For many of us, our spiritual life is set on autopilot. We accept or reject a spiritual creed at some time in our youth and just leave it at that. Even for those of us who embrace spirituality, we often let it become a blank routine, like coffee every morning. We participate in it, but we’ve long since entered a headspace where we take it for granted.
Here is one way in which alcoholics and addicts become lucky — we are implored to keep our spiritual life alive and thriving. Whether we embrace a spiritual or religious code or simply acknowledge a power greater than ourselves, alcoholics and addicts must jump into the waters of a rich inner life with both feet.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous makes no bones about the importance of working to perfect and enlarge our spiritual life. It says, “For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.” There’s really no mistaking the message that if we don’t do it, we likely won’t survive.
So, What Is Our Spiritual Life?
This is a good question, but the answer’s not as complicated as it may seem. Our spiritual life is most easily understood as our inner life (our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and motivations) and as the outward actions we take to improve, expand, neglect, or worsen our inner life. A practical example might look like this: we know that we have occasional anxiety that affects our relationships and happiness, so we put in the work to develop the daily habit of meditation. Or we have anger issues that cause others harm, so we diligently pray to have our anger removed, see a therapist to discuss these issues, and work on improving them. Or we work the 12-Step program to the best of our ability, hoping to help others find recovery and learn how to be of service to all the people in our lives.
Our spiritual life isn’t too different from any other kind of life, but the emphasis is placed on what we are willing to let go of or work toward on the inside, where nobody else can see. We have to be honest, and hopefully, our close friends and sponsors know our truth. But our spiritual or inner life is private and hard for anyone else to know other than through our actions. Developing a healthy, ever-improving spiritual life manifests in every other aspect of our lives. It can directly impact the quality of our relationships, our life, our usefulness, and our happiness.
How Do We Perfect and Enlarge Our Spiritual Life?
This is also a good question, but the answer is not as simple. Perfecting and enlarging our spiritual life is a process that never stops — it is a lifelong journey. Every decision we make and every action we take can affect our spiritual life. Whether we’re choosing to skip meetings, avoid helping people, and actively participate in things that damage us or we’re being thorough about our 12-Step work, seeking opportunities for service, and striving to be our best, each and every thing we do makes an impact on our spiritual life. It’s an automatic process that we can’t opt-out of, but we can be proactive about it.
The Big Book tells us plainly that we won’t make it through the eventual rough patches ahead of us in life unless we get to work on perfecting our spiritual condition. Of course, perfection is not exactly attainable for human beings. We shouldn’t hold that against ourselves, but we can view perfection as the benchmark, the bar, or the goal. We’re aiming at perfection, but we’re not expecting to hit our target. We simply want to get a little closer every day. Where we really must begin is the daily maintenance of our spiritual condition. We can’t improve something that we’re allowing to atrophy. So we busy ourselves with the work of the 12-Steps and the program of recovery. Meetings, 12-Step work, service, fellowship, and working with others help us keep the baseline of our spiritual condition healthy. From these actions we receive our freedom and recovery, which are contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Once we’ve got the maintenance down, we must go further.
We’ve already learned that the “perfect” part is more like the guiding light than a literal suggestion. We’ll never be perfect, but we can practice and learn and improve every single day. As for enlarging our spiritual life, this can mean a few things. First, it suggests that we must grow our spirit and expand our inner life. Whether this means more dedicated practice in the areas we are already fond of, our deep exploration into the great mysteries of the spiritual realm is entirely up to us and our higher power. Sometimes growth means simply practicing more often and sometimes it means discovering new things, but often it’s a mix of both. “Enlarging” our spiritual life means that we allow it to get bigger and become a more central part of our daily life.
How we do this is by working the 12-Steps actively and honestly, and by integrating every part of the program of recovery into our daily lives. Learning the new insights, practices, and whatever else comes with wherever our higher power takes us can make the voyage even greater.
Alcoholism and addiction are a disease unlike any other and often come with a host of side effects and co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, mental health issues, emotional health issues, the loss of jobs and relationships, and more. The list goes on and on. The mental obsession, physical allergy, and spiritual malady combine in alcoholics and addicts to make the disease virtually inescapable and impossible to overcome alone. Luckily, there is a solution. The 12-Step program is designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that result in freedom and recovery from the disease. This program is a course of spiritual action, which requires involvement in a community of others recovering from alcoholism and addiction. The best part of this solution is that it really works. No matter how you have struggled in the past, Jaywalker Lodge can teach you the tools you need to live a meaningful, happy life in recovery. Call us now at (866) 529-9255.