“Spirituality, technically speaking, is nothing more than focusing on something that’s bigger than oneself that gives life meaning.”
–Dr. Bruce Liese, Therapist and Professor
Many support groups and treatment facilities mention the importance of spirituality in the recovery process. What does spirituality mean within the context of recovery? Many 12-step groups discuss spirituality as the belief in a “higher power.” Yet, everyone defines spirituality differently or uses different approaches to achieve a sense of spiritual fulfillment. Within our treatment, where does spirituality fit in, and how can we seek spiritual fulfillment during the recovery journey?
How Do We Define Spirituality?
Spirituality is a personal journey and attainment for everyone seeking to find a fulfilling and purposeful life. As Dr. Bruce Liese says, spirituality is just “focusing on something … bigger than oneself.” To understand spirituality, we have to break this down and examine what that means: what is “bigger than ourselves?” Why do people in recovery benefit from finding something beyond themselves to focus on?
Getting Perspective by Getting Out
We can get perspective on something bigger than ourselves by getting out and seeing it for ourselves! Many people find a sense of spirituality by connecting to the outer world in nature. Exploring the outdoors can remind us that there is something greater than ourselves. The world has existed long before us and will continue to exist long after our lives. Hiking, camping, and outdoor exploration can help us get a sense of the grandeur of the world outside of ourselves.
No one can tell how you will feel when you experience a sense of spirituality, though they may describe the splendor of the outdoors to give a sense of the awe-inspiring beauty. Many people find the experience of time outdoors to be humbling, as they recognize both the fragility of life and the marvel of our resiliency within this world. Spirituality can also be realized through other means, namely, acts of service to others.
Acts of Service and Helping Others
Volunteering to help others within our communities can help us feel a sense of spiritual fulfillment. Acts of altruism help us make the world a better place for other people. When we begin our recovery journey, we might be focused solely on healing ourselves. We need to do this–we cannot help others when we are damaged ourselves. However, even though the dark days early in recovery or during relapse, we can recognize that our healing can strengthen others.
Helping others, who might be vulnerable or in dire situations can also give us perspective on something “greater than ourselves.” At Fire Mountain, clients are introduced to “Song of the Wolf Healing Center,” which provides a home for abused and neglected wolf-dog hybrids. Clients can continue volunteer work following treatment when they return to their communities. When we help others, whether animals or other people, we can see our impact on others’ lives and connect to our spiritual side.
Our Direct Impact on Those We Love
We can look to those we love, who may be hurt by our actions, and realize that our lives and actions have an impact. Even when that impact is within our homes–our parents, siblings, or friends–we affect others’ lives. We matter to the world outside of ourselves. By going through the recovery journey or maintaining recovery after treatment, you positively impact the world outside of yourself. You are making a difference in the lives of those around you by being your best self.
Peers in Recovery: Finding Meaning in Our Struggles
When we have similar struggles as other people, we can help them through their recovery journey. Becoming a mentor or a guide to those in early recovery and treatment can significantly impact the world. Think about how much influence you can have on the world just by sharing a kind word with another. When you inspire hope, you impact the person in recovery. As they recover and grow, their family life becomes healthier and happier. When their family members are less stressed and worried about their son, daughter, or sibling, they can now find relief and repair potentially broken relationships.
The bottom line with spirituality and recovery is remembering that you matter! Your life and your actions have an impact on the world and not just yourself. You will affect and change the world around you–choose to change the world for the better as you continue to live a life of purpose in recovery!
Spirituality is often discussed during treatment and beyond as a critical component of recovery. We can look at our whole-self health in recovery consisting of three parts: mental, physical, and spiritual. Defining spirituality might not be the same for each person. Expression of spirituality is often personal, private, and based on traditions. Within the context of recovery, we can look at spirituality as the idea that we can focus on something greater than ourselves, which gives life a purpose. We have a direct impact on the world around us, whether we realize it or not. Our actions can affect the lives of those we love and those we try to help. We can choose to have a meaningful impact on the world around us. If you are alumni of Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center and seeking purpose in life, we consider you a part of our “Bear Tribe” and are here for you always. Contact us today at (303) 443-3343.