By David Joel Miller
Spiritual recovery tools need to be a part of your toolkit.
In a recent post, we looked at how we all need the right tools for our recoveries, recoveries from whatever things you define as your particular issue. In that post, I left out spiritual recovery tools, partly because of space and partly because this area is so important we needed to look at it separately.
There are two reasons to talk specifically about spiritual recovery tools. Some people need spiritual tools to recover and some people are in recovery from spiritual issues.
If you hang out around recovery tables, or in therapists offices, as I do these days, you will hear a lot of troubling things.
There are a lot of people these days who describe themselves as “Recovering Catholics”, “Recovering Baptists” and so on. Over time I have found that you could fill in that Recovering —- blank — with most any religion or denomination.
You will also hear a lot about how people in recovery give credit to their “Higher Power.”
A key reason why some people are able to use their belief system to aid their recovery and others are in recovery has been the long-term separation between Religion and Spirituality. In this millennium it would appear that those two entities – religion and spirituality have finally gotten their divorce decree.
There are also more and more people who report being believers in “God” or spirituality but do not self-describe as being a member of any particular religion.
Here in America, there are a whole lot of people who describe themselves as “Christians” but are emphatic about not being a member of any particular denomination.
While all across the globe various religious sects are at war killing each other, there continues to exist this search for a spiritual connection to something beyond our selves. In a previous post, I described this as a Spiritual Famine.
What is the difference between Religion and Spirituality?
For me, there is a significant difference
Religion is about culture, the forms of worship that we as a group practice. Do we worship in a small chapel or a mega-church? At what point in the proceedings do we stand up, sit down or wave our arms in the air?
Does the church serve Wine, Grape Juice or Water for their Communion, Sacrament etc. service?
Often Religion has spent way too much time in bed with Politicians and governments and as a result has become more of an instrument of social or political control rather than any expression of belief or spiritual connection.
Religious leaders have often used their power and control in a highly abusive manner. They are prone to say something to the effect that if you were really a —– (fill in name of religious denomination here) you would do or say this or that. Mostly this involves giving them money and obedience.
All the while they are demanding that everyone agree with them or else, they are free to take the liberty to steal from the elderly and molest the young. This is not a new phenomenon, for an early example of this see the Book of Jude in the Christian Bible.
Spirituality is another case. It asks only that the person has some form of relationship with a higher power. Most people chose to call this power God. Since this is a close personal relationship there is no need to insist that others form precisely the same relationship as you may have.
That choice is of course between them and their higher power.
This is scaring some of you, I can tell. What is to stop any person from deciding on their own standard of right and wrong? What if their beliefs are mistaken? Some of you are even thinking that if that person does not change their beliefs and think the right way (the way you do) then that other person is going straight to hell and you are duty bound to force them the go the right way thereby saving their soul.
I am unconvinced that any Higher Power will chalk up any righteous behavior to anyone’s credit when it is coerced at the point of a gun, bomb, sword or another lethal weapon. We may be able to make laws prohibiting murder, even though those laws have not worked all that well so far. We still seem unable to pass laws that require people to love each other.
On suggestion made in recovery groups is that in the process of trying to grow your connection with this higher power, you check out your thoughts or beliefs and see what others in the recovery group or your spiritual adviser have to say.
While this getting a second spiritual opinion does not rule out the possibility of the other people’s biases and it does not absolve you of the responsibility to work on that relationship with your higher power it may keep you from jumping to some wrong beliefs.
As we saw elsewhere, sometimes the voices in your head are not God speaking, sometimes the voices lie. Also, you should not believe everything you think. More is likely to be revealed.
So what are these spiritual tools you might want to add to your recovery tool kit?
Prayer, meditation and a conscious contact with your higher power would be good tools to start with. Also throw in some action. Not works. That is just doing the motions. Action is the things you do because of your beliefs and values. Not things you do to pay off your fines for past bad behavior.
So there you have it. I have explained the difference between Religion and Spirituality and tried to sell you on a set of shiny new spiritual tools. But I didn’t include any instruction manual for those spiritual tools.
In future posts, maybe on some Sundays to come, I will try to get back to a discussion on the safe and proper use of spiritual tools.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books