New Hope Recovery Center's Greg Cox was recently interviewed for the Summer 2016 edition of Recovery Campus Magazine. Greg discusses the importance of spirituality in recovery and the difficulty emerging adults have in understanding the importance of spirituality in their lives. Greg states: "Spirituality is a critical component of addiction recovery because it focuses on growth, change and evolution....To fully recovery from our addiction, we must reconnect to our spirituality, our search for purpose in our life and connections beyond ourselves."
Spirituality often gets confused with religion, but they are very different things. As Greg mentions, "Some find it helpful to think of religion as rules or practices agreed to by a number of people, whereas spirituality is completely related to one's own individual experience and connections."
Greg understands the unique issues confronting today's young adults: social and general anxiety, shame, low self worth and constant electronic stimulation, among other things. For young adults struggling with addiction, shame can become overwhelming and lead to an addiction spiral: using to feel better and then feeling shame about using, using to feel better.....Greg helps our young adults break free from this cycle and begin work toward their goals and dreams.
You can read Greg's full interview in the 2016 Summer Issue of Recovery Campus Magazine.
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Written by: New Hope Recovery Center
Many people enter addiction treatment rehab or walk through the doors of a 12-step room and struggle with the concept of spirituality. For those beginning the journey of addiction recovery who do not identify as religious, or who did previously but have now rejected religion, or who have felt harmed by religion, the idea of spirituality or a higher power can be challenging.
For those who practice religion and identify God as their Higher Power, spirituality likely already makes sense. They can fit spirituality into the framework of their current religion. For someone who has never practiced, no longer practices or who feels harmed by religion, it can be difficult to grasp how spirituality can exist without the presence of religion. But spirituality and religion are very different.
The Difference Between Spirituality and Religion
It is helpful to separate spirituality and religion. We often unconsciously link the two. But spirituality does not need to be defined through the lens of religion. Religion can be thought of as a set of beliefs, rituals and practices regarding belief in God or gods to be worshipped. Spirituality is a personal search for meaning in life, for connection with all things and for the experience of a power beyond oneself. Some find it helpful to think of religion as rules or practices agreed to by a number of people, whereas spirituality is completely related to one’s individual experience and connections. Spirituality is recognizing a power greater than ourselves which is grounded in love and compassion. It is a power that gives us perspective, meaning, and a purpose to our lives. It is a desire to connect with more than ourselves, to connect with everything.
So, Why Is Spirituality Important In Recovery From Addiction?
Spirituality is important in addiction recovery because addiction takes away our ability to be spiritual. It disconnects us from our spirituality and from powers, people and things outside ourselves. To fully recover from our addiction we must reconnect to our spirituality, our search for purpose in our life and connections beyond ourselves.
How Does Addiction Take Away Our Spirituality?
First, alcoholism or drug addiction takes away our ability to choose because EVERYTHING becomes centered on using. Our entire focus is on the drug of addiction…how to get it, when to get it, who to get it from, where to get it, when to use it, actually using it, and recovering from using it. The sole focus in life revolves around the addiction. We tend to only value people and things based on our addiction. An important element of spirituality is choosing for ourselves: deciding on our beliefs, exploring our purpose and meaning and honestly connecting with people and powers beyond ourselves. Addiction keeps us from choosing anything but the object(s) of our addiction.
Second, addiction takes away our ability to grow and change. Although the life of an addict can seem random, chaotic and uncertain, it is actually very predictable and extremely routine. Because the addict focuses exclusively on their addiction, their life ceases to have any growth or change: it is solely about getting the drug, using the drug and recovering from the drug, repeated over and over. Life become robotic, the addict is no longer themselves. Not being able to be our true selves’ stops us from growing. Spirituality is about growing, changing and evolving.
Third, addiction takes away our ability to have any real relationships because our sole focus and connection is wired to be exclusively with the addiction. Addiction causes us to be dishonest, we say and do things based on the drug. Because we are no longer ourselves, we cannot form honest relationships with others (or ourselves). We cannot connect to anything beyond ourselves and our drug. Our world soon shrinks to become just us and our addiction, everything and everyone else just becomes a means to using. Addiction eventually results in a loss of all real relationships and connections. An important element of spirituality is connecting to more than ourselves, ultimately with everything.
Finally, addiction takes away our ability to experience surprise, wonder and awe. If there is one experience that can immediately let us know we are connecting with our spirituality, it is experiencing awe and wonder. Many expect wonder and awe to come only in the form of extraordinary events with loud fanfare. But actually wonder and awe come mainly during ordinary events and things. They come when we take the time to recognize the incredible beauty and wonder in everyday objects and happenings. The beauty and complexity of a sunflower, the wonderful fragrance of a rose, seeing the night sky filled with stars, and watching the sun slowly set are often sources of wonder. Any moment can be an opportunity for awe and wonder: a moment to feel connected to more than ourselves, to feel that there is a power or powers beyond ourselves, to appreciate things and people for their own beauty.
