The Value of Spirituality in Addiction Recovery

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Those in addiction recovery recognize that addiction is a disease of the brain; chronic alcohol and drug use triggers long-lasting changes in brain structure and functioning. However, it is crucial to understand that addiction is also a disease of the spirit. Individuals who lack connection to their community or a power greater than themselves often fall victim to self-isolationist tendencies, including other self-destructive behaviors such as substance use. 

In addition, many people who engage in recurrent substance use feel lost or lack deeper meaning and purpose for their own life journey, often using alcohol and other drugs to cope. Therefore, to establish lasting healing from addiction, it can be especially beneficial to recognize the value of spirituality in addiction recovery. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, we want our clients to understand that spirituality can open many doors to lasting healing in sobriety. Still, despite its benefits, it does not mean that spirituality is necessary to achieve and sustain recovery. We are dedicated to honoring the unique needs of our clients in our treatment programs by providing individualized, customizable care. For those interested in exploring spirituality in addiction recovery, we are confident in our ability to offer valuable professional guidance and support. 

The Stigma of Religion and Spirituality in Addiction Recovery

For many reasons, individuals in recovery commonly dismiss the idea of religion and spirituality in addiction recovery. First and foremost, many individuals have grown up in households where religious ideals and beliefs were forced upon them, triggering experiences of religious trauma. Such trauma can be passed down through generations, leaving long-lasting impacts on an individual's sense of self and understanding of the world around them. 

Furthermore, many people may think that partaking in a spiritual or religious practice will clash with their beliefs or other societal norms. Therefore, adults, both young and old, may be weary at the thought of involving themselves in a practice that has brought so much pain in their lives. 

Those who share these experiences and beliefs may also share the misconception that spirituality and religion are synonymous terms. Here, it is vital to recognize that while there are crossovers between spirituality and religion, they do not define the same concepts. 

Spirituality and Religion: What's the Difference?

Despite spirituality and religion often being used interchangeably, they describe two different practices. According to an article by PLoS One, “[R]eligion involves an organized entity with rituals and practices focusing on a higher power or God.” In contrast, spirituality is a broader concept that “involves a personal quest for meaning in life.” To further understand the overlap and differences between spirituality and religion, here are some fast facts:

  • Spirituality
    • Involves an individual practice; centered around personal beliefs and practices
    • Practices are focused on honoring existence and creation while fostering a sense of peace and purpose
    • Allows for evolution and progression of beliefs
    • Origination of beliefs develops through life experiences (trial and error)
    • Knows no boundaries with self-discovery
    • Being vs. believing
  • Religion
    • Involves group or community practices; centered around specific sets of organized beliefs and practices that all members must follow
    • Practices are focused on honoring and respecting God or another Higher Power while fostering a sense of place and purpose
    • Little room for the progression of beliefs, as a religious belief system is often predefined
    • Origination of beliefs develops from religious founders or through parables
    • Salvation is on the line
    • Believing vs. being

Another way to understand the crossover between spirituality and religion is that a spiritual person may or may not be religious, whereas a religious person is almost always spiritual. Certainly, religion connects individuals with deeper meaning and purpose for their lives. However, spirituality does so in a way that is more individualized and often less intimidating. 

The Benefits of Religion and Spirituality in Addiction Recovery

Research has confirmed the incredible benefits of religion and spirituality in addiction recovery. One study by the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment conducted a sample size of 236 individuals in addiction recovery to explore the relationship between religious faith, spirituality, and mental health outcomes. The study found that “recovering individuals tend to report high levels of religious faith and religious affiliation, but choose to rate themselves as being more spiritual than religious.” 

Additionally, results indicated that those who reported higher levels of religious faith and spirituality experienced the following outcomes:

  • More optimistic life orientation
  • Greater perceived social support
  • Higher resilience to stress
  • Lower levels of anxiety

Further, other studies have addressed the value of spirituality, specifically in addiction recovery, finding that spiritual practices can offer the opportunity for individuals to discover new life meaning and deeper purpose for their sobriety. Moreover, spirituality has also been shown to increase treatment adherence and engagement as well as prevent relapse throughout long-term recovery. 

Incorporating Spirituality in Treatment and Recovery

There are many things that individuals can do to strengthen their spiritual journey, especially those in addiction recovery. Here are some suggestions:

  • Implementing daily mindfulness practices: Practicing yoga, meditating, or actively listening when talking to others can encourage a person to fully engage with the present moment.
  • Volunteering: Serving others can greatly enhance a person's purpose and meaning for sobriety.
  • Practicing gratitude: Saying “thank you,” writing letters, or showing appreciation through gifts can all be beneficial for enhancing an individual's spiritual nature. 
  • Explore nature: Interacting with creation can foster feelings of gratitude, contentment, and connection, which can all work to prevent relapse in recovery. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, we are passionate about helping clients instill daily practices to strengthen connections with themselves and others. For those it suits, spirituality can be an exceptional practice supporting long-lasting recovery. 

Addiction is a disease of not only the brain but also the spirit. For this reason, both spirituality and religion can be beneficial in addiction recovery, as they can foster a sense of peace and purpose for sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling with self-isolationist tendencies and other self-destructive behaviors in recovery, consider incorporating spiritual practices into your daily routine. At Pathways Recovery Center, we can help you adopt valuable mindfulness strategies that can make your sobriety worthwhile. Still, we understand that spirituality is not for everyone, and it is not necessary to thrive at Pathways. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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Call: 1 (888) 711 0966

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