Addiction can start to affect multiple aspects of your life to the point where it quickly gets out of control. It is a disease that’s identified by compulsive drug use despite the serious consequences. Accepting when substance use has gotten out of control is a major step on the road to recovery because it often means accepting help.
In fact, the first step in 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is to admit you have become powerless over drugs or alcohol.
Once you’ve admitted that, what can you do to start addressing your substance use disorder? According to AA and other 12-step programs, it’s important to recognize that a power greater than yourself can help. For people, who have theological beliefs and firmly rooted faiths, it may not seem right to attempt to make a long-lasting change in their life apart seeking help from God as that higher power.
According to Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, spiritual healing and growth are essential to achieving sobriety. Faith-based addiction services can be of great benefit for a theist, but according to Wilson, recognizing a higher Power can even help agnostics. In the Big Book, the manual for people who are interested or going through AA, Wilson writes a chapter to agnostics who might have trouble accepting the spiritual side of things.
He writes, “Yes, we of agnostic temperament have had these thoughts and experiences. Let us make haste to reassure you. We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.”
If you are interested in going through treatment that utilizes a faith-based program, what are your options?
Addiction treatment of any kind should be grounded in evidence-based therapies were scientifically proven approaches are used. However, many of the existing evidence-based therapies can be integrated into a faith-based approach. When you first begin treatment, you’ll go through an assessment period where your biological, psychological, and social needs are evaluated. If you have high-level medical needs, you may begin with medical detoxification.
Detox involves 24-hour medical care that lasts for about a week. Detox is especially important for people who have become chemically dependent on drugs with potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms like alcohol and benzodiazepines.
After detox, clinicians will help you find the next level of care that’s appropriate for your needs. If you still have high-level medical or psychological needs that require care around the clock, you might need to go through an inpatient or residential program that offers 24-hour monitoring. If you are ready to return home, you will go through an intensive outpatient or standard outpatient program.
This all looks the same as a typical detox program. However, there are several ways you can incorporate faith-based treatment as you go through a treatment program. Some addiction treatment centers have pastors or chaplains on staff that can guide you through Christian tracks alongside your formal treatment. Each step of the way, you will meet and discuss your progress from a faith-based perspective. In a Christian treatment track, you can explore how the message of the Bible can offer unique insight into addiction and recovery.
For instance, the message of the Bible is about how people are flawed and broken and can be saved through the redemptive power of Jesus. There are a lot of parallels to addiction. The apostle Paul wrote, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” That struggle may sound very familiar to someone who is dealing with a substance use disorder.
Addiction is a disease that affects people from all walks of life. It doesn’t discriminate between boundaries of religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, race, or geography. However, the responses to drug use and alcoholism in different communities can serve as risk or protective factors when it comes to substance use problems.
Risk factors are things in a person’s environment, biology, or upbringing that increase their likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. Protective factors include anything that may prevent a person from abusing drugs or alcohol.
For instance, risk factors can include high drug availability, a lack of parental supervision, and a sense of detachment from your community. Each of the three most prevalent religions in the world typically encourages strong family bonds and communication, maintain restrictions when it comes to substance use, and encourage a sense of community. Each of these factors can protect against substance use problems.
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Seeking faith-based treatment options can help you engaged in your recovery, connect to a like-minded recovery community, and help you renew your faith after active addiction. Addiction can take a lot from you, including your health, finances, and personal relationships. While you’re in treatment, some of those things may still have to wait, like your career and even some relationships. However, your relationship with God shouldn’t and doesn’t have to wait until you are out of treatment. Here are some options to connect with treatment options.
Some addiction treatment programs have a special track centered around faith-based values. Christian tracks are the most common, but you may also be able to find Islamic and Jewish tracks at some treatment centers. No two addiction treatment plans are alike, and treatment should be tailored to individual needs. For that reason, some treatment centers offer specific tracks for people who may be able to benefit from them. These tracks don’t mean you won’t have to work hard in proven drug treatments and behavioral therapies, but they will be within a faith-based context. You may be able to attend faith-based group and individual therapy sessions to process treatment from a faith-based point of view.
If you plan to attend an addiction treatment program that doesn’t have any faith-based options, you might be able to find local options. Churches, temples, and mosques often operate all kinds of local ministries to their community. In some cases, they work with people who are struggling with substance use disorders and people who are in recovery. They may offer support groups that are centered around addressing recovery from a faith-focused perspective. They may also offer practical assistance like helping you find a job or housing. If you are in an addiction treatment program and would like to get involved in local faith communities, your case manager might be able to help you.
Twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are rooted in Christian values, and they offer spiritual growth to people in recovery. However, Alcoholics Anonymous is designed to be all-inclusive and only acknowledges a general Higher Power, rather than any specific system of faith. However, there are dozens of variations on the original 12-step program, including several specific faith-based versions.
For instance, Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program that specifically names the God of the old and new testaments as the Higher Power mentioned in AA’s 12 steps. Celebrate Recovery’s 12 steps are slightly reworded to reflect a Christ-centered focus, and each step is supported with a verse from scripture. There are also resources that break down each of the 12 steps from a Jewish perspective as well. Twelve-step programs aren’t necessarily a viable replacement for more robust addiction treatment and the full continuum of care. However, they have shown to improve treatment outcomes when used alongside and after formal treatment.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use problems or addiction, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Because addiction is a progressive disease, it can get worse over time when it’s not effectively addressed. Without treatment, addiction can start to take over different parts of your life. Treating it early can help you avoid some of the worst consequences of addiction, like health problems and strained relationships.
Ask about faith-based options and how you might be able to incorporate them into evidence-based treatment. Addiction may be a chronic disease, but it’s one that can be treated with the right services. Learn more about faith-based treatment today.
American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
Baruch, M., Benarroch, A., & Rockman, G. E. (2015). Alcohol and Substance Use in the Jewish Community: A Pilot Study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4487707/
Celebrate Recovery. (n.d.). Celebrate Recovery 12 Steps and Biblical Comparisons. Retrieved from https://www.celebraterecovery.com/resources/cr-tools/12steps
Ouimette, P. C., Finney, J. W., & Moos, R. H. (1997). Twelve-step and cognitive-behavioral treatment for substance abuse: A comparison of treatment effectiveness. Retrieved from https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1997-07825-004
Pinson, Y. (2007, January 19). Twelve Steps and Judaism. Retrieved from https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/717572/jewish/Twelve-Steps-and-Judaism.htm
Wilson, B. (2001). We Agnostics. In Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism (4th Edition ed., pp. 44-57). New York, FL: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. from