“Religion is for those who are afraid of hell; spirituality is for those who have been there.”
One of the main deterring factors of Alcoholics Anonymous for those unfamiliar with its deep-seated viewpoints is the ever-prevalent reference to God. The program finds its basis in spirituality, with the ultimate goal being that recovered alcoholics discover and maintain a steadfast connection with a power greater than themselves. What many fail to realize is that spirituality differs drastically from religion, and the requirement of a belief in something greater can vary expansively based on the individual in question. It is not uncommon for those suffering from substance addiction to have undergone unfavorable childhood experiences within religiously based communities – receiving lashes at Catholic school to being shunned by the church for unaccepted life choices being several examples. Many religious institutions insist one relinquish his or her will to the collective community or the establishment rather than to God. This in itself can cause confusion in regards to loyalty and motivation, and will instigate worship of man and the manmade rather than a committed attempt towards achieving morality and benevolence on the part of mankind as a whole, as well as the surrender of self for the greater good as opposed to fear of damnation.
The Idea of ‘God’ is Not Necessarily Religious
Still, many drug addicts and alcoholics cringe at the word “God”, confusing what acts as a symbolic stand-in for an immeasurable and inexplicable power for a conceptualized personification of religious comprehensions. Spirituality acts more as a tool of self-discovery – aid in figuring out why we are here and what our purpose may be – while religion tends to act (when rooted in something other than spiritual growth) as a source of respite from the realities of life on Earth; a sermonized backbone erected to support the moral framework of decided scruples. Some undeniably find spiritual wellbeing within their religion, while it is far more rare to find religion within conscious and thriving spirituality. “God”, as described in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, is any power greater than ourselves. This could be the ocean, the universe, the English language, or a rainbow. As long as we can qualify it as something greater, it counts. Over time, the 12 steps assist recovering alcoholics in further solidifying their personalized understanding. And while many alcoholics “choose to call” their higher power ‘God’, the word bears no religious semblance.
Spirituality Revolves Around Interconnectedness
Emerging from the hopeless pit of desperate despair many addicts find themselves in towards the end of their use, the notion of any Godlike force is all but incomprehensible. If there was a God, or anything similar, why would we undergo such horrendous suffering? The truly beautiful thing about recovery is that you soon realize you would not be the amazing human being you turn out to be if you had not been to hell and back. God is a terrifying concept for many, and a source of major resentment for even more. However, opening your mind to spirituality may be the difference between you crawling back into the hole and digging even farther than you imagined, and living a fulfilled, joyous, and gorgeous life beyond even your wildest dreams.