A spiritual awakening or a spiritual experience are terms that are often used by people to try and describe experiences that are in many ways so deeply personal that they are extremely difficult if not impossible to put into words.
This might seem a slight contradiction in terms, but is part of the difficulty of trying to explain what spirituality is and isn’t.
A spiritual awakening is in many ways a change so profound to someone’s inner world, that it most commonly gets used as a term when referring to people in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions. The term a spiritual awakening is used in the 12th step of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme, as being the realization of having worked through the rest of the 11 steps.
In the book Alcoholics Anonymous, a spiritual awakening is described mainly by relating people’s stories of their drinking and active alcoholism, and their lives in recovery once they have stopped drinking. The sense of the enormity of a spiritual experience is almost implied by contrasting the two lives, rather than by trying to give a descriptive account of what spirituality is.
It is often said that people follow by example in life, and this is most certainly true when dealing with the area of spirituality. Most of the time a significant number of people involved in religion will try and convince other people what they should and should not believe in, and how they should live their lives accordingly.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of their belief systems, this type of approach inevitably fails. People do not like to be told what they should and should not believe in. Most people who have an authentic sense of their own life and their own spirituality come to it through their own life experience. A large part of this is the freedom to explore past, present and future meaning of one’s own life.
People who are in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions, to an extent have this forced upon them by the very nature of their need to recover. This may well be a lengthy battle at the outset, and may take a significant amount of time to really process.
However the nature of a person having to admit that they have a drink or drug problem or some other type of addiction, creates a situation where they feel both hopeless, and at the same time a desperate need to find some meaning to their life and situation.
This conflict, whilst incredibly difficult to reconcile, does mean that if the person sticks with it as a process or journey, then ultimately they are led to discover their own inner integrity and authenticity which is the cornerstone of their spiritual life.
Once a person discovers their own authenticity, or more accurately rediscovers it, it is often very difficult if not impossible to go back and become an unauthentic person. This means that they have to deal with the reality of their life, both in terms of what has happened to them and how they have dealt with it.
The legacy of their life up to the point where they begin to change it around has a hugely important context, in the nature of spirituality. In order to really be free internally, a person has to have made peace with their past as best they can. The 12 step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous and other fellowships makes an important part of recovery that of making amends to people who have been harmed.
That is important in itself, but is also important in the context of owning one’s life to date, and owning the consequences of what has happened and being willing to put them right, as a precondition of being able to move forward and live your life with the integrity that is necessary in order to stay sober.
About the Author
Peter Main is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes extensively about all areas of self growth and self development. He has a particular focus on self help issues for people who are in recovery from or who have been affected by alcoholism and other addictions.Some people begin their journey of recovery and healing in a rehab, others in a twelve step fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous, others in a religious or spiritual setting. He has worked in this field for just under thirty years and has extensive experience in many areas of different therapeutic approaches, including counselling, inner child work,meditation, spirituality, adult children work etc