How can Native American traditions and spirituality be incorporated into your recovery?
If you are a Native American in recovery, it can be helpful for you to think about how native traditions and spirituality can be integrated into your Twelve Step program. Thanks to a growing pride in Native American traditions, native people are strengthening and reviving beliefs and customs that gave strength and identity to their tribes. Their renewed spirituality and values are playing key roles in their recovery from alcoholism, a disease that has devastated Native Americans for more than 100 years.
Successes in sobriety are emerging for Native Americans in recovery who blend the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with traditions such as sweat lodges, talking circles, the circle of life, and drums walking the red road. Recovering Native Americans use the Twelve Steps but modify them, substituting the term “Great Spirit” for “Higher Power.” Many Native Americans find that the Steps closely align with their spiritual beliefs.
The basic Native American traditional ways—respect for elders, honor and respect of mother earth, and time for meditation and prayer—are important things to be stressed when in recovery. A return to Native American traditions will provide a solid foundation for continuing care and can increase the chances for long-term recovery.
The sweat lodge, site of traditional Indian purification ceremonies, is one cultural practice that may be incorporated into a person’s recovery program. The talking circle is another tradition, one in which individuals can share their stories of addiction. As a stick or another object is passed around the circle, the person holding it must talk and the others listen.
The circle of life is common to many Native American cultures. It acknowledges the stages of life: birth in the east, adolescence in the south, middle age in the west, and the age of the elders in the north. As the elders age and begin to show infantile behavior, they re-enter the east, completing the circle. One can also see recovery from addiction as a journey of growth and change.
The rhythm of the drum symbolizes the strength, unity, and heartbeat of Native American people. When Native American people stay close to the sound of the drum—when they remember that the drum is the first thing they heard in their mother’s womb—they remember that they don’t need alcohol or drugs.
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