Using Religion to Recover from Addiction

The Heritage Foundation notes that religion can encourage the well-being of individuals, their families, and their communities. The foundation states that regular religious service attendance not only leads to strong marriages and well-behaved children but an overall stable and healthy existence for families. It also states that practicing religion can help in other areas, such as attaining higher education and prolonging your physical and mental health. These benefits, the foundation argues, can be passed onto the future generations of your family.

If religion can lead to such health benefits for you and your family, it seems logical to argue it can make you stronger during your addiction recovery. According to psychology professor Carlo C. DiClemente, whether people hold religious beliefs can determine their response to religion in addiction recovery:

“Many individuals have strongly positive, strongly negative, or mixed feelings about religious messages, traditions, or practices…. Introducing religion can arouse a range of reactions and interfere with or promote engagement and openness to interventions as well as contribute to ambivalence.”

Professors Zila van der Meer Sanchez Dutenhefner and Solange Aparecida Nappo found religion to be a positive motivator for people to escape substance addiction. In their 2008 article published in Revista de Saude Publica, they discussed the findings of their 2004-05 study. They interviewed eighty-five former drug users who sought religious assistance for their drug addictions and were sober for at least six months.

Based on the study, the researchers concluded that “Religion not only encourages abstinence from drug use, but also offers social resources for rebuilding one’s life: a new network of friends, a way of spending one’s free time doing voluntary work, individual ‘psychological’ attention, value placed in the individual’s potentials, cohesion within the group, unconditional support from religious leaders without judgment and … the establishment of a ‘new family.’ The psychological attention sounds similar to the focus that top dual diagnosis treatment centers place on mental health.

According to van der Meer Sanchez Dutenhefner and Aparecida Nappo, then, religion can encourage abstinence from substance abuse. Religion can also provide social assistance to help reconstruct one’s life.

Writing in Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, Alexandre B. Laudet, Keith Morgen, and William L. White conclude that religion can help individuals develop stronger coping mechanisms and the ability to see more hope in their futures. These characteristics provide greater security and stability for the individuals and give them the sense that they have more control over their lives.

Yet, if people have lost their connection to religion, they may find it difficult to use spirituality in their recovery process. They might develop mental difficulties, which create the need for top dual diagnosis treatment centers. While it is not a requirement for religion to be a part of substance abuse recovery, it seems as if some believers might wish to return to God to aid in their recoveries.

The authors cite the example of people who initially saw God as a punishing and vengeful being but eventually viewed God as loving and forgiving. Once they recognized that God did not hate them for their addictions, they may be able to build strong foundations for their recoveries.

According to the researchers, “Recovery is a lifelong, dynamic process and it is therefore critical to learn more about relevant challenges and helpful resources (recovery capital) over the course of the process in order to enhance the likelihood that stable recovery be maintained.” One of these helpful resources might be religion. And it could remind you of your life’s meaning.

About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery, and the entertainment industry.