Spirituality and the Holidays
December brings holidays connected with various religions to the fore, making it a time during which many people are thinking about spiritual matters of all kinds. The holiday season is also a fine time to consider what role spirituality might play in your recovery story.
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Before we go too far down that path, however, it is important to define our central term. What do we mean by spirituality?
The Distinction Makes a Difference: Religion and Spirituality are Not the Same Thing
As noted above, the holiday season certainly has more than its fair share of religious overtones, no matter which holidays are part of your annual traditions. But for the purposes of this discussion, it is absolutely essential that we make a distinction between religion and spirituality. No matter what religion you practice (or even if you practice no religion at all), there is a role for spirituality in your recovery.
Spirituality is deeply personal and often involves seeking meaning in your life. Of course, many people find that meaning in the religion of their choice—but religion is by no means the only potential source of meaning. A sense of wonder and curiosity about the world and our individual place in it is at the heart of spirituality. Pursuing the activities and philosophies that offer a framework of meaning for your life—no matter what those activities and philosophies turn out to be—is an undeniably spiritual practice.
Follow the Beaten Path or Forge Your Own
Spirituality is at the heart of some well-known approaches to recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous, easily the best known of the 12-Step programs, is explicitly a Christian-based program, which means that spiritual principles related to Christianity are central to its recovery practices. Bible verses and references to God are part of the AA “Big Book.”
But you don’t have to be a Christian to find benefit in Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12 steps. In fact, the podcast “AA Beyond Belief” is dedicated to folks who do not profess a Christian faith but who nevertheless are helped by the program’s recovery approach. And of course, there are other recovery support programs—like SMART Recovery—that are not associated with any religion.
A Reminder: No Religion Does Not Equal No Spirituality
All of that talk about Christianity may have muddled the message, so let us repeat: spirituality is not the same thing as religion. Everyone—even the most agnostic person or self-proclaimed atheist—can experience spirituality as they seek purpose and meaning in their life.
What does that look like in day-to-day life? Well, perhaps you express your spirituality through a commitment to serving others. Maybe you have an artistic practice—painting, writing, sculpting, dancing, playing music, or something else—that is central to your understanding of yourself and the world. That, too, is a spiritual practice. Or perhaps you feel connected to the world around you through nature—hiking, gardening, caring for animals, advocating for clean water and air, or any of a number of other activities. Again, that is a spiritual practice. So are meditation and mindfulness. Anything that connects you to meaning or purpose is an expression of your spirituality—even if you never darken the doorstep of a house of worship.
How It Helps: Spirituality Builds Connections Beyond Oneself
The vast majority of spiritual practices ask us to look outside of ourselves for beauty, meaning, purpose, and connection. Given that substance use disorders often lock us inside ourselves and our ongoing need for the substances that alleviate our pain or fear or loneliness, it makes sense that anything that helps us turn our gaze outward instead of inward is going to help prop up our recovery. The positive feelings sparked by spiritual practice are a powerful aid to maintaining your recovery.
Spirituality is a Gift You Give Others – And Yourself
We started by reflecting on the holiday season, which is frequently a time of gift giving. Taking the time during this period to reflect on your own spirituality and how it might be enhanced is a gift you can give to others—who may benefit from your spiritual practice of kindness, for example—and to yourself as you create the best possible conditions for keeping your recovery on track. You definitely will not need a gift receipt!
We Are Ready Whenever the Spirit Moves You to Seek Help
Everyone at Bel Aire Recovery Center is dedicated to helping you (or a loved one) overcome substance abuse disorders—and we understand the ways in which spirituality can be central to that effort. We aren’t here to ask you to choose any particular faith or any particular practice. That said, you can have unshakable faith in our expertise, our compassion, and our continuum of care.