If you’ve looked into Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other 12-Step programs, you are likely to notice the recurring role that God plays throughout its messaging. The “God word” can scare many people away from recovery fellowships, especially from 12-Step programs in which it features most prominently.
It’s important to realize that “God” means different things to different people. AA and other 12-Step programs are, for the most part, entirely unaffiliated with any particular sect or brand of religion. Instead, the use of the word “God” tends to refer to a spiritual power that is greater than our human capabilities.
Religion, as we know it today, means living by a set of specific rules or principles that stem from the belief in a particular form of God and often includes membership in a greater community that follows those same rules. Religion can mean organizational structure and hierarchy, incentives for certain behaviors, penalties for others, and the prioritization of communal values over individual values.
Spirituality, on the other hand, doesn’t revolve around the doctrine of a particular institution or follow organized rules. It’s more of an individual approach to connecting to whatever forces in the world you feel are larger than yourself. It’s completely possible to not believe in God and to still be a highly spiritual person.
Religion, on its own, has nothing to do with recovery. Your ability to overcome addiction and the struggles that come with it do not depend on whether you follow a particular set of rules or adhere to the tenets of a certain faith. Recovery is a personal journey and ultimately, it is your trajectory of heart, body, and mind that will lead you to succeed.
In contrast, spirituality is one of the fundamental pieces of every journey of recovery. It may go by many different names and descriptions, but ultimately, to make the internal changes that lead to the strength of conviction you need, some form of spiritual experience must take place.
The process of recovery takes more than just committing to stop drinking or using drugs. You didn’t develop your addiction in a vacuum; it grew because of aspects of your life and mental state that fostered destructive habits. Putting the plug in your drinking or drug use may stop the symptoms of your issue, but it doesn’t address the cause, and without resolving the tensions in your life and mind, your destructive urges may simply find other, equally detrimental outlets.
Overcoming your addiction, then, means changing your life. It means taking a hard, unflinching look at who you are and how you spend your time on Earth. This is the spiritual change that must take place for your recovery to have a solid foundation in your very core.
This is the “psychic change” referenced in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It involves surrendering control to the realization that your willpower alone is not enough to overcome addiction and that you’re willing to place your trust into the hands of your fellow people–family, friends, and treatment professionals. It means stepping away from the lifestyles, mental habits, and social circles you’ve used to inform who you are up until now and opening yourself up to the possibilities that come with releasing your ego and starting anew.
Regardless of whatever pre-existing relationship you have with God and religion, your path to recovery is going to be unlike anything you’ve done before. It’s worth considering this opportunity as a chance to connect to spirituality in a new way. Think about what you value, what you believe, and which principles you would like to live by from now on. Talk with one or more people you trust or look up to in these matters and form some concrete ideas about the standards you want to set for yourself going forward. How do you want to treat people? What sort of friend, family member, romantic partner, and neighbor do you want to be? Who do you want to spend your time with? What do you want to get out of your life? What do you want to give back to the world?
Making these changes won’t just help you get sober and stay sober–they’ll help act as a moral framework that affects all aspects of your life. You are rebuilding who you are and what sort of future you’ll have, so don’t pull any punches–your decisions now will have tremendous ramifications for the version of you that you want to be.
Recovery is a large undertaking that requires deep soul-searching and exploring how you may connect to a higher power or purpose. At Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, we offer a mind-body-spirit approach that tackles the roots of addiction on all fronts. Recovery means addressing the sources of your addiction, whether they include trauma, depression, or destructive life circumstances. We believe that hope and healing are available to anyone whose life has been devastated by alcoholism or addiction. Here we understand that true change is a lifelong process that begins with putting trust in the power of something greater than yourself to help you through. Treatment at Cornerstone includes evidence-based practices, therapy, yoga, social support structure, sponsorship, and mentoring. We work with you to create an individualized approach that will keep you strong and on the path towards living the life you want to live. Get sober, stay sober. Call 800-643-2108 to learn more.