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Religion And Addiction Recovery

A blog post by Angeline Gormley

People often identify addiction as a physical condition, but at its core are sometimes unmet mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Finding one’s faith through religion has helped some address their addiction. Learn how this happens and how finding religious beliefs might help you as well.

March and April are months with many religious events. For Christians, there’s Lent and Easter, where they honor Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection. For Jews, there’s Passover, where they commemorate how their ancestors escaped plagues in Egypt with God’s help. For Muslims, April 2021 marked the beginning of Ramadan, a month of prayer, fasting, and reflection.

It is clear that many people engage with religion, but how can this help when one has an addiction problem?

Faith helps people focus

Many studies have examined the theory of ego depletion. According to this theory, the ability to resist something becomes more and more difficult when a person is constantly exposed to the object of temptation, which can include a substance such as alcohol or a drug.

When an individual relies solely on willpower to resist something, different things may happen:

  • They might exhaust their willpower: When a person is constantly exposed to addiction triggers, their ability to resist substances might decrease as they are only relying on themselves.
  • They justify things in their minds: One’s ego (mind) might also justify the need to give into temptation at a certain moment.
  • They might experience fluctuating willpower: In a single moment, one’s ability to resist can be strong, but in other instances, it can be weak. This is not a solid foundation for managing addiction, which relies on consistency to work.

If people have religious faith, individuals may feel as if they don’t have to rely on themselves alone to address their addictions. By finding religion, they feel as if they can surrender their burdens to a higher power who can help assist them.

Sticking to religion allows people to find community

For many people, addiction serves as a means to cope with life’s problems. Whether it’s mental health issues, unresolved grief, or other personal tragedies, certain individuals might be more likely to abuse substances when they don’t have healthy support systems.

Religion may not only lessen some of the burden of relying solely on willpower, but it also offers a sense of belongingness. Once a person takes a leap of faith or has joined a religious group, they often meet other like-minded individuals who welcome and support them with less judgment. Sometimes, this community is what people need in order to address addiction and other problems.

Having a faith-based community may help a person receive encouragement, find meaningful friendships, and develop accountability in addiction recovery. Knowing that there are people who are willing to listen and care about them may empower individuals to face life’s struggles.

Having faith provides a moral compass

Another benefit of following religion is the moral compass it may offer. Although many people have a sense of right and wrong, substance abuse may skew these views. People’s cravings for drugs and alcohol may be so strong that they override their thoughts and other things in their lives.

Strong religious beliefs might counter addictive beliefs. Change can come not just from a person’s thoughts, but also their core values. These core values may serve as a guide or a compass to help people make decisions.

Some common religious themes that may help people address addiction include:

  • Obedience as a form of gratitude: Religious individuals are often grateful to their deities. As a consequence, they might live their lives in obedience, abstaining from anything that displeases their higher powers.
  • The body as a gift: Many religions also consider the body sacred and a gift from their higher powers. Thus, religious people might be eager to prevent or end addictions as they view their bodies as precious gifts.
  • The golden rule: Addiction harms not only individuals but also their loved ones. Many religions emphasize the importance of not harming others as a form of love and respect to mankind. They might practice some version of the Golden Rule, which is “Do unto others as you wish others would do unto you” or something similar.

These precepts could become well-ingrained, so faith may allow substance abuse sufferers to address and treat their addictions. 

Finding Faith for Healing

These benefits show that religious beliefs might not only empower the person through sheer will but also provide them a sense of empowerment that transcends self-belief. As we commemorate various religious observances, we can also acknowledge that some people use faith-based principles to face addiction and other life challenges.

Sources – Ego depletion – Developing Your Support System – The Golden Rule – Why Choose 12-Step Treatment?

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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