Spiritual Guidance in Addiction Recovery

Spiritual Guidance in Addiction Recovery

Because substance use disorder (SUD) is a complicated disease, it takes a toll on your body, mind, and spirit. Oftentimes, it causes a noticeable division between these parts of yourself. A successful recovery from SUDs depends on restoring the connections between body, mind, and spirit. 

Many people recovering from addiction report that spirituality has a positive impact, although not much is known about whether or how spirituality could be included in formal treatment. It might also be a touchy issue for people who do not believe themselves to be religious. Learn more about using the concept of spirituality and addiction treatment to have a healthy recovery.

What is Spirituality?

The concept of spirituality has been around for a long time. In that amount of time, it has earned a variety of definitions and played a role in the lives of many people. It was viewed as therapy in ancient Greece. A place where people went to find relief when they were distressed or in pain. 

Other people have described it as a basic human drive for meaning and purpose that makes us feel connected to ourselves, to others, and ultimately, to reality. A common definition for spirituality is that it is our breath, our life essence, therefore who we are. The co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W., said that spirituality is generally about our belief in a power or force greater than what we are as individuals. It connects us all in some cosmic and universal way.

Spirituality and Addiction Recovery

Early in recovery, individuals frequently see and hear the word “spirituality.” During recovery, spirituality refers to getting in touch with the part of human existence that is outside of your realm. You can consider it an exploration of your personal relationship with the grand universe and a reaching out to something bigger than yourself. Despite the lack of an exact definition, spirituality has been shown to be an important and independent predictor of recovery and improvement in treatment outcome. Some of the effects of spirituality are:

  • Levels of spirituality increase between the time an individual enters treatment and their recovery.
  • Spirituality levels might be greater in individuals whose recovery is successful compared to people who have relapsed.
  • The duration of sobriety has also been positively associated with spirituality.
  • Commitment to a higher power may reduce the severity of relapses.
  • Individuals in recovery commonly report spirituality as an important part of their recovery efforts and help them preserve the changes they made during treatment.

Spirituality in Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

There is more to addiction than being dependent on a substance, but it’s the dependence that keeps the body and brain addicted to drugs or alcohol. However, if that’s all there was to addiction, there would be no relapses. An individual with SUD could go through detox and that would be the end of the addiction. 

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. A detox can clear your body of toxins and therapy can help you recover emotionally, but the spirit also needs treatment. That’s where spirituality comes in.

People go back to substance use for any number of reasons. It may be after days or even years of sobriety. While there are various theories about treatment for SUDs, many people believe a spiritual component is necessary for recovery. People are more likely to lose hope for the future without spirituality. When they lose hope, they frequently give up and relapse.

Spirituality and Religion in Recovery

Among people recovering from SUD, a new study found that higher levels of spirituality and religious faith were connected with several positive mental health outcomes. This includes more optimism about life and a better rebound from stress, which may help contribute to the recovery process.

The study involved 236 people who were recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. It represents the largest self-report study ever done that examined the relationship between religious faith, spirituality, and mental health outcomes among people in recovery from substance abuse. 

The results of the study showed that greater religious faith and spirituality are associated with:

  • Increased coping
  • Higher resilience to stress
  • An optimistic life view
  • Greater perceived social support
  • Lower levels of anxiety

The study also found that recovering individuals tend to claim high levels of religious faith and affiliation. On the other hand, they describe themselves as being more spiritual than religious. Thus, it appears that spirituality and religiosity have different healing benefits to people recovering from substance abuse. The study suggested that spirituality contributes to a more optimistic outlook on life and religious faith is a stress buffer. But still, the theory of spirituality and how it is different from religiosity is still vague. 

Spirituality and Addiction Recovery: The Holistic Approach

Substance abuse treatment in the early days was mainly about detoxification. The body was cleared of toxins from alcohol or drugs and the newly sober patient was sent out to fend for themselves. Following that, it was found that psychological treatment was needed for recovery. 

Thereafter, several types of counseling were practiced, including cognitive behavioral therapy and other talk therapies. But more recently, treatment facilities have begun putting holistic therapies into practice. By using this approach, the physical, emotional, and spiritual sides of the recovering addict are connected.

