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What is a Gradual Spiritual Experience?

The 12-step recovery model is based in the concept that we can have a spiritual experience that changes our motivations, thoughts, and action. From developing and maintaining this spiritual experience and practicing the principles of recovery in all our affair, we are able to overcome our addiction and alcoholism. The spiritual experience is often described as an intense moment of awakening when we are immediately changed. However, most people’s experiences differ from the “white light” spiritual awakening and are instead of the gradual type.

Famed psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Carl Jung is quoted in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous describing what a spiritual awakening is. Jung states, “Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attituded which were once the guiding forces of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.” While some people do experience the “sudden” nature of the spiritual experience through working the 12 Steps, a majority of people have gradual, or “educational,” spiritual experiences.

The Big Book explains that their intention was not to claim that a spiritual experience must occur in a single, monumental moment: “Yet it is true that our first printing gave many readers the impression that these personality changes, or religious experiences, must be in the nature of sudden and spectacular upheavals. Happily for everyone, this conclusion is erroneous.” Alcoholics Anonymous recognized that the majority of people experience what psychologist William James refers to as the “educational variety” of spiritual awakenings.

In fact, an individual may not even notice that they have had a spiritual experience for some time. The Big Book explains, “Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.” Whether our spiritual experience is sudden or gradual, we must continue to live a spiritual life and help others whenever possible. As the 12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous states: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

You can begin building a life of hope, faith, and courage in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help today and embark upon the rewarding journey of recovery from addiction and alcoholism. Resilient House is determined to address all aspects of substance dependency to bring you to a state of wholeness that supports long-term sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call today: (833) 242-6431