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Spirituality for Young People in Recovery

When you hear the word, alcoholism, many of you might picture an old man, grumpy and angry at the world, who enjoys sipping on a bottle of gin all day. Or perhaps you imagine a long-haired, unkempt homeless man begging for a few spare dollars next to the liquor store. Whatever your interpretation of alcoholism or addiction might be, the national crisis that is the addiction epidemic is ravaging through a population of people that don’t necessary fit the build: young people. Adolescents from all walks of life are being torn apart by the underlying roots of addiction, and unfortunately, many are losing their lives. In recovery, we come to believe that the only remedy for our addiction problem lies in a spiritual solution. However, spirituality for young people in recovery can be an incredibly hard sell.

As young people make their first, or tenth, shot at finding recovery, they are met by a grab bag of information that is said to alleviate the drug/drink problem and commence their journey of recovery. After years of alcohol and drug abuse, young men and women in their late teens and early twenties are sent to rehab, or a 28-day inpatient facility. While on the grounds, counselors and case managers and therapists educate their young clients on the underlying causes of their addiction, and that these causes must be met head on in order to find recovery. In these facilities, there are not many “recovery solutions” that are experienced; it is more an introductory course to addiction and an education on the disease. The real work begins once the young man or women leaves, and this is where the spiritual course may or may not begin.

To understand spirituality, we must first understand  why it a suggested course of action as one tries to recover from addiction. Keep in mind, we are not spirituality experts. We are simply drawing from our own experience as young people in recovery.

In 12-step recovery fellowships, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, the belief is that addiction is a disease of self. Our own selfishness and desire to see things done our way will ultimately lead us down a path of alcohol and drug abuse. What exactly does this mean?

Let’s look at an example.

A young man early in recovery has just started his dream job working at a casino. He has no spiritual life and has simply laid down the drink or the drug, but he has found some peace of mind at first by simply not drinking or using drugs.  After a few weeks at work, he starts to realize that the job is not exactly what he thought it would be; the hours are longer, his boss is ignorant, and the day-to-day operations are monotonous and boring. He becomes disappointed immediately because for so long, he envisioned this job would bring him the “happiness” that he craved.

The disappointment floods over into other areas of this man’s life. He begins to distance himself from his family, and snap when his mother and father try to lend assistance. He isolates himself from his friends, because for so long, he had insisted to everyone that he could not have had a better job. He could not possibly tell them the truth now.

Alone, isolated, discontent, and disgruntled the man sees no other option but to drink. The obsession becomes too great and he is willing to escape the reality at any and all costs.

Can you spot the self-centeredness and self-seeking in this scenario?

  1. First things first, he accepts no sort of recovery program in his life, and is convinced that he will be fine doing things on his own.
  2. He believes that if he can only manage things well, ie. maintain his dream job, he will be able to stay sober.
  3. The job did not live up to the hype. He had an inability to accept things for the way they were, and felt completely out-of-control of the situation.
  4. He became resentful at people around him; such as the boss, his parents, or his friends; although none of them did anything wrong. They simply did not meet this young’s man conditions or standards of action.
  5. His self worth and value became so wrapped up in the job, that when it did not go his way, he simply could not face others and be honest.

Granted, this is a very loose representation of selfishness, but you can see our point. This young man, freshly sober, could not be satisfied with the world around him unless everything met his criteria. 

Now, where does spirituality come into play?

Often times, when you hear the term spirituality, the first words that pop into your mind might be God, or religion. While both can play a role, they don’t need to necessarily constitute your own spirituality, especially if you have had problems in the past.

To begin your journey in recovery, we suggest keeping things simple, especially if you are a young person who is skeptical or disinterested in a spiritual life. But keep in mind, in our experience, spirituality is the cornerstone of addiction recovery. 

Simply put, spirituality is coming to the realization that you are not in control. That there is a larger force of power that controls anything and everything in the world. You cannot control every situation, but you can control your reaction to it. 

For those who have struggled with addiction, many of our problems come as a result of us trying to control situations and manipulate life to our liking. However, when things don’t work out, we resort to the only solution we know: drinking and using. Consider our example above of the young man working in the casino.

Spirituality stops that dangerous cycle. An understanding and constant seeking of something greater than ourselves, a larger-than-life power source, we are better able to accept life exactly the way it is, as we concede that something else is in control and situations are to happen as they may.

A difficult concept to grasp, indeed; especially if you are a young person starting out on your recovery journey. We are not here to give you a college-level seminar on spirituality… we simply want to get the conversation started.

Looking to improve your spirituality? Or still unclear as to what spirituality actually looks like? A couple suggestions.

  1. Attend a 12-Step Fellowship Meeting
  2. Speak to an active member of a 12-Step Fellowship
  3. Read literature on spirituality.

Spirituality is difficult to grasp, so do not get frustrated if you are not immediately “zen” or at-peace right away. It is a practice that takes time and diligent effort. The cool part about cultivating a spiritual life? All you have to do is try.

Any suggestions for spirituality for young people in recovery? Let us know in our Facebook comments… you never know who might benefit from your experience.

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out.