(an excerpt from It’s Not About the Sex, Chapter Eleven)
Spirituality, as I’ve mentioned before, is “whatever gives your life meaning.” You have the freedom to find it through your own heart rather than as others define it. A spiritual experience can take many forms—the simple enjoyment of an afternoon with a beloved pet, or on a hike through nature. Meaning and purpose in recovery tend to coalesce around big-ticket items like forgiveness, getting in touch with a Universal Power, and considering your legacy. Sex addiction took you far away from yourself. By reclaiming your passions, values, and goals, you’ll feel more true to yourself as you search for purpose and meaning on your recovery path.
Spirituality vs. Religion
I grew up in a liberal Jewish home in South Jersey where it was understood that my brothers and I would attend Hebrew school with the eventual goal of having a bar mitzvah. This felt isolating to me. Most of my neighborhood friends were not Jewish, and though I would have preferred to hang out with them after school, I was instead whisked away to synagogue to learn a language that seemed useless and obscure. In retrospect, I realize that my parents’ goal wasn’t so much for us to learn Hebrew or strictly adhere to an organized religion. They wanted us to develop core values and community. Today, I hold many of the same principles that were instilled in me then as a child—social justice, universal human rights, and altruism. Although the bar mitzvah has long faded from memory, I do remember my parents’ pride as I participated in a ritual neither of them had had the opportunity to experience. It was a priceless investment to establish my core values within the spiritual community of that era.
Another cornerstone of my Jewish upbringing was the encouragement to ask questions. Our rabbi’s sermons emphasized that there are always more questions than answers in life, which I still find liberating as a recovering perfectionist who always wanted specific solutions to my problems. As I mentioned in Chapter Seven, a few years ago I saw a documentary about Orthodox rabbis in Jerusalem who congregate every day to heatedly debate the spiritual questions and dilemmas they face as religious leaders. Their exchanges were so animated—their passions fueled by the investigation of possibilities—despite no specific answers or outcomes being available. As with any productive debate, participants grew more enthusiastic in the face of a challenge, and to me this palpable image demonstrated vitality in the midst of an ancient city wrought with religious conflict. Their purpose was not to one-up each other or arrive at a unanimous conclusion. It was about connection and community.
In Part Two we will take a look at purpose and legacy along with some specific action steps to support the depth of this exploration.