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Do you think faith and spirituality are necessary elements of addiction recovery?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on June 16, 2007

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Photo of Brae Smith

“Yes. You’ve got to have something spiritual to believe in to help you through your addiction, and that’s coming from experience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be religious, as long as it’s something more than yourself.”

Photo of Amy Schultz

“Yes. Because if you rely only on yourself, you’re limiting the available scope of growth and transformation.”

Photo of Jenny Barton

“I don’t think that it is necessarily essential for everyone. I think successful recovery from addiction is based on an individual’s personal sources of strength in their life, whether it be faith or something else.”

Photo of Al Horning

“I think it’s important to believe in something bigger than yourself to overcome something bigger than yourself like addiction.”


jonas 10 years, 11 months ago

Yes, I think, as well, that it is important to believe in something bigger than yourself.

For me, it was Shaquille O'Neill. I found him suitably bigger than myself to enable me to fight off my addiction. He is, truly, much, much bigger than myself.

trinity 10 years, 11 months ago

yes i do. and that is from personal experience, also.

disclaimer; it doesn't matter what faith, spiritual path, etc one follows, much like jenny said. just something other than one's self.

jonas 10 years, 11 months ago

That would require the effort of looking it up. To be honest, can't say I care.

erod0723 10 years, 11 months ago

Props to the LJW for purposely trying to incite a religious discussion, instead of letting it pop up like it always does.... sigh.

ms_canada 10 years, 11 months ago

jonas - I trust you have something really nice planned for this your day to celebrate. What's it to be or maybe by now you have finished the celebration. what time is it there?

paladin 10 years, 11 months ago

I have been involved, off and on, with AA for over 25 years and I have had success in terms of recovery, off and on. I have never been able to become totally immersed in, completely dedicated to, or fully believe in the program. I'm a very independent thinking, although tend to be an emotionally dependent, person and AA always seemed rather cultish, cliquish, and core group exclusive, so I never truly felt that I belonged. The "higher power" aspect, which is fundamental, always seemed to me as though there was something missing. AA can be the answer, and has been, for many alcoholics. But, it never worked completely for me. Although, it has been very beneficial, particularly the cumulative effect, as I now draw on that experience. I now have found the answer for me. A combined approach of medication, CBT, and AA as a supplemental element. It does really work for me. I am living, alcohol free and more balanced emotionally and feeling better physically, life on life's terms. For the first time in my adult life. The key prerequisite, however, for success is the genuine desire to stop drinking. Of this, I have no doubt. If you have that, then you're half way home and can find the answer to your recovery, because it is available.

coneflower 10 years, 11 months ago

Yes, even if it's temporary. I'm serious. When you're at the end of your rope, you have to call on something larger, even if it's really only something larger, and deeper, within yourself. You have to understand your place in the universe, that you're not alone, not an island. That's not necessarily the same as suddenly accepting some organized religion. Just my opinion, from personal experience.

Reading Sylvia Plath always helped me, too.

Steve Jacob 10 years, 11 months ago

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business." Gov. JESSE VENTURA

coneflower 10 years, 11 months ago

I agree with Marion, the organized religion stuff doesn't work. Spirituality doesn't have anything to do with organizations or even other people, it's within yourself. All that organized religious stuff is a scam, or at best, misguided.

To be clear, I referred to recovery from depression, not addiction - above. My only addiction is coffee and I'm not interested in recovering from that.

erod0723 10 years, 11 months ago

Thanks Marion. You took the words out of my mouth. We have come to live in a society where one night's bad decision automatically makes you an alcoholic. I remember as a 4th grader being subjected to the DARE propoganda. One evening after school, I saw my dad having a scotch and soda after dinner and I asked him why he was an alcoholic. The government tries to twist people into believing that any drinking is horrible. How does having 1 or 2 cordials after work make a person an alcoholic? What do they do to a person at rehab? Lots of times they will get the person addicted to a different drug, one that is "legal" and that the rehab clinic and pharma company can charge high dollar for. The solution to addiction is legalization.

beatrice 10 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for adding that last link, Spamboy. Without it I would have skipped over and avoided just five links, rather than six.

No, I don't think faith and spirituality are necessary to accomplish anything in life. If it floats your boat, fine, but I don't think it "necessary." Obviously, some atheists have overcome addictions without having to turn to The Force to recover.

If it was necessary, then that begs the question, is one faith supposedly better for recovery than another? Should drunks go with fundamental Islam, while crack addicts are better off with Church of England? Or is this supposedly the one instance where it doesn't matter in what one believes, as long as it is something? Better a Satanist than meth head, right?

denak 10 years, 11 months ago

I think there are several elements that are neccessary to addiction recovery but how they all intertwine and how important each element is depends on the psychological nature of the individual. Spirituality may play a huge part for some people, less for other. I think spirituality if it combined with a message of forgiveness towards oneself for things one might have done while an addict can be a very important element. A lot of people who are addicts have done things that they are ashamed of and have a lot of guilt. Being told that they are forgiven or that they are still worthy of love and forgiveness could have an huge impact on whether or not they succeed. Being told that they are good is important. They have to hear it before they can start believing it and if you don't believe you are good to begin with, your chance of recovery is probably very limited.

