Since colonization, Native Americans have increasingly faced the loss of their culture as another one was thrust upon them. This overthrow of culture has seen a loss of identity as the indigenous population felt displaced and lost in a system that didn’t understand their values or needs.
A tragic outcome of this disintegration of identity is that many native Americans have experienced depression, PTSD and hopelessness. As a result, some have tried to find comfort from the psychological and emotional pain through alcohol and/or substance abuse.
Yet, there have been efforts made to introduce programs that consider the cultural specifics of this population to help them in overcoming their addictions. True healing and recovery can come about by integrating the different aspects that make up a whole person.
A Holistic Approach To Recovery
Traditional recovery programs focus on the psychological and emotional issues surrounding addiction. Though this has proven successful to some degree, there are some issues with this idea.
Perhaps the major issue is that most programs lack cultural sensitivity in their design. The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program has proven quite successful in addiction recovery. This program has spawned a raft of copy-cat 12-steps for treatments ranging from narcotics addiction to Christian-based programs and eating disorders.
Though native American recovery programs also adopt a form of the 12-step program, there is criticism that the original model is Anglo-American and that the terminology and approach used is highly Protestant. It ignores the subtleties inherent in native American spirituality.
Traditionally, native Americans see everything as interconnected and it’s through this belief where one’s identity is formed and sustained. When colonization found its way into the aboriginal lifestyle of this population, there was a disconnect. The result was a sense of loss of identity for native Americans.
Some treatment programs seek to reconnect native Americans with their spirituality and regain a sense of self-knowledge and identity. That is, these treatment programs offer a holistic approach toward recovery that addresses the psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs of the individual.
Spiritual Practices In Native American Recovery
The main concept behind native American spirituality is harmony and balance. When one has a disconnect from not only themselves, but the cosmos and all of creation, then there is an imbalance. The fear and hopelessness arising from this disharmony can result in seeking comfort through alcohol and substance abuse.
Many native American recovery programs offer a range of spiritual practices to help an individual reconnect with themselves, their community and the cosmos.
Medicine wheels, the sacred pipe, vision quests, sweat lodges, and sun dances are utilized in treatment practices to help those struggling with substance and alcohol abuse regain the control and harmony that has been lost.
The medicine wheel is made up of four quadrants, each one representing a stage in one’s life: infancy, youth, maturity, and old age. In recovery programs, this wheel can be reinterpreted to indicate the holistic makeup of all people: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of ourselves. Through this awareness of how all these parts are interconnected, then individuals can learn how to find balance and harmony between all four areas.
The sweat lodge and sun dance are seen as purification practices. Both practices also emphasize the four parts of human experience as that found in the medicine wheel. The sweat lodge allows one to rediscover their interconnectedness with all things. Working in tandem, the sweat lodge and Sun Dance seek to heal the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of an individual.
As a way of showing how the physical and spiritual worlds are interrelated, some programs may make use of the sacred pipe ceremony. The pipe is considered to be a link between the Great Spirit and the world.
Vision quests help in discovering your life purpose. It allows individuals to find out the true meaning of their life and why they are here. The goal of these quests is to have one can make contact with ancestor and elder spirits who offer spiritual wisdom and guidance. Vision quests also provide native Americans with an opportunity to find purpose and direction in their life. When one realizes that they are of value and have something to contribute to their family and tribe, then the empty void of hopelessness and despair is filled with optimism and positivity.
Harmony and balance are restored.
Guidance from Elders
A Native American Elder is considered to be an individual who has an intimate relationship between the Great Spirit and the spiritual world. Due to this connection, they can guide individuals along the spiritual path that lets them rediscover themselves.
Many programs that support Native American addiction recovery employ elders and allow them input into the development and implementation of the programs.
The role of spirituality in native American addiction treatment is to help the individual regain the balance that has been lost. By showing how one can reconnect with the Great Spirit and the spiritual world, an understanding of how everything is interconnected allows those recovering from addiction to develop a harmonious relationship within themselves, their community, and their world.
Addiction Recovery for Native Americans
Are you seeking addiction recovery services that cater to native Americans? Good news is that there are more rehabs and treatment centers incorporating the spiritual practices and culture of indigenous populations.
Here at Sunrise Native Recovery, we’re dedicated to improving the native American community by honoring and incorporating evidence-based and culturally relevant modes of treatment. From spiritual practices to native music and art to cutting-edge addiction recovery treatments, we’re passionate about helping you get free from addiction, become more self-aware, and create the kind of life you truly desire.
Feel free to contact us today with any questions.