In the British documentary film A Royal Hangover, comedian and speaker Russell Brand describes addiction as a “spiritual craving.” He further states that “we don’t have the language; we don’t have the code to express that in our society.” This isn’t necessarily a new idea in recovery as Alcoholics Anonymous (and countless other treatment programs) looks at spirituality as a core component in helping members climb out of addiction. However, there is now empirical evidence that achieving a sense of purpose in life and surrendering to an unseen yet powerful force has a direct effect on recovery.
In a 2015 Florida Atlantic University study, a group of individuals in substance abuse treatment answered a battery of self-reporting questionnaires. Researchers analyzed the data as well as three areas in relation to depressive symptoms
1. Adult attachment styles (secure vs. insecure
2. Existential purpose and meaning in life
3. Religious well-being or a perceived relationship with God
The findings demonstrated that “the lack of ultimate meaning in life…is associated with alcohol abuse and drug addiction, as well as other mental health problems including anxiety and depression.” The study also showed that those with secure attachment styles and higher levels of purpose or meaning in life had significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms. Interestingly enough, the level of existential purpose and meaning in life was the stronger predictor of the two.
This, in turn, plays a huge role in where addiction treatment is moving. Treatment centers and therapists may now need to consider a wider scope when helping individuals who struggle with addiction. The authors of the research states, "Programs such as the 12-step model might want to take into consideration the relative importance of the two spiritual dimensions and put into place programmatic support for the development of purpose and meaning in life rather than only stressing the perceived closeness to God."
More and more, we see that as we nurture our spiritual lives, we begin to restore many of the positive qualities that addiction once took away. From there, we are able to foster an increased sense of inner peace and healthier coping mechanisms which ultimately serve to enhance our recovery treatment outcomes.