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17 Spiritual Principles to Improve Your Recovery or Your Life

The author is a certified addiction recovery empowerment specialist, with 26 years in long-term recovery.

Embracing these 17 spiritual principles can have a meaningful impact on your life.

Embracing these 17 spiritual principles can have a meaningful impact on your life.

A Misunderstanding at the Beginning

I wrongly believed that spiritual principles would come to me in musty, dusty tomes, reverently presented by cloistered monks.

Instead, I learned spiritual principles from people like myself in recovery support meetings. However, the more I have practiced them in the last twenty-six years, the more I realize how universal they are.

Spiritual Principles

Principle: Self-honesty—free from deception, dishonesty, or deceit.

Many people practice “honesty.” They give back the change when a sales clerk gives them too much at the store and feel rightfully proud of this action. However, they will lie to themselves about themselves. Examining and being reflective on your life is eye-opening for many. Seeing exactly where you have been in your life can motivate you to change. However, it is painful to look at aspects that are harmful to others.

Unfortunately, you cannot practice self-honesty and denial at the same time. The principle is self-honesty—being honest about you to you—looking at the character defects, shortcomings, and self-defeating behaviors that are also part of addiction.

Making this type of assessment of yourself and being honest with your findings is the first step in making changes in your life. In order to change something, you first have to be able to identify it.

Being honest about something that is painful can cause emotional issues. An easier way, to approach this, is to be factual, neither embellishing the facts nor minimizing them is a good place to start being honest with self, about self, and others. It is also about finding positive aspects and admirable qualities. These are present in your make-up as well, even if you did not use them in your addiction.

Free From Like or Dislike

Principle: Acceptance—to receive into the mind, understanding, to come to terms with the findings.

Acceptance is not about likes and dislikes. Acceptance is an attitude of non-judgment—neither liking nor disliking. For example, look at any cup. You can determine that it is unattractive or unappealing because you do not like green, and you will probably reject it. Alternatively, you can decide that it is an appealing or pleasing cup because you like red.

The reality is that both are simply cups. That is acceptance—it is just a cup. Acceptance is not about liking or disliking; pretty or ugly, it is simply accepting that something is or is not, just as all of these are cups - just slightly different due to color

The same goes for your addiction and your actions. If you continue to judge them as “bad,” you will be reluctant to own up to them or admit them, and you will continue with the inner conflict.

Conversely, if you only look at and judge your "good qualities", you may wonder how you got in this situation in the first place. You do not judge the character defects and negative aspects; you merely evaluate whether they are healthy or unhealthy or are they likely to create positive or negative outcomes for you.

You can determine what your actions had gotten you in the past when you operated from them and ask yourself if you want to continue using them or find alternative actions, behaviors, and attitudes.

Likewise, you do not judge the positive aspects and admirable qualities; you simply accept that you have them, also. When you find aspects of yourself that are healthy, you incorporate them into your actions, behaviors, and attitudes.

Don't judge what you find, change what doesn't work for you, and give energy to your positive aspects. If you come to terms with your addiction, and your healthy and unhealthy behaviors, you can then begin the recovery process in earnest.

Recovery Begins to Give Us Hope

Principle: Hope—an instinctive belief in the possibility of change; an anticipation of situations improving through change.

Hope is the reason that you do almost everything. When you were hungry as a child, you hoped that by eating you would not experience the hunger. With time, you knew that when you ate, you would not feel hunger and had faith that this action would produce different results.

As a child, you may not have understood that when you were tired, sleep was what relieved your fatigue. As an adult, you know that when you are tired, and you rest, you feel better. There is hope in both of these functions.

After a period of doing some things, you are no longer conscious of the hope or anticipation involved, only conscious of your history with those actions and the experience.

For the person new in recovery, you are probably hoping that if you do what successful people in recovery do, you will get the same outcomes and benefits. You can move from hope to faith through your efforts at different behaviors, different thought patterns, and learning to explore new solutions and alternatives.

Hope is what motivates us to try new solutions, change our outlook on our lives, and use alternatives to get better outcomes.

Trust: A Misunderstood Concept

Principle: Faith—taken from the Greek word πίστις—to trust in outcomes without evidence yet.

Trust and faith were usually in short supply in your use. Because of the dishonesty of people in the drug world, you had probably become jaded, paranoid, and distrustful of people in general and had no faith in your fellow man.

If your regular drug dealer was not available, and you wanted drugs, you would extend trust to a new dealer rather quickly in order to get what you wanted. You would pay for what they were offering and be on your merry way, rarely questioning what they were offering.

When you are new in recovery, it is difficult to believe in, trust, or have faith that the people are trustworthy. You may tend to wonder about their underlying motives for being helpful, why they act like they care, or what they really want from you.

