International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

From Suffering to Flourishing: The Transformational Effects of Finding Meaning and Spiritual Striving in Overcoming Addiction

Terence Singh, B.A. (Hon)

University of Windsor


Using data derived from a questionnaire study of 68 alcoholics, the current research examined differences in three spheres of quality of life (QoL) of these adults before they entered treatment to a point two years after being discharged.  Results showed the magnitude of overall QoL improvement was significantly and positively correlated with the amount of meaning that respondents perceived to be present in their life at the point of two year follow-up.  In the sample as a whole, the total score on the QoL scale was not related to whether or not respondents indicated they were striving for spiritual goals.  Spiritual striving, however, was found to moderate the strength of the association between meaning in life and QoL for one of the three spheres of QoL.  Specifically, among the 26 individuals who did not see themselves as being a ‘spiritual seeker’ meaning in life was unrelated to the quality of community functioning (‘societal’ wellbeing).  When a matched sample of 26 spiritual seekers was examined, QoL was found to be significantly and positive related to personal (hedonic) wellbeing; interpersonal wellbeing and (adaptive) functioning in society.  Findings of the present study are consistent with the suggestion made by Frankl and others who proposed that suffering can be a catalyst for a more fulfilling way of being – provided that people are able to see meaning and purpose in that suffering.   The apparent adaptive consequences of perceived meaning were rather widespread among the spiritual seekers who may have experienced a sanctified sense of meaning.  Based on this possibility, we propose a Broad Spectrum Model to describe the more generalized salutary effects of sacred (as opposed to secular) meaning.

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