As a disease that thrives on isolation, addiction will destroy even the most reliable relationships in your life, including your connection with God. “Addiction takes everything away from you, including your faith,” explains Dr. Brooks, Chief People Officer at Vertava Health. “It doesn’t care what your purpose is or what connections you have beyond yourself. It only cares about tearing you down.” While a crisis of faith can make recovery from addiction feel out of reach, incorporating your belief in a higher power into addiction treatment will provide support, comfort, and guidance on your path to sobriety.
The Role Of Religion In Addiction Recovery
Addiction will put your faith in jeopardy and make you question your relationship with a higher power. Many people suffering from addiction blame their higher power for their disease and suffering. These religious doubts can cause a deep spiritual scar. In order to truly heal, you will need to work through your spiritual doubts and reconnect with God. Additionally, including faith and religion can be the catalyst to finding your sense of self again after addiction treatment. “During active addiction, your purpose in life was to feed your disease, but faith can restore your self-worth and give you a new sense of purpose,” says Dr. Brooks. A renewed sense of purpose is vital to a successful recovery. Without it, your sobriety can feel dull and meaningless. These feelings will likely cause you to relapse. While there has been very little research completed on the relationship between religion and sobriety, most of the studies available show that incorporating faith into recovery can have a positive effect. [middle-callout] According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center, participants who reported “increases in day-to-day spiritual experiences” were less likely to engage in drinking episodes three months later. A similar study found that individuals who were still sober after treatment showed greater levels of faith than those who had relapsed. Religion can also provide the mental and emotional support that is essential to sobriety. Instead of facing recovery challenges alone, you can look to a higher power for guidance and encouragement. When you give your fears and uncertainties up to God or a higher power, you may find that he or she already has a plan for you. “Knowing that we have a place in the world is inspiring, but also humbling,” says Dr. Brooks. “It helps us to know that just because something is a problem today, there is always hope for the future.”
Practicing Faith In Addiction Recovery
While many recovery programs include optional religious components, improving your relationship with a higher power requires attention daily. “When I was 11 years old, I came to the realization that God was real,” states Dalton, the devotion leader at Vertava Health facility, “but I grew up in a house where God was only real on Sundays, and that’s no way to live.” Some simple ways that you can work to improve your faith daily include:
- sharing faith with others
- remaining teachable
- cherishing the little things
- giving thanks
- reading religious works
These small daily practices will help you make spiritual progress while keeping you grounded in your recovery. “Religion is a day-by-day relationship,” he says. “It’s not about going to church or a mosque or a temple. You don’t have to confess your sins to a priest. All you have to do is talk to God.” When he’s not teaching wilderness therapy, Dalton hosts weekly devotional groups and a church service every Sunday at Vertava Health to encourage others to incorporate religion into their addiction treatment program. While religion isn’t right for everyone, those who do incorporate spirituality into their recovery display lower levels of anxiety, higher stress tolerance, more optimism and greater perceived levels of social support than others, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery. “[Religion] gives you the hope for tomorrow, it gives you the hope for next year, it gives you the hope for 20 years down the road,” explains Dalton. “Through faith, you can remain sober.” Regardless of how you choose to express your faith, your practice should always be grounded in love and compassion while guiding you closer to your purpose in life.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) And The 12-Step Program
Founded in 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous has become the most widely-recognized faith-based recovery program. The primary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help those struggling with alcohol addiction remain sober by guiding them through a series of 12 steps, each designed to help those in recovery grows spiritually and emotionally. The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are meant to be completed in order. You cannot move on to the next step until you have fully grasped the one before it. The 12 Steps are completed in the following order:
- Admit that you are powerless over alcohol.
- Believe that a higher power can restore you to sanity.
- Turn your will and your lives over to the care of God.
- Take a fearless moral inventory of yourself.
- Admit your mistakes to God and yourself.
- Be ready for God to remove all these defects of character.
- Ask God to remove your shortcomings.
- Make a list of all the people you harmed in active addiction and be willing to make amends with them.
- Make direct amends with the people on your list.
- Continue to take personal inventory and admit when you are wrong.
- Use prayer and meditation to continually improve your relationship with God.
- Have a spiritual awakening.
Although the program has garnered criticism throughout the years because of its emphasis on God, millions of people in recovery still use Alcoholics Anonymous for support, guidance, and sobriety. When asked what he would say to those still struggling with addiction, Dalton bows his head and prays, “No matter what you’ve been through, no matter what you’ve done, He’ll accept you and He’ll start to fix you. Just have a little bit of faith —faith the size of a mustard seed— and we can see mountains moved.” [bottom-inline-cta]
Let Religion Work In Your Recovery
Religion will play a big role in addiction recovery for those who choose to incorporate a faith component, but it is often paired with other, traditional forms of treatment. Some of these treatment methods include counseling, therapy, and medication. For more information on how religion or faith can work in your recovery, contact us today.