Being Spiritual in Recovery Helps
The Role of Spirituality in Health
When people first enter recovery, they are anxious to find anything that can help them through their journey. For many people, religion and recovery go hand in hand. For many people struggling with recovery, embracing spirituality helps them find long-term success. Physical and spiritual health have a long, shared history. Looking through historical records, we see a connection between religion and healthcare.
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History of Human Faith
In the Middle Ages, hospitals and care homes were built by churches and staffed by members of the clergy. Early American settlers would consult their local pastor for physical ailments, because many people in the clergy were often also healthcare providers. This was to supplement the meager pay they received for their religious duties. Over time, a division developed between spiritual health and concerns of the body. There are still some countries where spiritual and physical care occurs in tandem. This isn’t the norm, however, in most Western countries like the United States. At first glance, this division seems natural. After all, what does spirituality have to do with physical health? However, the more we learn about spirituality, the more we see its direct impact on almost every other area of life.
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Religion and Recovery
There has been an increase in clinical studies on the connection between spirituality and health. Researchers tracked the increase in these studies. In the study, they tracked peer-reviewed research from the early 1970s until 2012. They were able to identify a steady increase in these studies, and a sharp increase during the 1990s.
Spirituality, Religion, and Recovery
When we talk about the benefits of spirituality or religion, it’s important to be clear about the terms. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. Being spiritual or even religious doesn’t necessarily mean one adheres to organized religion. Being religious, or spiritual, is a simple term for a complex emotion and practice. For some, it means returning to the faith of their youth or engaging with a congregation. For others, it’s about mindfulness, meditation, and connecting with nature. Others take teachings from several religions and create a spiritual framework that works for them.
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The key to using spirituality to improve your health isn’t about the belief system you choose; it’s about how the practice helps you see the big picture. Many people find years of addiction has left them with permanent tunnel vision. They become accustomed to hyper-focusing on one thing and one thing only. That makes the world seem very small and harsh. At the same time, it prevents us from seeing things for what they truly are or how we fit into the larger picture.
How Spirituality and Religion Can Help Your Recovery
There have been many studies on how religion can improve physical health. A healthy spiritual life is connected to lower blood pressure, lessened symptoms of menopause, and a better diet. Incorporating spirituality into your recovery plans can bring more support. In a study conducted by the Yale University of Medicine, researchers looked for a connection. The interviewers spoke to clients of an inner-city methadone replacement program. The researchers asked clients about the role of spirituality in their recovery. They soon noticed two common themes in the answers they saw. Most respondents said they saw spirituality in a favorable light. They said it was not only a source of personal strength and protection, but a source of wanting to help others. They expressed the preference for spiritually focused treatment when it was an option. They claimed that would be more effective in helping to reduce cravings for the drug and high-risk behavior.
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Patients expressing a preference is one thing, but does it work? A 2008 study published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly suggests it does. Researchers found people who were maintaining a healthy spiritual life had “statistically greater levels” of success in recovery. At the same time, people who were relapsing were much less likely to have a religious or spiritual life.
Incorporating Spirituality Into Your Recovery
When you’re working towards healthy recovery, it’s normal to want to do everything you can to ensure success. But it’s equally important to use those tools wisely. In the case of religion and recovery, it’s best to choose a path that is in line with your true self. That may mean returning to the religion you were raised with, but it may also mean finding something new.
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People who want to break old habits are eager to grab onto something new. Many of us are also drawn to strict rules and discipline. This is especially true when we are searching for an escape from the chaos of addiction. Latching on to a religious or spiritual practice that only gives us rules will only end in disaster. Structure and rituals can be important, but they must feed our spiritual needs. This is why it is important to choose a path in tune with who you are while still holding yourself accountable. Even if you’ve never considered yourself especially religious, this can be easy to do.
Prayer and Meditation
Exploring mindfulness and meditation is a common way people explore their spirituality. While most often associated with Eastern religions, it does not have to be religious in nature. They offer a simple way for people to experience the benefits of a spiritual practice. The calm and clarity they bring can easily benefit a person’s journey to recovery. Meditation has been studied in several different clinical settings and has been found to help with a wide variety of ailments, like chronic pain, fatigue and reducing high blood pressure.
For some, a faith-based addiction treatment program gives them the support they need. This dual approach addresses their recovery and fulfils their spiritual needs. These programs are often offered through churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations. For those who prefer a more multi-denominational approach, there are secular options. Many 12-step programs for addiction use the term ‘Higher Power’ in place of specific names like God or Jehovah. This makes it easier for people to reap the benefits of a spiritually-based recovery. While no set religion is used, the spiritual element helps improve support systems.
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The connection between recovery and religion or spiritual health is becoming increasingly clear. Whether someone finds help through faith-based addiction treatment or a 12-step program for addiction, the result is the same. By connecting to a force greater than ourselves, we can see the world – and our place in it – more clearly. The key to using spirituality in recovery isn’t about choosing the ‘right’ faith-based approach. Instead, it’s about listening to what you need and understanding what’s important to you. Taking small steps, such as mindfulness, meditation, or prayer can bring big results.
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These simple practices can give us insight into the true power of these tools in recovery. From there, we build our faith, our journey, and ourselves. That, in turn, provides a way to better understand what we believe in and ultimately find our true selves. If you are struggling with a drug addiction and want to incorporate faith in your treatment, Regency Behavioral Health is the answer. We value your beliefs and truly want to help you reach recovery.