12. Develop, Nurture and Deepen Your Spirituality
In this Practice:
- Why is your spirituality part of your recovery?
- Learning to pray
- Mindfulness as an essential tool in recovery
- Learning to use meditation
- Assignment for Practice Twelve
Addiction is as disease of the mind and the heart.
It roots and flourishes in your mind because it utilizes thinking patterns that are flawed, repeated and reinforced. So healthy recovery requires that you confront your false patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy, truthful patterns of thought.
Addiction also roots and flourishes in your heart as you have inadvertently formed and strengthened an attachment to the misuse of your sexuality. Why do I say it’s a misuse of your sexuality? Because your sexuality is an inherently good thing. But it’s designed to play a certain role in your life, and when you or I use it for something other than what it’s intended for, no matter what short-term gratification we get from it, it will never fulfill you, never satisfy your deepest needs.
Healthy attachment is meant to help you develop security, identity, acceptance, comfort and the ability to handle the ups and downs of feelings. Healthy attachment initially was to be developed in you by being part of a healthy family, and ultimately in a meaningfully mutual relationship with your Creator. Developing your spirituality will help you detach from unhealthy sources of security, identity, acceptance, comfort and emotion regulation and attach to your Creator for those legitimate needs.
I’m sharing with you ideas and techniques in this Practice but I want to be clear about this point: developing your spirituality is about you developing your personal relationship with the Source of your life, who is personal, intentional and loving. Healthy recovery from compulsivity is ultimately founded upon and nurture by your relationship with God.
So in developing the practice of spirituality, there are three particular disciplines you want to acquire and deepen. They are essential to a healthy spirituality and a recovering life of usefulness.
Prayer is ongoing conversation with your Father in Heaven over matters of mutual concern. Prayer is simple. And yet it’s one of the hardest things we learn to do well. Many of us have notions of what prayer is that aren’t helpful. Prayer is using our thinking and voicing to express our best understanding of what’s in our heart to the One we dimly recognize as the Source of our heart.
Prayer can be formatted in different ways. There is a nearly inexhaustible amount of writing on how to pray and finding good sources to read about prayer will be helpful. But reading about praying is not the same as simply doing it, working at it, staying with it. Set time aside each day to pray. Find a time of day that works best for you and your schedule. Stick with it. Use texts of scripture to help you think about what to say when you pray. Various psalms, the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4), and the prayers in Ephesians 1:16-19 and 3:14-19 are especially helpful models to use to help you to pray.
There are also several prayers in the Recovery movement that I recommend you memorize. The Step Three prayer, the Step Seven prayer and the (entire) Serenity Prayer are very useful prayers to help you align your thoughts and your spirit with the goals of recovery and authentic spirituality.
Mindfulness is the intentionally cultivated discipline of being aware of where you are, what you are thinking and how you are feeling. However you became compulsive in your sexual behaviors, it has had a negative impact on your ability to concentrate. And being able to focus, to harness your thoughts, is essential in recovering your life from obsession to usefulness.
Why is this discipline of mindfulness so helpful to your spirituality and recovery? Your thinking is fractured and too easily compartmentalized. Mindfulness is the process of monitoring and integrating your thinking. Becoming increasingly aware of flow and substance of your thoughts and feelings will help you recognize your impulses and make better decisions.
Meditation is different from mindfulness. Rather than putting your attention on what you are thinking and feeling, meditation is a discipline of focusing your thoughts on a specific word, phrase or thought.
Select a text of scripture or a prayer or a thought that has meaning and offers help, identity or purpose to you. Sit still and quiet for a period of time and bring your mind to that subject of your meditation. Your mind will stray. Don’t stress out over that. This is not a performance. It’s the cultivating of a discipline and receiving of nurture in your soul. Continue to bring your mind back to what you’ve selected to meditate on. Continue to give intentional consideration to that thought, word or phrase alone.
Do this regularly, preferably daily. Commit to it. Increase the amount of time you give to it.
Meditation becomes a platform for your praying. The thought or phrase moves from an object observed or considered to a subject explored.
These three disciplines are not easy. The point is neither to do them perfectly nor to give extravagant effort. If you’re an addict, you have a susceptibility to the dramatic, the grandiose, trying to hit the ball out of the park and solve your problems. The genuinely spiritual (and recovering) life isn’t like that. It’s a slow, steady and uneven progression towards a new way of thinking and living.
Intentionally build these three disciplines into your life over a long period of time. Be steady, repeated, consistent, and calm. Keep at it. And when you lapse in their use, and you will, don’t scold yourself. Pick them back up and keep going.
Commit to folding them into your daily routine in manageable portions. If you use them calmly and diligently over a lengthy period of time, they will become the lifeblood of your spirituality. They will impact you in life-altering ways.
Assignment for Engaging the Twelfth Practice—Develop, Nurture and Deepen Your Spirituality
1. Read Matthew 6:5-15 and 6:25-7:11; read and re-read and be mastered by Christ’s teaching on prayer
2. Read pp 154-155 in Ashamed No More, “We Do Life with the Spirit”
3. Read Ephesians 1:16-19 and 3:14-19; look at what Paul prays for and use these thoughts to guide how you form some of your own prayers
4. Read pp 156-160 in Ashamed No More, “We Develop Mindfulness”
5. Look over your schedule and think about your routine; find the best time of day and throughout your week to carve out time to pray; start with a manageable time and increase it slowly and methodically until it becomes an essential practice you look forward to
6. Share with a friend or sponsor what your plan for praying is and periodically tell them how you’re doing; keep this up until your daily praying is as natural, routine and life-giving as anything else in your life
7. Read and re-read the three prayers below; consider committing them to memory
8. I recommend you pray daily one or all of them
Step Three Prayer
God, I offer myself to you—to build with me and do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your power, Your love and Your way of life. May I do your will always. Amen.
Step Seven Prayer
My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad. I pray you now remove from me every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.
The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You
forever in the next. Amen
This is the Twelfth and final Practice. But we’re not done. When you’ve finished working through the Twelfth Practice assignment, please go to “Where Do You Go From Here?”
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