After many months, eleven to be exact, graduation from Recovery Addiction Coaching is upon me! Even though long, stressful, assignments, book reports, homework and a final project the journey has been amazing. I've learned so much about people, coaching, techniques, tools, core competencies, various addictions and myself. Truly have loved every minute of this training!

Below is a snippet of my final project - Spirituality as a Cornerstone of Recovery Coaching.

Why is Spirituality Crucial to Recovery?

There is a Chinese saying that the longest journey is the journey inward. Spiritual healing is a journey inward that is never finished because we never stop growing ourselves up in life. Spiritual growth is a lifelong process.

The entire process of recovery is a spiritual journey. Spirituality is not a stage, nor a separate part of the experience. It is not a destination but rather a thread woven through the journey.

Spirituality can be defined in numerous ways but it largely refers to a belief in a power greater than ourselves, the sense of interconnectedness with all living beings and the quest for self-knowledge, meaning, and purpose in life. When a person uses their substance of choice, the usual outcome is a detachment and disconnection from the present and uncomfortable feelings. The person seeks to avoid through self-medication. Addiction is a disease of isolation and as the person sinks deeper and deeper into the disease they become more isolated from others and, as well, from themselves and they become deeply rooted in feelings of insufficiency and not being "enough". Those feelings create the overwhelming need to escape, isolate and stop the pain by further use of the substance, creating a vicious circle.

Many addicts grew up in family situations where enormous pain caused by abuse or neglect of various kinds left them wounded or spiritually bankrupt. They have a huge void in the center of their being and they try desperately to fill it with substances and/or activities. They don't realize there is nothing missing in them, they just need to get past all the pain that has been driving them and leaning into a Higher Power and allowing the Power to fill the void that was once filled with substance.

A Power Encounter sets people free. Trying to do life powerlessly turns to the deeper and deeper darkness of addiction.

No amount of wealth, beauty, fame, power, knowledge, achievement or success can replace the satisfaction and fulfillment that exist when we feel connected to something greater than us and the way be begin that process of spirituality is by connecting with who we really are instead of who we are when we hide inside our addiction.

If we can connect to who we really are and face the dark parts of ourselves that we have invested so much energy repressing, we have the opportunity to shine a light into our shadow selves, those dark corners of our minds where we store trauma and insane ideas, and experience them for what they are in the moment without judgment or denial. The disease of addiction is complex and long-term professional help is most often needed to confront and heal from past traumas and maintain abstinence and sobriety

Spiritual development in recovery is a journey to build qualities of love, kindness, patience, tolerance, joy, peace, self-control, goodness, faith fullness and gentleness for the recovering person.

A regular spiritual practice allows us to find meaning and purpose in our lives as we travel down the sometimes windy and bumpy road we call "life" and it can be a powerful tool in recovery from any condition. Feelings of trust, gratitude, acceptance and honesty replace feelings of self-pity, resentment and dishonesty as we connect deeply with a Higher Power, ourselves and others. When the tethers of impress, pretend, shame and guilt are cut by a spiritual practice then true healing can begin and the gifts of becoming real, genuine and authentic shine through.

"Addiction is rooted in a physical, mental and spiritual imbalance" (1)

Based upon this and similar studies, it's easy to see that if a damaged sense of spirituality (or lack of spirituality) contributed to addiction then including spirituality as part of the healing process is the logical and proper method of addressing such a basic and fundamental human need. This is especially true considering that the human condition is generally described as seeking of answers and higher truths in order to achieve peacefulness within – meaning that addict or not, spirituality is critical for everyone.

When it comes to recovery from addiction, one of the most important functions that spirituality can serve is the fellowship of like-minded people. Sharing similar views and beliefs – especially among a group of other recovering people – helps to build a strong support system and provides a feeling of camaraderie, inclusion and belonging; all of which are necessary for lasting recovery.

"Spirituality is in its essence something quite different than self-exploration. It is about helping us, in an age of obsession with self, to connect with resources and relationships beyond the self. It is in that leap out of self and self-consciousness that one finds the potential for authentic connection and communion and the path through experience and knowledge to wisdom." (2)

A lack of connection to their authentic self, to loved ones, to a Higher Power, and to a community can contribute to feelings of isolation, emptiness, low self-worth, low self-confidence and an inescapable sense of unhappiness that contributes to addictive behaviors. Being of service is a profound way that recovering people can often regain a sense of self-worth and purpose as they work toward maintaining healthy long-term sobriety. This suggests the aspects of spirituality, including healthy relationships and deeply connecting with others in profound ways all contribute to overall feelings of well-being, self-worth and meaning in life.

It is imperative for the addict to get out of themselves and serve others. It is through being of service of others that healing can happen. When we step out of ourselves, and focus on others our self-esteem heals. Service of others is about loving others which provides the ability to love ourselves. Service also enables people to discover they are worthy. Helping others keeps the spiritual part of us connected, alive and rejuvenated. Helping others is spiritual nourishment, and at the same time, contributes to making the world a more compassionate and caring place.