Recovery from a faith-based perspective

April 27, 2016

Rev. David Martins
Interim Director
Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts (RICARES)

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
These words are taken from The Diary of Anne Frank. While they were not intended for the Recovery Community, they certainly apply. As one of the 23 million Americans in recovery, I can tell you firsthand the truth that it is indeed good news--in fact, it's incredible news, to continue to discover the latent potential of how great life is, and how much we can love. The journey to recovery is strengthened by the knowledge that we are part of a community, and not trying to get through this experience of rebirth alone.

For the person of faith, this experience we describe as "Recovery" should sound familiar. For the Christian, the phrase "good news," brings to mind the word "Gospel": the good news of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, and Easter the promise of rebirth. For the Jewish community, "good news" is the promise of a Messiah that will inaugurate a world of peace and justice, where "the lion will lie down with the lamb." For the adherents of Islam, the Uawn al-Qiuamah, is "the Day of Religion" or "the Last Hour," when the judgement of Allah will come upon the earth, rewarding the just with eternal life.

We could go on and on about the experience of rebirth as it is understood by the major religious denominations. We could likewise identify the countless ways that some form of rejuvenation drives the spiritual paths of those who identify as "not religions," but none the less in pursuit of some form of transcendental peace. It would seem that the goal of faith, and the goal of recovery, is more or less the same: serenity, joy, and renewal...and being able to engage the pathway to it, is certainly "good news."

It is for this reason that the creation of FIRE (Faith Infused Recovery Efforts) seemed so natural. As folks journey down the road of their own recovery, we discover quickly that it is not merely a physical experience of some form of abstinence; rather, recovery is about engaging in the spiritual side of ourselves. It is about satisfying the needs of the intangible part of ourselves. It is about discovering that love, greatness, and potential that Anne Frank wrote about. For anyone of any faith expression, that life of faith is intrinsically bound up in this spiritual journey; and a strong program of recovery requires spiritual wellness.

FIRE is a grassroots alliance within the Recovery Community Organization for the State of Rhode Island (RICARES) charged with providing support, resources, and service to those who seek to engage in recovery from a faith-based perspective. Through a partnership between FIRE and the New England Addiction Technology Center (ATTC) a video titled Addressing Addiction and Supporting Recovery Through Faith was produced. The video, designed to start a conversation, contains interviews with faith-based leaders in which they describe their role in the light of the addiction epidemic. In March 2016, FIRE and the New England ATTC held a premier of the video, followed by a panel discussion with some of the faith-based leaders who appeared in the 16-minute video and moderated by Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University.

A stepping-off point for much more, this video gave clergy the opportunity to declare their commitment to help stop the stigma and stereotype that surrounds the recovery community. What was the conversation?

How can we help?
What are we doing now?
What can we do differently?

The overwhelming response was that we need to come together across the many aisles, dogmas, and details that separate us, and work together towards this common goal. More than that, the common responsibility of all religious leaders to shepherd and love the people entrusted to our care was also a point of discussion. There is not a single faith expression that does not demand attention and care to our neighbor, and the sad truth of addiction is that our neighbors are dying. 

Where will FIRE go next? The sky's the limit! Everything from support groups, worship services oriented toward recovery, and the use of facilities are all things that are happening already; and FIRE is eager to walk together into a future that is saturated with recovery and spiritual wellness. Do you want to learn more about FIRE and how you can introduce a faith-based recovery into your community? Contact Dr. David Martins at, and be part of this dynamic aspect of the recovery community! 

Does your organization work with an interfaith community to support people in recovery?  Share your story in the comments section below. 

Related resources: The Mid-America ATTC produces faith-based community bulletin inserts for Problem Gambling Awareness Moth (March) Alcohol Awareness Month (April), and Hepatitis C Awareness Month (May). You can view them all on the Resources page of the Mid-America ATTC website.

SAMHSA also offers the following resource:
Preventing and Addressing Alcohol and Drug Problems: A Handbook for Clergy

Guest Blogger Father David Martins serves as Pastor of St. Therese Old Catholic Church in West Warwick, RI. He has also worked at Youth Pride, Inc., The Family Care Community Parthernship, and Anchor ED program. He studied at Providence College/Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Mount Mary Seminary and University, and Creighton University. 

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