Most people know Lent as a religious holiday, associated most with the Catholic and episcopal denominations. During this holiday, members of these churches mark their faces with ash, stop eating meat on Fridays, fast, and choose things they like to give up during this period of time, like chocolate bars.
Even if we are not a part of a denomination that celebrates Lent, we can benefit from practicing this strange and unique commemoration. As substance use treatment alumni, we can use this time to remember that it was our higher power we rely on that brought us through, just as Christ was brought through his temptations in the desert.
Lent and Temptation
There is good reason Lent is celebrated by fasting, solemn observance, and abstinence from worldly and material pleasures. Lent is bigger than red meat, candy bars, and those small little pleasures we take for granted.
During Lent, billions of Christians commemorate the forty days that Christ spent in the desert during his temptations by Satan. Like Christ, his followers abstain from those temptations they are offered and fast, remembering the ultimate sacrifice Christ made on the cross.
As people in recovery, we know a little bit about temptation. We know that recovery is a process that is taken one day at a time, sometimes an hour or a minute at a time. We understand the temptation that Christ felt in the desert, and we can take pride that like him, we stood against Satan and loudly said, “No!”
A good way to think about Lent is that it is a spring cleaning for the human spirit. Lent is about getting rid of those distractions from your spiritual awareness. In doing so, we draw closer to our spirituality and, if you are a Christian, to Christ.
Lent and the Art of Abstinence
When we graduate from a substance use treatment program, we are already engaging in abstinence. Abstinence is not always rejecting things we like, and which are good for us. In fact, it can be abstaining from the things that are bad for us, too.
We abstain from those things which caused our addiction. Research by Addiction Science and Clinical Practice indicates that in order to reach the overall goals of recovery, abstinence has to lead to a better quality of life. That is what it has done for those of us in recovery, delivering us a better life that we would not have otherwise had.
Through the 12-Steps, we know that we are powerless to keep away from the power addiction holds over us. Only through our faith in a higher power can we come out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of sobriety.
The truth is that people in recovery know that abstinence is an art. We are experts in giving up things because we already know the reward in store is far greater than we can imagine. This is probably what Christ knew in the desert, that the reward in heaven is greater than all the treasures on Earth.
That is what Lent is about. In a lot of ways, alumni in recovery celebrate Lent every day.
How Religious Belief Can Sustain Sobriety
There is a volume of evidence that religion and spirituality play an oversized role in preventing addiction and healing people from it. Nearly three-quarters of substance use treatment programs in the United States employ components of religion and spirituality in treatment.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that faith plays an oversized and important role in being able to reject and continually abstain from addictive substances. Largely successful in their approaches, faith-based treatment programs and approaches contribute more than $300 billion in savings to the United States economy.
In many ways, parishioners who practice Lent are engaging in many of the same treatment approaches those in recovery are familiar with. Faith sustains their sobriety, just as it sustains ours. It is all just a matter of perspective.
Lent, Gratitude, and Overcoming Addiction
There is another component of Lent as well: gratitude. When parishioners abstain from worldly pleasures, they are also maintaining gratefulness for what they have and looking forward to the heavenly rewards that await them.
That same gratitude can be felt by anyone who is in recovery from an addiction treatment program. We have been delivered from a dark existence, and we abstain with gratefulness for what we have. Through our higher power and the practice of a 12-Step program, we look forward to the rewards of sobriety.
In the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers found that gratitude was a predictor of continued abstinence in recovery. People who continued to express gratitude toward their treatment and recovery were more likely to continue in sobriety and less likely to experience relapse.
Among many Catholics in America, Fridays of Lent are spent gathering in the church parish hall and sharing meatless dinners. The dinner is served by volunteers, kids play with their friends, and adults enjoy fellowship.
As Lent continues, churches who practice this holiday engage in the Stations of the Cross, where members remember the final days in the life of Jesus. Lent ends in a holy week, ending in Palm Sunday and the remembrance of the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on his journey to Calvary.
There is no greater sacrifice than that of Calvary. As we remember this, we can also remember the words of Charles Dickens as they apply to our remembrance and overcoming addiction: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
Lent is a time of the year when members of the Christian faith fast and abstain as a remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ shedding his blood on Calvary. On February 22, 2023, billions of people in the Christian faith will celebrate Lent following the season of epiphany. As someone in recovery from substance use, you know the power of spirituality in your life. It does us all good to take a moment to abstain from material wants and reflect on the blessings we all have, remembering our 12-Steps and relying on a higher power to see us through. Share your journey with your brothers at Renaissance Ranch. Call (801) 308-8898 today.