Importance of Faith in Addiction Recovery

When people break away from addiction they are likely to see some benefits immediately.

The early days of recovery can be hard though, and unless the individual believes that it is going to lead them to a better life they may give up when things get hard. There is no real way to prove conclusively to somebody that their life is going to improve significantly if they remain sober. They have to take a leap of faith and believe that this is the case. It is this that gives them the motivation to continue. 

Faith Defined

Faith is often associated with religion, but it can actually be defined as confidence or trust in a person or thing. For example, trusting somebody involves putting faith in the idea that what they say is true. Another way that faith can be defined is to say that it is something that a person believes in that does not require logical proof or material evidence. A leap of faith is when people decide to believe in something even though they may not have enough compelling evidence to back this belief. 

Types of Faith

There are many types of faith that people may use in their life including:

  • The individual can have faith in their own ability to achieve something.
  • A person can put their faith into the ability of somebody else to help them – an example of this would be the relationship of a patient to their doctor.
  • People can have faith in ideas such as, good actions lead to good results and bad actions lead to bad results.
  • The individual can have faith in a higher power that is there to help them.
  • People have faith in their religious beliefs.
  • There is also a type of faith that occurs when the individual is inspired by other people. An example of this would be the addict who begins to have faith in sobriety because they have witnessed other people who achieved a good life away from addiction.

Reasons for Taking a Leap of Faith in Recovery

It may be very important for people who hope to build a successful recovery to take a leap of faith because:

  • There may be no amount of evidence that will convince somebody in the midst of addiction that their life will get better if they stop drinking or taking drugs. They have to be willing to take a leap of faith and give recovery a chance.
  • Addicts tend to be highly cynical and suspicious of people. In order to get beyond this they will need to put such negativity on hold and just take a chance.
  • Most people who enter recovery will have low self esteem, and they may not have much confidence in their own ability to improve their own life. Faith is needed until the individual is able to increase their own self esteem.
  • The newly sober person needs to trust those who are trying to help them. Without such trust they may be unable to get the support they need to succeed in recovery.
  • Once the individual gains some momentum in recovery it all becomes much easier. The initial leap of faith can give them the initial push they need to get the ball rolling.

Addiction and Denial

One of the most common symptoms of addiction is denial. This is a defence mechanism whereby the individual unconsciously rejects aspects of reality because it makes them feel uncomfortable. In some instances, such as a terminal illness diagnosis, this denial can be beneficial because it gives the individual time to adjust to their situation. In the case of addiction this denial can be highly damaging because it prevents the individual from understanding the reality of their situation. 

The fact that the person is in denial about their addiction means that they can be very resistant towards people who are trying to help them. Family and friends may have convincing arguments but the addict will easily be able to fend these off. Even if recovery specialists offer compelling evidence the individual will be able to dismiss this because of the extent of their denial. There may be no evidence that is convincing enough to prove to them conclusively that their life will get better if they stop alcohol or drugs. This means that they may need to take a leap of faith so that they can escape their denial. 

Reasons Why People Become Willing to Take a Leap of Faith

Even the addict who is a hardnosed cynic about recovery may develop the motivation to take a leap of faith. This can occur if:

  • All addicts will have low points when it is easier for them to see past their denial. At such times they may be more willing to entertain the possibility that they could be living a better life without alcohol or drugs.
  • Those who have hit rock bottom have reached a point where they feel they cannot go on with their current life. They may become willing to take a leap of faith because they want the pain to stop.
  • A good addiction therapist may not be able to fully convince the individual that their life will be better in recovery, but they can convince the client to entertain the possibility. This means that the addict becomes prepared to give recovery a try even though they might not be fully convinced.
  • If the addict sees other people achieving a good life in recovery it can inspire them to give it a try.

Fake it to Make it in Recovery

It is often suggested that those in early recovery should fake it to make it. This is not an invitation for them to embrace delusional thinking but instead for them to take a leap of faith. It is akin to positive thinking. The individual believes that their recovery is going to be a success, and they begin to act as if this were already the case. By doing this the individual kicks off a positive feedback loop– this is where positive events in the past trigger positive events in the future. Within a short time the person begins to see the tangible benefits of life in recovery, and they no longer have to fake it. It was their original leap of faith that would have gotten the ball rolling. 

Faith and Realistic Expectations

Faith is closely related to having realistic expectations in recovery. It is unreasonable for people to expect that their life is going to be perfect as soon as they stop drinking or using drugs. It takes time and energy to build a successful recover. Giving up the substance abuse is vital, but it is only the first step in a long process. The individual has to have faith that by doing the right things now the right things will happen to them in the future. If the individual has unrealistic expectations then this can lead to disillusionment and relapse

Faith to Make it through the Early Days of Recovery

The early days of recovery can be turbulent and difficult. When the individual first becomes sober they will have withdrawal symptoms that can be quite unpleasant. It can then take them a bit of time to settle into a life where chemical oblivion is no longer an option. The newly sober person now has to face life on life’s terms, and this can be difficult for them. Emotions that have been suppressed for years can begin to defrost, and the first few months of recovery can be like an emotional rollercoaster as a result. 

The fact that the early days of recovery can be so difficult means that the individual may begin to question their decision. Just giving up alcohol and drugs does bring some initial benefits, but it may not be enough to convince people that they have made the right choice. In order to keep going and develop sobriety the individual needs to have faith that things are going to keep improving. 

Importance of Faith in Advanced Recovery

Even when people have witnessed for themselves the benefits of staying sober they may still need faith in their life. This is because there will always be goals to aim for with no guarantee of results. Most individuals will not commit themselves to a difficult task unless they have faith in their ability to achieve it. The fact that people in advanced recovery have already seen how beneficial a leap of faith can be means that it is easier for them to make such leaps in the future. 

Faith and Critical Thinking

Taking a leap of faith is often necessary for people who hope to build a good life away from addiction. There can also be times when believing in things without sufficient evidence can get people into trouble. If the individual is too gullible they become willing to believe in almost anything, and they are at risk of being manipulated by charlatans and scam artists. This is why it is usually a good idea to mix faith with critical thinking. That way the individual can benefit from faith without embracing delusional thinking.

At Hope Trust, clients are encouraged to develop ‘faith’ – not religious – but a basic perspective to help them progress in the recovery process.

Leaf of Faith in Addiction Recovery