Recovery Tools

Aspects of Treatment: Spirituality

Spirituality- A Recovery Essential


What is Spirituality?


The definition of Spirituality is “…the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”

Spirituality is each individual’s way of finding meaning and purpose in the chaos of everyday life. No one can find your meaning for you. It is not religion, with its dogmas and rituals, although for some, religion is where they find their spirituality.
Spirituality is grasping a knowledge that we, humans, are imperfect, flawed, and make errors-that we – I – are not the center of the universe, but that something unseen, of spirit – greater than us – me- exists.

Why is Spirituality Important in Recovery?

When we are in active addiction, alcohol or drugs are the center of our world. Our actions, our behaviors and life revolve around getting, using and recovering from the substance. All other aspects of our lives take a back seat to our use. We are not fully present in our life, and our relationships and our health suffer from it.

As we enter recovery, we address our physical and mental health, and we try to make sense of what happened and what our purpose is. If we aren’t our drugs or alcohol, who are we?  We are our souls having a very human experience.

Spirituality allows us to explore that we are more than what we do and how we act. It allows us to see that all of us are imperfect, and it allows us to learn to be OK with that. Spirituality allows us to learn, to grow, and be better. It allows us to become whole. Spirituality brings us faith that we can be more than the lies our addictions have told us.

Aspects of Spirituality-Transcendent Emotions  

Spirituality is viewed as Transcendent, meaning it is “…beyond the range of merely human experience”.  While the experience of emotions varies from person to person, the experience of transcendent emotions can be seen as more universal and is connected to spirituality.

Transcendent emotions connect us to others, while emotions felt in active addiction separate us from others.  In active addiction,  we avoid emotions, and frequently escape them by using alcohol and drugs.  When we enter into recovery and stop using substances, we can feel overwhelmed; creating emotional turmoil and a longing to escape.  

Spirituality allows us to dig deeper than the surface, and find strength in the humanness of our feelings.  Emotions like gratitude, compassion, and awe connect us to others, and break down the isolation of addiction.  The turmoil becomes a stabilizing aspect to our emotional recovery.  Transcendent emotions support our behaviors that connect us to others.

Transcendent emotions include:

  • Compassion
  • Awe
  • Gratitude
  • Appreciation
  • Inspiration
  • Admiration
  • Elevation
  • Love

These are the emotions that  bond us together in our human condition.   They are the emotions of spirituality. Transcendent emotions are focused on ourselves and others, allowing us to have meaningful, purpose-filled relationships with ourselves and others.    This is the essence of a spiritual life.  


The Four Virtues of Spirituality

Grounded in ancient religions and spiritual teachings, four virtues are universally recognized.  Virtues are the moral excellence of who we are.  The four virtues of Spirituality are:

  •  Hope
  • Gratitude
  • Forgiveness, and
  • Self-compassion 

These virtues are paramount to recovery  from addiction and alcoholism and are the foundation of spirituality.   These virtues are individual, and form the basis for AA.  


….is highly individual, subjective, and dependent upon what you believe about yourself and the world around you.  Without spirituality, we miss seeing that those hard things, like addiction and alcoholism, are actually shaping things, not defining things.  The depth with which you feel pain can also be the depth through which your faith, and hence hope, can form.  Hope means there is a possibility of better things.  And most importantly, it is an action, meaning that you have to work at it to have it.  

In addiction, hope is basic-hope to make it until your next drink or fix; hope the dealer shows, hope your loved one doesn’t find out.  In recovery, it is so much bigger.  Hope that you can change.  Hope that there is more than just ‘this’.  Hope can be motivating, it can move us from negative to positive.  


…is a quality of being thankful; to appreciate someone or something, a warm and positive feeling in response to an action or words.  Like hope, gratitude is an action; something you have to cultivate and grow.  

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote;  “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

In spirituality, gratitude is the virtue of appreciation for where you are and where you can  be; awareness of where you were to where you are going.  


…is to release feelings of resentment or vengeance.  That does not mean we must forget the offense, however; usually, that’s beyond our power.   It is not condoning the behavior or necessarily excusing the offense.  Forgiveness means releasing the other from your blame, leaving the event in God’s hands, and moving on.   Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate action to accept that what happened has happened, there is no changing what has happened, 

Forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, but it does not obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.  

Through learning to forgive, we are learning to practice self-care by releasing the memories of anger, resentment and hurt.  Forgiving is letting go.  It is one of the hardest things to do, with the greatest rewards.  


…expressing kindness to yourself, understanding that your hurt and pain, your suffering, does not define you, and understanding that your experiences are part of being human.  

Practicing self-compassion is learning to love who you are, allow yourself to know that you will make mistakes, and that our past does not define who we are today.  It is learning to look outside of yourself and feel connected to others who are still struggling without blame, so you can see yourself  without judgement.  

Living a Spiritual Recovery 


Self-compassion is learned through practice and paying attention to who and where you are daily.  Journaling, putting your thoughts down on paper to sort through them, is extremely helpful.  Taking quiet time alone at the start of your day helps to set your tone for the day.  Journaling at day’s end helps you to reflect on the event of the day, what you felt good about, things you’ll make adjustments to in the future.  Doing both, especially in early recovery, can help center and ground you.  

Mindful Meditation 

Mindful meditation are short exercises you can practice throughout your day, whenever you feel tense or stressed.  These are simple breathing and thought processes designed to calm you and ground you.  A link to these is at the bottom of the page.


Yoga is an amazing exercise with benefits too numerous to mention.  Links to this, and other forms of physical movement can be found at the bottom of the page.  Movement, breathing, stretching our muscles allows blood to move freely through our bodies and regenerates us.  There are many, many free, online groups to engage with, videos, and more.  Or just walk.  But get moving!

Connect With Your Higher Power

A final thought on Spirituality…

…is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

For many people, spirituality brings to mind religions, rituals and people who have been harmful in their past.  We have turned from God when in reality, who we were really turning from were the people.  

People are human, living the flawed, painful human condition.  They have had the power to wound us and scar us, have twisted truths and left us broken and bleeding.  Turn from them.  That is healthy.

But open your heart to something more, because for sure, there is more.

One of the best books I have ever read is “The Spirituality of Imperfection” by Ernest Kurtz & Kathrine Ketchum.

I Am Not Perfect is a simple statement of profound truth, the first step toward  understanding the human condition, for to deny your essential imperfection is to deny yourself and your own humanity. The spirituality of imperfection, steeped in the rich traditions of the Hebrew prophets and Greek thinkers, Buddhist sages and Christian disciples, is a message as timeless as it is  timely. This insightful work draws on the wisdom stories of the ages to provide an extraordinary wellspring of hope and inspiration to anyone thirsting for spiritual growth and guidance in these troubled times.

Who are we? Why do we so often fall short of our goals for ourselves and others? By seeking to understand our limitations and accept the inevitably of failure and pain, we begin to ease the hurt and move toward a greater sense of serenity and self-awareness. The Spirituality Of Imperfection brings  together stories from many spiritual and philosophical paths, weaving past traditions into a  spirituality and a new way of thinking and living that works today. It speaks to anyone who yearns to find meaning within suffering. Beyond theory and technique, inside this remarkable book you will find a new way of thinking, a way of living that enables a truly human existence.”


My hopes are for your hopes and dreams…….T     





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