Updated: Jul 7
I’m offering you a conversation today, summarized from talks with clients. I’ve done so to protect the confidence of those people, and to allow me to convey to you a common theme people present in coaching sessions. I wanted to highlight some of the things that can and do arise for people who are spiritual seekers, not always in a traditional way. We begin where this person, Jan has a few months out of treatment and is beginning to question more seriously their connection to a Higher Power:
SPIRITUAL LIFE IN EARLY RECOVERY
Linda: "Hi, I'm glad we have this chance to chat.”
Jan: "Well, I really have something on my mind that I’d love to talk to you about. It keeps coming up over and over. It's about spirituality. I don't mean religion specifically, but something broader. I just can’t get the hang of this turning it over thing and I don’t know why I have to.”
Linda: “Well, spirituality can be understood as a connection to something greater than us. It's about looking for deeper meanings, understanding our place in the universe, and developing inner peace and strength."
Jan: "That sounds a bit too vague, could you explain a bit more?"
Linda: "Of course. Spirituality can be different for everyone. For some, it might mean connecting with nature on a deep level, for others, it might be about finding a sense of purpose or understanding what gives their life meaning. Some people go back to the God of their understanding from church or childhood, but that’s not needed. It's about discovering our own values, so we have something to lean on in times of hardship, like now, during your recovery."
Jan: "Okay, I think I get it. But how does it fit in with my recovery and turning it over?"
Linda: "Great question. In the 12-step recovery program, the second step is about coming to believe in a Higher Power. This Higher Power can be anything greater than yourself that can help you. It doesn't have to be a god or anything religious, but it's a recognition that we aren’t alone. Spirituality can be an essential part of the healing and recovery process because it helps us gain a new perspective on our experiences, our pain, and our path to recovery. It's also about learning to let go and trust the process. It’s also about acknowledging that our way, the way of our addiction, didn’t work."
Jan: "I see, but how can I get started on this?"
Linda: "Starting your spiritual journey is a personal process, and there's no right or wrong way to go about it. Here are a few suggestions, though. First, spend some quiet time each day reflecting or meditating; maybe read something that has spiritual meaning to you. This helps you to connect with your inner self. Second, you could try to spend more time in nature. It's incredible how much we can learn and feel when we just sit quietly and observe the world around us. Third, consider writing in a journal about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Writing can be therapeutic, and it helps us better understand our emotions and thoughts. Lastly, reach out to others. Talk to people who are also on this path. Maybe seek out a mentor or join a meditation group.
Jan: "That sounds like a lot, but I think I can try some of it."
Linda: "That's all I ask for - just keep an open mind and take one day at a time. Let's continue to connect and talk about your experiences, your questions, and your discoveries. This is your journey, but you're not walking it alone."
Jan: "But what if I don't feel anything or I don't see any changes immediately?"
Linda: "That's perfectly normal. Just like physical fitness, spiritual fitness requires consistency, patience, and time. The changes might not be visible right away. You might even feel frustrated at times, and that's okay. It's not about achieving a particular goal.
Spirituality isn't a magic solution to your struggles. It's a tool to help you navigate. Your feelings are valid, and it's okay to have bad days. It's about learning to sit with yourself, with the silence, as you grow.”
Jan: "I see. That does take some pressure off, knowing that it's okay not to have instant results."
Linda: "Absolutely! And remember, Step 11 in the 12-Step Program encourages us to seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power. This is a practice, an ongoing effort. It's not something you check off a list. It's something you live."
"It's about being open to the idea that there's a bigger picture, and even though we might not understand everything that's happening to us, we can still find a sense of purpose, peace, and resilience. And that can make a huge difference in your recovery journey."
Jan: "Yeah, I think I'm beginning to understand now. I'll try to keep an open mind about this."
Linda: "That's great! And remember, me, your program people, we're all here for you. Whether you want to share your experiences, ask questions, or just talk, don't hesitate to reach out.”
SPIRITUALITY AND CARE OF SELF
"I'm thrilled to hear you're open to exploring this. Let's remember that, as we progress, it's essential to practice self-compassion. Sometimes, it can be easy to judge ourselves harshly when we feel like we aren't making progress fast enough or when we face setbacks. Just as Step 10 of the Program urges us to continue to take personal inventory and promptly admit when we're wrong, it's equally crucial to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes and to celebrate small victories."
Jan: "Self-compassion? How does that tie into spirituality?"
