Addiction recovery doesn’t have to include religious elements to be effective. However, spiritual practices can be beneficial to many people in recovery.

Addiction recovery is a vulnerable time in any person’s life. Religion and religious communities provide many of the messages that are important during times of addiction recovery. Phrases such as, “you are important,” “you are still loved,” and “someone is available to help you” can be vital to persevere through recovery. For people who are not religious, turning to religion during addiction recovery may feel inauthentic or undesirable. Fortunately, it is not necessary to be religious to find recovery from substance abuse and addiction issues successfully.

The Role of Religion in Recovery

According to studies published in the National Institute of Health, vast psychiatric and psychological research credits religion as a source of resilience in long-term sobriety. People who have a religious affiliation or describe themselves as “spiritual” are less likely to use drugs or relapse

While not everyone is comfortable with it, there are several benefits of religion during addiction recovery, including:

  • Faith communities can be supportive and welcoming to people in recovery
  • Messages of unconditional love and acceptance are helpful for people in recovery
  • Personal faith can provide a moral foundation for new behaviors
  • A higher power can be a source of comfort and peace

The founding bodies for the most popular 12-step programs that offer 12 steps of recovery are faith-based. These programs include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous for people who struggle with alcohol addiction
  • Narcotics Anonymous for people who struggle with drug addiction
  • Al-Anon for the families of people who struggle with alcohol addiction
  • Nar-Anon for the families of people who struggle with drug addiction

All four of these programs include steps that refer to a higher power or God. Prayer, meditation and spiritual awakening are also facets of each. Many people — religious or not — have found success and support in such groups and other forms of faith-based rehab.

There are also programs like SMART Recovery based on self-help and empowerment. Using non-faith-based programs and secular counselors is a frequent practice in many substance abuse treatment facilities and hospitals. It is possible to find strength in recovery through a variety of messages and support systems, whether or not they are based in religion.

You Can Be Spiritual Without Being Religious

The journey to recovery requires attention to personal beliefs and values. Addiction is often based in impulsive behavior that overrides intellectual understanding. Whether addiction supports or defies internal belief systems, mental health care providers will help people in recovery better understand their values. A person’s spirituality will play a role in their recovery from addiction. Spirituality is not the same thing as religion.

Spirituality vs. Religion in Recovery

Spirituality without religion is more common today than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center, almost 23% of Americans describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. In the absence of religious practice, many people still engage in spiritual practices. There are many benefits of spirituality, including:

  • Decreased stress
  • Positivity
  • Increased health
  • Mental wellness
  • Increased well-being
  • Improved peace of mind

Spirituality in recovery has multiple benefits and can help people find peace of mind as they seek a new, sober lifestyle. However, it is not necessary. Everyone’s recovery journey is different: what’s important is to find something that works for each individual. 

If you’re interested in taking the first step toward a drug- or alcohol-free life, The Recovery Village can help. With both spiritual and secular treatment options available, our centers offer something for everyone. Reach out to a representative today for more information.

a woman is standing with her arms crossed.
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more

Laudet, Alexandre B. et al. “The Role of Social Supports, Spiritualit[…]ol and Drug Problems.” National Institutes of Health, 2006. Accessed July 13, 2019.

Pew Research Center. “Religions Landscape Study.” Accessed July 13, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.