Contributor: Staff at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center
Nurturing the spirit can have a powerful impact on a person who is in recovery from addiction, even if they aren’t affiliated with a specific religion. When paired with treatment methods that address the mind and body, spirituality or religion can play a critical role in the addiction recovery process.
Spirituality Versus Religion
While some might lump spirituality and religion together, they are actually separate aspects of faith that can impact a person in different ways.
Spirituality involves pursuing greater meaning in your life and having an openness to something larger than yourself, whether that be the universe, nature, a god, or a group of gods. Religion, on the other hand, allows you to develop a relationship with a specific deity through an organized system of beliefs [1, 2].
When it comes to addiction treatment, spirituality and religion can intersect in many ways — or not at all. Some faith-based addiction treatment programs offer a more spiritual component that focuses on mindfulness and connecting with the inner self, while other programs allow patients to deepen their relationship with a specific faith.
Faith and Recovery
Many addiction treatment programs across the country incorporate spirituality or religion — and for good reason. Years of research point to the efficacy of cultivating the spirit while in recovery from addiction.
One common element among some of the studies is that achieving a spiritual awakening while in treatment for an addiction has helped some people remain in recovery longer and resist relapse.
After interviewing nearly 600 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) participants, researchers discovered that those who had a spiritual awakening after three years in the program had more successful outcomes than those who did not report having a spiritual awakening . In another study, researchers found that AA participants who had a spiritual awakening while taking part in the program were three times more likely to resist relapse .
For others, the teachings, prayers, and readings that are often a part of faith-based addiction treatment programs can have a compelling effect on their ability to resist relapse. A study of long-term AA members who had also said that they had a spiritual awakening reported that participants felt fewer alcohol cravings after reading a prayer they had learned in AA .
Some people already have a religious or spiritual foundation in their life, and they often build on this framework when they take part in a faith-based addiction treatment program. But having a previous religious affiliation isn’t necessary to benefit from this type of program. Anyone can take part in a faith-based addiction treatment program, even if they have never practiced a religion or cultivated their spirituality.
The Power of Faith
So, what makes faith such an effective tool in the addiction recovery process? Whether tied to a specific religion or part of a person’s growing spirituality, these are just some of the ways faith can complement other evidence-based treatment methods [1, 3]:
- Discover purpose and meaning – Addiction can make a person feel like they have lost hope, but when they believe in something greater than themselves, it can sometimes help them rediscover purpose and meaning in their life.
- Build resilience – By cultivating their spiritual selves, many people develop the inner strength to manage intense emotions and stressful situations. Experts call this increased recovery capital, and it can help a person remain in recovery longer.
- Learn mindfulness – Whether through prayer, meditation, or journaling, many faith-based addiction treatment programs teach people to be more present in each moment. Participants learn to observe their feelings without judgment, allowing them to start managing those emotions in healthier ways.
- Seek forgiveness – Forgiveness is often a component of faith-based addiction treatment programs, whether a person is seeking forgiveness from those they hurt or from themselves, or they are forgiving those who hurt them. This is a part of processing past trauma, allowing them to take steps forward in their recovery.
- Give back – Many faith-based addiction treatment programs include a volunteer component, but others may offer different ways for participants to give back to their communities. This gives participants a way to right some of the wrongs they may have done while under the influence of substances and to be a part of something larger than themselves.
The path to recovery is different for everyone, and some find a spiritual component comforting and empowering. If you think that a faith-based addiction treatment program might be right for you, there are many options available that can accommodate different backgrounds and needs. By doing some research, you can find a faith-based program that is right for you.
 Galanter, M., Hansen, H., & Potenza, M. (2021). The role of spirituality in addiction medicine: A position statement from the spirituality interest group of the international society of addiction medicine, Substance Abuse, 42(3), 269-271, DOI: 10.1080/08897077.2021.1941514.
 Grim, B. J., & Grim, M. E. (2019). Belief, behavior, and belonging: How faith is indispensable in preventing and recovering from substance abuse. Journal of Religion and Health, 58(5), 1713–1750. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-019-00876-w.
 Hartney, E. (2021, January 21). A higher power, spirituality, and addiction recovery. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/a-higher-power-spirituality-and-addiction-22388.
About Our Sponsor:
At Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, located outside of Chicago, Illinois, we provide specialized care for women and girls who are living with mental health conditions such as substance use disorders and eating disorders. Our private facility offers female-only treatment programs for eating disorders, addiction, and a range of mental health conditions. We work closely with each person to develop treatment goals to maximize strengths while focusing on individual needs. Our treatment team understands that each woman has unique needs and that she must play a role in her journey to wellness.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on December 2, 2021
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 2, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com