Answers to Questions Concerning Individuals
Doesn't the concept of "recovery" contradict the spiritual truth of becoming a "new creation" in Christ?
- "Recovery" is in the Bible - The term "recover" actually does appear
in the Bible in 2 Timothy 2:26. The Greek word used there, "ananepho" actually means to "return to a state of soberness, as
from a state of delirium or drunkenness." (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W. E. Vine, pg. 263).
- Recovery is sanctification - Using the concept
of recovery emphasizes the fact that it is a process, and not something that happens in an instant. This is just how the Bible
refers to sanctification -- the continuing process of growth into the image of Christ. In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul refers
to sanctification as a process. In this passage the word translated "transformed" is in the Greek present passive indicative
tense, which implies an on-going activity, rather than a one time act. Paul, then, exhorts believers to actively and consciously
engage in an on-going process of separation from their old sinful way of life and to increasingly set themselves apart to
God through a continual renewal of their minds.
- Recovery is
an on-going process of "yielding" - In Romans 6:19, Paul shows how the yielding of
our bodies to sin results in ever increasing wickedness and uncleanness. In secular terms, this is very analogous to the charts
that illustrate the passage of the addict through the increasingly destructive phases of alcoholism. Later in the same chapter,
Paul explains how, through the experience of becoming born again and walking in the newness of life in Christ enables us to
become "slaves of righteousness." Therefore, he urges believers to present the members of their bodies as "servants of righteousness
unto holiness." (KJV) The Greek word used here is "hagiasmos," translated "sanctification" in many other passages.
How do "support groups" help the struggling addict?
- Christian "support groups" are not a new idea John Wesley's "Rules for Small Groups," written in 1816, is an outline that embodies "the Method" from which
the name "Methodist" came. This method resulted in one of the greatest revivals the world has ever known. Believers gathered
together in small groups, sharing honestly, becoming accountable to one another, asking probing questions, praying for one
another with a deep knowledge of their mutual needs and struggles. Any believer can benefit from this type of gathering. It
can be a tremendously healing and encouraging experience for those in recovery.
- Benefits of participating in support groups - Ideally, a good support
group is, first, a place where recovering addicts will find true acceptance and a sense of what unconditional love is all
about. It is a safe, non-judgmental setting where they can express struggles, thoughts, ideas, and feelings without fear of
rejection. Hearing the stories of others with similar difficulties and how they overcame them, gives the struggling addict
great encouragement to go on in a life of sobriety. Healthy support groups can provide a sort of "family" atmosphere that
stimulates the hope for a better life in all involved. Because addiction wreaks havoc upon an individual's relationships with
others, a good support group is a wonderful place for recovering addicts to begin the difficult and painful process of re-connecting
with other people.
- Identifying a good support group - Overcoming the lingering affects of addiction and moving into the fullness of the abundant life is an involved,
long-term process. Fortunately, in recent years we have witnessed the growth of Christian support groups. Those who use the
Twelve Steps originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous seem to be the most effective. In many ways, support groups are
like churches -- all are not the same. Some are very closed and even hostile toward Christianity. Others are very open. Actually,
there are even many AA groups meeting throughout the country that even call themselves "Christian AA groups." Before referring
counselees to a particular AA meeting or other support group, the counselor or pastor (or someone he or she trusts) should
make one or two personal visits to the meetings. A list of approved meetings should be developed . When a support group will
be meeting at church or rescue mission, it is important for the director to meet personally with those who will provide leadership
for the group. It is critical that he have confidence in the maturity, sobriety, and spiritual commitment of the group's leaders.
It is also important to set down guidelines for conducting the group in the facility well before the meetings begin.
