Why Spirituality Is Important to Recovery

A group of people holding hands in a circle and embracing spirituality during their recovery from drugs and alcohol.

It is a common misconception that recovery from substance abuse requires nurturing a relationship with God. While spirituality is important to recovery, it is not necessarily limited to having a relationship with a singular nonsecular entity. Practicing spirituality is often crucial for those struggling with drugs or alcohol to achieve long-term sobriety. According to a study published in ScienceDirect[1], an online resource for subscription-based access to a large database of scientific and medical research, there is significant value in religion and spirituality when it comes to helping those struggling with a variety of diseases. And given that addiction is classified as a disease, it is not unreasonable to think that religion and spirituality could benefit those who are ready to end their relationship with drugs or alcohol, in a way similar to how some might turn to religion when facing a terminal illness. In this article, we will delve deeper into spirituality and addiction recovery and what makes it an effective treatment modality.

What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

For those struggling with addiction who do not believe in God, spirituality in addiction recovery may be a difficult concept for them to wrap their heads around. However, there are several key differences between religion and spirituality. While spirituality can play an integral role in religious practices, it is not inherently a component of religion as it does not necessarily have to entail the behavioral, social, and denominational practices commonly associated with worship. Instead, spirituality is an individual experience that one undergoes to discover life’s meaning, with the belief that their existence in this world is more meaningful than their individual experience of it.

What does spirituality in addiction recovery entail?

Addiction recovery that is based on spirituality is not too dissimilar from that of faith-based addiction recovery, which means that addressing the physical and psychological aspects of addiction are still critically important. However, spiritually-based addiction recovery approaches the psychological component slightly differently. As opposed to using psychotherapy, which is a mainstay in most recovery programs, spiritually-based addiction recovery provides guidance and support, which enables those struggling with addiction to reconnect with themselves and the world around them. This unique approach makes it easier for these same individuals to embrace the possibility of leading a fulfilling life that does not include drugs or alcohol.

Do spiritually-based addiction recovery treatments work?

As with any form of addiction recovery, spiritually-based addiction recovery is most effective when those struggling with addiction are fully committed to turning their lives around. That aside, when spiritual exploration and support are used alongside traditional addiction recovery treatments, it can significantly reduce the risk of relapse, according to a study published by the National Institute of Health[2]. According to many addiction experts, particularly those who are proponents of spiritually-based addiction recovery treatments, spirituality strengthens an individual’s ability to cope with cravings, withdrawal symptoms, triggers, and other factors that would otherwise sabotage their recovery efforts. Furthermore, several studies have shown that spiritual and faith-based addiction recovery can go a long way toward strengthening an individual’s resolve to stay clean while also providing them with a greater sense of control, stability, and security.


[1] Pardini, Dustin, et al. “Religious faith and spirituality in substance abuse recovery: Determining mental health benefits.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, vol. 19, issue 4, Dec. 2000, pp.347-354. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740547200001252

[2] Laudet, Alexandre, et al. “The Role of Social Supports, Spirituality, Religiousness, Life Meaning and Affiliation with 12-Step Fellowships in Quality of Life Satisfaction Among Individuals in Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Problems.” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, vol.24, iss. 1-2, 2006, pp. 33-73. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1526775/