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Exploring the Role of Spirituality in Long-Term Sobriety


January 19, 2018

It is not uncommon to think of addiction as having physical, mental, and spiritual components. Frequently, religious and spiritual practices suffer or fall by the wayside entirely during active addiction.

This is not to say that addiction is a spiritual problem that can only be overcome with a purely spiritual solution. Nor is it to say that sobriety automatically makes a person “right with God.” For people with religious or spiritual convictions, addiction recovery tends to produce a sense of being more spiritually centered, and closer to what they see as the right spiritual track, and that is a good thing. There are risks, however, of placing disproportionate emphasis on spirituality in addiction recovery.

Dangers of Thinking Addiction Equals Spiritual Failure

Thinking of addiction and recovery in purely spiritual terms puts a person at greater risk of relapse than does considering addiction as a physical affliction with mental and spiritual consequences. Under the best of circumstances, recovery is an arduous process, and that is without people with an addiction thinking of themselves as being “spiritually impure” or falling short by the tenets of their religion. Unearned guilt is a heavy burden to bear, whether in addiction or in sobriety.

Self-Identified Spiritually-Oriented People Find Spirituality Helpful in Recovery

That said, people who already consider themselves to be spiritually oriented or religious find having a spiritual component to the addiction recovery process to be beneficial. Specifically, one group of addicts who considered themselves to be religious or spiritual found that integrating a voluntary spiritual discussion group into their addiction treatment program was helpful to them.

The good news for the spiritually inclined is that people tend to feel more spiritual as they progress through addiction treatment and begin lives of sobriety. Furthermore, commitment to a higher power, however one defines it, is associated with relapse episodes that are less severe. So there is no reason to banish spiritual discussion from addiction treatment and aftercare.

Addiction recovery

When freely chosen, spiritual self-work during addiction treatment can be beneficial.

The Key Is That Spirituality Aids Long-Term Recovery When Freely Chosen

It is crucial to note, however, that spirituality aids with recovery and sobriety when it is freely chosen as part of a comprehensive addiction recovery program. Purely faith-based treatment, particularly when it is assigned and not freely chosen, is not scientifically proven to assist with addiction recovery. Such programs may provide cover for unproven methods delivered by untrained people, and the content of faith-based addiction recovery programs depends heavily on the philosophy of the treatment provider, which may be foreign or bewildering to some people with addictions.

Do Not Let Religious Guilt Compromise Addiction Recovery

Whether or not you consider yourself to be a religious or spiritually-oriented person, it is essential that you do not allow religious guilt to compromise your recovery. The medical and scientific consensus is that addiction is a physical illness that is often diagnosed alongside mental illnesses and can be successfully treated in these contexts.

Some people find that addiction recovery increases the strength of their faith as they pursue lives of sobriety, and these people should be encouraged for their progress. At the same time, however, people who do not consider themselves spiritual, or who do not believe in God, should not feel as if they are missing a critical component of recovery.

When spirituality helps people in their addiction recovery, that is a great thing. However, it should not be considered mandatory or used to inflict guilt on people whose approaches to life do not involve religion or spirituality. If you need to talk about life in addiction recovery, we invite you to contact us today.

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