Is it right for Christians to borrow ideas, principles, and techniques from the secular treatment
- Stay true to the scriptures - We
must be careful to subject all things we do in our Christian lives to the light of the Word of God. Therefore, we must throw
out any principles or philosophies that contradict God's Word! Most importantly, Christians must reject any philosophy or
approach that lifts from a sinner his sense of responsibility for his own actions. Without this the first real step to healing
cannot be taken - repentance and cleansing for sine at the Cross of Christ. The Bible is perfectly clear on the fact that
real, lasting change can only occur when an individual can experience true repentance -- which implies a sense of personal
accountability for his actions and their consequences.
discerning - A creationist scientist will reach a set of conclusions on a certain
geological formation that is very different from those of his evolutionist counterpart. In a similar fashion, while dealing
with factual data, conclusions reached by non-Christian researchers or counselors often reflect a godless "world-view." Despite
this dilemma, we must not reject the whole body of factual knowledge about addiction and successful treatment approaches that
is accessible and useful to us as Christian counselors.
what you can and discard the rest - Certainly, some of the ideas that are coming
out of the secular treatment world do contradict the scriptures (especially on the topics of morality and spirituality). Yet,
many of the successful methods they use to establish addicts in a life of sobriety have their origins in the Word of God!
In a very real sense, they have re-discovered some deep spiritual principles that have been almost lost to the modern Western
Church. Some of these are: the power of accountable relationships, the healing nature of deep and intimate sharing between
believers, the indisputable connection between rigorous honesty and true spirituality, and the principle of comforting others
through sharing how the Lord brought us through similar situations (2 Cor. 1:3-7). While secular and atheistic people may
see these principles in a totally different light, we ought to be able to discern, with the Holy Spirit's help, what aspects
of this field of knowledge we can integrate into our recovery programs without compromising on revealed truth.
What about the "disease concept" of alcoholism and drug addiction?
Isn't the "drunkard" the same person as the addict or alcoholic?
- The spiritual perspective - According
to the Bible, anyone who becomes intoxicated on a regular basis is a "drunkard." Therefore, alcoholics and addicts who are
actively using their "drug of choice" are "drunkards.". Still, we must not confuse our terminology. "Drunkenness" is a term
that refers to activities with definite spiritual and moral implications. Galatians 5:19-21 labels drunkenness as a sin, a
real moral choice that will keep the offender from inheriting the Kingdom of God. But, an individual can be an addict or alcoholic
without being a drunkard. The regular "social drinker," for instance, can still be a drunkard, without being caught up in
the web of compulsive alcohol or drug use that characterizes addiction.
therapeutic perspective - Repeated drunkenness is where addiction begins. But, once
addiction sets in, we are talking about something very different. Addiction, alcoholism, and chemical dependency are therapeutic
terms use to describe this compulsive, life-dominating disorder. Its primary characteristic is the loss of control (or condition
of "powerlessness") over the drug of choice.
What about those who say, "Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic?"
- Release from compulsion is a reality - Those who react negatively to this phrase usually interpret it to mean that an addicted individual
is condemned to live under the constant danger of slipping into drunkenness against his own will. This, of course, would be
a definite denial of God's power to change the addict and empower him to live a victorious life. The truth is that many believers
do testify of an experience where the power of the Spirit of God actually lifted the compulsive desire to use alcohol and
drugs from them. We must be mindful of the fact that, once this occurs, the newly reborn addict still must contend with all
the lingering consequences of this life of bondage.
- The physical dimension of addiction - When an addict is delivered
from the compulsion to drink, he is no longer a "drunkard" in the spiritual sense. Yet, he is still a recovering alcoholic
or addict in the therapeutic sense. On a physiological level, he will always be "sensitized" to alcohol. Alcohol use can "activate"
the chemical mechanisms of addiction leading to compulsive drinking and behavior. Total abstinence, therefore, is a must.
This physical aspect of addiction will remain with the recovering person until he is glorified by the Lord and receives his
new body. With the acknowledgment of this fact, the recovering person will be all the more diligent to abstain from drinking
or casual drug use. He or she recognizes the dire consequences of even "moderate" alcohol or drug use. If the recovering addict
remains abstinent, this physical consequence of addiction will not otherwise effect his life and Christian walk.
