How Does Religion Affect Sobriety?

Many people in recovery cite their religion or spirituality as a key to their getting sober. Indeed, spirituality comes with several benefits both inside and outside recovery. Whether you’re a person of faith who wants to enrich your religious life or someone who’s just curious about spirituality, the information in this article can help you decide if spirituality can help you with your recovery. Furthermore, if a loved one has embraced spirituality as part of their sobriety, the following paragraphs can help you understand why their faith has become so important to their wellbeing.

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Spiritual Foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous

The history of sobriety in the U.S. has deeply religious roots. Alcoholics Anonymous, perhaps the most well-known recovery group in the world, wouldn’t exist without spirituality. Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, took his inspiration from The Oxford Group, an organization dedicated to Christian spiritual practices. Both Bill and Dr. Bob Smith, the other founder of AA, believed that alcoholism impacted one’s physical and spiritual life. It couldn’t be overcome, therefore, without attention to both the physical and the spiritual aspects of the alcoholic. Many of the 12 Steps mention God or a Higher Power.

In spite of its inspiration and references to God, AA is not a Christian organization per se. The Twelve Steps reference God “as we understood Him.” One’s own understanding of the Higher Power may look entirely different from the faith of the two founders, and that different understanding will not bar anybody from participating in AA. An atheist, for instance, might choose his or her life’s work as a Higher Power.

Religion and Mental Health

Religion and spirituality have a positive connection to mental health. On the whole, religious people report fewer mental health issues than the rest of the population, and studies reveal that religious people tend to respond well to stress and other difficulties. Because substance abuse disorders are mental health conditions, religion can benefit one’s pursuit of sobriety. Religious and spiritual practices can provide healthy coping mechanisms when an addicted person encounters stressors and triggers. Religion may also reduce the overall impact of those stressors, providing the individual with an overall sense of peace and wellbeing.

About 80% of Americans consider themselves religious in some capacity.

Recovery Prayers and Motivation

Among those healthy coping mechanisms, recovery prayers have benefitted many people. While the Serenity Prayer is perhaps the most popular, many prayers have helped people during difficult phases in their recovery. While AA popularized the concept of the recovery prayer, one doesn’t have to be in AA or any other group setting to use these prayers for peace and encouragement.

Meditation, which some also use as a form of prayer, also helps with overall emotional health. Meditation has found its place in several religious traditions, and as a practice it increases awareness, encourages health, and boosts overall happiness. All of these benefits can help a person maintain their sobriety.

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Purpose and Motivation

Religion and spirituality provide believers with a sense of purpose, giving people a reason beyond themselves to stay clean and sober. When one practices religion as part of a community (e.g., attending religious services), one further establishes a sense of motivation. The encouragement of the group can help an addicted person maintain sobriety one day at a time. Because motivation is such an important aspect of goal-setting, one’s higher power can become extremely important in achieving new recovery milestones.

What if I’m Not Religious?

Religion is by no means a requirement for recovery.

If the “Higher Power” language of AA and other 12 Step groups won’t work for you, you can still use some of religion’s benefits if those would help your recovery. For example, you can find an encouraging community in a secular recovery group. Quite a few recovery groups serve non-religious people, including the ones listed below:

  • SMART Recovery
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery

Likewise, one doesn’t have to be religious to practice meditation, either. Meditation practices range from mindfulness techniques to transcendental experiences and everything in between. You can find lists of meditation options online and try out a few types before deciding which one(s) you like best. Of course, you also have the same rehab, detox, and therapy options that religious people have.

Whatever Your Background

Rehab Info is here to serve people of all religious backgrounds. Whether you’re sure of your beliefs or questioning your faith, your religion or lack thereof may play a part in your recovery.

The staff members at Rehab Info will take some time to get to

know your needs - including your religious needs - before making recommendations. We’ll provide information and guidance to help you choose your best recovery option.
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