Addiction and Spirituality

Based on Chapter 4 of Christian Families in Recovery

Final-Book-IconFor Christians, there is a time and place for practical wisdom and understanding regarding addiction. There is a need to know the physiological realities of addiction. There is also importance in understanding that the soul is sick and under addiction’s toxic influence. With that background in place, we must be willing to unveil the rampant force of the spiritual drive of addiction. Even as we understand the battle of the body and soul, true addiction originates in the spiritual realm and is authored by Satan.The Bible says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10). Brokenness and destruction are the reality of life apart from God. Addiction is a very obvious pattern of damage and death. Everything in the addict’s life is wrecked, including health, emotional wellness, relationships, dreams, ambitions and hope.

Yet no matter how far an addict falls, he or she is never beyond God’s grip. The character and purposes of God are redemptive in nature—they are to bring life.In fact, everything under the destructive force of addiction and then touched by God can be reversed and brought into alignment and wholeness in Him. We’ll begin to address the process of recovery in Chapter 8. But for now, it’s central to know that Jesus conquered sin and death—including addiction. And this is not merely Christian rhetoric. The reality is that He authoritatively sits above the forces of darkness. But the key to accessing this freedom is produced under very specific circumstances: the deliberate choice to let God have His way.

Before we can understand the magnitude of this reality and how God’s intervention occurs, we first must prepare to understand the nature of the battle and the character of the enemy.

The Real Enemy

By now, hopefully, you can see that addiction is not merely willful sin and disobedience, but bondage.As we learned, this means addiction is holding the person in captivity. While the addiction itself seemingly overtakes a person’s life, addiction is actually being influenced by a spiritual force. Satan is the enemy of the human race. He sets forth to oppress and sabotage people’s minds so they cannot know God, experience freedom and live out the radical promises of what God offers. Satan is a fierce, bloodthirsty opponent who strategically develops ways to lure humans into his devices. Without identifying his tactics or acknowledging his role in addiction, we will be ignorant and prone to defeat. We will also be more willing to label addiction as merely a physical or emotional problem and thus limit the actual remedy.

Satan is behind the forces of addiction, but he doesn’t parade around with fangs or horns making himself obvious. Satan, our enemy, actually attacks us in three different ways.

Enemy One: The flesh (sinful nature).We’ve already learned that our broken flesh is part of the corrupt system dominated by Satan. This doesn’t mean we are actually possessed,but it does mean our bodies are fundamentally operating under that sick, sinful system (see Chapter 2). This is true for believers as well as unbelievers. All malfunctions of the body steal God’s gift of life and turn it into an instrument of death. In addiction, the body is under the influence of its own broken condition. Without a spiritual remedy, this reality is dim for the addict. However, as Christians we have access to the Holy Spirit. As we’ll learn later, the addict—and all Christians—will need to be conquered by the Holy Spirit.

But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7: 23–24)

Enemy Two: The world.The world, meaning the system of the world, fundamentally opposes God. Our current culture has all but kicked Him out of the public square, while welcoming and embracing principles and so-called “truths” that oppose Him. Thus, the world system (not referring to all the people, but to the overall mind-set, attitude and beliefs) is an enemy of God. When we are surrounded by a culture seduced by lies, it is very hard to live in truth ourselves. We must make a diligent commitment to know exactly what God’s Word says and stay firm in believing His promises. Knowing what is real exposes lies. When bankers are taught to find fraudulent bills, they don’t study the many counterfeit versions. Instead, they intensely study the authentic bills so they will easily spot one that is amiss. That’s how it is with the Word. Obviously, this is an area of much vulnerability.