Linda: "Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and
understanding you would extend to a good friend. It's about acknowledging that everyone, including you, is imperfect, and that's okay. In a spiritual context, it's recognizing that we are all part of a greater whole and we all deserve love and understanding, especially from ourselves. It can help us to accept our flaws and our strengths."
Jan: "I think I've been quite harsh on myself lately. I'll try to keep that in mind."
Linda: "That’s great! Keep in mind that your spiritual journey is unique to you, and it won't look like anyone else's. You're on a path to better understand yourself and your place in the world. It's a path that can bring healing, connection, and deeper meaning into your life."
Jan: "I have to remember that there is no deadline for this journey. In the 12-Step program, we learn about 'One Day at a Time.' The same applies here. Like you said, my spiritual journey is not a race; every step offers a chance to discover something new. It’s a comforting thought.”
Linda: "I'm here for you anytime you want to talk or have questions. Remember, it's all about progress, not perfection. You're not alone in this journey. We are all in this together, one day at a time."
CONTINUING RECOVERY AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Jan: "I've been working on my spiritual program for a while now, and I've made some progress, but I have to admit that I'm still struggling with the concept of a Higher Power. I mean, I get it on a surface level, but it's hard to truly internalize it and make 'turning it over’ part of my recovery."
Linda: "That's completely okay. We all struggle with distinct aspects of recovery, and the Higher Power concept can be particularly challenging. It's important to remember that a Higher Power doesn't have to be religious, or even spiritual in a traditional sense. Have you thought about what a Higher Power might mean to you?"
Jan: "I've tried, but nothing really clicks. I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. It feels like a leap of faith that I'm not prepared to make yet."
Linda: "That's totally understandable, and you're not alone. Many of us have been there. The idea of a Higher Power is ultimately about acknowledging that there are forces bigger than us, things beyond our control. It's about surrendering to the process and trusting that we're being guided in the right direction, even if we don't fully understand it. The key is to remember that this isn't about blind faith in something unattainable. It's about believing that you can recover, that change is possible, and that you don't have to do it all on your own. This belief can be a Higher Power. Think back to when you first got clean; you had to take a lot of things on ‘faith,’ right? But as time went on, you understood more, and things became clearer."
Jan: "I see. I guess when you put it like that, it does make more sense. Maybe I've been overthinking it and making it more complicated than it needs to be."
Linda: "It's easy to do that. But remember, recovery, just like spirituality, is a journey. You're not expected to have all the answers. It's about learning, growing, and finding what works for you. Just remember, you're not alone in this. We're all here to support and learn from each other."
Jan: “I just find it so hard to trust what others say. I don’t know if it’s because of stuff I carried in with me, or my lack of experience in recovery, or what!”
Linda: "I get it and there are many tools and resources available to help you in this journey. For example, your sponsor can be a great guide and sounding board as you explore your understanding of a Higher Power. They can share their own experiences, provide you with different perspectives, and help you navigate any confusion or doubts."
Jan: "Yeah, my sponsor has been great so far, very understanding. But I don't want to rely on them too much. I keep thinking I have to do this myself!"
Linda: "It's great that you have a supportive sponsor, and remember, it's okay to lean on them. That's what they're there for. However, you're right, exploring multiple resources can provide a more rounded understanding."
Linda: "You might also consider attending spiritual retreats. These are often designed to supply a space for deep reflection and connection and can be a powerful way to explore and strengthen your spirituality. They can also be an excellent way to meet others who are on similar paths and learn from their experiences."
Jan: "That sounds interesting. I haven't tried a retreat before."
Linda: "It's definitely worth considering. Plus, reading outside literature can also be helpful. There are countless books and articles that delve into different aspects of spirituality and the concept of a Higher Power. You could start with some of the classic recovery texts, like 'The Serenity Prayer' by Reinhold Niebuhr or 'Came to Believe,' a collection of stories by AA members about their spiritual journey."
Linda: "And don't forget about the power of connection with others in recovery. Meetings, online forums, and social activities are all places where you can share your thoughts, doubts, and insights about the Higher Power concept. Hearing about other people's journeys can sometimes provide the spark of understanding that you're looking for."
Jan: "Those are a lot of tools. I think I've been too focused on figuring this out on my own that I've forgotten about all the resources available to me."
Linda: "It's an easy thing to do. But remember, you're not alone on this journey. Whether it's through your sponsor, a retreat, a book, or a new connection, there's a world of help available. The key is to remain open and willing to learn. One step at a time, you'll find your way."
Special thanks this week to my friend Jeff Partch for the stunning photographs, which gave just the right tone to this piece! Blessings, Jeff!