Most of us are familiar with the 12 Step Program.  It’s the bedrock of all the ‘Anonymous’ programs, beginning with Alcoholics in the 1930s and now fighting all forms of addiction.  The vast majority of 12 Step Programs involve recognition of one’s Higher Power and that without Her/His help, we are powerless to overcome our addiction.  Several programs have since been adapted to work within specific faiths whether Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Native American.  Frequently those religious affiliated programs can be the most effective because they also involve active engagement beyond just merely fighting the addiction.

Faith based coalitions typically start from a position of compassion.  Each faith itself recognizes the potential of repentance and, as a result, they are all open-minded to the concept of addiction as a disease rather than a moral failure.  As a unified community with a commitment to charity, many are also more willing to dedicate additional resources in combating the disease.  Faith based groups are also more effective in community outreach.  One pilot program in Minnesota involves training Imams (Muslim religious leaders) to recognize symptoms of mental illness and addiction, to help guide their members into treatment.  In Pennsylvania, a number of pastors regularly get together to share ideas on how they can better engage parishioners in need of help.

If you or someone you know is seeking recovery, or has sought recovery and failed in the past, faith-based recovery may be an attractive option.  The extra support could be exactly what’s necessary to set things on the right track.


  1. Thank you for touching on the importance of faith-based recovery programs. As a member of a Buddhist based recovery coalition (Refuge Recovery), I agree that community outreach and education is vital compassion-in-action for supporting those who suffer from addiction.

    However spirituality can be more than turning one’s life over to God. Our experience of Spiritus also benefits from the development of a relationship with one’s own direct experience: with kindness, compassion, joy, and forgiveness.

    Forgiveness (in contrast to repentance) is the process of freeing oneself from internal suffering by meeting the pain of our lives with care and compassion through seeing ourselves and others as having acted from confusion and suffering. We see in this process that the suffering of addiction isn’t our fault, but it is our responsibility. A responsibility that all beings have within their power to develop.

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