If you can move your suspicions aside and take people at face value, you may find that the majority of people do not have some hidden agenda or ulterior motive.

They are genuinely interested in being helpful to you as it reinforces their belief in being helpful. They are authentic in sharing their experiences in recovery, giving their suggestions and solutions with the goal of seeing you change your life for the better.

"I'll have to trust you and have faith that you know what you're talking about to listen to you." There are people who will erect the “trust” shield, waiting until they have confidence in someone to follow their advice or directions.

You will waste more time and all individuals suffering from addictions have wasted enough time.

If you find yourself not trusting a person, then trust a process. The process of recovery has been around since 1939, long before most of us were born. The process was valid then, and it is valid now. Have faith in that.

Courage is risk taking to better yourself by being vulnerable and sharing your problems, and having the courage to change when given alternative solutions.

Courage is risk taking to better yourself by being vulnerable and sharing your problems, and having the courage to change when given alternative solutions.

Risk Taking for Our Betterment

Principle: Courage—attitude or response or mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Courage is risk-taking for your betterment. You did incredibly risky, dangerous, unsafe things in your use. Recovery involves taking riskstrusting others, sharing your feelings, writing about your painful past, and making significant life change.

All of these new actions take courage. Nevertheless, you have it within you, you now just need to decide to use it to better your life rather than destroy it. challenge

In your use, you put on a brave face; numbed the fear, and did what you needed to do. You made pick-ups in dangerous neighborhoods; ran the risk of having a taillight out and being stopped by the authorities while carrying; and dealt with people who would harm you without batting an eye.

Early in recovery, that brave face and doing what you need to do will serve you well, also. After facing the fears and doing the next right thing, the outcomes will encourage you to do the next risky thing. That might mean a sponsor, accountability partner, or facilitator.

Principle: Integrity—the quality or state of being whole or complete, entirety, undivided and honest.

Integrity Is Authentic and Honest

When you are operating from integrity, you are trustworthy, dependable, and consistent. You show your integrity to people by keeping promises or showing up when you said you would. Being available to people that are having a hard time, being true to a new set of beliefs that revolve around recovery goals and actions. There is sincerity and authenticity to your words; however, it extends to your actions as well.

Principle: Willingness—having the mind favorably disciplined; to do something specific or implied.

Willingness is an attitude or a motivation. You show this by complying with suggestions, guidelines, and directions. It shows when you risk doing new things. Including things that you are unsure of, like talking about your problems and feelings to strangers in a meeting or following the directions of peers, facilitators, and counselors.

Willingness means that you have an interest in exploring solutions that will promote your recovery. Although the enthusiasm for change might be more than you can honestly feel early in your recovery, there can be an enthusiasm for having an opportunity to get better outcomes.

In Listening, We Learn

Principle: Humility—absence of pride, arrogance, or vanity.

When you are genuinely humble, you realize that although you may be good at some things, you are not good at others. You are not arrogant about what you do know.

It is a perspective about you that allows for accomplishments, as well as the lack of them. It is the opposite of arrogance, thinking that you are the best, know it all, or are above others.

Being humble allows you to listen and in listening you learn. Being humble allows you to ask for help when you cannot do something and give help when you can.

Humility will also allow others to see you as approachable; most people do not want to ask the "know-it-all." However, they will ask the person who recognizes their strengths and limitations.

Principle: Justice: Quality of righteousness, honest and fair, doing something in a manner worthy of one’s abilities

Justice or a fair perspective allows you to determine your accountability in your life choices and take responsibility for those choices.

You are fair in placing the responsibility of your life exactly where it belongs, squarely on your shoulders, not blaming and projecting your faults onto others.

Operating from spiritual principles gives us opportunities we did not have in our addiction.

Operating from spiritual principles gives us opportunities we did not have in our addiction.

Forgiving: For Them and for You

Principle: Brotherly Love—unconditional love for our fellow man regardless of prior feelings or relationships.

Brotherly love can be forgiving those that have harmed you knowing that you have harmed others and yourself. You understand that your addiction has driven you to be a harmful person even when your intent was to do otherwise.

You demonstrate this same understanding to others. You do not keep someone in your life if he or she would cause you further harm. However, you forgive him or her and can move forward in your recovery and your life.

You weigh the alternatives of having them in your life or not; whichever is beneficial to you and them.

Our thinking becomes clearer and more other centered in our recovery.

Our thinking becomes clearer and more other centered in our recovery.

We Are Given Choices in Our Recovery

Principle: Good Judgment—the act or process of the mind in comparing ideas to find agreement or disagreement and determine the truth.

You would not harm yourself by the amends process; neither do you harm others to reconcile your past. You use good judgment and some prudence or caution in determining to whom you will make direct amends—only where it is appropriate and safe.

