Research on Spirituality and Substance Abuse Recovery

There are several different research studies that have examined the relationship between spirituality and recovery, and most point towards the positive impact of spirituality. First, what exactly is spirituality? Spirituality is defined as “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”1. Although researchers have a difficult time defining spirituality in operational terms, there are many ideas of what spirituality is. Father Leo Booth, who worked at San Pedro Peninsula Hospital as the Spiritual Director of Chemical Dependency, defines spirituality as the whole person- the wholeness and unity of body, mind, and emotions.2 Another study found that patients in addiction treatment programs define spirituality in two main ways, either as “a source of strength/protection of self, and… as a source of altruism/protection of others.”3

A common misconception of spirituality is that it is the same as religiosity, and while there are many similarities, they are not the same. Father Leo Booth said that believing in one religion or another is not essential for a patient’s recovery and healing but understanding and strengthening their spirituality is.2

Arguing that spirituality is essential to recovery is a strong statement, but because substance abuse and addictions effect the “whole person” (body, mind, and emotions), treatment and recovery ought to focus on the whole person as well, which is spirituality! Research by Betty Jarusiewicz found that individuals who continued to relapse had “significantly lower levels of spirituality” than those who were progressing in recovery4. This suggests that spirituality helps individuals to heal and recover more fully. Also, another study asked inner-city-drug-users their attitudes towards a spirituality-focused treatment program and found that many thought spirituality would help with recovery, cravings, and hopefulness. 3

Spirituality, when understood and utilized, can have great impact on recovery and life. Spirituality is the combination of strengthening and learning about our bodies, our minds, our emotions and becoming more whole, healed, in control, and seeing the oneness and beauty in ourselves and those around us. It is a part of all of us and can have great impact on our lives.