Spiritual experiences are a significant part of life for many people. These experiences can be helpful in building hope, especially for people recovering from addiction.
In a study of AA participants, both meaning in life and hope were correlated with spiritual experiences. This finding suggests that spirituality should be included in treatment planning.
Social isolation is one of the biggest risks for people with addiction, and it’s been proven to have a wide range of negative health impacts. It increases a person’s risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure. It also increases their likelihood of substance abuse and suicide.
The good news is that there are steps being taken to combat this issue. The 2020 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report states that “social connections influence many major health outcomes,” and that evidence supports a broad set of interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness. However, it’s important to note that the quality of the evidence for many of these interventions is mixed, and that more research needs to be done.
In addition, researchers need to take into account the complexity of these factors, and that people may experience different types of isolation and loneliness. For example, social isolation can be a result of living alone or having limited access to close friends and family, but it can also be caused by a lack of meaning in relationships or feeling disconnected from others. Loneliness, on the other hand, is an emotional state that can be difficult to measure and quantify.
One of the reasons why social isolation and addiction go hand-in-hand is that there’s often a direct link between them. People who are isolated feel as though they have nothing to live for and can’t connect with others. This can lead them to use drugs and alcohol as a way of feeling connected, but it’s not a sustainable way to cope.
Studies have shown that lack of social connection heightens health risks, putting you at greater risk for heart problems, depression and high stress levels. In fact, loneliness has been reported as being worse for your health than obesity and as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s also a major factor in suicide. Loneliness is especially harmful to disadvantaged groups, such as the homeless, those with pre-existing conditions and those who live in marginalized communities.
Spirituality is a big part of the 12-Step program, and it can be a great way to combat loneliness during treatment. Step three of the 12 steps involves turning your will and life over to a higher power, which can be anything from nature to God. It’s important that your higher power is something you believe in, as this helps to give you a sense of meaning and purpose in your life.
Spirituality can help you regain a sense of strength and belonging during recovery, which is essential in dealing with loneliness. It can also provide a way to connect with others and find healing from past mistakes and hardships. Many recovering individuals report that embracing a spirituality makes the recovery process much easier and more bearable.
A Lack of Meaningful Connections
Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, humans have a deep need to connect to others and belong to a community. This connection is important for our mental and physical health. In fact, a lack of social connection is associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. It can also contribute to poor health outcomes, including heart disease and high blood pressure. Social connections can even help prevent addiction, as they reduce the likelihood of drug use (Tracy & Wallace, 2016
A person’s sense of belonging and connectedness is not measured by the number of friends they have or how often they talk to them. Instead, it is based on the quality of their relationships and how meaningful those interactions are. For example, someone who feels a strong sense of connectedness with others is likely to be happy for them when they share good news, and genuinely cares about them if they’re having a difficult time. Similarly, they’re more likely to be present in their relationship with a loved one and willing to listen without judgment.
In addiction treatment, there’s a great emphasis on building new connections and repairing damaged ones, as this is an essential part of the healing process. This can include re-establishing a connection to oneself by recognizing your own worth and wisdom, and connecting with the world around you through compassion and kindness.
Spirituality is a broad concept that can encompass a person’s belief in a higher power, their connection to nature, or the meaning of life. Often, this belief in something greater than themselves can help people overcome addiction by focusing on a positive, future-oriented vision of recovery and giving them the strength to overcome cravings. This is why it is so important for anyone with a desire to break free from drug or alcohol use to incorporate some form of spirituality into their recovery.
It’s important to make the distinction between spirituality and religiosity, as the latter is more concerned with a particular religion or set of beliefs. The former, however, can be more individualistic and flexible in terms of what people believe in. It can also be more inclusive of other cultures or traditions, as opposed to being dominated by one particular religion.
Many studies have found that spiritual experiences are related to hope and happiness. For example, a study by Stewart et al. (2017) found that participants who scored highly on the Self-Compassion Scale and Spiritual Well-Being Scale reported less relapse-related distress and negative emotions. In addition, another study by Wnuk (2021a) explored the indirect relationship between spiritual experiences and life satisfaction. The results confirmed that more frequent spiritual experiences facilitated abstinence and improved quality of life and happiness.
Here are some questions for you to consider to continue your healing journey:
- How can a deeper understanding of the connection between social isolation and addiction help inform the development of effective interventions and treatment strategies that target the underlying factors driving addictive behaviors, and what role does fostering meaningful social connections play in the recovery process?
- In what ways does the lack of social connection and the emotional state of loneliness contribute to the exacerbation of addiction and its associated health risks, and how can incorporating spirituality, as seen in the 12-Step program, help individuals combat loneliness during addiction treatment, providing them with a sense of meaning and belonging essential for their healing?
- How does the concept of spirituality, distinct from religiosity, play a significant role in addiction recovery by providing individuals with a positive, future-oriented vision of recovery and the inner strength needed to overcome cravings, as supported by research linking spiritual experiences to hope, happiness, and improved quality of life during the journey to sobriety?