Spirituality and Recovery

spirituality and recovery

We are just weeks out since the Olympics were held. I’m always fascinated by the Olympics. In fact, for the few short weeks the games happen I’ll have it on my TV, laptop, iPad, and phone for instant updates. There’s something powerful about seeing the top athletes around the world competing in specialized events that normally I wouldn’t give the time of day. Their stories of triumph and tragedy are timeless, and the records they break are only as good as the next generation inspired to come along and break them.

The stories this past year were no different:

  • Dutch runner, Sifan Hassan experienced a runner’s worst nightmare when she fell during the first round of the women’s 1500 meter but did the improbable, she not only recovered but won her heat.
  • Simon Biles suffered from a case of the “twistys” (where a gymnast loses their sense of body control in the air) and having the mental strength to say “no” as well as “when.”
  • First-time medals for – San Merino, Bermuda, Philippines, and Turkmenistan.
  • Sunisa Lee became the first Hmong American to represent this country and then win gold!
  • Tom Daley did not medal in knitting but probably should have.
  • Lastly, Molly Siedel won the bronze in only her third marathon ever!

September is National Recovery Month. It’s spent helping educate Americans on the importance of mental health and addiction while also celebrating the achievements of those in recovery. For the millions of Americans whose storied lives have been transformed by recovery, each should be given a gold medal. Probably the one event most often used as an example for recovery is the marathon. To run a marathon, it requires preparation, strength, fuel, and focus, to be successful. Recovering from an addiction to a substance or process addiction or dealing with the daily issues of mental health can feel like a physical, emotional, and spiritual marathon.

Molly Siedel’s story connects both. Molly was a high school and college track star (cross country/5-10k) derailed by physical injuries and mental health issues. Molly suffered from OCD, anxiety, and depression, which she acknowledges contributed to a severe eating disorder. A few years ago, when most athletes at her level would have been signing the lucrative sneaker deals, she instead made the decision to enter treatment. She spent the next few years just focusing on her recovery. Molly is quoted from the podcast “Running on Om” by Julia Hanlon, “When you are in the midst of an eating disorder, it just takes up so much of your brain space all the time and I hate it. Today, I try to remind myself to not let it control my life — but it’s hard. But just like how my marathon training is hard at times, so is my recovery, and it’s something that I have to work up to.”

Spirituality and recovery go hand in hand when it comes to being compared to running a marathon. In both recovery and spirituality, most of us want the quick sprints and done like the self-help books: 5 ways to have the perfect prayer, 3 ways to detox from your addiction, or 0-60 seconds as a power meditator. This is not how life works. For spirituality to take hold it comes from the slow build, much like training for a marathon. Spiritual practices are the glue that it takes time to get comfortable feeling what you need to feel, especially if you’ve suddenly got a few emotions jumping in at the wrong time. It takes time to find the words for what you are experiencing and so instead of wrestling and straining to find the words to pray, we stay silent or give up entirely.

I believe personal stories can be powerful in motivating us to slow down and stay in the race of recovery for the long haul. One saying that is often heard during the Olympics is “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!” The stories and training methods of countless athletes live out this phrase; however, I believe every person in recovery embodies it. Recovery people deeply know pain and agony as well as the sweetness of victory. Every story has a little of both. My challenge to you is two-fold. One – read or listen deeply to one person’s recovery story this week. Two – find some way to share a little of your story – social media, small group, large gathering, or one-on-one.

You can hear several amazing recovery stories on the YouTube channel Stand 4 Recovery.


David Sellers, M.Div.

Runner’s Prayer

Watch over me today as I run.
This is the day and this is the time for the race.
Watch over my body. Keep it free from injury.
Watch over my mind.
May I listen to the signals from within as I enjoy the scenes from without.
Watch over my spirit.
Let me win.
Not by coming in ahead of my friends, but by beating myself.
Let it be an inner win. A battle won over me.
And may I say at the end, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race.
I have kept the faith.”

About David Sellers, Pine Grove Spirituality Coordinator

David Sellers served as associate pastor at Parkway Heights from 2005 to 2011. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a member of the Order of St. Luke and part of SDI (Spiritual Directors International). He has over 20 years of experience in ministry as a youth director, retreat leader, hospital chaplain and church pastor. He received his M.Div. from Emory University with emphasis in Spiritual Formation. David facilitates group and one-on-one spiritual direction across all programs at Pine Grove.

About Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services

Located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services is one of the nation’s most comprehensive treatment campuses. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs treat gender specific substance abuse including specialized tracks for co-occurring eating disorders and trauma. Additionally, Pine Grove offers an Intensive Outpatient substance abuse healing program for adults and a separate treatment program specifically for those who are age 55 plus. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual addiction. Inpatient Services including an Adult Psychiatric Unit, along with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, and Outpatient Services are other components. Pine Grove is a division of Forrest Health, a partnership of healthcare organizations across South Mississippi, and the behavioral healthcare extension of Forrest General Hospital, a 547 bed, level II Regional Trauma Center. Established in 1984, Pine Grove has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for 37 years. For more information, please visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com and call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673). 

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