The Role of Spirituality in Recovery: What 12-Step Programs Offer
An increasing amount of research is mounting to support the role of spirituality in the process of drug and alcohol recovery. Although it is difficult to quantify someone’s beliefs or amount of faith, researchers have been attempting to try in order to further understand the effective strategies used by those who have achieved long-term sobriety.
Spirituality is not the same exact thing as religion, although many people use the terms interchangeably. Religion is defined by an organized set of beliefs and actions that connect a group to a higher power, whereas, perhaps not ironically, spirituality really has no definitive definition. Although many have tried to box it in and define spirituality with a precise and complete dictionary description, it is difficult to do. Perhaps one of the best attempts is to call spirituality “the search for the sacred.” Without a strict definition, something scientists live and die by generally, you can see why spirituality and its relationship with recovery becomes tricky to assess.
The 12-step programs for drug and alcohol recovery for the most part ask participants to surrender to a higher power. Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are often used in research for their wealth of spiritually inclined individuals in varying stages of the process of recovery.
Researchers Explore the Role Spirituality Plays in Drug and Alcohol Recovery
Recent research from the New York University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, explored how spirituality and the fellowship associated with regular attendance at NA meetings impacted an individual’s sobriety. The study used 527 NA attendees, and each was given a questionnaire that was aimed at exploring the intellectual and social components of spirituality impacting the recovery process.
On average, the participants had been sober 6.1 years and the NYU research team found the following commonalities between them:
- They tended to identify more with a spiritual orientation rather than an organized religion when compared to the general population.
- Experiences of spiritual awakening were linked with decreased rates of alcohol or drug cravings.
- Fellowship with other members also was tied to lower incidents of cravings.
- Reports of depression increased drug and alcohol cravings significantly.
NYU Team Finds Spirituality Positively Impacts Drug and Alcohol Recovery
After extensive analysis of all the data, the NYU researchers concluded that spirituality is an important aspect of recovery for many individuals. The team believes from their research the following aspects of participation in NA helped individuals maintain their sobriety:
- Spiritual renewal
- Abstinence-focused mindset
- Social connection and fellowship with likeminded individuals
How do you think spirituality helps someone in their recovery process? Share your thoughts below.