Decreased Drinking and Alcoholics Anonymous Are Associated With Different Dimensions of Spirituality

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Abstract

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a spiritual program and involvement in it has been associated with increases in spirituality. Some who pursue recovery outside AA also use spirituality for support. Decreasing drinking without AA involvement might result in spiritual change, but this has not been explored in previous research. This study investigates drinking and AA behavior to determine their association with 7 dimensions of subsequent spirituality. A 30-month panel study recruited 364 individuals with alcohol dependence. Multilevel models examined drinking and AA at 6 months as predictors of both the levels and trajectories of 7 dimensions of spirituality assessed 5 times over 6–30 months. Controlling for AA involvement, less drinking was associated with higher levels of purpose in life, self-forgiveness, and spiritual/religious practices. Controlling for drinking, greater AA involvement was associated with higher levels of positive religious coping, daily spiritual experiences, forgiveness of others, and spiritual/religious practices. Neither AA nor drinking predicted trajectories of spirituality. Data visualizations identified a pattern of elevated purpose in life and self-forgiveness among individuals who were abstinent and among individuals who drank less intensely. Reduced drinking influenced aspects of spirituality that have been shown to respond to experience and maturation. AA was associated with aspects of spirituality embedded in the 12 steps which have been shown to be responsive to learning and modeling. This knowledge has the potential to inform decisions about recovery options, and contributes to theoretical understandings of the nature of spiritual change over the course of addiction recovery.

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