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The Link Between Addiction Treatment, Religion, and Spirituality

 

Addiction takes over your body, mind, and spirit. It leads to confusion and commonly results in repeated cycles of disappointment and hardship. The solution to breaking this pattern most often requires that you seek external help.

Asking for help with a drug or alcohol problem, however, isn’t always easy. It requires you to accept that you can’t fight the addiction on your own, and that in and of itself, takes a certain level of humility and introspection. Contrary to what you might think, acknowledging that you need a helping hand to conquer your personal demons is very empowering, and accepting that help is one of the steps you need to take to overcome your addiction.

Seek Help from Others to Overcome Addiction

Resolving to rely on more than just your own willpower and strength to get better, is not easy. In fact, it will most likely be difficult and feel unnatural. Your addiction developed the more you isolated yourself and tried managing life on your own so looking outward for help may seem counter intuitive. Yet, it is key as you break out of the vicious cycle that comes from focusing solely on your desire for whatever it is you’re addicted to. When battling addiction, you may have an obsession of getting high, finding your next fix, covering your tracks, and trying to keep a semblance of normal life. When you reach a point where you are tired of losing to your addiction and you are able to acknowledge that you need a hand to pull you out of the hole you’re in, that is the best time to act quickly and seek help.

Spirituality May Help

For many people, focusing on the spiritual aspect of life can be a very healthy way to try and search for help, although it shouldn’t be used as your sole means of getting over an addiction. Many treatment programs are available to addicts seeking recovery and focus on psychological, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Historically, spirituality has played a significant role in addiction recovery and treatment. If you walk into an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting, it’s not unusual to hear people talking about drawing strength from belief in a higher power.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality can encompass a wide range of religions, philosophies, and belief systems, incorporating themes such as discovering the meaning of life and exploring our purpose in the world, making healthy decisions that benefit the body and mind, and connecting with powers or entities that are more powerful than ourselves. Everyone’s experience is different and the journey to spiritual peace and enlightenment is a very personal one. One common theme of many spiritual lifestyles is the importance of respecting your body and seeking the strength to live in a way that will make you happy and healthy for the rest of your life, and that can require both sacrifice and inner strength to accomplish.

Addiction tends to keep people focused on their own short-term desires and urges, and often when people seek refuge in alcohol and drugs, they’re desperately trying to control a part of their life that is too overwhelming for them to cope with on their own. Practicing spirituality requires you to admit that you are not strong enough to cope on your own and that you need the strength and wisdom of a higher power. While taking that step can be very difficult to do, many people who have taken it will say that this decision was the turning point that saved their lives. Letting go and effectively handing your mental reigns over to something more powerful can be an uncomfortable experience, but it can lead to peace, mindfulness, and the inspiration you need to change.

Spirituality isn’t a fit for everyone, and many people are uncomfortable with the idea of letting it play a part in their addiction recovery for a number of reasons. Not everyone identifies as religious, and many people have been harmed, traumatized or discriminated against by religious organizations and have no wish to be in that position again. Some people simply don’t believe there’s anything more to life than what we see around us, while others have already done enough soul searching to know that the idea of a higher power just doesn’t fit with the way that they see the world. Everyone’s path through life is different, and spirituality is only one of many ways of finding support for an addiction. There’s no shame in deciding that it isn’t the right path for you.

Those who already feel some affinity with the idea of a higher power may find that looking at their problems within the context of spirituality is both healing and reinvigorating. For many people, the process of reaching out beyond their own strength can make all the difference to their recovery.

Religion and Spirituality Are Not Always the Same

Although they’re often linked together, spirituality and religion are not always synonymous, and people who describe themselves as spiritual do not always follow a specific creed. Religion involves belief in and deference to a particular god, and requires the observance of a variety of rules and rituals. Spirituality is often seen more as a personal search for meaning that encompasses connections with other living things and the experience of a power beyond oneself. In essence, religion is more of a group approach to belief in a particular power. Spirituality is more of an individual journey that may incorporate a wide range of ideas, beliefs, and experiences.

Use of God, Spirituality, and Religion in Substance Abuse Treatment

Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous utilize spiritual concepts in their 12 Step Program, a well-known recovery model that calls for spirituality-based actions such as personal searching, meditation, and prayer. The first step asks people to admit that they are powerless over their own addiction and need outside support to get better. The second and third steps encourage people to turn to a higher power or support system to help overcome personal shortcomings and weaknesses, seeking forgiveness from others, and praying or meditating for strength and knowledge.

Faith and spirituality can serve other purposes in recovery. They can give people the courage to cope with the things that are driving them towards substance abuse in the first place, encourage them to focus their energy outwards and be more aware of the needs and feelings of others, and help them to shift the focus of their lives towards more positive things. This is often helped by the group aspect of 12 Step Program, as people find support and inspiration in the people taking this journey with them.

Spiritual intervention has been making real contributions to addiction treatment for a long time. Many studies have shown that spirituality can be a positive factor in addiction recovery. especially when blended with other forms of addiction treatment to provide a comprehensive recovery package.

Why is Spirituality, God, and Religion Important in Addiction Recovery

Addiction causes you to focus your energy inwards, isolating yourself from the world and from those around you. Exploring spirituality or religion sets you in the context of the wider world, showing where your life touches others. This connection with the rest of the world and whatever higher power you believe in can help to make your problems less overwhelming and recovery more possible. It can also redirect your focus, shifting your mind away from the daily cycle of drug or alcohol abuse towards something healthier and more enjoyable.

Robin Butler Hall is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Nationally Certified Counselor (NPC). She has over 10 years of experience in program development, counseling, treatment planning, case management, crisis intervention, human relations, education and training, team building, community outreach, and curricula development.

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