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Opening the Door

Spirituality is a critical component of addiction recovery because it focuses on growth, change, and evolution. Cox wrote in a blog post “Why Spirituality Is Important in Addiction Recovery” at new-hope-recovery.com: “To fully recover from our addiction, we must reconnect to our spirituality, our search for purpose in our life, and connections beyond ourselves.”

The idea of spirituality or a higher power can be challenging for those who do not identify as religious, who reject religion, or who feel harmed by religion. Many in the LGBT community experience shame based on messages they hear that they are bad or wrong from their church leaders, at school, or from people they look up to. Cox says shame-based trauma does not have to entail direct bullying because just “hearing strong negative messages creates a perception and expectation that a person needs to change who they are.”

“It feeds into the addiction so well because it creates an isolation and compartmentalization,” Cox continues. “They begin to deny parts of themselves. That becomes a pattern which plays out all through their addiction, all through being in the closet, and even in recovery.”

Greg Cox, LSW, CADC, and a primary counselor at New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago.

Greg Cox, LSW, CADC, and a primary counselor at New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago.

Cox says an ideal recovery experience is where someone who walks into a 12-step meeting is not put off by the spirituality of the program because they realize they can designate their higher power to be anything they want, such as their own sobriety.

“I think a lot of people initially believe that spirituality has to fit into the framework of religion,” Cox says. “For some people, it does make sense for them and clicks for them that spirituality can fit within that. But it doesn’t have to. It can be much more individualized.”

Also from his blog post, Cox writes: “Some find it helpful to think of religion as rules or practices agreed to by a number of people, whereas spirituality is completely related to one’s individual experience and connections. It is a desire to connect with more than ourselves, to connect with everything.”

Individualization opens the doors for anyone, no matter how skeptical he or she is, to identify spirituality in a way that makes sense to that person. “Anywhere you can identify hope in your life can be a spiritual connection,” Cox says. “It may not be totally self-generated, but there are other factors and influences that are going into what they hope to get out of treatment, to being sober, to creating long-term goals.”

Cox also wrote in his blog post that spirituality is a “practice that restores all of the things addiction takes away from us. Practicing spirituality involves getting comfortable with the uncertain.” Be vulnerable to change and risk having honest relationships. He adds: “It’s these ordinary moments and brave bouts of vulnerability that allow us to connect with others with love and compassion.”

Written by Rachel Duran

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