Addiction isn’t like most other diseases. While other diseases tend to be either physical or psychological, addiction is actually both physical and psychological. It strips a person of his or her physical health, altering the brain’s structure and functioning as well. The cumulative effect is an almost complete transformation. People who become addicted to alcohol or drugs are no longer in control of themselves. Mind-altering, chemical substances have hijacked their brains, causing them to behave in ways they would never have otherwise. But there are inevitable consequences of their behaviors, many of which they either don’t consider beforehand or don’t care about due to their persistent fixation.
Fortunately, there are recovery resources available to those in need. In fact, there are many different resources and treatment programs available, which can be mixed and match in a seemingly infinite number of ways, ensuring that everyone gets his or her needs met. The reason that there are so many forms of treatment available is because everyone who develops addictions are experiencing different effects from the disease. For some, the effects are primarily physical while others experience mostly psychological effects. Then there are those who experience the spiritual effects in addition to the others.
Spirituality isn’t a concept that many people would be quick to associate with addiction, but with such a significant part of the U.S. being religious—in fact, it’s estimated that at least 83 percent of all Americans ascribe to the Christian faith—it follows that spirituality and/or faith would be an extremely important component of life for most people who become addicted. Therefore, the following will offer a concise discussion of the place spirituality has in the addiction recovery process for some people. Additionally, we will be taking a closer look at what’s called a daily reprieve and discuss how it’s related, if at all, to spirituality in recovery.
Spirituality & Recovery
Bill Wilson—the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and the twelve-step method in Ohio in the 1930s—made a number of comments about why it was that people become addicted. During an interview, Wilson said that people became addicted after they had tried, without success, to find God—or a sense of meaning and fulfillment—at the bottom of a bottle rather than from within or from some other less destructive source. By this, Wilson was essentially saying that people were trying to use alcohol (or drugs) to fill a void that existed in many people. Perhaps the void was the result of loneliness, depression, guilt or shame, or because the individual lacked a sense accomplishment and validation, or self-worth. In short, the substance abuse began because of some sense of inner emptiness.
Although it may not apply to everyone who becomes addicted, it seems that Wilson was right. A growing number of people are preferring to incorporate their religious beliefs or spirituality into the recovery process. This makes a lot of sense because a person’s spirituality and beliefs, like every other aspect of a person’s existence, is inevitably going to be affected by continuous alcohol or drug abuse. As chemical substances become an increasingly central part of an addict’s life, the individual spends less time meeting his or her spiritual and religious needs, which results in a spiritual deficit if the individual wasn’t experiencing a lack of spirituality prior to becoming addicted. As such, it makes a lot of sense to incorporate spirituality into the recovery process since lack of spirituality was either the cause of or contributed to the initial problem.
What Exactly is a “Reprieve”?
Before we can begin discussing “daily reprieve”, it’s important to know the basic definition of the word “reprieve”. According to its definition, a reprieve refers to the delaying, putting off, or prevention of something difficult or destructive for a certain period of time. As you’ll notice, the word is reminiscent of similar terms like “postpone”, referring to something that you consciously choose to do later rather than right now; however, it should be noted that the task or duty that is to be postponed during a reprieve typically has a negative connotation. In particular, it suggests that a person has consciously chosen to delay a task that is difficult or destructive, which distinguishes the concept from similar words that involve some type of continuance.
A Daily Reprieve for the Recovering Mind
So what exactly does a reprieve have to do with addiction recovery? Well, we must first understand the general state of mind of someone in recovery is in. To sustain one’s recovery successfully, he or she must remain focused. Rather than returning home from rehab and simply resuming his or her previous life, the individual must remain conscious and aware of the tools and strategies learned while in rehab. All of the things that the individual learned in rehab to get sober, he or she must remember and continue using after returning home. It’s only by continuing to use these recovery tools and relapse prevention strategies that the individual is able to remain sober for an extended period of time.
However, this entails a lot of mental energy and concentration. In fact, when you consider the many different components of a successful recovery, it’s even a bit overwhelming. That’s where the daily reprieve comes in.
The recovering addict’s daily reprieve refers to a brief period an addict should take each and every day to push recovery out of his or her mind. For those who have incorporated a strong spiritual component into their recoveries, this often means taking the time to source strength in recovery from the higher power of one’s understanding and belief. In effect, rather than focusing on the work that’s required to stay sober, the addict appeals to his or her higher power for the strength and assistance to stay sober. Almost like a more focused form of meditation, this daily reprieve is believed to incrementally reduce the amount of mental strain this puts on someone in recovery. Bit by bit, the daily reprieve helps a person begin deriving the source of his or her sobriety from his or her higher power rather than from continuous focus and concentration. It could be likened to slowly putting one’s recovery on “autopilot”, having to steer less and less on his or her own.
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