In 1902, American philosopher and psychologists William James coined the following words: “The only cure for dipsomania is religiomania.” Social legitimization of faith-based drug rehab highlights a significant breakthrough in modern long-term drug abuse recovery methods. The pathway to healing is not and never has been restricted to a single solution.
Modern day drug treatment programs are typically categorized into secular, spiritual and religious frameworks, but wisdom prevents excluding one in favor of the other. For many drug abuse patients, faith oriented rehab centers establish a gateway between medical treatments and religious beliefs. The blending of the two provides abusers with spiritual recovery as well as physical recovery.
Faith-based Recovery – A Chronological History
This history is American-based. As such, it may offend persons of faiths outside of the Christian religion. That is not the intent or purpose. The closing discussion is not dependent upon a specific faith, but rather upon the processes associated with faith-based drug rehabilitation.
Yet efforts to understand the benefits associated with faith-based rehab programs can be strengthened by knowing the history of the process. It evidences the backbone of a tried and proven recovery system that begins with the success Christianity has provided to people who abuse alcohol.
According to a white paper released by William L. White, MA and David Whiters, MSW at Faces and Voices of Recovery, faith-based rehab takes its beginnings as a by-product of Native American abstinence-focused religious activity. The history of American faith-oriented drug recovery spans the years between the 17th century and the modern day drug rehab options.
History records Dr. Benjamin Rush (1784) as among the earliest physicians to recognize and acknowledge the value of religion as a realist antidote to drug abuse and alcoholism. In later years, Christian evangelists such as Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey made urgent appeals to a society often troubled by alcohol addiction and abuse. Revivals that focused on the testimony of sobered alcoholics became a major evangelist outreach program of the age.
Such programs continued throughout the 1800s, including urban mission movements that extended into the human health battlegrounds of the Salvation Army. By 1876, the influence of religious oriented rescue efforts included inebriate homes such as the Christian Home for Intemperate Men.
Most of the early faith-based rehab programs focused on the abuse of alcohol. However, in 1906, a new style of clinic appeared on the scene. The Emmanuel Clinic in Boston served as an integrated rehab that combined medicine, psychology and religion as a holistic treatment for nervous and mental disorders. Although still specializing in treatments related to alcohol abuse, the Emmanuel Clinic spawned a growth in secular approaches to lay psychotherapy, including the process that combined sober fellowship with specific psychological counseling.
Since then, the pattern of Christian-centered recovery has wavered in and out. Many groups have chosen to focus on spiritually with a less religious core. The 1930s birthed Alcoholics Anonymous as an organization independent of Christ-centered rehab. By 1947, the overlap into treatment of people with a chemical dependence had produced a cyclical shift from religious to spiritually faith-based rehab.
Islam, A Late Arrival Yet Still Prominent in the Faith-Based Drug Recovery History of America
When a drug abuser identified as “Detroit Red” encountered faith in the Islam religion, a conversion of great proportions took place. Renaming himself, Malcolm X, this reformed street hustler awakened the American public to the power of faith-based drug rehabilitation via Islam teachings. Malcolm eventually carried the Islam-based drug recovery system into the urban and prison communities associated with African Americans.
Modern interest in Islamic support for alcohol and addiction recovery ministries continues to expand. Many modern 12 Steps recovery programs now incorporate Islamic principles. Current Islamic literature often sets focus on khamr (intoxicants) and the clear teaching that forbid these substances.
In 2003, then acting president Bush initiated a $600 million federal drug treatment initiative. Designed to ensure that individual Americans would not suffer the ravages of substance addiction, the program aimed to expand individual access to drug treatment programs. Thus the Access to Recovery (ATR) program came into existence as a voucher program that enables drug abusers an option for seeking government approved recovery assistance.
Throughout the U.S. the ATR program has been put into place. The 3 primary principles are:
- Paid access to results-oriented treatment centers with the ability to provide individualized treatment by certified and/or licensed treatment professionals.
- An increase in the capacity to attain recovery support
- The freedom of consumer choice.
These options point toward one simple and critical truth: Drug recovery is a personal endeavor. The pathways to recovery can include emotional, mental, physical and spiritual solutions. People who abuse drugs are not members of a cult social pattern. They are individuals with specific needs and specific responses to the illness of drug addiction.
In order for government issued vouchers to work, each drug user must have the freedom to select the programs and the providers that most benefit his or her particular situation. Multiple options help motivate, protect and encourage individuals to take aggressive steps toward addiction recovery.
When dealing with faith-based drug rehab, the freedom of consumer choice takes on an additional and critical role of importance: Faith drives character development and a desire to succeed in life.
Even Congress, in recognizing, approving and supporting the ATR program, acknowledges the benefits of faith-based drug treatment programs as a functional option. The reasoning is simple. In any drug rehab effort, the effectiveness of the process can be measured by results – results such as the patient’s:
- Continued abstinence from addictive substances
- Ability to attain and hold employment
- Capacity to enroll and succeed in educational training programs
- Capacity to obtain stable housing
- Freedom from any involvement with the criminal justice system.
ATR is designed to open multiple pathways of recovery to individuals with drug-related problems. The associated drug rehab programs provide access to inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities, medical detoxification, relapse prevention plans, residential services and other recovery-oriented processes, including faith-based solutions.
Benefits of Faith-based Rehabilitation: Inpatient or Outpatient Style
Faith-based recovery centers typically provide the same program formats as those used in secular drug and alcohol rehab clinics. For example: Faith-based inpatient facilities typically include onsite drug detox centers. Faith-based outpatient facilities tend to provide loose structuring, relapse prevention and faith as the bond that holds it all together. Both clinic types offer aftercare services, transitional support and the added characteristics unique to religious and faith-based treatment centers.
The programs fit into two classifications: holistic or traditional. Many spiritual rehab programs, such as the 12 Steps system, focus on the strength and support that can only come through a Higher Power. Yet faith-based rehab is not limited to that aspect of faith. Alternative faith-based rehab programs may include:
- Drama and art therapies
- Equine-assisted therapy
- Ti Chi
- AND various luxury options
The faith-based recovery framework now spans both well-known and little known religions. The core teachings typically remain constant. Whether identifying drug abuse as a “sin of the flesh” or “fruit from the tree of ignorance,” the goal is to establish a catalytic understanding of how drug addiction takes root in the user. Once the drug is identified as an opponent, whether “demonic” or as “idolatry,” the patient can then gain the rationale for resistance and abstinence.
Faith-based drug recovery systems can help an individual:
- Transcend selfish desires
- Reconstruct his or her personal sense of values and identity
- Break free from toxic relationships
- Establish new interpersonal relationships
- Gain a ready-made support system
- Create new rituals of confession, self-forgiveness and an attitude of service
- Embrace the community strength of a shared faith
- Grasp the power that exists in a supernatural deity.
Fellowship may be the major benefit of faith-based drug rehab programs. When multitudes of people come together under the same mindset, great power can spring forth. Fellowship provides a deeper sense of group safety. Sharing in the same beliefs as non-affected family members can also strength individual commitments. Participating in familiar religious activities helps create a sense of bonding. Personal feelings of group support increase.