Some people might be surprised when considering entering a rehab that there is any talk of spirituality, let alone the significant amount of time devoted to concepts associated with spirituality and religion, God, prayer and meditation – a spiritual life !
In truth, spirituality has been at the heart of recovery from alcoholism since the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the subsequent development of all 12-step programs.
The debate about what spirituality is and isn’t, what God means and doesn’t mean has been at the heart of the recovery movement since it started.
Bill Wilson, one of the cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote an article once in which he said something to the effect that the phrase he used in step three of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme, God as we understood him, was perhaps the most important thing he had ever written.
It is certainly true that it is key to everyone’s recovery from alcoholism or any other addiction that they have the freedom to choose for themselves what type of God or higher power they want to have in their lives.
Aside from being a very practical freedom, it does in theory avoid the debate about what God does and doesn’t mean and what spirituality does and doesn’t mean.
This is not an academic debate. Most people have a fair amount of baggage, for better or worse about religion, and it is an area that should be treated with enormous sensitivity. Unfortunately it often is not.
A rehab will, for many people, be the first time they are introduced to the concepts of recovery as laid out in the experience of 12-step fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
A rehab will most likely use an adaptation of the first five steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the basis for its therapeutic approach to treatment.
There are some rehabs/treatment centres that are very specifically religiously orientated, and this will be made clear in their mandate and mission statement.
A rehab of this type will appeal to certain people, and that is fine for them.
Spirituality is a term that people will use in many different ways. In terms of recovery from alcoholism and other types of addiction, a rehab should use the time available and its therapeutic techniques to introduce the concept of spirituality as being a personal issue, and one that the individual should have a total freedom to explore for themselves.
There is a real danger with this whole issue, that individuals will get very excited about telling other people what they should and shouldn’t believe in and how this should affect their recovery.
This happens a lot in life generally, but in a rehab can be especially dangerous.
This is because the environment in a rehab should be one of safety, hopefully with an absence of pressure, where an individual can explore some of the underlying emotional drives that have fuelled their alcoholism/alcohol abuse.
A rehab does have a real responsibility in this area, as anyone admitted to a rehab will be in many ways be in a very vulnerable situation.
That vulnerability will of necessity be as a result of active alcoholism or other addiction, and a rehab needs to take special care that that vulnerability is respected, and people are given a space to explore their spirituality and what it means to them in their own way.
A rehab like any organisation, can sometimes exploit people for its own good. It will often do this by rationalising that what it is doing is for the good of its clients. In the area of spirituality and religion, a rehab has a special role in helping people understand the freedom that recovery can bring.
A major part of this freedom of recovery from alcoholism/alcohol addiction is the freedom for people to discover what spirituality/religion/meditation and prayer means or doesn’t mean to them.
People who work in a rehab, such as therapists nurses etc need to take special care that their own personal views do not cloud the work they do with clients who come into a rehab seeking recovery.
This is a special area of personal and professional development that these professionals need to beware of. A rehab should have special mentoring or line manager type processes to make sure that this is happening.