The Spiritual Consequences of Addiction

Addictions create consequences that are beyond the imagination of most users when they first experiment with an addictive substance or behavior. Users are initially attracted to these substances or behaviors by the powerful and immediate psychological rewards (including both feelings of pleasure and relief/distraction from emotional discomfort). But when addiction sets in (and even before that), things can rather quickly fall apart. Users eventually and inevitably experience physical, psychological, interpersonal, and spiritual consequences. In previous posts, we have discussed the physical, psychological, and interpersonal consequences. This week, we are focused on the spiritual impacts. 

The spiritual consequences of drug, sex, and paired drug/sex addiction are often overlooked. Sometimes they are overwhelmed or subsumed by physical, psychological, or interpersonal consequences. However, after a period of time in recovery, many people find that their loss of spiritual connection was as hurtful to them and those around them as any of their other consequences.

Please note: When we talk about the spiritual consequences of addiction, we are not referring to any specific religious beliefs. With addicts who have such beliefs, those beliefs may (and usually do) take a hit. But what we’re talking about here is a more general sense of connectedness to the world. Regardless of religion (or lack of religion), addicts almost universally experience a loss of intimate connection with their true selves and with loved ones.

The simple truth is there is an epidemic of loneliness in our society, and addicts are as vulnerable to this as anyone else – perhaps even more vulnerable. In fact, most addictive behaviors, especially those with an element of sex or romance, are maladaptive attempts to fill the ‘hole in the soul’ that so many of us feel. However, most addicts find that there are not enough drugs or sex in the world to create the desired sense of wholeness. Perhaps this is why many people say that addiction is an intimacy disorder, and that the cure for addiction is not sobriety but connection. 

Another devastating spiritual consequence is that many addicts lose their sense of purpose in life. In active addiction, they direct most of their daily energy toward preserving the addiction and the behaviors that support it. Gradually, everything else becomes less important. In early recovery, many people find themselves searching for meaning and for a sense of accomplishment that results from living with purpose.

Yet another spiritual consequence of drug, sex, and paired drug/sex addiction is the loss of any sense of wellbeing and joy derived from life. The stress of protecting addictive behaviors, compartmentalizing one’s life, losing touch with needs, and simply experiencing the ravages of an addictive life will inevitably fray any sense of continuity and satisfaction.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug addiction, sex addiction, or sexualized drug use, professional help is available at Seeking Integrity, and free resources can be found on our affiliated website.