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Spiritual Growth in Addiction Recovery

Addiction affects you biologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. For this reason, we use a holistic treatment approach—which tends to the mind, body, and spirit. Spirituality and spiritual growth are essential in both addiction treatment and recovery. Long-term recovery is supported by spirituality.

What is Spirituality?

“Spirituality is the experience and integration of meaning and purpose in life through connectedness with self, others, art, music, literature, nature or a power greater than oneself” (Smith).

Spirituality is often a blanket term for religion and religious faith, though spirituality is different from religion. Religion follows religious texts, beliefs, and ideals while spirituality just comes from your soul. You decide your own beliefs, ideals, and values with spirituality. On the other hand, spirituality is a connectedness and authenticity of self that provides meaning and purpose.

According to The Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the word spirit is “The animating or vital principle in humans and animals; that which gives life to the body, in contrast to its purely material being; the life force, the breath of life.” In other words, the spirit is often viewed as the nonphysical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character, or the soul.
To illustrate, here is a famous quote about the spirit by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

What Are the Factors of Spirituality?

The main factors of spirituality include faith, hope, meaningful connection, purpose, forgiveness, acceptance, sense of belonging, relationships, and community (Smith).

Each of these factors influences and builds up a person’s spirituality, and each can be enriched individually to create spiritual growth.

Let’s take a look at what each of these factors means in simple terms:

  • Faith – Knowing things will be okay.
  • Hope – Believing that things will be okay.
  • Meaningful connection – Feeling like you are a part of something, being linked to something, having intimacy.
  • Purpose – Knowing that you are here for a reason.
  • Forgiveness – Caring more about yourself, a person, or a relationship than you do about holding a resentment.
  • Acceptance – Knowing that you cannot control everything in life, and letting your vision of the bigger picture not be obstructed by ideas, beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions that can detract from that. 
  • Sense of belonging – Feeling a connection between you and this world, being secure in your role as someone valuable to other people, places, organizations, etc.
  • Relationships and community – Feeling nurtured and nurturing to other people and those around you. This is where meaningful connection and a sense of belonging come together.

What Are Spiritual Principles?

In addiction recovery, these factors of spirituality are crucial to your ability to recover from drugs or alcohol. These spiritual principles are the foundation for a healthy and lasting recovery. In 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, each step corresponds to a spiritual principle of recovery— making for a fulfilling recovery process. Some spiritual principles of recovery include:

  • Brotherly love
  • Service
  • Gratitude
  • Perseverance

Spiritual principles of recovery were adapted from the long list of spiritual principles of spirituality and religious faith, these common principles come from faith-based themes. These themes center around having a relationship with a higher power.

Active Addiction and Spirituality

When actively in addiction, you are self-centered and exhibit self-seeking behavior. An unfortunate consequence of substance abuse is that your addictive behaviors become your only behaviors, which erases who you once were. As addiction takes control over your life, you begin to operate from a place of fear, become secretive, beat yourself up with shame and negative self-talk, put barriers up against intimacy, isolate, and become fully disconnected.
Working to repair your relationship with yourself and a higher power is how you can overcome this past behavior, and evolve into the person you are truly meant to be.

Who would you be if you never started abusing drugs or alcohol? With spirituality and personal growth, you can figure out what type of person you truly are, and work toward becoming the best version of yourself.

How Does Spirituality Help in Recovery?

Spirituality and addiction recovery have a reciprocal relationship, meaning both affect each other. The more spirituality, the stronger your recovery; the stronger your recovery, the more spiritual growth you can experience.

In the largest self-report study to date, on the topic of spirituality and substance abuse recovery, findings included that spirituality or religious faith accounted for benefits seen in recovering addict’s overall life perspective.

The study conducted explored religious faith, spirituality, and mental health outcomes in 236 people and found that “… among recovering individuals, higher levels of religious faith and spirituality were associated with a more optimistic life orientation, greater perceived social support, higher resilience to stress, and lower levels of anxiety” (Pardini).

The more spiritual principles you practice, the better you feel. Spirituality will bring you a sense of peace and comfort in yourself and build up your self-confidence. In turn, you will have more faith in your capabilities and ability to overcome any obstacles you may face.

Spiritual Awakening in Addiction Recovery

Throughout addiction recovery, you can experience a spiritual awakening. You can shed your negative belief systems, views, thoughts, or feelings, and reach new levels of contentment, peace, optimism, and meaning. This awakening comes with spiritual growth which will help you evolve from discontentment to reaching a sense of peace and serenity. By growing spiritually, you will also restructure your understanding of your purpose in life, allowing that idea to grow with you. This allows you to transcend past beliefs that held you back from truly enjoying your life in sobriety.
People in recovery often describe their spiritual awakening as a moment of absolute clarity, a sign, or it could even be a white-light intense moment of spirituality or religion.

Recovery requires willingness, which includes a willingness to explore types of spirituality and the idea of a higher power. We believe that every person is already wired to be spiritual, and there is a perfect type of spirituality that works for us, we just have to be open and willing to find out what that is.

How To Cultivate Spiritual Growth

Making spiritual growth is a process unique to you. For this reason, there is no clear-cut path to spiritual growth, however, we did put together a list of some things you could do to nurture your own spirituality:

  • Meditate
  • Pray
  • Spiritual goal-setting
  • Choose a spiritual principle to practice each day
  • Journal
  • Explore things that bring meaning into your life
  • Volunteer in your community through our community involvement resources
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Write down a list of what spirituality means to you
  • Join a 12-step program of recovery
  • Get involved in a spiritual community (i.e. refuge recovery, local spiritual organizations, churches, etc.)

Start Healing Your Spirit in Rehab

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to our addiction specialists for guidance and support, at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.


Green , Lesley L. et al. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment , Volume 15 , Issue 4 , 325 – 331, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0740-5472(97)00211-0

Jarusiewicz, Betty. “Spirituality and Addiction,” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 18:4, 99-109, 2000, DOI: 10.1300/J020v18n04_08

Pardini, Dustin A, et al. “Religious Faith and Spirituality in Substance Abuse Recovery: Determining the Mental Health Benefits.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Pergamon, 2 Feb. 2001, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740547200001252

Smith, Linda L. “‘Remembering to Feed Our Spirits.’” Intervention Project for Nurses, Resources- Spirituality and Health/Recovery, 2016, www.alternativeprograms.org/resources/conf2016/material/lsmithpdf.pdf

“Spirit.” The Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press.

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