However, faith and spirituality are one element of many that I believe needs to come into play. I think the person's chances are high if a person combines his or her faith with other elements such as attending support groups, therapy, changing their lifestyle, changing who they hang out with, learning different coping skills, working towards something positive and trying to repair their interpersoanl relationships.

Some of these things take monumental strength and if faith helps, good.

And sometimes, it doesn't matter. Addiction is such an insidious thing that it might take several attempts to finally succeed or a person might never succeed.

When one is dealing with an addiction, every bit helps and if faith and spirituality help, so much the better.


beatrice 10 years, 11 months ago

So you are admitting to being Spamboy? People who make a living from spamming should not be allowed to post links that may cause spyware to be attached to other people's computers. I know I don't fit that description -- do you?

As I see it, some people do not deserve to be allowed to take part in polite society without their repugnant acts in the rest of society being brought to the fore. Now, call me "ratbrain" or any of the other names you tend to hurl at me on a consistent basis, then follow it up by telling me I don't play nice. Sure, I'll listen.

Escapee 10 years, 11 months ago

Hide and seek, children? If YOUR issue is being discussed, does it require all to 'play nice'. Just about every post , every day in this paper is in some way satirizing another's issue(s). Grow up, Marion. You aren't the star of every show....

RKLOG 10 years, 11 months ago

Faith in one's own abilities can curb addictions too, but I wouldn't want to start worshiping myself anytime soon.

paladin 10 years, 11 months ago

Hunter Thompson committed suicide. Not much future in that. "No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt" -Hunter Thompson, suicide note

paladin 10 years, 11 months ago

Its not one thing or another. It all goes together and comes together. To give you hope. Or not. Nothing and no one stands alone. Its all part of the whole. And, so are we.

camper 10 years, 11 months ago

Life change, to me is the best way. Most addicts have a desire to quit, but sometimes life has to kick you in the butt before a line is drawn and one steps across to recovery. Humans can be extremely resilient, and sometimes great turmoil can bring out ones true character. I've had one or two of these experiences and found that I actually felt stronger an better during bad times.....because I was sober. Amazing discovery! How good it was to wake up feeling good on weekend mornings.

unite2revolt 10 years, 11 months ago

AA worked for me and several of my friends. It obviously doesn't work for everyone, but it has been almost 10 years now since my last drink. I advise anyone with a problem to check it out for yourself and give it a fair chance.

jonas 10 years, 11 months ago

cheesburger: You found me out. Sob.

Thanks for the bday support, folken! The great thing about being here is that since I'm 13 hours ahead of home-time, I can count both the start of the day here, and the end of the day there, for a total of a 35 hour birthday! We had a good celebration yesterday, drank some dark german beer in our hotel lobby and had some good japanese cuisine from a place up the ring road from us. Yes, I know that I'm in China, but I've been missing those things, and have plenty of time to eat Chinese cuisine. Sadly, my wife is leaving today, so It'll be a long, boring day for me unless I can remain positive, I guess. mwahahahahahahaha!

Tom McCune 10 years, 11 months ago

Turning to organized religion to cure an addiction merely substitutes one dependency for another.

camper 10 years, 11 months ago

Newell, since dropping alcohol, I am much more dependent on good nutrition, exercise, and rest. You are right I guess. I merely substituted one addiction for another.

geekin_topekan 10 years, 11 months ago

I love chronic "newcomers". One hundred and one reasons for everything. We have all been there and understand completly. In the meantime,God will still be there for you even when you are convinced he is not.When the pain of drinking outweighs the pain of soberiety AA will still be there.Even when you return from many years.We will still be there.For that..I am responsible.

dminear60 10 years, 11 months ago

Coneflower, I could not have said it better. You should read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Tom McCune 10 years, 11 months ago

The existence of God cannot be either proved or disproved by logical or scientific means. Far better minds than those assembled here on the LJW OTS have tried it for a long time. Descartes tried it and failed (although he claimed to succeed). Isaac Newton had some cockamamie theory that gravity was God, or proved the existence of God or something. Pascal did the best job. He didn't prove the existence of God, but treated it as a probability-payoff equation. That's why it is rightfully called "faith." Either you believe it or not. Personally, I choose to believe in God and disbelieve in organized religion. I can't prove I'm right and you can't prove I'm wrong.

Tom McCune 10 years, 11 months ago

Pascal's Wager is far more reasonable than most of that junk promulgated by Newton, Leibniz, Spinoza, or the rest of that crowd. At least Pascal admitted the possibility that God does not exist, whereas the rest of them spent most of their time developing contorted arguments to support their pre-ordained belief that God does exist.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 11 months ago

What's been more successful in helping alcoholics than AA, with it's emphasis on spirituality?

preebo 10 years, 11 months ago

I believe that people who are undergoing addiction therapy need hope. What our culture has deemed as the catalyst for hope is spirituality, moreover, religion as the pathway to spirituality. The structure and order seems to provide purpose. Faith is nothing more than hope + belief. Not to say that faith is not an important ingredient in life, but to identify it as such is even more important.

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