Exploration of the role of beliefs (religious, spiritual, and secular) in pathways of recovery from problematic substance use
Hillen, David Peter
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This thesis aims to shed light on the role of religious, spiritual and secular beliefs in individuals’ recovery from problematic substance use in Scotland. The findings are based on semi-structured interviews with twenty individuals, living in Scotland, who had past experience of problematic substance use. The methodology was influenced by narrative theory and the analysis drew on a thematic narrative approach. It is suggested that individuals in recovery construct personal belief systems by drawing chiefly on established cultural belief systems. Personal belief systems are learned and reinforced through practice, notably, engaging with belief-orientated communities and practising personal rituals. Participants use their personal belief systems as frameworks to interpret and give meaning to fundamental experiences that were part of their recovery. Personal belief systems are also integral to the construction of identity in recovery, helping individuals to establish a new self or reclaim an idealised past self. While personal belief systems did not often fit within neat religious, spiritual or secular categories, those with religious and/or spiritual beliefs often stressed the importance of their beliefs and associated practices to their recovery. Secular existential beliefs were also important to some people. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of research, policy and practice.