Nurturing a spiritual practice is a time-honored way for recovering addicts to stay strong in their recovery. It’s the foundation of many recovery paths, including the 12-Step program. Maintaining a spiritual practice doesn’t have to mean adhering to a religion. A spiritual practice can be any practice that promotes inner peace and helps a person feel like he or she is a part of something larger than him or herself.
For people in recovery, spiritual practices can be valuable coping tools to help them regulate their emotions and deal with the normal ups and downs of everyday life. No matter how difficult and stressful your life becomes, spiritual tools can help you find a sense of clarity and inner strength. Some of the most valuable and common tools recovering addicts can benefit from include prayer, meditation, religious practice, physical disciplines like yoga or qi gong, and mindfulness practices.
1. Daily Prayer and Spiritual Readings
Many recovering addicts, and people from all other walks of life, find that a daily prayer helps them keep their bearings in a chaotic world. You can use your daily prayer as an opportunity to reflect upon sources of joy in your life and express gratitude for what you have. Daily prayer can help you seek guidance, wisdom, and strength from your Higher Power. It can also help you cultivate a sense of lovingkindness for others in your life, by using prayer as an opportunity to express your good wishes for friends, loved ones, neighbors, and strangers.
You may also find value in reading a little each day from the spiritual text of your choosing. Explore the spiritual books of different religions. Read the wisdom of spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Paulo Coelho, or Thich Nhat Hanh. Choose a daily meditation book and read from it every day. You’ll learn more about the importance of daily reflection when you go through addiction treatment.
Learning to meditate can be frustrating at first, but ultimately very rewarding. People who meditate regularly report that their meditation practice generates feelings of peace, serenity, and clarity that follow them into their everyday lives. The more often you meditate, the more you’ll experience the benefits. A growing body of research suggests the regular meditation can cause physical changes in the brain that relieve stress, increase creativity, boost compassion, improve mental focus, and bolster your memory.
3. Participate in Organized Religion
Church services and other organized religious observances aren’t for everyone, but there’s no harm in investigating these spiritual outlets if you’re in recovery from addiction. If you were raised in a particular church or you’re already a member of a religion, now may be the time to revisit and revitalize your faith. If you don’t have any prior experience with religion, don’t be afraid to explore churches or religious groups that appeal to you. Membership in a religious congregation can help combat social isolation as well as nurturing your soul.
4. Yoga or Qi Gong
Yoga is becoming increasingly well-known for its ability to help recovering addicts learn to tolerate uncomfortable emotions, cultivate feelings of self-acceptance and self-compassion, and cope with stress. It’s also a great way to strengthen your body as you heal physically from the damage done by addiction.
If you’re not interested in doing yoga, there are other physical disciplines that can help you achieve a meditative state. Try qi gong or tai chi, for example.
5. Mindfulness Practices
Mindfulness practices are particularly valuable for people in recovery from addiction because they help you learn to tolerate the present moment, even when that moment is uncomfortable. This is a valuable recovery and life skill for addicts who have spent months, years, or even decades running from uncomfortable situations and numbing unpleasant sensations with alcohol and drugs.
Mindfulness meditation is fairly simple; it involves assuming a seated meditation pose and focusing on the breath. You can turn any daily chore, such as washing the dishes or taking a walk, into a mindfulness practice simply by focusing all of your attention on the task at hand. If your mind wanders to thoughts of the past or future, simply return your thoughts to what you are doing, feeling, and experiencing in the moment.
If you’re in recovery from addiction, a strong spiritual practice can become the solid foundation on which you can rebuild your life. You can cultivate a spiritual practice whether or not you’re religious. All you need to do is explore the many spiritual tools at your disposal until you find the one that’s right for you.