If we view spirituality from this perspective we can see how recovery and sobriety gives us our spirituality back. Spirituality is individually defined, it is however one chooses to assign meaning, value, and purpose to their life. Therefore, someone who walks into a 12-step room does not have to be deterred by the spirituality of the program because they can choose anything greater than themselves as their Higher Power, such as their own sobriety.
Being spiritual is a practice that restores all of the things addiction takes away from us. Addiction is a predictable disease with a predictable outcome. Practicing spirituality involves getting comfortable with the uncertain. It can be practiced and strengthened by taking the time to celebrate what we are grateful for, what we trust in, what inspires us, and how we exercise faith. Being spiritual requires us to be mindful of the ordinary moments that make a simple life extraordinary and to be vulnerable to change, to risk having honest relationships and to grow. It’s these ordinary moments and brave bouts of vulnerability that allow us to connect with others with love and compassion.
New Hope Recovery Center focuses on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our clients and their families as they journey toward recovery. We understand the importance of spirituality in addiction recovery and guide each client to discover and experience their own spirituality. If you would like more information about New Hope Recovery Center, please contact us at 888-707-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written By: New Hope Recovery Center
For the LGBTQ community, religion can be a hot button discussion. In our New Hope with Pride Program, clients often mention that religion is the area where homosexuality is first discussed in their lives, often in negative terms. Some of our LGBT addiction clients have experienced trauma from their experience with religion. Many LGBT clients have learned deep shame about who they are, based on their sexuality, from their religion. Because addiction is a disease of shame, LGBT addicts often experience a double layer of shame: shame about their addiction, and shame about their sexuality. Recovering from shame is an important part of New Hope Recovery Center’s treatment program. LGBT clients often grapple with their religious upbringing as they find their own spirituality when working a 12-step program. The first step is often learning that spirituality and religion are not the same.
Spirituality Beyond Religion
Religion is an influence that has an effect on many of us at multiple points in our lives, so it is a disservice to not talk about it openly. Whereas formal religion emphasizes a rigid ethical code, values system, and rituals; spirituality is believing in something greater than yourself. Spiritual self-discovery provides us with the opportunity to discern our own purpose and meaning for our lives. Many who have experienced trauma from religion express that they did not have the opportunity to form their own value and belief system, but instead were told what to believe based on the doctrine of their religion. Negative messages about homosexuality are frequently expressed directly from the church and, more likely than not, by family members and peers in the religious community. Young LGBTQ individuals internalize these negative messages.
Spirituality in recovery is an opportunity to surrender to addiction and explore what gives us a deeper sense of meaning in life. Religion may or may not be a part of someone’s story but the impact it has, both positive and negative, can be profound. Having a better understanding of that impact is one area we explore with our clients.
Although any LGBTQ person can be affected during their childhood by religion, we have seen that clients who were raised Catholic, Baptist or Mormon are often the most affected. Further, clients that attended religious schools were usually surrounded by religion for the majority of their waking hours. Childhood is a very impressionable time and hearing that non-heterosexuals are sinful, bad or even evil has a deep impact. Many clients learned to be ashamed of their sexual orientation based on the teachings of their families’ religion. Many clients become depressed and yearn to be straight. This yearning is called internalized homophobia: not wanting to be gay or lesbian.
Losing My Religion
I was raised Catholic and although I was not overtly treated negatively, I did not feel I belonged. The covert messages I received reaffirmed this feeling of not belonging, and that who I am was wrong. It contributed to me staying in the closet for over a decade before I decided to fully accept my sexuality. As I accepted my sexuality more and more, I was keen on religion less and less. My process of self-acceptance meant shedding my religion and the negative messages I internalized.
Religion has been a long-standing vehicle to promote heterosexism throughout the world. I personally did not find it be a place where I can be myself openly. I also was not interested in living the dual life I lived before I came out. Therefore, to live a fully integrated life, I decided to reject my religion. In order for me to accept my sexuality fully, I took the internalized shame and guilt I had about myself and externalized it to the Catholic Church. Doing so resulted in my rejection of the religion but it freed me from the notion that I was innately bad or disordered.
Finding My Religion
My religious journey is ongoing and I am not closed off to the idea of integrating my sexuality and religion. Thankfully there are more and more LGBTQ-affirming churches. There have even been strides in my own Catholic religion which is uplifting to see. In the New Hope with Pride Program I have seen people with affirming religious upbringings and with extremely traumatic religious upbringings. But there is always room for healing and subsequent growth.
New Hope Recovery Center is Chicago’s premier addiction rehab facility and we’re here to have the hard conversations. Our New Hope with Pride Program caters to the unique issues LGBTQ clients face with addiction. If you or a loved one is seeking help for alcoholism or a drug addiction, please visit our website at www.new-hope-recovery.com or call us at 888-707-4673.
To find an LGBTQ-affirming church in your area please visit http://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/
Written By: New Hope Recovery Center
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