Spirituality and Recovery
Is belief in a higher power required for recovery from an eating disorder? We posed this question to Kim Kellow, who was Mirasol's Spiritual Integration Practitioner from its founding in 1999.
"Spirituality is a key component in recovery. We know that women who have some sort of spiritual practice have a much higher rate of recovery," says Kellow. But Kim defines spirituality very broadly and works with whatever belief system the client brings into recovery.
Many addiction and compulsion recovery programs rely on the Twelve Steps developed by Alcoholics Anonymous 70 years ago, which lay out a path to recovery that requires:
- turning our will and lives over to the care of God
- admitting to God the nature of our wrongs
- asking God to remove our shortcomings
- improving our relationship with God through prayer and meditation, and
- achieving a spiritual awakening that allows us to put these principles into practice
The Christian tradition provides a ready-made belief system and institutional framework for those who choose this path to recovery. But what if the individual was raised in a non-Christian or non-theistic family?
"We work on universal themes that are part of all belief systems: loving kindness, compassion, and forgiveness," says Kim. "Whether we recognize it or not, we all have a measure of spirituality, as defined by the way we connect to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us."
Kellow meets with each Mirasol client once a week to help integrate the client's spiritual practice into her recovery. The sessions develop according to the client's expressed needs, and may include everything from Tai Chi to Reiki, meditation and contemplation.
In contrast to the Twelve-Step doctrine of "surrendering to a higher power," Kellow believes that anorexics, bulimics and compulsive eaters give away too much of their power — to the eating disorder! Tai Chi, which promotes the circulation of 'chi' within the body, is one of the tools she uses to help women feel more empowered.
In its 10-year history, Mirasol has treated clients from a wide variety of religious backgrounds, including Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mennonites and born-again Christians. We honor each person in exploring her own spiritual practice rather than promoting any other spiritual philosophy or religion.
The spiritual quest can take form of a simple walk in the park. For Kellow, that park is often Agua Caliente, a miraculous oasis on the outskirts of Tucson. Here a warm spring bubbles out of the sand, supplying water to hundreds of palm trees and to two large ponds that shelter a dazzling variety of fish, waterfowl and migratory birds. In Kim's words, "When I bring the women to Agua Caliente, I invite them to feel the energy of the trees and the earth, and to know that no matter what's going on in our lives, we are always supported by the earth beneath our feet."
It's not about changing or giving up your belief system, it's about finding ways to help it meet your needs. Life is quest, and along the way we'll experiment many different tools. Some of them we'll look at and say, 'that's not for me', and others we'll pick up and use for the rest of our lives."
Spiritual Integration Practitioner