The first step of our addiction recovery journey involves realizing that our stubborn self-will has led us to put our faith in harmful substances to heal our emotional wounds and that this self-medication has spiraled out of control. In the succeeding steps, we learn to put our faith and trust back into the hands of the universe’s only truly reliable source – God or a higher power.
Religion and faith have a long history in addiction recovery, beginning in 1939 with the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous and the publication of the group’s philosophies and foundational principles. That work later became what we refer to as the 12 Steps.
Steps 2 and 3 state, respectively: We come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, and we decide to turn our will and lives over to God’s care as we understand Him. Today, the 12-Step program is widely accepted as tremendously successful in helping people battle alcohol addiction and maintain sobriety.
Addiction recovery centers and religious organizations worldwide also use the 12-Step process to treat other issues, including drug abuse and sex/porn addictions, among many others. While congregations and groups may vary on the precise wording of the 12 Steps, the basic tenets remain the same.
Why Faith Matters
According to a 2019 Journal of Religion and Health article, more than 84% of studies evaluating the role of religion in addiction found that faith-based treatment centers represent a positive factor in substance abuse prevention and recovery. The economic impact of faith-based drug rehabs is just as stunning – roughly 130,000 volunteer congregational support groups save the government more than $315 billion annually.
That’s a hefty amount put back into our economy when you consider the annual drain of addiction (in terms of healthcare, lost productivity, and criminal activity) has risen to well over $440 billion. In addition, recent decreases in religiosity and a parallel rise in drug deaths led health officials in the article to warn that addiction treatment absent faith and religious influence “constitutes a national health concern.”
Renaissance Ranch is a Christian-based rehabilitation center. We incorporate the 12-Step program used by AA and a blend of the faith-based recovery principles taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our counselors and staff have all traveled their own recovery roads and wanted to share some of the ways that having faith in God has strengthened (and still strengthens) them for the journey:
Preston Dixon, Chief Operations Officer
“I don’t think that I would have the level of recovery today if I hadn’t discovered the power of faith early on in my journey. There was a time in my life before I got caught up in substance abuse when I had spiritual experiences and felt God’s love regularly. When I experienced the pressures of adolescence and hormones, I made some poor choices and began to justify and rationalize behaviors. I found myself with a lot of cognitive dissonance and even, at times, trying to numb the shame and insecurities. I finally got to the point where I started asking the right questions and was able to get help. I found out that I wasn’t a bad person who needed to get good, but, in fact, I was sick and needed to get well. I am eternally grateful for my relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ, and know that my life is only good today because I have learned to turn my will over to Him.”
Bryan Hedin, Executive Director
“Faith in God (a power greater than myself) is essential to my recovery. It gives grace in regard to my past, spiritual energy and focus for my present, and hope for my future. I believe God’s will for me is to be happy, content, and fulfilled, and I have faith that if I work my recovery program one day at a time and meet God halfway, the gaps will be filled in. This has been true for me the last 14 years I’ve been in recovery.”
Lane Porter, CMHC, Admissions Director
“Some of the biggest barriers to my sobriety have been arrogance, control, and willfulness. So, the daily practices of faith, surrender, and humility have been essential to my long-term recovery and combating these character defects. The practice of faith, especially, fills me with hope and peace as I overcome daily obstacles. Surrender, likewise, lets me focus on things that are important and things that I can control, in turn increasing my peace. Today I am eternally grateful for my opportunities to practice faith, humility, and surrender and for the blessings that come from doing so.”
Justin McCoy, Executive Director – Idaho Operations
“My life was filled with moments of self-will that reinforced my early belief that I alone have the power to achieve greatness and success. This false belief followed me into my addictions, and when it came time to stop using illegal substances, I thought it needed to be accomplished alone and with my own willpower. Faith in a Higher Power never crossed my mind as being a strength until I was so desperate that I prayed for help. Help was given in the form of handcuffs and jail time. This gave me the gift of faith that I cherish today because I started to lean on the Savior for direction in life. I hoped there was a better way to live my life and trusted that he would show me, and He did. God gives me choices, suggests the right path, and then sits back and watches me learn. I know today that He has my best interest in mind, and my life is better today because I follow the teachings of Christ.”
Faith in God or a higher power means so much more than spending time in a church building. You may never set foot in a mass, temple, or other religious congregation, but you can still develop strong and sustaining faith in a higher power. Faith means understanding that you are as important to your creator as a child is to their loving parents. And when you put your life and your recovery in their hands, you’ll find that they can give you the healing that your self-will can’t.