Why a Spiritual Approach to Addiction Recovery?
By Tiffany Dzioba, PsyD, LMFT, Executive Director at Promises Malibu & Malibu Vista
For many people, spirituality is a loaded term. It’s a word that is often closely tied to religion, dogma and doctrines. Some people find the word intimidating. However, when it comes to addiction recovery and mental health treatment, one of the most important aspects of healing is integrating a spiritual element or addressing spirituality in a way that allows people to connect to something bigger than them.
This doesn’t require religion or a belief in God or a “higher power.” For some people, it’s more of an “inner power.” It may just mean tapping into a part of themselves and developing the ability to recognize a connection to the larger good and a greater purpose.
Spirituality is personal for everyone. It could be someone is having a crisis of faith and would be helped by prayer. Or maybe they never felt connected to faith or God and need help identifying an alternative belief system. It’s important to help people define what it means to them so they can find the most helpful approaches.
How Spirit Helps Ease the Pain
Part of mental health and addiction treatment at Promises is making a spiritual connection. This is accomplished with mindfulness and meditation, as well as energy work and yoga. There are ceremonies that help clients let go and symbolic rituals that incorporate spirituality into their treatment program. Here are a few reasons a spiritual connection is healing:
A spiritual approach helps people look at their lives and problems in a more expansive way. It gives people a way to make meaning out of their experiences and provides a sense of inner power to help release their pain and move forward.
Many people come to Promises because life has become unmanageable. They might be feeling helpless or they’ve lost the will to live. Without a sense that there is something more to life than the pain and agony of addiction, and the trauma and grief that led them there, it’s very difficult to find hope. Without hope, there can be no healing. A spiritual connection helps people find a reason to go on.
Humans need to make meaning of their life experiences. Viktor Frankl, a renowned Austrian neurologist and concentration camp survivor, said, “Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her own life.”
For many people, the quest for meaning unto itself is a spiritual experience. Diving into one’s pain and trauma and coming out the other end is, for some people, a divine experience. Finding ways to release the past and find renewal can increase self-confidence and be soul-satisfying. Finding a community of sober friends, caring therapists and healing opportunities can create sacred bonds.
As Frankl also said, suffering no longer becomes suffering when it has meaning and purpose. A spiritual approach can help people turn even the harshest tragedies into something meaningful. And from that place they become stronger and better able to heal.
Moving Beyond Trauma.
Part of trauma work is helping people feel like they are not continuously living their trauma. In their mind and especially in their bodies, they feel that the trauma is still happening. Making meaning of painful experiences and connecting to something larger helps them know, “This was a story. This was a thing I went through that’s no longer happening.”
Learning to see things through spiritual eyes helps close out the old part of life ― in terms of relationships and their sense of self. They may decide, “I’m closing the door on these limiting beliefs, or these distorted beliefs, and I’m opening myself up to something new.”
A spiritual approach is often symbolic but powerful. The transformation allows people to start again and maintain the hope that they can create their life from here on out. Even if the word spirituality is intimidating at first, it is an important part of maintaining recovery.