Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Spirituality and Recovery

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Spirituality and Recovery

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Japan

In the recovery process, denial and resistance exist in the stages of change. These are present within pre-contemplation, contemplations, preparation, action, and the maintenance stages and are crucial for treating chemical abuse or dependency.

The stages each have various characteristic behaviors. For instance, in the pre-contemplation stage, defensiveness, resisting suggestions that a problem exists, or lack of awareness of a problem, can be present. Contemplation includes seeking to understand one’s behavior, thinking of making a change, and/or evaluating the behavior. Preparation involves making the decision to change and getting ready to take action. The action stage is making change happen, modifying behavior, following recovery strategies. The maintenance stage avoids relapse and slips, working to sustain changes, including verbalized fears and anxieties about relapse.

For those in early recovery, spirituality can hold a unique and personal place, allowing for fearless self-inventory and working through negative emotions of blame, anger, jealousy, frustration. Everyone experiences these emotions, but learning to turn down the volume and reflect on these emotions allows us space to grow emotionally and physically as it may have a positive effect on our blood pressure and improving our cardiovascular health.

Patience. Improving spirituality takes practice. Recovery is a journey of finding and nurturing that other person inside you, bringing that persona to life mentally and emotionally. Spirituality is a personal search for the meaning of life and your personal life. Spirituality connects to larger questions about life. Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” was a neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor. Dr. Frankl discusses the search for meaning and purpose in life while finding hope in our daily struggles. The search for meaning is essential for those struggling with addiction.

There is no correct way to be spiritual. And, keep in mind that being spiritual and being religious are both different. Spirituality is what grabs you in finding your purpose and meaning in life; it’s personal. Religion is a set of beliefs, ceremonies, sacraments, and formal procedures about beliefs in God. You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual. Alone time, walking in nature, practicing mindfulness, yoga, or meditation are all examples of spirituality. You don’t have to attend classes to begin practicing yoga. Do yoga in the privacy of your room if you're not ready to join a class — check YouTube and stretch along. Spirituality can give you a new sense of purpose and improve your self-worth.

According to the National Center for Complementary Integrative Health (NIH), spirituality can help people understand themselves, connect to a greater sense of purpose, and stay dedicated to sobriety. And the benefits of regular meditative practice inspire many physical and mental benefits. Just remember the famous words of Alfred E. Neuman, from Mad Magazine: ”What, me worry?”

During my tenure as the in-patient Program Director at the Alcohol Rehabilitation Center at Yokosuka Naval Hospital, patients were asked basic questions to help them access the parts of their lives and their effects.  Questions ranged from, “What is the purpose of your life?” to “Why are you suffering?”, “What caused your suffering?” and more. Both the physical and spiritual aspects of your transformation can work to bring that other person hiding inside you, out. Treat your body with kindness and respect. Don’t sit around with an attitude of: “Poor me, poor me; pour me a drink.”

Now is the time to take steps and begin to develop your philosophical life. A start is as simple as seeking to improve your physical health. Mild physical exercise can quiet the mind and bring increased awareness of how you connect to the world and all living things. Mild exercise reduces stress, improves your mood, increases your physical and mental strength, reduces your weight, and improves your flexibility. To increase positive emotions, be content with the positive experiences in your day, including your ability to get out of bed in the morning, smell the morning air, see the sun rise, feel the breeze and enjoy that cup of coffee.

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Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at www.hilaryvaldez.com or at InstantInsights@hotmail.com.

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