hello to your Higher Power. And even then, it may not feel natural or easy. So you’ll have to practice—most likely with some sort of ritual performed at the same time every morning and evening.
Lastly, I want to say that as you walk the path of finding a Higher Power that works for you and then developing a connection with that Higher Power, you are likely to stumble and occasionally backslide. If you experience that, it’s normal, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Spirituality is not a perfect process. And it tends to morph over time. This means that a belief system and spiritual practice that works for you in early recovery may need to change as the days stack up. As you grow and change, your Higher Power can also grow and change. And that is a beautiful thing.