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Response to Research on the Role of Spirituality in Recovery from Addiction

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March 20, 2013 by Dr. Bob Weathers

I recently posted a blog on “Two New Articles Researching Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction” (which see below).

One reader responded:

“Thank you very much for sharing the articles and the information presented in them. It does seem that spirituality can indeed play a significant role in an individual’s recovery. I wonder if this is because the new-found lifestyle encourages positive changes which in turn can develop a more positive focused lifestyle and subsequent spirituality. So which comes first, the positive lifestyle or the development of the positive spirituality? Lots of room for thought and conversation!”

I want to share here today my brief response to this reader’s questions:

I very much appreciate your “chicken-and-egg” query.  I’ve long been interested in this question more generally.  It started for me while reading Bandura’s “Social Learning Theory” years ago.  He called it “reciprocal determinism.”  Then later, in cultural anthropology studies, I came across a similar discussion: is it worldview that dictates behavior, or vice versa?  Finally, the linguists Lakoff and Johnson introduced me to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis; in which, language is assumed to directly effect (and affect) worldview.  In other words, if we have 50 words of snow (Eskimos), we are likely to have a more differentiated (world)view around snow than, for example, tropical peoples.  (Interestingly, the Sanskrit language of ancient India has scores of descriptors for “love,” while English is significantly more limited.)

The bottom line — as in William James on religious experience — if we act as if we believed in the divine (e.g., by humbly practicing Steps 1 through 3 from A.A.), sure enough we’ll come soon to a more profound belief in the divine.  Plus, reciprocally, if we truly believe in the transcendent dimension, our behavior (including a genuinely committed lifestyle of spiritual sobriety)  will more than likely (though not always) conform increasingly to that faith.

Thanks to this reader!  I’d be very interested in further dialogue with anyone else who’s asked similar questions…

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