A holistic approach understands that all parts of the person are linked. Anything that affects one part of the person also affects another part. For example, if you don’t exercise regularly, your mood may sour and slow your spiritual progress. In the same way, having a cup of coffee with a friend can lift your mood and make you more moved to exercise or meditate. 

Increasing Spirituality in Recovery

There are seven suggestions for pairing spirituality and addiction recovery. They are:

A Sense of Purpose

Studies have shown that when a person has a greater focus on purpose in life, that purpose has a positive effect on treatment outcomes. Seeing a bigger picture can be a huge benefit to a successful recovery.

Making a Contribution

Research has shown that giving to others actually makes us feel better. Helping other people can be a way of helping yourself. You also get outside of your own head and your insecurities when you are doing something for others.

Bring Mindfulness and Meditation to Your Recovery

Meditation and mindfulness have been shown to improve treatment results. Meditation can release muscle tension and reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Mindfulness, living in the present moment, not focusing on the past or future, helps center and focus thoughts while reducing stress.

Connect to Something Greater

Bringing an isolated person to the realization that they are not alone when they’re by themselves is a spiritual idea that helps many people with an addiction. Isolation can drive people farther into their addiction. For people that don’t believe in a God, finding something greater is still possible as long as you are open-minded, meditate or pray, help people, and keep searching for something bigger than yourself.

Establish Yourself in a Community

Addiction is lonely and isolating. Finding your way back to being in a community of people who are just going about daily life and interacting with them is a big step in getting your life back. Connecting with a community and building a relationship with others are early, important steps in recovery.

Practice Gratitude

Focusing on and being grateful for the things you have can bring positivity to your life. Besides feeling positive emotions, practicing gratitude is associated with physical muscle relaxation. Grateful people are less depressed and stressed and have a greater sense of belonging.


Being accountable for your actions, to your higher power, or to your own sense of right and wrong helps you stay on course and be a more purposeful and productive member of the community. Staying honest with your loved ones and yourself helps you keep yourself accountable.

The Four Components of Addiction Treatment

  1. Spirituality and Religion
  2. Psychotherapists and Traumatists
  3. Neuroscientists and Biologists
  4. Environmentalists and Social Scientists

Each of these components has been beneficial in the search for a method to deal with our addiction problem. However, focusing on only one or another to find a solution is a flawed approach. Focusing on one main cause for all addictions overlooks the fact that all parts matter and that each person is unique in this many-sided problem. But still, there is value in each of the components, and parts of each can be used to make a difference for individuals in recovery.

Importance of The Four Factors

Spiritual growth includes a connection to people, the world, and a higher purpose than oneself. It also includes values like trust, faith, respect, self-expression, and self-respect. These are the things that are necessary to an addicted person who might be struggling with low self-esteem and isolation. But when dealing with addiction, a complex solution including all four components is needed, not just the religion and spirituality segment.

Which One Is More Important?

There is no right answer to this question. The mix of underlying issues in addiction end up being psychological, biological, environmental, and spiritual for different people at different times in their recovery. The answer can’t be simplified and that is why many people get left out of the existing treatment system. That is why nearly 90% of people struggling with addiction aren’t getting appropriate help for it. This is a larger gap between diagnosis and treatment than that experienced in cancer.

This means that many current treatment providers only treat addiction with a single component-the one in which they specialize plus occasionally, one other. By widening the approach, more people can beat the problem of addiction. A single explanation can never completely explain a problem as complicated as addiction. Likewise, there is rarely a single method of recovery. 

Finding Your Spiritual Side

You don’t have to be engaged in religious practice to look into your spiritual side. Some people use religion as their pathway to spirituality, but some don’t. You shouldn’t underestimate the possibilities of spirituality in recovery. No matter how you go about it, you will see the positive effects. Try the seven suggestions to increase your spirituality. You may find that something has been missing from your life when you turn to your spiritual side.

Treating Your Whole Self at Rock Recovery

If you or someone close to you is suffering from a substance use disorder, there is only one answer. You need to get help at a treatment facility that treats your body, mind, and spirit. At Rock Recovery Center, we recognize that you are an individual and deserve a program that can treat your whole self. 

We use holistic treatment approaches along with evidence-based therapies. From our Partial Hospitalization Program to Sober Living, we offer levels of care so you have the full support of our experienced staff on your steps to recovery and lasting sobriety. Contact us now. We’re available every day of the week and have an admissions hotline available 24 hours a day.