Addiction is a complex problem that touches on every aspect of a human being. Faith, religion and addiction interact most often when people seek out treatment options and need to find a good match between the addict and a program. Some treatment programs address the damage to an addict’s spiritual life and attempt to heal those wounds. Some treatment program philosophies see addiction as a disease, for others a breakdown in psychological coping. Others see it arising completely out of spiritual problems. Others see religion and spirituality as having little effect on addiction. Other programs stick with purely psychological and physical issues in addiction recovery.
Faith, Religion, and Addiction with 12 Step Programs
12 Step Programs encompass the idea of God as a Higher Power that is loving and caring but does not have to be God as traditionally defined. A “Higher Power” may thus be a divine force, deity, nature, science or even abstract concepts like faith or trust. If we consider religion to be the practice of an established dogma, religion is thus not part of a 12 Step Program. Spirituality however is. Not tying a Higher Power to a central idea of God allows recovery to focus on the individual’s well being, instead of the individual’s relationship or obedience to a specific set of religious tenets. Many secular or non-religious people have found 12 Step Programs helpful.
An example of a recovery program based in a specific religion is Celebrate Recovery. The only Higher Power in Celebrate Recovery is Jesus Christ, as understood and worshipped by Christians. No psychological theory or specific addiction model is addressed; a belief in, and obedience to Christ, independent of denominational scriptural interpretation, is all that is presumed necessary. While Celebrate Recovery does borrow the steps of 12 Step programs, it’s important to remember that the conception of a Higher Power between religious recovery and 12 Step programs is different, and the mechanism of recovery is different as well. Thus, a non-religious individual would be best suited by a 12 Step program or a Secular program.
Secular (Rationalist) Recovery
Secular recovery tends to be rooted in socio-psychological theory and is useful for any person with recovery issues. However, secular recovery may be one of the best approaches for a non-religious person. Smart Recovery is one of these approaches. Secular recovery tends to focus either in psychological models of addiction and/or rationalism as a basis for recovery. Many rationalist approaches are tailored for specific substance abuse issues: initial and early recovery, relapse prevention, maintenance of recovery, etc.
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