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Six-Month Changes in Spirituality, Religiousness, and Heavy Drinking in a Treatment-Seeking Sample

Elizabeth A.R. Robinson, James A. Cranford, Jon R. Webb, Kirk J. Brower

Objective: This descriptive and exploratory study investigated change in alcoholics' spirituality and/or religiousness (S/R) from treatment entry to 6 months later and whether those changes were associated with drinking outcomes. Method: Longitudinal survey data were collected from 123 outpatients with alcohol use disorders (66% male; mean age 39; 83% white) on 10 measures of S/R, covering behaviors, beliefs, and experiences, including the Daily Spiritual Experiences and Purpose in Life scales. Drinking behaviors were assessed with the Timeline Followback interview. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) participation and attendance were also measured. Results: Over 6 months, there were statistically significant increases in half of the S/R measures, specifically the Daily Spiritual Experiences scale, the Purpose in Life scale, S/R practices scale, Forgiveness scale, and the Positive Religious Coping scale. There were also clinically and statistically significant decreases in alcohol use. Multiple logistic regression analyses showed that increases in Daily Spiritual Experiences and in Purpose in Life scores were associated with increased odds of no heavy drinking at 6 months, even after controlling for AA involvement and gender. Conclusions: In the first 6 months of recovery, many dimensions of S/R increased, particularly those associated with behaviors and experiences. Values, beliefs, self-assessed religiousness, perceptions of God, and the use of negative religious coping did not change. Increases in day-to-day experiences of spirituality and sense of purpose/meaning in life were associated with absence of heavy drinking at 6 months, regardless of gender and AA involvement. The results of this descriptive study support the perspective of many clinicians and recovering individuals that changes in alcoholics' S/R occur in recovery and that such changes are important to sobriety. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 68: 282-290, 2007)