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The Role of Spirituality in Recovery from Addiction

Many people who are in recovery from addiction or alcoholism attribute a great deal of their success in freedom from drugs and drinking to the inclusion of spirituality in their recovery program. In fact, most addiction treatment centers feature spirituality as a prominent part of their programs. And while there are other keys to long-lasting recovery – such as a strong support network, family, daily reflections, taking regular personal inventories and attending various therapies, addicts and alcoholics who relapse often state that it was the loss of their spirituality that eventually caused them to use again. However, many people confuse spirituality with religion and refuse to partake in this critical recovery component. Understanding the difference and making spirituality an essential focus of any recovery program could mean the difference between a lifetime of freedom from addiction and years of repeated relapses.

Spirituality is not the same as religion. Religion refers to an organized, highly regimented set of very specific beliefs and practices that are followed by a certain group of people. Spirituality is not organized and can be practiced by any person at any time, without rules or restrictions. Spirituality refers to the recognition that there is something greater than you – whatever that may be. For some people it may be a god of sorts, for others it may be the power of nature or the mysteriousness of the universe, and for some it may be an indescribable feeling that lies within. Whatever the case may be, spirituality is primarily about a power that is greater than you. And during the throes of active addiction, this could be many different things – things that could change over time.

The fundamental relationship between spirituality and recovery is the powerlessness that people experience in relation to their addictions, and how spirituality can help restore this imbalance through the recognition and incorporation of a higher power in a person’s life. This is primarily because while addiction is a progressive clinical disease, it is also a condition of an improperly balanced sense of spirituality. In fact, in a comprehensive series of interviews with recovering addicts conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of the key findings was that:

“Addiction is rooted in a physical, mental and spiritual imbalance. There is a necessity for a substance abuse treatment model that gives credence to the mind-body-spirit connection.” (1)

Based upon this and similar studies, it’s easy to see that if a damaged sense of spirituality (or lack thereof) contributed to addiction or alcoholism, then including spirituality as part of the healing and recovery process is the logical and proper method of addressing this basic human need. This is especially true considering that the human condition is generally described as the perpetual seeking of answers and higher truths in order to achieve peacefulness within – meaning that addict or not, spirituality is critical for everyone.

When it comes to recovery from addiction or alcoholism, one of the most important functions that spirituality can serve is the fellowship of like-minded people. Sharing similar views and beliefs – especially among a group of other recovering individuals – helps to build a strong support system and provides a feeling of camaraderie, inclusion and fellowship; all of which are necessary for lasting recovery.

Finally, denial is widely considered to be a severe problem for addicts and alcoholics. And while it may be easy to disguise the truth to others, it’s difficult to remain in denial when practicing spirituality as part of a daily recovery program. If you need help to discover or regain spirituality for yourself and break free from the chains of addiction, all you have to do is reach out for help. Pick up the phone right now and call the number at the top of your screen. We’re here 24 hours per day, and the call is free. Ask about our inpatient treatment, alcohol rehab, or just tell us what’s going on with you. We can’t help if you don’t call.

(1) Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Publications and Research: Spirituality has a Role in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs, Maryland Researchers Say December 2007
http://www.rwjf.org/reports/grr/055830.htm
Accessed 06/15/2011

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