Putting your faith in God or a higher power is the main component of the 12-step approach to recovery. The fact that countless individuals with no spiritual pursuits in their background have successfully followed the 12-step model to a sustained recovery has led many experts in the field to believe that spirituality plays a major role in long-term sobriety.
Now science has started to put the plethora of anecdotal evidence supporting spirituality as a path to recovery to the test. Researchers at Florida State University investigated the effect of prayer on drinking. They discovered that the more someone prays, the less likely they are to drink, no matter what they are praying about. Just the act of prayer alone was enough to decrease the amount of alcohol consumed. Furthermore, the University of Michigan scientists found that the more spiritual experiences encountered in the early phase of recovery, the lower the relapse rates.
How Do Scientists Define Spirituality?
Generally, the 12-step path of recovery touts a more traditional view of God and spirituality, but researchers have found a more broad-based definition qualifies as effective spiritual practice for individuals trying to stay on a sober path. Often studies that analyze the results of spiritual practice incorporate a wide range of what constitutes spirituality. Many of these rituals do not involve a church or spiritual leader. They include the following activities:
- All religious traditions and practices
- Art appreciation
- Nature walks
- Quality time with loved ones
- Relaxing in peace and quiet
What the scientific definition of spirituality seems to encompass are all activities and practices that allow an individual to soothe themselves.
Some Scientists Believe It’s Meditation That Bolsters Addicts
Scientists at the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington theorize that meditation and contemplation, not faith, may be the key to keeping addicts sober. They followed prisoners with drug abuse problems while they were introduced to the practice of mindfulness meditation. The prisoners participated in a 10-day course nearly entirely comprised of silent meditation for up to 11 hours a day. The prisoners were followed after the course and until 90 days after release from jail and were found to have significantly less drug and alcohol use, anxiety and depression as their non-meditating counterparts. Additionally, further research at the University of Florida found that individuals who pray for others had reduced alcohol consumption.
Some experts hypothesize that meditation or prayer may relieve addicts of the burden of their own self since self-consciousness or low self-image usually plays a large role in addiction. Perhaps meditation and prayer relieve the addict of the stress of their own self-focus where before only drug or alcohol abuse could provide that release.
What are your thoughts on the role of spirituality in the recovery process? Leave us a comment and let us know.