There are many men and women who wouldn’t have been able to get sober without spirituality. Whether it’s reading the Bible, meditating every morning, or saying prayers, having a connection to a higher power is the key to sobriety for many recovering addicts.

Perhaps this is one of the key reasons for the success of many Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) community members. The 12-step model encourages establishing and maintaining a strong connection with a higher power. Review any of the twelve steps and you’ll immediately see the word, “God”. In fact, some men and women in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) community might even say that the spirituality of the 12-step model helps to build a defense against the disease of addiction. What’s interesting is that there is one doesn’t have to believe in a God necessarily, or even any particular kind of God to participate in and receive the benefits of the 12-step model. For instance, surfers might see the ocean as their higher power, writers might see nature as their higher power, and younger adults might use love as their higher power.  It seems that having a relationship with a power that is greater than oneself can facilitate accessing a kind of strength to get through challenging moments in life.

Despite this, traditionally, the treatment of addiction has stayed away from spirituality and relied more heavily on science. Drug counselors, therapists, and addiction treatment teams have shied away from spirituality for many years. In fact, the entire field of mental health has kept spirituality out of its practices. But little by little, practitioners are incorporating practices of spirituality such as meditation and prayer into treatment modalities. One of the primary reasons meditation is becoming more and more accepted is its ability to restructure the brain and provide an individual with the capacity to respond versus react. Rather than reacting to stimuli, triggers, and uncomfortable feelings with drinking or drug use, meditation slowly provides a person with the ability to pause and think about their options. This perhaps is the greatest benefit of meditation.

Of course there are many men and women who have not needed spirituality on their path towards recovery. Many have gotten sober without prayer or meditation or any connection to a higher power. However, there are also those who were once opposed to having a higher power and then found that through their addiction treatment spirituality became a significant part of their recovery.

William James who is sometimes referred to as the “father of American psychology”, was also a philosopher and a physician, and he once noted, “psychology is limited in its ability to help heal the addictive mind.” In order for an individual to make a change, they must undergo some form of spiritual transformation. Sure, there are ways that people have changed with the use of pure will power. But with a force as strong as addiction and its self-perpetuating cycles in the brain, the individual often needs to connect with an intelligence greater, larger than himself.

Along these lines, for many AA participants, there’s a reason why spirituality exists in the 12-step model. A relationship with a higher being facilitates a greater sense of power within oneself versus the powerlessness that led to addiction in the first place. The 12-step model includes at its core a culture, a community, and conversations about developing a relationship a higher being, and it has longevity and high recovery rates on its side.

If you’re hoping to include more spirituality into your life, you don’t have to necessarily attend church or practice meditation. You can try any of the following:

  • -Being Grateful
  • -Staying Present
  • -Notice the Details Around You
  • -Meditate or Rest Deeply
  • -Visualization
  • -Have a Sense of Humor


The above suggestions are meant to provide alternative forms of spiritual practice. They are activities that you might include in your day to support your sobriety. There are many forms of spirituality from various traditions that can nurture you on the path of sobriety. Of course, spirituality isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re yearning for a greater connection with yourself and the world, perhaps incorporating spiritual practice in your life can make a difference in your recovery.

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