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Section 12
Spiritual Principles in Middle Recovery

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents | Addictions CEU Courses
Social Work CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed the middle stage of family recovery from addiction and the three major characteristics of this time. These are, the family develops a new vision, more family stability, and moving from borrowed values to integrated values.

Do you have a client who uses  spirituality as part of his or her recovery? 

On this track, we will discuss the four spiritual principles that I find most important in middle recovery. These  spiritual principles are, accountability, humility, gratitude, and discipline.

As you are well aware, middle recovery is a time of fast-paced growth for the addicted family. Remember Jenny from the last track? As her family moved through the regenerative period of middle recovery, I found there to be four important spiritual principles that helped guide Jenny’s progress.

4 Spiritual Principles for Middle Recovery

Principle # 1 - Accountability
The first of these was accountability, which I explained to Jenny and her family as becoming responsible for personal relationships and spiritual principles. Clearly, during active addiction, the addict of the family works very hard to make the co-addicts accountable for his or her behavior, and feels as if he or she is accountable to no one, when they are in fact accountable to, and dependent on, their drug.

Middle recovery for the addict means taking responsibility for his or her own behavior, and thus gaining the opportunity to change- by showing up to recovery meetings, going to work, or keeping promises to family members.

Middle recovery for Jenny’s family involved a similar process of taking inventory of their own behaviors, feelings, and thoughts, going to support groups, and keeping promises to each other. I stated, "taking the time for this introspection is not selfish. Committing to understanding yourself will help you be more accountable to everyone in the family, including yourself." Do you experience, as I do, clients that have a hard time believing that this new accountability will actually give them more freedom than they had before?

Principle # 2 - Humility
The second spiritual principle important to middle recovery for Jenny’s family was humility. This humility involved the desire to place spiritual principles and values before the self. I stated to Jenny, "this is also the process of stepping away from inflated egos and defensive personae, and creating and finding meaning in things and people outside of the narrow world your family created." I reminded Jenny that humility does not mean being self-effacing.

As you know, humility means realizing that each individual can control very little, and recognizing that he or she is neither incredibly wonderful nor horrendously bad. One metaphor I used with Jenny is that humility is getting to a concert early to get a good place by the stage, rather than complaining that you are not the lead singer.

Principle # 3 - Gratitude
In addition to accountability and humility, a third important spiritual principle for Jenny’s family in middle recovery was gratitude.  In middle recovery, Jenny’s family could see the difference between the sober life and the family life centered around her father’s  substance abuse, and they felt genuinely happy to be free of the addiction. Do you agree that this is the stage at which families understand how deadly and damaging the disease if addiction is, and how meaningless life had become? 

Jenny’s mother stated, "I always used to love Fall, but with everything I barely noticed it passing. Last week, for the first time in years, I sat out on the porch and just watched the leaves falling. The sky was so blue, and I was so happy just to sit there and appreciate it". I explained to her that this gratitude is healing; it reminds us that we are good just as we are.

Clearly, gratitude also works against the drive for ‘more’, and helps us concentrate on what is.  Dan had contracted AIDS as a result of his heroin addiction, and had been sent to treatment four times before he came to my office. Dan stated, "For the past couple of years, I’ve finally been taking recovery seriously, and I’m living a good life. I have my friends and my family with me, and I’m happy for every minute with them. Even though I’m going to die, it’s my choice to die with dignity or without it. And I can do it."

Dan died a year after this conversation, sober and with dignity, with his friends and family surrounding him. He was truly grateful for every moment he had with the people he loved.

Principle # 4 - Discipline
The fourth spiritual principle helpful to Dan, and to Jenny’s family in middle recovery is discipline. In this sense, I explain to my clients that discipline is the ability to stay consistently connected to spiritual principles. Dan was able to successfully incorporate discipline into his recovery.

In one of our later session, Dan stated, "I found I had to really stay strong, find new habits  and routines for my life. I found that evenings were my worst time, so I made myself sit down every day at 5 pm and read a meditation from one of the books my family had given me. It really helped! I started reading meditations every time I felt an impulse to use as well, and it would give me those few extra minutes I needed to get my head back on straight. It worked for my family too. We made it a rule to get together every Sunday night for a home-cooked meal and movie night."

As you can see, by using discipline, Dan was not only better able to control his impulses to use heroin, but his family was able to make a strong commitment to healing. I find that by using this spiritual discipline, family members increase their ethical, authentic power, which gradually decreases the need for the false or pseudo power of the family member’s coping mechanisms.

One daily routine I recommend to family members recovering from addiction is an Image Rehearsal technique. As her family moved in to middle recovery, I asked Jenny to make an appointment with herself each day to walk through this stress-reduction technique. Jenny decided to make her appointment at 7:30 each day, when she was ready to wind down for the evening and often felt the most frustrated by her family.

"Image Rehearsal" Technique, 4 Steps
Step 1: "The first step of imagery rehearsal is to make yourself as relaxed as possible. 
Step 2: Then, imagine that you are sitting somewhere beautiful, calm, and safe, like a meadow or a beach. Remember that if during the exercise something makes you uncomfortable, you can immediately return to this calm place.
Step 3: Now, visualize yourself confident, in control. You mentioned that asking your parents for money for school supplies is very stressful for you, since when your father was drinking, asking for money would usually lead to a big fight. Visualize yourself successfully explaining your concerns in a calm manner.
Step 4: Next, return to your peaceful place until you are totally relaxed again."
I also explained to Jenny that by repeating this visualization , she could begin to increase her ability to cope with the stresses of relearning how to communicate with her family. Do you have a client dealing with family recovery who would benefit from an image rehearsal technique?

On this track, we have discussed the four spiritual principles that I find most important in middle recovery. These are, accountability, humility, gratitude, and discipline.

On the next track, we will discuss the Amends Process for helping recovering addicts reconnect with their families.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Kelley, T. M., Pransky, J., & Lambert, E. G. (2015). Realizing improved mental health through understanding three spiritual principles. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 2(4), 267–281.

Lee, M. T., Pagano, M. E., Johnson, B. R., Post, S. G., Leibowitz, G. S., & Dudash, M. (2017). From defiance to reliance: Spiritual virtue as a pathway towards desistence, humility, and recovery among juvenile offenders. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 4(3), 161–175.

Moos, R. H. (2003). Addictive disorders in context: Principles and puzzles of effective treatment and recovery. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 17(1), 3–12.

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