Trauma, Substance Dependence and Religious Coping: A Narrative Spiritual Appraisal in Faith-Based Recovery Programs

In: Journal of Empirical Theology
Srdjan Sremac Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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The purpose of this article is to understand how people with substance dependence problems employ testimonies of spiritual transformation to develop, cope and sustain a sense of personal identity and create meaning from conflicting (traumatic) life experiences. The quest to undo the struggling with substance dependence is seen as a spiritual attempt to reconfigure the person’s ‘spoiled identity’. Drawing on 31 autobiographies of people who recovered from substance dependence problems I analyzed their conversion testimonies in two European contexts (Serbia and the Netherlands, including a sample of immigrants). It draws on the observation that substance dependence often (though certainly not always) develops in response to life crises or trauma and identity confusion, while spiritual transformation, including religious conversion, can foster recovery. The study focuses specifically of the role of testimony in reconstructing a viable narrative of the self, accounting for trauma, substance dependence experience, and conversion and embedding in different social, cultural, and spiritual contexts. Finally, suggestions for the helping professions and care providers of substance dependence service will be offered.

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