Posted by: RealisticRecovery | June 23, 2009

Addiction Recovery and Religion – Help or Hindrance?

Addiction Recovery and Religion – Help or Hindrance?

by David Roppo, Addiction Freedom Coach

Without question one of the more successful treatment models has been the 12 step program, which originated with Alcoholics anonymous. In the past several years the program has suffered a great deal of scrutiny in regards to its religious formatting, and even though it has desperately attempted to escape this labeling, for all intent and purposes that’s what it is! However, the religious aspect is not what makes successful, and in fact I believe it to be a detriment to the program. So, what has made this program more successful than most of the other treatment options? I believe that the success of this program is largely due to the spiritual aspect. In many regards the choice of addictive behavior is a falling from spirit, in the sense that addictive behavior is of a self centered, self serving attitude, whereas spirituality encourages a sense of connectedness and being of service to others.

Most individuals that have chosen to partake in addictive behavior do so at the expense of others, and they do it with one thing and only one thing in mind; the need to mask the pain of their emotional issues. Making a connection with spirit allows the addicted person to view things in a greater perspective and allows them to understand that one person’s actions affect the many. Therefore, I do view spirituality as being an important component to recovery, but spirituality is very difficult to pursue if you have not uncovered and confronted the root cause of the addiction.

The practice of spirituality encompasses a great deal of self reflection and mindfulness, which ultimately leads to a more symbolic view of the world as a whole. Remember, the individual suffering from addiction only views one world, their own! When it comes to approaching spirituality from the perspective of prayer, consider the fact that traditional prayer will not accomplish this goal. Going through the motions of reciting traditional prayer without changing your deeply engrained, self- limiting, subconscious beliefs will result in failure. What is engrained in your subconscious mind is much more powerful than the words you speak! In order to gain the understanding of the world as a whole, you must achieve self reflection and inner peace by quieting the mind.

So, where does religion fit in to the recovery picture?

Well, in my view it doesn’t! That’s right, it doesn’t. Not only does it not fit in but, I view it to be a detriment to full recovery! So, let’s examine what the actually true intent and purpose of religion is, and how it stacks up against the probable outcome of pursuing the incorrect or misguided practice of it. The word religion is derived from the Latin word Religare, which means to restrain or bind. So, is the main function to restrain individuals from personal self reflection and bind them to a religious doctrine, or is it a methodology of teaching a personal connection to God? I believe that the main objective of any religion should be to assist people in making a personal connection to the divine or higher power. Unfortunately, that is not always what occurs one hundred percent of the time!

There are nineteen major religions in the world, of which Christianity is the largest with over 2 billion followers. Islamic religion follows with 1.2 billion and Hinduism respectively with 828 million. There is no doubt that religion plays a major role in most of our lives. Unfortunately, some religious doctrines rise to a level of supreme empirical restraint, which over shadows the true divine purpose and leads many down a misguided path? The importance of a binding doctrine and specific practices should be secondary to ones spiritual relationship with the divine. Therefore, the type of religion that you choose and its popularity is of very little importance, as long as you understand the true purpose.

Does spirituality differ from religion, and can a person be religious as well as spiritual?

Yes of course. However, one can remain bound to a religious doctrine without a spiritual connection to the divine. For all intent and purposes this is what must be avoided when delving into the recovery of self destructive habitual behavior. One of the key components to addiction freedom is self refection and the development of a connection to a higher consciousness and your true self. Serving a religious doctrine without the true spiritual element and making that connection will lead to the addicted person trading one vehicle to mask the pain for another. The outward practice of certain ideals or activities does not correspond to inner righteousness! When a person hides behind the outward practice of religious doctrines they tend to live a falsehood, not living in true spirit, failing to own up to the root cause of their addiction, and their true life purpose. Therefore, I believe that religion should not enter into the addiction equation and in many cases actually prevents the individual from addressing the root cause properly.

Remember, this is about spiritual self-reflection and making contact with that higher consciousness, and it is not about being restrained by a religious doctrine, or trading one compulsive behavior for another. If you are currently practicing a particular faith, I would highly recommend that you make every attempt to separate it from the spiritual aspect and addiction recovery. My purpose is not to undermine the benefits of religious practice. In fact I believe that religion serves a tremendous purpose in our society when practiced in a spiritual sense. However, mixing it with addiction recovery can be a disastrous recipe for chronic relapse!

source: David Roppo, Addiction Freedom Coach



  1. I agree that the only real recovery is through true intimate spiritual connection, but to say that addiction recovery should be separated from religious practice makes no sense to me. Humans are too bombarded with worldly distractions; a regular religious practice (such as weekly church attendance and daily prayer for self and others mixed with the opportunities for service that a religious community provides) defines a straight and narrow connection with the divine. It keeps us thinking right thoughts and doing right actions toward ourselves and others. While meditation and 12-step groups are potentially beneficial, they are not necessarily enough in my opinion. Recovery is about surrender to a higher power; a religious practice keeps that higher power always in front of us to lead us to health and service. And while not everyone in a church community is noble or perfect (church is for sinners, after all), recovering addicts are more likely to see past the judgment and identify that everyone has fears and pain. In helping others through our peaceful, empathetic presence, we also reclaim our souls.

    I have been in recovery for 11 months now. Without my faith and church practice, I would still be very lost. By keeping God in front of me every day…the peace is like nothing I’ve ever had, even in the face of many life challenges and people who still hate me.

    I agree; faith first. But religion can be a strong recovery tool in combination with faithful surrender. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

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