In your recovery, you are learning to think differently, not the self-centered thinking of addiction, but a more rational, logical, analytic approach to life’s problems. Your mental processes become sounder in your recovery.

When you are uncertain about a decision, you have trustworthy people to ask about your decisions or you can wait for further clarification through meditation. Good judgment returns in your recovery because either you are making better decisions, or you are using your good judgment to seek advice from others.

Over time, you will begin relying on your decision-making because your objectives will have changed as well.

Principle: Self-discipline—planned control and training of one’s self for the sake of development.

In your addiction, you had very little self-discipline. You wanted something; you got it; you had a feeling, you numbed it; you did not like something, you destroyed it. It was a very on/off existence.

Patience, planning, and asking others’ opinions rarely factor in addiction, yet these are all aspects of self-discipline that you can practice in your recovery. It is waiting for better outcomes in your life instead of trying to force life simply because you want something now.

When you operate from self-discipline, you are exercising restraint, dignity, and poise, and those are much better qualities than you exhibited to others in your use.

We continue making changes; we strive to be better today than we were yesterday.

We continue making changes; we strive to be better today than we were yesterday.

Becoming Reliable

Principle: Perseverance—to pursue any action in a steady, consistent manner once begun.

In your use, reliability and dependability were almost non-existent. You may have persevered in getting and using, but it was a harmful application of this principle.

No one could rely on you; your addiction governed the majority of your actions, and your needs came first. You didn't finish things; you weren't reliable, or you created instability in your family's lives.

Perseverance in your recovery means that you stick to things, finish the tasks, and are accountable and reliable. People learn to trust you again because you keep your word.

Principle: Open-mindedness—free from prejudice; not closed to new ideas.

Your open-mindedness comes from seeing other perspectives. Your willingness to free yourself from the bondage of self allows you to exercise patience and tolerance for others and yourself and to listen to the ideas of others.

In your use, you might have rejected the ideas of others believing that your way was the only way. In recovery, you acknowledge that there are more ways than just your way and that often, someone else might have a better idea of how to do something.

Becoming humble, open-minded, and accepting your limited perspective allows you to gain insight on a problem. It expands your awareness. You have directions for a solution that you did not have and descriptions of actions to correct a problem that you did not have.

Being open-minded means that you can learn from others about a better way of acting, thinking, and behaving to get more positive outcomes in your recovery.

Principle: Awareness—knowing, thinking, aware, conscious, realizing, and informed.

Awareness breaks through denial. You cannot be consciously aware of your life and still pretend things did not happen the way they did. You can deny that something happened a certain way as a defensive posture, but awareness and acceptance of your responsibilities in your life break through this denial.

Common Changes: Uncommon Results

Realizing aspects of yourself that you need to change can become exciting and inspiring when you acknowledge that you are being given yet another opportunity to make things right, both for yourself and your loved ones.

There is an additional awareness that comes in recovery; that occasional hunch or inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the being. When you pray or reflect on spiritual guidance or help, you may feel confident that these are available.

Love of Self, Others, and the Concepts

Principle: Love—work done, or tasks performed with willingness, from fondness or regard for the person or the work or cause

Love is a misused word in the English language as we only have the one word. We state that we love someone, love ice cream, love the stars, or love things. In many other languages, there are different words for distinctive types of love.

Agape is love that is kind and lenient towards others. You must surely love the work to carry it on just as you must surely love the alcoholics and addicts that you are trying to help.

You do not expect personal credit when you share—you share out of the love of helping, not the love of your words.

Principle: Service—help beneficial or friendly action or conduct, giving or assisting to another.

Again, this service work becomes what you live and what you can pass on to another. You do not moralize, criticize, or judge when you share the work.

You offer suggestions, solutions, and answers that have worked for you. People will hear or see the truth when you speak from the heart.

Your service needs to extend to those who are willing to make the effort to recover. Spending too much time with an unwilling person may deny another the opportunity to recover.

All, you can do, is share your experience, strength, and hope. Using these principles builds a solid foundation for your recovery and improves your spiritual well-being.

When you operate from these principles, this is a demonstration of them to others. There is nothing beyond these methods.

Be mindful of who, when, and how you share your recovery; spending too much time with someone who cannot hear you may deny another the opportunity to recover.

The only appropriate course of action beyond telling and showing others a better way is to let them grow spiritually or continue their self-destructive behaviors.

Values, ethics and morals help us improve our lives, opportunities and relationships with others.

Values, ethics and morals help us improve our lives, opportunities and relationships with others.

© 2013 Marilyn L Davis


Marilyn L Davis (author) from Georgia on July 15, 2013:

Thanks caludyobcn, reminding me of agape - we have such limited words in English sometimes and frankly, love is one of them.....I love my kids and grandchildren, I the TV show, Supernatural, I love ice cream, and no, they are not all the same feeling.