Religion’s Role In Recovery

Faith comes in many different forms. Everyone is entitled to his or her own set of beliefs when it comes to religion, spirituality, or wherever you fall on the spectrum.

Many recovering drug addicts and alcoholics find that reconnecting with their faith helped during the hardest parts of getting clean and sober, and has paved the way for sustained recovery from mind-altering substances.

12 Step Programs

Religion's Role In RecoveryMany formal substance abuse treatment programs include working through the 12 Steps. There are always clients who do not feel connected to the message of the 12 Steps and refuse to adopt the idea of a higher power, a god, or a surrender to something greater than him or herself.

The takeaway from the 12 Steps, though, is to find what works for you. It may be the first exposure a newly sober person has ever had to religion in any form, or it may be a reintroduction to faith after living years without it. Resistance to it represents a desire to stay sick when really, letting go of resistance and figuring out how to have faith in your life again can be what begins and sustains your recovery.

A 51-year-old alcoholic turned priest shared his story in the book Uppers, Downers, All Arounders, written by Darryl S. Inaba, Pharm.D. and William E. Cohen. He says:

“People misunderstand spirituality. They mistake it for religion. Spirituality is people’s personal relationship with their higher power as they define him, her, or it. Religion is the way they practice their spirituality. My higher power is God as I learned of Him in my youth. For others, their higher power could be an ideal, a philosophy, the goodness within themselves, a great person they met in their lives, the stars, or the members of the 12-Step group itself.

It’s something greater than themselves that they can turn to to get help for their smothering addiction and to reconstruct their lives. It’s only when they give up the need to try to control everything in their lives and give up control to their higher power that they gain the power to overcome their addiction and say no to the first drink.”

Finding Your Spirituality

As this recovering alcoholic and priest puts it, spirituality is what you believe. A great step toward recovery is determining what the means for you. What do you believe, and what do you believe in? How can you live your spirituality instead of living addiction or alcoholism?

How you will go about practicing that set of beliefs in your everyday life? What will your religion be? According to the priest’s ideas, your religion can be anything you want it be, as long as it is supporting your spirituality.

Does the idea of a higher power appeal to you, or does it make you cringe? At this point, can you choose a higher power and begin the process of releasing control to him, her, or it? This work is not easy, and it is certainly a process, so be kind to yourself and proceed with compassion. Working with a therapist or counselor while in treatment, and as you start your life outside of treatment in recovery, is helpful in continuing to form and strengthen your spirituality and religion.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to go about this process. Finding what works best for you is what matters. Faith is your way of staying connected to something greater than yourself for your ultimate health and best chance at staying clean and sober.

Maybe one day you will be sharing your story of spirituality and religion with people in the early stages of recovery. Learning your method now will allow you to eventually pay it forward to someone who is just starting out on the difficult path of finding faith.

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