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Spirituality Increases as Alcoholics Recover

For decades, recovering alcoholics and those who treat them have incorporated spirituality into the recovery process. But few research studies have documented// if and how spirituality changes during recovery, or how those changes might influence a person’s chance of succeeding in the quest for sobriety.

Now, a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center sheds light on this phenomenon. In the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, they show that many measures of spirituality tend to increase during alcohol recovery. They also demonstrate that those who experience increases in day-to-day spiritual experiences and their sense of purpose in life are most likely to be free of heavy drinking episodes six months later.

“While people’s actual beliefs don’t seem to change recovery, the extent they have spiritual experiences, and are open to spirituality in their lives, does change,” says lead researcher Elizabeth A.R. Robinson, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the U-M Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and member of UMARC. “This effect was also independent of their participation in Alcoholics Anonymous which has a strong spiritual aspect.”

The researchers report data from 154 adults with a diagnosis of alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse who entered an outpatient treatment program.

At the beginning of the study, and again six months later, the researchers assessed 10 different measures of the participants’ spirituality and religiousness using standard research questionnaires. These included their views of God, religious practices such as prayer or church attendance, forgiveness, spiritual experiences, using religion or spirituality to cope, and existential meaning. The researchers also assessed participants’ alcohol use, and problems related to their alcohol use, before the study began and after six months. All of these responses were combined with inf
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