A Diamond: Facets of the Spiritual Path
Recovery Tools from Asana Recovery, May 17, 2023
The steps are a path to spiritual growth. There is no separation between the “spiritual part” and the rest of our program. Just as the facets of a diamond are not separate from the stone, the spiritual aspects of our program are not separate parts; they are perspectives on the whole. It’s all spiritual. - Living Clean: The Journey Continues; Narcotics Anonymous
Because the only requirement to participate in a 12-step program is the desire to stop using drugs, members come from all religions, backgrounds and cultures. Some have strict religious practices; others have none. Some have very definite concepts of god and living virtuously while others have more ambiguous guidelines, or none at all.
Similarly, we have differing responses when confronted with the spirituality of 12-step programs. Some, eagerly throw themselves into it, while others turn up their noses or even attempt to run away from all things “spiritual.”
But what is a “spiritual program” and why is it necessary for relief from addiction?
What Is a Spiritual Program?
Spiritual principles give us a language through which we develop our values and learn to live by them The principles describe our beliefs, our actions, and the reasons we act. - Living Clean: The Journey Continues; Narcotics Anonymous
A spiritual program is a path or a process, not a static thing. Just as we have heard the term “recovery journey,” applied to our recovery, a “spiritual program” refers to the work - and value we give - to trying to become better human beings. Most of us will never consider ourselves “cured” of addiction or “recovered.” Likewise, we will never arrive at a final destination on the spiritual path. However, every day that we stay sober and try to live by spiritual principles is a day of practicing a “spiritual program.”
In the simplest and most unadorned terms, “spiritual principles” are rules for us to live by. They differ from workplace policies and the laws governing our city, state and country in that they apply to us in every situation. Just as we are allowed to live as “free” members of society only as long as we’re willing to follow the laws where we live, we are only “free” of our addiction as long as we follow the spiritual principles of our program.
No Religion Required
We cannot pretend that spirituality is not central to the NA program or the NA way of life. But there is room within that for people of all beliefs - including those with no belief at all. Our right to our own spirituality in NA is unconditional, and that also means we must allow that right to others...Our traditions remind us that NA is not a place where any single spiritual path is endorsed. - Living Clean: The Journey Continues; Narcotics Anonymous
Spirituality is central to all 12-step programs because it gives us a way to handle the problems that once led us to become addicted. Fear, resentment, anger…these are the types of once-overwhelming emotions that we find peace with when we use our spiritual tools. “When we live with spiritual awareness, we find harmony with the God of our understanding, with ourselves, and with others,” it says in Living Clean.
There is no single recipe for spirituality. Each of us finds our own way to live spiritually, and that allows us freedom to make choices about how we live. It also charges us with responsibility. - Living Clean: The Journey Continues; Narcotics Anonymous
While 12-step programs make a deliberate distinction between the spiritual path of a recovery program and all organized religions, that does not mean our recovery work is incompatible with religion. Many members find ways to incorporate recovery and spirituality into their religious practices.
How to Recognize a Spiritual Experience
It can be difficult to express our spiritual experience in words. Because we are talking about things unseen, concrete language usally falls short of what we experience, and the language we have to talk about our spiritual experiences with is often borrowed from other places. - Living Clean: The Journey Continues; Narcotics Anonymous
Spirituality, by its very nature, is intensely personal. Your spiritual work is a relationship between you and your Higher Power. Plus, many people find it hard to describe their spiritual experiences in words. And it can also be difficult to find the right people to talk to, even if you find the words to express yourself. But, just because it can be hard to talk about spirituality, does not mean you should not try - if you feel compelled and have a friend you trust to be open-minded.
Many of us have found that the best way to understand spiritual principles is through observable changes and physical actions. Whether we call this “walking the talk” or “acting our way into right thinking (since we can’t think our way into right action,” spiritual principles are visibly evident in our lives when we work a 12-step program.
Whatever they are called, the principles in the steps and traditions lead us away from active addiction, self-centeredness and fear. When we help someone who is struggling, we break free from our self-obsession. When we give back, we cannot be greedy… Being open-minded about our own beliefs as well as those of others frees us from the traps we set in our own minds. We can see our spirituality making a difference iun our lives when we do the right thing for the right reason. - Living Clean: The Journey Continues; Narcotics Anonymous
To sum up: it can be difficult to talk about spiritual experiences but often easy to observe their effects on our lives. Our spiritual work has no completion date or arrival location but is continuous throughout our lives. Living by spiritual principles should not be confused with any religious beliefs we might hold. Spirituality is a relationship solely between an individual and their Higher Power, not a “single recipe” for everyone.
‘Wait a second,’ you may be asking, ‘ do I even need other people at all? If all this spiritual work is personal, hard to describe with words, invisible and independent of organized religion, can’t I just do it alone with God?”
That brings us to the final point in this discussion about the multi-faceted diamond of a spiritual path: it connects us to other people.
A Spiritual Program Connects Us to Our Higher Power - and to Humankind
The exquisite contradiction of living a spiritual program is that we feel both closer to our Higher Power and more in touch with our humanity. Living by spiritual principles makes us better human beings. This means we are better able to relate to other human beings and also have more to offer them on their own spiritual path or recovery.
12-step programs are very clear that we are not meant to do this work alone, even though spiritual work is very personal. We should do it with the support of others and also provide support to others. Recovery is a treasure that only has value when we give it away. Together we can do what we could never do alone! As Living Clean says: “We have a message of hope to carry. It’s a gift and an obligation.”