Why does addiction recovery require spirituality?

Addiction can be viewed in terms of biology, psychology, sociology, culture and chemical conditions. But what about our spiritual natures? We explore here.

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Why Addiction Recovery Needs Spirituality

Addictions come in all types: drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, shopping, and the internet. They are complex and very person-dependent. Addictions – and recovery, for that matter – can be viewed in terms of biology, psychology, sociology, culture and chemical conditions. However, an equally essential understanding of addiction is the spiritual aspect.

Here, we explore what it means to seek recovery and integrate a spiritual dimension into your “work on self”. Then, we invite your questions or comments about how drugs and alcohol affect you spiritually at the end.

Defining Spirituality

Spirituality is not particularly easy to define. It tends to be kept separate from formal religion, but retains some common ground. Looking on the internet for a definition brings back multiple pages of opinions. One of the simplest is that of Dr. Elfie Hinterkop, Ph.D., who feels it is essential to define spirituality because of its importance in working with clients during counseling. His describes spirituality as:

“A subtle, bodily feeling with vague meanings that brings new, clearer meanings involving a transcendent growth process”

Well, maybe that isn’t simple, but it does hit upon the importance of spirituality and spiritual development, as well as its elusiveness.

Debating the Value of Spirituality in Addiction Recovery

A recent article in the New York Times drew some interesting parallels between spirituality during active addiction, as well as in the recovery period. The connection to active addiction was in psychologist William James view that using drugs or alcohol seems to open up a spiritual connection, or at least a sense of one. He also is in agreement with modern treatment professionals that this isn’t a good way to live one’s life, and creates more problems in the long run.

Another important discussion presented is that when spirituality is fostered from an early age, young adults have more resources to draw upon. However, what research has proven in multiple modern studies, is that finding a connection to a higher power, or to a deeper sense of self, is a way to live a life of recovery from an addiction.

Examples of Spirituality as Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Spirituality in addiction recovery should be considered a gold standard part of professional care. But what can that look like in terms of practical and applicable therapies? Three main examples follow.

1. The 12 Step Program

The 12 Steps and 12 Step Groups are also steeped in spirituality and the idea of a Higher Power. As spirituality is explored and strengthened it also becomes a useful tool, present and portable in times of stress when human support is not available.

2. Finding your purpose

Spirituality also assists those in recovery from an addiction by developing purpose and meaning. This isn’t always an easy task. During the active period of substance use, a dysfunctional purpose in life centered in drugs and alcohol. In the post-detox and treatment period, and into recovery, exploring a personal spirituality can also help consider new personal purposes and meaning.

3. Holistic approaches

Holistic drug and alcohol rehab centers place emphasis on the integration (and balanced wellness) of the mind, body and spirit. It puts spirituality on a separate standing from psychology or emotion, and specific interventions are meant for you to explore what this means for you.

The ongoing development of a spiritual culture

As more research is done on spirituality in early life (independent of religion), it will be interesting to see potential changes in the rates of addiction in society. In addition, how does early spiritual training relate to the types of underlying reasons for addictions. Spirituality will never be a one-stop cure for an addiction. However, it can be a way to instill at an earlier age the ability to meet stress and challenges in a different way, with more positive outcomes.

About the author
Jake Sandino is a writer focused within the realm of addiction and substance abuse. He achieved his own recovery through a holistic alcohol and drug rehab approach.
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