Many people turn to substances or alcohol in response to their feelings of shame, failure, lack of self-control and purpose, and loneliness.
However, many people also turn to religious and church communities in response to those same feelings.
According to an America: The Jesuit Review article, “Religion, Science, and Substance Abuse”, addiction recovery centers and religious institutions ought to join together to best support and care for the people of their respective communities who come to them seeking guidance. “When we separate the worlds of medicine and spirituality, we deny a host of individuals help that may aid their recovery and ease their pain especially with respect to substance abuse and addiction.”
This call to action can also be applied vice-versa. A member of a church congregation who is struggling with substance abuse should still attend a recovery center, but they could also look into organizations that are already religion-based like Alcoholics Anonymous or ask their recovery team how they can implement religion into their treatment plan.
How Can the Church Help Substance Abuse Recovery?
Remember those catalyst feelings of shame, failure, and lack of self-control? Due to the psychological effect of substance abuse and the stigma surrounding addiction, substance abuse can have a self-deprecating effect. This can make it extremely difficult to bounce back from setbacks on the path to sobriety.
Many religions have core beliefs of forgiveness and grace. For example, the Christian church ought to be “a place for any kind of broken person or sinner to come find sanctuary from whatever is haunting them, and to find relief by focusing on God through worship and sermon.” (The Christian Resource)
Practicing a religion that builds its people up and encourages them to live in a way that benefits the health of others and of themselves can be a very encouraging support system for those experiencing substance abuse recovery.
Another reason that people can fall into substance abuse habits or feel unmotivated to resist relapse after completing a treatment program is a lack of direction and purpose. Addiction can be a greedy, all-encompassing presence over people’s lives. When its absence is finally felt, it can be hard to remember life before it and even more difficult to start fresh.
Believing in a God that is bigger than the trivial, depressing details of Earthly life can be a significant source of hope. Many religious concepts can also provide a way to justify inexplicable hardships and burdens that can make people feel helpless by ensuring a better, future life is attainable.
This is a resource that churches of almost all religions have to offer and might be the most evident benefit to substance abuse recovery as loneliness is a common obstacles for those working towards sobriety. Many churches work to be welcoming and healing institutions that bring people together in order to work towards shared goals and a universal good.
Church communities can also be support systems for both those in recovery and their loved ones: “The church’s role is to create community among believers and to provide a place to come together to worship God as one.” (The Christian Resource)
For many religions, the church is a place where an individual’s past mistakes are wiped away and all people are joined together as equals. Many people are invested in religion because of a shared desire for a powerful figure to share their load of burdens and mistakes and despair. Everyone’s demons are different, but everyone has them.
What if You Are Not Religious?
If the previously listed resources that the church has to offer seem viable and promising, but you do not identify with any religion, that does not necessarily mean that you are excluded. An enlightening article from The Secular Spectrum digs deeper into the connection between recovery and religion, and questions how nonreligious people can replicate it: “Faith in God is one route to sobriety. Another is faith in others…”
This perspective lifts up the importance of individually finding internal motivators, purpose, and accountability which can also be revealed through religious practices. The article also suggested looking into “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius as an alternate to some of the typical Bible verses used in Christian recovery programs.
Finding the Approach that Best Fits Your Needs
The benefits to sobriety can be found in many different religions and churches. What is most important about substance abuse recovery and the church is that both can be tailored to best fit the individual and can be places that provide mentors, community, a listening ear, a resting place, and an opportunity to establish a fresh identity.
Addiction is a physical illness that can have a ruthless hold over your emotional, mental, and spiritual health as well. In order to best identify and combat the psychological roots of your substance abuse tendencies, consider religion-based recovery centers or programs and church services and organizations that have support-systems for those struggling with addiction and their loved ones.