What Comes Next

By: Diane Cameron

Diane Cameron is an award-winning journalist and speaker on recovery and personal growth. She is the author of two personal blogs: “Out of the Woods”—for women in long-term recovery, and “Love in the Time of Cancer”—for couples and caregivers. Diane teaches on topics related to the history and politics of mental health and recovery. Her newspaper column on popular culture appears in the Albany Times Union and in newspapers across the country. “What Comes Next” offers ideas, suggestions and provocative perspectives for men and women who have 10-plus years of recovery and reveals the continued emotional and spiritual growth that occurs with long recovery.

Spiritual Direction in Recovery

(not rated)

Mar 16, 2012

Thhigher_powerough we talk about AA as a spiritual program, we don’t often talk about spiritual direction in our AA meetings. But outside of meetings, people with many years will talk about their retreats and experiences with a spiritual director. After all, when you have 10 or 15 or 25 years you “get it” that this is a spiritual program. How many people reading this blog have tried spiritual direction?

It occurred to me more than once (in that way that we keep seeing new things in the Big Book over time) that the wording of Step 12 says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps…” and that it does not say, “having stopped drinking as a result of these steps.” It’s not about not drinking; it is about a spiritual awakening and then in that awakened state we see our lives changed and we begin to have a relationship with our Higher Power.
Right now, as I write this, I feel the vulnerability. Our spiritual lives are very intimate. In the same way that we don’t talk in detail about our sex lives with many people, we often don’t talk about our spiritual lives in detail either. So who do you talk to about what really goes on between you and your Higher Power?
I’ve come to see that a spiritual director is not a sponsor and not a therapist and may or may not be a professional clergy person. Over the years I have worked with three different spiritual directors. One was a nun, one a former minister and the third a really compassionate and spiritual woman who had training in spiritual direction. All had some experience with the Twelve Steps or recovery programs.
There are spiritual directors in every faith community—it’s not necessarily a Christian thing. Most many faith communities offer spiritual direction for anyone in their congregations or communities. It’s not just a recovery thing. But what a big help it is to people in recovery.
In a way, a spiritual director is somewhat like a couple’s counselor. I think of it this way: If I am trying to have a genuine relationship with my Higher Power then anything that might come up in a human relationship will come up in this relationship as well. Similar questions and expectations also apply. My spiritual director asks me, “Are you talking to Him?” “Are you listening to Him?” and she’s reminds me that I can express all of my feelings—even anger—when I am in a genuine relationship with HP.
The best gift I’ve received in working with a spiritual director along with an active AA program is receiving reassurance that I am doing “it” right. The “it” can be prayer, meditation, decision making. And I love learning about new spiritual practices as well. Just as I need to keep mixing it up in my physical fitness exercise I sometimes need to try new things with my spiritual practices as well. The past month I’ve been working with The Examen, a form of prayer taught by Saint Ignatius to his followers and which, I was delighted to learn, is the basis of our Step Ten daily inventory.
I love the anecdote we hear in meetings of the newcomer who asks about the “spiritual part” of the program and the old-timer replies, “There is no spiritual part—the AA program is spiritual.” So I’m glad to have the special assistance of a spiritual director to keep me moving forward and fresh in that part of my life.
How about you? How do you keep your relationship with your Higher Power growing and intimate over the years? Have you worked with a spiritual director? How did you find them? What was that like?
Image courtesy of razvan ionut/


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