Breaking Free From the Chains

After World War I, Second Lieutenant Bill Wilson failed to graduate from law school because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma. Years later a severely alcoholic Bill entered the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions in New York City four times, receiving no help. His doctor eventually told him if he wasn’t locked up permanently he would die. Months later, Bill heard about a Christian group who had success helping alcoholics. Shortly after again finding himself hospitalized, he cried out, “I’ll do anything. Anything at all! If there be a God, let Him show Himself!”

This prayer began a process that led to the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, a peer-led mutual aid fellowship dedicated to recovery from alcoholism. Over the last near-century, countless lives have been saved by AA and the many associated organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Sex Addicts Anonymous. Today almost every addiction treatment protocol involves attending such groups. Because addiction has many faces, over 30 anonymous groups exist.

We might break addictions into two general categories: substance addictions and process addictions.

Substance addictions occur when a person ingests psychoactive agents. These agents alter brain chemistry, causing changes leading to desensitization and tolerance. The substance becomes necessary to avoid withdrawal symptoms; addicts eventually stop getting high, but keep consuming to avoid getting “dope sick.”

The same phenomena can occur with what we call “process addictions,” or practices which lead to changes in brain chemistry and subsequent habit formation. Pornography, gambling, overeating, codependency, overwork, and other practices stimulate naturally-occurring opiates in the brain, and—get this—it is possible to become addicted to them. We become junkies from our own inner heroin. Addiction is very bad news. It rots out the heart and soul of the life. While using may be an effort to escape problems, the problems actually accumulate to hopeless levels in the life of the user. The continual failure at self-mastery destroys self-worth, respect, and confidence. Some “functional addicts” can continue to work, but sooner or later health will break down. Worst of all, an addict cannot love. Addiction attacks the very part of the brain that engages in empathy and bonding. Ultimately, the addiction will force the addict to become entirely, myopically self-centered, a shell of a human being who cares about only one thing: the next fix. How horrifying to wake up one day and realize one has become such a person.

But there is hope. The revelation of brokenness provides a turning point. AA calls it “the gift of desperation.” That “I’ll do anything!” sense of despair opens a gateway for help and healing. What happens now is crucial to future healing. The desperate addict must re-invest all the energy, time, and resources that have been invested in the addiction. They must fully commit to recovery. If they do, the combination of divine power and human choice will bring about change.

Such an addiction recovery program will look something like this:

  1. Talk to Someone: Weekly counseling or coaching with a provider who understands addictions and has a good reputation for treating them is essential. Abide Network offers biblical mental health coaching via telephone and internet. If one wishes a face-to-face provider, it may be helpful to search the Psychology Today database or the American Association of Christian Counselors.
  2. Find a Group: Weekly, twice-weekly, or even more frequent group work with a group that helps people in addiction is also essential. Besides the 12-step system, which is nearly ubiquitous (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous), Celebrate Recovery comes from a Christian perspective with a very well-run, comprehensive, and no-cost program based on the Beatitudes (Small Groups Online) offers a variety of group support options for a small fee.
  3. Cleanse the Camp: We must avoid as much temptation as possible, and then resist it when we can’t avoid it. Net filters are an important temptation-avoiding strategy for pornography addicts. Drug addicts must clear the home of substances and avoid associations who provide drugs. Alcoholics must dump their liquor bottles and drive different routes home from work to avoid favorite bars. Gambling addicts must avoid casinos and overeaters must throw away their hyperpalatables (junk food). To do this work well, it is essential to . . .
  4. Find a Mentor: Besides a personal counselor, the addict in recovery benefits from an accountability partner who will oversee all the components of the program, holding the addict in recovery accountable for compliance. Relapses and failure will happen. Then, confession is good for the soul. “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, NASB). We don’t confess to another as a mediator between ourselves and God, as only Jesus plays that role (1 Timothy 2:5), but sharing our struggle and failures with a trusted human being can provide a needed reality check, and can help wake us up to the heinousness of sin. Twelve-step programs use sponsors for accountability. Discipleship programs at church often pair disciples with mentor figures. The point is to ask for help from someone more experienced!
  5. Worship God: Church attendance or other spiritually-uplifting social engagement will provide a source of connection whereby basic love and social needs can be met. While some churches’ toxicity may be so extreme as to be contraindicated for healing, most have at least some godly, functional members with whom we can connect. Churches are also an excellent place to find service opportunities, which can help us find a way to . . .
  6. Serve Others: God designed us to give, and our healthiest, most high-functioning moments are those in which we bless other people. Often addiction co-occurs with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, and service activities help manage those conditions. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has its own advocacy program that enlists members with diagnoses to lead out in mental health support groups. We don’t need to be perfectly healthy to serve, but service itself will make us healthier.1
  7. Bibliotherapy: Reading books on addiction recovery can make a huge difference by changing our headspace from one of addiction to one of recovery. Consider such titles as Addiction and Grace by Harold May, Ministry of Healing by Ellen White, and The Big Book by by Bill W. Check out the Celebrate Recovery materials as well. And read the Bible. Nothing grows the brain like the deep, powerful lessons of scripture. This can be
    incorporated into . . .
  8. Connecting with God Daily: Daily Bible study and prayer will assist in the process of mind and thought healing, bringing the thoughts out of the gutter of self-seeking pleasure into the invigorating air of purity and principle. It will warm the heart with the news of a God who loves us as we are, but also leads us on from there into a better life.

Can God restore our self-respect, relationships, self-control, moral conscience, health, sanity and spirituality? I’ll let Paul answer: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

You can also checkout Bible Verses About Addiction



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Jennifer Jill Schwirzer LPC

In 1999 Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from Atlantic Union College. She is the founder of Michael Ministries, a music/speaking/writing ministry. She has produced six CDs of her own music and given concerts in the United States, Canada, Africa, South America, and Europe. Previous books include Testimony of a Seeker, A Most Precious Message, and I Want It All. Jennifer and husband, Michael, have been married for more than 20 years and have two children, Alison and Kimberly.

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