- Overcoming the "fall-out" of addiction - A life
of addiction results in destructive attitudes, distorted emotions, and warped patterns of thinking. These do not simply disappear
when an addict experiences spiritual rebirth. Calling a person a "recovering" addict or alcoholic also implies that he or
she is actively overcoming the lingering problems of an addicted lifestyle through involvement in a definite program of personal
growth. Some of the deep-seated attitudes that keep an addict locked in his addiction include; pride and grandiosity, rebellion
against authority, dishonesty, manipulation, blame-shifting, resentments, procrastination, etc. While these "character defects"
are common problems with practically all addicts, unless they are "hit head-on" they will lead to defeat.
If addicts do have a genuine experience of salvation, why do they need further counseling?
- The difference between "abstinence" and recovery - Actually quitting the active use of alcohol and drugs can be quite easy compared to the really big
challenge of developing a new, healthy chemical-free lifestyle. Addiction-specific counseling and other therapeutic activities
are usually necessary to help individuals to overcome the deep and destructive consequences of alcoholism and addiction to
other drugs. Without the right sort of help, addicts will inevitably fall back into active use of chemicals or will become
involved in some other compulsive behavior to deal with life stresses and the unresolved difficulties that work against a
- Recovery and the "sinful
nature"- The Bible makes a case for the fact that the sinful nature, though
crucified, still exerts an influence on the believer that is not always that apparent. The entire "world view" of the addict
has been shaped by the addictive process. In essence, these are the elements of his "sinful nature," or "flesh," with which
he will struggle with as long as he remains in this world. These can eventually rise up and cause him defeat. Addicts need
the help of informed counselors who, through a process of intensive discipleship, will teach them to be "transformed by the
renewing of their minds" (Romans 12:2) and learn how to "walk in the Spirit that they might not fulfill the desires of the
flesh." (Galatians 5:16)
- The problem of denial
- Jesus said, "The truth will make you free." (John 8:32) This has a special
application to the dangerous stumbling block of denial that every addict must overcome. If not, he is certain to stumble in
his Christian life and eventually relapse into active use of drugs or alcohol. What did Solomon mean when he said, "All a
man's ways are right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits?" So often, to us, everything seems fine, but underneath
the surface God sees something totally different. The Bible makes it so clear that man has a fearful ability to become self-deceived.
Nowhere do we see this illustrated more powerfully than in the area of addiction! In order for addicts to live the abundant
life, usually they need the help of knowledgeable counselors who can help them to break through their denial.
Is it proper for Christians to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and use the 12 Steps and
- AA's beginnings - The Twelve
Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are basically a reliable and orderly approach to recovery from alcoholism and other forms of
addiction. While Bill Wilson, the original author of the Steps, may not have been a born again believer himself, both he and
Dr. Bob Smith did have vital relationships with people who were sold-out Bible-believing Christians. One of the prominent
individuals (for whom Bill Wilson had great respect) was Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, a well-known evangelist of the early twentieth
century. Some of the people involved in the beginnings of AA had come to Christ through a New York City rescue mission founded
by Shoemaker. Also, through a fellowship movement called the Oxford Groups, they were both have contact with a number of sincere
In developing the AA program, they borrowed from many different
sources, including Biblical Christianity. The 12 Steps evolved out of six steps originally developed in the Oxford Groups.
Their six steps were definitely Christian, as was the first version of the 12 Steps that were intended by Bill W. to be a
more expanded outline of the progressive actions that lead to a new and changed life. It was only later, after sharing his
first draft of the 12 Steps with some of the other early AA's, that the more overtly "religious" statements were edited out.
We should not judge AA with the same standards by which we might judge a group that claims to be a Christian organization.
It was never meant to be a Christian group, although there were some people involved in the beginning who would have wanted
it to be. We might note that, even today, AA (practiced properly) does encourage people to get spiritual instruction and fellowship
from the Church and other organized religious bodies outside of itself.
information on the influence of Christianity on the early AA movement, go to Dick B's Page. A recovering alcoholic and retired attorney, his books are the result of many personal interviews with people who knew AA's
founders and through on-site research in Akron, OH, the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous, and elsewhere.
- The Twelve Steps and the Bible - Still, the main
issue is, just how do the 12 Steps stand up to the standards of the Word of God? If we approach them with the premise that
our God is He who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, there is nothing in the 12 Steps that directly contradicts the Scriptures.
