When active in an addiction, the drug (or behavior) of choice becomes the addict's higher power. Everything is second to fulfilling the needs of the craving. When entering recovery the individual can feel lost and empty, as ironic as that may seem. There is a void and emotions the addiction masked now are front and center. Nothing works as quickly or as thoroughly as the drug and the newly sober do not know how to end the distress. Developing a spiritual practice is one way to help lead a more fulfilling life.
However, developing and maintaining a spiritual practice can be difficult for anyone, with or without addiction. Life is busy and stressful. How much easier is it to lay on the sofa watching television than to do something which takes intention and patience? Deciding what we want our practice to be is just as challenging: yoga, meditation, prayer, lectio divina, martial arts, hiking, journaling, church, synagogue, the options are endless. If you are agnostic or atheist, you can choose a practice as well- a gratitude practice, mindfulness practice, inspirational reading . Interestingly, even atheists have been known to pray (here, here, and here).
The newly sober are looking for something to fill the hole the addiction masked; longing for something just as intense. I tell my clients that they have to get used to being bored without their addiction, but perhaps boredom is not quite right. Those in recovery have to get used to the lack of intensity. Your practice likely will not bring about some wonderful, blissful feeling on a regular basis, which makes consistent practice a challenge. Channeling all the energy that was used to act out into an intentional life is the work. That life may not feel exciting, but the faith needed is the faith that you will find serenity. That you will discover your authentic self.
First find something that is meaningful and/or doable for you. Then commit to engaging with it. Maybe initially you try different forms of spiritual practice until you find one that resonates with you. (I do not recommend letting this "sampling" go on to long, or your practice will lack depth that comes from long term consistency). Perhaps you settle on reading a daily meditation. Commit to doing this on a regular basis, maybe not daily at first, so as not to shame yourself when it doesn't happen, but a minimum number of times per week. If you choose to sit in meditation, start with 5 or 10 minutes and build from there. Don't start with a 30 minute sit, or it is likely you will abandon your practice out of frustration.
Your spiritual discipline may grow and transform over time. For this to happen find a practice and practice it. You will not always want to, wanting to is irrelevant. You may not always like it. As my yoga teacher told me, you don't have to like your practice, you have to like the result. (Then he said not be attached to the result, but that is another post.) YOU have the choice to practice or not to practice. No shame, no guilt if you choose not to do so. It is simply a choice. It is YOUR CHOICE. Remember, self compassion is also a spiritual practice. How you speak to yourself is important. So when you choose to practice tell yourself, "I am choosing to practice." When you don't, say to yourself, "I am choosing not to practice" or "I am choosing to watch this show with my daughter instead." This leads to more intentionality, more mindfulness in your daily life. Finally, choose with the knowledge that the only way to reap the benefits of a spiritual discipline is to consistently choose to practice over time. Doing so is not easy, but consistently making intentional and healthful choices will lead to a sense of empowerment and agency in life.
Knowing is not enough,
We must APPLY.
Willing is not enough,
We must DO."
- Bruce Lee
(Photo: David Reed)