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Spirituality Increases as Alcoholics Recover

ormation about gender and AA participation, and analyzed using statistical techniques.

In all, the study shows, half of the measures of spirituality changed significantly in the six month period, including daily spiritual experiences, the use of religious practices, forgiveness, positive use of religion for coping, and feelings of purpose in life. But the measures that assessed individuals’ core beliefs and values about God or religion didn’t change. At the same time, use of alcohol decreased significantly, and 72 percent of participants did not relapse to heavy drinking.

The researchers then looked at how changes in spirituality related to the likelihood that a person had relapsed to heavy drinking. Those who had experienced an increase in their daily spiritual experiences were less likely to participate in any heavy drinking, as were those who had experienced an increase in their feeling that there was a purpose to their lives. Changes in the other measures of spirituality were not statistically associated with the likelihood of sobriety.

Robinson and her colleagues write that their results suggest that “proactive and experiential” dimensions of spirituality, rather than cognitive ones, were contributing to the recovery and decrease in drinking in the first six months.

They note that this pattern is consistent with two AA slogans: “Bring your body, your mind will follow,” and “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

In other words, changes in core beliefs and values don’t have to occur in order for someone to be more open to spiritual experiences or to take part in more spiritual activities.

These findings suggest that including spirituality of all kinds into the delivery of recovery services for alcoholism may indeed help. Many individual faiths or religious institutions have offered recovery services, and some advocates have suggested that faith-based recovery is most effective for all. But Robinson
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