They consist of the following; admission of personal defeat, brokenness, turning one's life and will over to the care of God,
confession, restitution, acquiring the spiritual disciplines of prayer and personal devotions, and a desire to reach out to
others. If every Christian practiced these things on a consistent basis, they would grow tremendously! The 12 Steps are simply
an orderly way to apply the scriptural principles they espouse. They have a natural progression in them that can serve as
an outline of discipleship that fits the unique needs of the addict. Additionally, for residential recovery programs, most
of those involved will then to have some prior exposure to the 12 Steps through previous treatment experiences and attending
AA meetings. This gives us something to build upon -- using the 12 Steps as a vehicle to lead them into a growing relationship
with Jesus Christ into deeper spiritual truths.
Why should addicts avoid new relationships with members of the opposite sex in the first year of recovery?
- Avoid losing the focus on personal issues - For addicts, real lasting change occurs only after a long and often painful process of self discovery. This
involves understanding their own addictive behaviors, repressed emotions, and destructive thought patterns. However, their
denial uses the feelings and behaviors of others to avoid facing their own pain and dishonesty and from assuming responsibility
for their controlling and shame-producing actions. Introducing a romantic relationship, with an intense focus on the other
person, too early in recovery inevitably "short-circuits" the important process of reconnecting with self and learning to
become responsible for one's own feelings and behavior.
the illusions and dishonesty of infatuation - The beginning phase of recovery is
always a very emotional and painful time. Still, all this pain can be an important motivator for recovery, providing great
incentive to take the difficult steps necessary for real change to occur. However, "falling in love" (and taking the focus
off self) can easily create a false sense of well-being. In the "scary," unfamiliar, and often painful time of early recovery,
becoming "special" to a person of the opposite sex is a tremendous ego booster. For addicts, this can create the illusion
of being much farther long in the process of recovery than they really are. Additionally, the commitment to "rigorous honesty"
is usually forsaken as they strive to make the best possible impression to win the affections of the other person.
- Avoid relapse from the stress of codependency -
One definition of codependency is simply using other people to create good feelings within ourselves. People in early recovery
can easily transfer their dependency on alcohol and drugs to dependency on another person. Until they understand the issues
related to their own codependency, they are certain to fall right into old dishonest and unhealthy ways of relating. By itself,
the stress of early recovery often results in relapse. Using inadequate and unhealthy relationship skills to deal with a person
of the opposite sex is certain to create frustration and even more stress. The likelihood of using drugs and alcohol is sure
to increase because this is the way the addict has always attempted to manage difficult emotions.
- Avoid the sex trap - Addicts in early recovery
are especially vulnerable to sexual temptation. If they get into a romantic relationship too early, they are virtually guaranteed
to fail in this area. They become involved in sexual activity because they simply do not know how to relate in a truly intimate
way with the opposite sex and suffer from a serious lack of self control. Additionally, to most addicts, sex is just like
another "drug." The altered state of consciousness it creates can give hurting people a false sense of well-being and ease
feelings of pain and insecurity. Failure in this area can be extremely devastating to a new Christian, causing a tremendous
sense of defeat and discouragement. And, if they do not repent of sexual failure, the result is a serious state of dishonesty
that totally derails the recovery process.
- Avoid "enablers"
and "fixers" - Those who are romantically attracted to
individuals whom they know are in recovery programs usually have serious problems with codependency in their own lives. People
who are "enablers" and "fixers" are actually attracted to troubled people of the opposite sex. Additionally, since these individuals
are in denial about their own need for recovery, they usually put pressure on addicts to leave programs prematurely, convincing
them that they are not "that bad" or that all they need is a good partner to get better."
- Avoid cutting off relationships with others in recovery - Because
addicts have used people to create good feelings within themselves, all of their relationships, especially romantic ones,
have been completely self-centered. Therefore, one of the most important phases of early recovery is learning to relate to
others of both sexes on an honest, non-romantic and intimate level. This can be a tremendously healing experience. However,
becoming entangled in an "exclusive" relationship is certain to circumvent this process. The result is missing out on the
blessing of positive and meaningful relationships with other recovering people in mutual honesty and self-revelation.