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. (1 John 2:16)

Enemy Three: Satan and his demons. As uncomfortable as the reality of an actual demonic realm may be, we are told in the Word that demonic activity is taking place. Satan and his army of demons function with strategies much like a physical war game. He works through people just as God works through people. He gains access into people’s lives through their belief system and thought life, which can affect their feelings and overtake their will (choices). The baseline of everything he does is to lie and blind people from God’s truth. The Enemy gains legal rights through sin-induced behaviors, and even from the generational curses of the family line. An actual deliverance prayer is strongly recommended as part of the recovery process. This can cut off any ties, connections or gained legal rights in the demonic realm. However, this must be done in conjunction with forgiveness and a submission to God. Forgiveness is the most powerful weapon against the enemy’s tactics. Please note that while it’s not wise to overly focus on the demonic, it is absolutely foolish to act as though it is irrelevant.

Let’s read what God’s Word says about Satan’s role:

Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. (Ephesians 2:2)

Seduction

The formation of all sin comes through a seducing lie. The difference with the drug addict is that the stronghold of addiction can cause a physiological addiction and changes in brain chemistry that make it very difficult to combat. In fact, the moment chemicals trigger the brain’s reaction, the vicious cycle quickly spins out of control. At least it does in many persons. Why some people are biologically prone to the “brain-chemical” trap of addiction—while others seemingly aren’t—isn’t something we can answer directly. But the motivation to find pleasure or remove pain is normally the drive behind substance abuse. And that’s where we should focus. It’s also important to note that there are many other ways we can seek to find pleasure or to remove pain other than chemical use. People use food, relationships, sex, work and many other vehicles in the same manner.

In essence, the seductive allure of addiction is the instant gratification of false comfort, happiness and power. What they deliver is short-lived. They are empty counterfeits based on a lie that stands in direct opposition to the true good which God provides. Not only are they void of delivering long-term solutions, but once a person takes the bait and falls into the trap, Satan delivers exactly the opposite.All his offerings lead to devastation, pain and loss.

A biblical example of this occurred in the Garden of Eden. God had provided Adam and Eve with absolutely everything necessary to be happy, fulfilled and blessed. But He required that they obey Him and listen to Him as the voice of authority. He warned them of a forbidden tree in the garden, saying if they partook of its fruit, they would surely die. After God’s warning, Satan appeared to Adam and Eve in the form of serpent. At that point in history, it probably wasn’t shocking to hear a snake talk. If they had thought this bizarre, or if Satan appeared with horns and a pitchfork, surely they would have fled the scene. But instead, this snake had a seductive way of offering them seemingly something morethan what God had to give. Not only that, but the snake also distinctly claimed that God had lied to them and that they could attain something better if they ate from the very tree God was trying to deny them. As the historical account says, Adam and Eve took the bait because of their desire for that something more, a deeper knowledge than what God authorized them to have. And as a result, they were ensnared in a trap of death. They rejected the authority of God and thus empowered Satan’s system.

While that may seem to be an ancient and impractical story, it couldn’t be any more relevant in understanding the enticement of Satan. He works through the exact same strategy—luring people in with his lies and promises and then hammering them with the devastation of what that choice brings. He then drags them away to his authority system—where guilt, shame and fear prevail.

Can a Christian be an Addict?

Many people believe and even teach others that a Christian cannot be an addict. They claim people who live with such rebellion and immorality couldn’t possibly have ever given their life to Jesus. While it’s always possible that a professing believer didn’t make an authentic conversion of faith, many times that simply isn’t the case. That’s because the powerful attraction of addiction is the lure—the seduction of the lie. If Adam and Eve in a state of perfection could be seduced, surely God’s children can be as well. At New Life Spirit Recovery, many of our clients enter the program as Christians. In fact, we often have pastors, ministry leaders and teachers of the Word who love and have served God, yet fell into the chains of addiction. They had areas of vulnerability and weakness. The enemy promised the alluring something more, using strategic methods that directly competed against God. The moment these believers stopped seeking God for their comfort, power and needs and chose to believe that a substance could deliver those things instead, they were tricked. In essence, they “ate the apple,” something attractive that could deliver momentary pleasure but later resulted in massive and horrible consequences.

