Faith and Recovery: Can Religion Help Recovering Addicts Avoid Relapse?

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According to the Wall Street Journal, young people who are religious (that is, self-define as religious or regularly attend religious services) are far less likely than their peers to use alcohol or drugs or to have a problem with either. Why? There are a number of theories. It could be:

  • Support from a largely sober community
  • Religious instruction that defines substance use as undesirable
  • Religious instruction that asks participants to follow current laws (e.g., drinking age laws and/or avoiding use of illegal substances)
  • Personal goals and directions supported by religious training that would be hindered by using drugs and alcohol

Does this mean that religion should be part of any successful recovery? Will patients benefit from taking part in religious services and following religious principles? Is it necessary to be successful in sobriety?


Certainly, a number of people in recovery find benefits to their ability to remain sober when they take part in religious services that resonate with them. Some return to the religious upbringing of their youth while others explore new options that make sense to them. Regular attendance of religious services offers recovering addicts the following benefits:

  • A positive and supportive community
  • Structure to their schedule
  • Opportunities to give back to the community and volunteer
  • A place to seek guidance when dealing with tough issues or the urge to relapse
  • Acceptance at a time when they may not feel that they have anywhere to go
  • Improved mental health and personal sense of peace

Is It Necessary?

No, attending religious services or even pursuing a spiritual path of any kind is not required to get and stay sober. It is, however, often recommended. Even those who define themselves as atheist can benefit from treatments or therapies that have a spiritual component. Taking a walk on the beach, going camping, practicing yoga, or meditating can all help to decrease overall levels of stress and increase overall positive mental health. Take on these and other similar pursuits in a group context, and you add the benefit of a supportive and positive community as well. No religious dogma must be involved for someone to gain at least some of the benefits to recovery offered by therapies and treatments that are spiritual in nature.

What’s Right for You?

Religion alone is not enough to “save” someone from addiction. The right combination of medical and psychotherapeutic treatments for addiction as well as comprehensive intervention for associated disorders is the best path to full recovery. Contact us at Axis today to find out how we can help.