The Spiritual Approach to Addiction

When it comes to treating addiction there are many options. Unfortunately there seems to be no one method that works for everyone. One approach that has worked well for a lot of people involves taking advantage of spirituality. Advocates claim that it not only helps people escape from addiction, but that it also helps them build a satisfying life in recovery. 12 Step groups are the most successful of all these faith based treatments.

Faith Based Treatments Defined

To say that a treatment is faith based means that it uses the power of spirituality to help the addict beat their addiction. This doesn’t have to be a program devoted to a particular religion. It can just use a vague concept of a higher power. Spirituality can be difficult to define, but one way to think of it is as a power outside of the physical body. Some people will look upon this power as a God or gods or some other kind of spirits. Others may see it as a force within nature. The main idea within faith based treatments is that there is a power greater than the individual, and that this will be able to help them with their problems.

Twelve Step Groups

Support groups like AA use the twelve steps as a program for living free of addiction. The second step describes how members need to believe that a power greater than themselves can restore them to sanity. The addict is then asked to turn their life and their will over to God – as they understand this term. As an oft repeated AA quote puts it, God is doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

Twelve step groups emphasize the benefits of a spiritual experience to help the individual escape their addiction. What is meant here is not a visit by angels, or anything too supernatural (though that is not disallowed, and some have claimed such experiences). At the least the spiritual experience is a change to the individual which can happen over a long period of time. For those people who knew the individual as an addict it can appear as if a miracle has occurred.

The Importance of Spirituality

It is claimed that addiction is not only a physical and mental disorder, but also a spiritual one. If this is true then any program that lacks a spiritual dimension will not be addressing the full needs of the individual. In AA there is even the suggestion that the only hope for an alcoholic is spirituality; they need a power greater than themselves to defeat their disease. This belief in the requirement of spirituality to escape addiction is not universally accepted. There appears to be many individuals who recover yet claim not to have relied on any such help or program. It may be then that spirituality is only a requirement for those who are naturally that way inclined.

Different studies have concluded that spirituality can help people experience more positive emotions, and it may even improve their health. There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence from those who have benefited from faith based programs.

The Benefits of Faith Based Treatments

Those recovery programs where there is a focus on spirituality have helped many individuals flourish in recovery. Not only are they free of their destructive addiction, but may find that their life has greatly improved in many ways. A section of the AA Big Book contains the promises and this outlines some of the benefits that the individual can expect including:

* New happiness and freedom
* No more fear of people, places, and things
* An end to self pity
* The ability to handle any situation
* No more regret about the past
* The ability to help others, and an end to feelings of uselessness
* Less selfishness and self-seeking behavior
* Serenity and a new world outlook

There are also a number of other benefits that have been associated with living a more spiritual life including:

* It gives people a sense of purpose in their life
* It teaches humility
* These individuals become more loving and nicer to be around
* It provides inner strength and peace
* It encourages people to be more tolerant

Faith Based Treatment Is Not For Everyone

There are many individuals who feel uncomfortable with any mention of spirituality. Such people struggle to do well with faith based treatment options. There have been a number of alternative approaches, such as Rational Recovery, which offer programs that don’t have a spiritual element. These options may be preferable for those who do not wish to acknowledge any type of higher power. There are also many individuals who stick with faith based groups, but ignore the spiritual aspects of the program – this approach can work well too. The key is to find an approach which works for the specific individual.

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