Because the behavior of an addict is so negative, it’s easy to believe they must not really know the Lord. However, that person, even a child of God, is influenced by a system rooted in the kingdom of hell, and the effects of their lives look as such. When the person is brought back, he or she will be able to love and serve God. We are encouraged to help a fellow believer who has stumbled with a firm warning:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. (Galatians 6:1–3)

But dealing with the addict is no easy task. That’s why you must firstbe equipped to understand the natureof addiction. Then later you must learn how it can be effectively dealt with. Addiction affects families on varying levels. Family members may not be tempted to usethe drug but are more likely to fall into the trap of believing the lies of the addict.

To the Non-Believer

Non-believers struggling with addiction have a world of hope awaiting them. They do not yet know or haven’t experienced the power of grace and the love of God. However, the battle to find Jesus will be fierce. Just as they were motivated to use a substance to gain a benefit, they will need to feel enough pain from the addiction to seek other options and be open to a spiritual solution.

The 12-step programs work effectively because they are actually spiritual principles. However, the program alone can’t replace the need for Jesus Christ Himself. It can, however, help people experience sobriety initially because the principles work. However, people who get sober without Jesus cannot be genuinely transformed. They may be able to stop the insanity of addiction for a season, but long term, they will have a much harder time finding the anchor of their life. Prayerfully, through the twelve steps they could be introduced to Jesus Christ. But if they are not, sobriety alone will not rescue their eternal soul.

Assigning Responsibility

While it’s helpful to understand the nature of bondage, doing so doesn’t negate the addict’s own responsibility. Even as we learn to target Satan as the instigator of addiction, the addict still has a free will (as addressed in Chapter 3). The problem arises when the will is so trapped by the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of addiction that simply stopping the addiction by choice is very difficult to do. In fact, most often the addict will need to experience more pain than benefit to adequatelydesire change.

Realizing this is important but does not make it an easy truth to grasp. If you are a concerned family member or friend, you have often done everything possible to make the addict stop or to protect the person from hurting himself or herself. But we need to understand that if we prevent addicts from grasping the nature of the problem and from taking ownership of it,we can also prevent them from arriving at that place where the addiction is not worth the pain it induces (see Chapter 7).

Understanding the struggle of the addict can help us have more compassion, but at the same time it causes the need for true battle to emerge. The battle against addiction is not directly against the people who are suffering—but against the overall system that has been created in their life. It furthermore can’t be waged using human techniques but requires spiritual weapons.

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. (2 Corinthians 10:3–4)

That’s because Satan’s strategies, system and devices are beyond our ability to thwart. Gaining the wisdom of God, therefore, is vital. Family members carry their own hurts and guilt in the addiction cycle, but please understand this: Everything God uses to combat addiction will be coated in grace. This means that God isn’t here to judge but to deliver the solution. God is the Redeemer, the Rescuer and the Restorer. His truth may offend initially. It may even be painful. But He will bring truth into the life of the addict and the addict’s family to release them from Satan’s strategies and devices. That’s because as Satan is exposed and his system is revealed, everyone involved will have a clear choice to continue to live the lie or to accept and live out the truth. That simple truth lies at the heart of the beginning of all change.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


A Prayer for Wisdom

Lord God,

I see this battle that I have been fighting is not against the addict in my life, myself or even an addiction. It’s against the enemy. I don’t exactly understand how this is possible, but I desire to be equipped to see and know how to handle each situation as it arises. First of all, I make You my Mighty Warrior and my King—I place You above all my own efforts and ask that You secure me with Your weapons of love, grace, truth and forgiveness. Give me eyes to see and perceive the spiritual realm and then fight in the strength of Your might.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Robert and Stephanie Tucker direct New Life Spirit Recovery in Huntington Beach, CA. They are passionate about seeing the entire family system restored. To purchase Christian Families in Recovery, visit Amazon or other retail bookstores.