Christian Families in Recovery
Based on Chapter 1: Facing Addiction of Christian Families in Recovery
(available at Amazon and other bookstores. See our bookstore for more information.)
Her voice was filled with desperation as she disclosed the baffling and chaotic five years that led up to her call. It was as if the blond-haired, blue-eyed, fun-loving boy she had raised was gone. In his place was someone driven by selfish and insane behaviors he used to maneuver his next high. From lying to ranting to manipulating to stealing, he was overtaken by a ferocious foe she had come to know as his addiction.
Rhonda was a hands-on Christian mother who encouraged her son Andy to be successful and happy. But despite her best efforts and deepest desire for his well-being, Rhonda couldn’t overcome the problems Andy had faced. With an alcoholic husband and dad at the center of the family, Andy’s basic need for fatherly love, modeling and discipline were not offered. Thus, Rhonda tried to fill in the gaps to make up for what her husband didn’t live up to in Andy’s life. She also took on an intense protective role with Andy to save him from further pain.
Rhonda loved Andy. She had been his biggest fan and encouragement to have a vision for his future. Andy started to drink socially like many high school students. He always convinced his mom he was “fine.” Rhonda wanted to see the best in her son, so she didn’t doubt the stories that excused his absence at home. Now she knows, much to her heartbreak, that everything he told her was filled with lies and half-truths that created an ideal far from reality. Andy had learned early on to take advantage of her love and gullibility toward him. He could tell her almost anything and she would believe him. He also knew he could ask for almost anything, and she would oblige.
The situation spiraled completely out of control when Andy was expelled from college and sought to build his life around friends and drugs. By now, Rhonda knew he needed help, but what kind of help was unclear. She had given her son money, bail, food, a car—the list never ended. Her efforts to love Andy in his addiction only seemed to make things worse, yet she felt left alone in fighting for his life because from her point of view he had given up. But the more she put into helping, begging, and bargaining with him to stop, the worse he got. In truth, Andy controlled Rhonda. And addiction controlled Andy. Thus, they were both insanely dragged into the addiction and shared the burden.
While her story was filled with unthinkable pain and chaos, it could have been told a thousand times before. Despite the unique situations and personalities brought into the cycle of addiction, once in full swing, addicts look much the same. They think and behave in similar ways, and the consequences lead them to jails, prisons, hospitals and the streets. At the very least, the addiction breaks relationships, a sense of integrity, future dreams and the ability to live within God’s purposes. Society writes addicts off as hopeless. Churches do what they can, then accept that the addicts are “lost.” Family and friends shrug and nod their heads in dismay.
Determined to Find a Solution
Rhonda’s phone call may have echoed many that flood resource hotlines. But even though Andy looked like every other drug addict in America, he was her precious son. She had to combat the reality that she needed to save her son, but the horrific truth was she didn’t know how. For Rhonda, the mishmash of information, advice and solutions for her son’s problem left her with few answers but many different pathways. And each “professional” opinion seemed to contradict the last. Her confusion grew as she tried to sort and sift through what he needed. Did he have a medical problem? Was it entirely a spiritual need? Perhaps he was mentally ill? And by now she knew—despite what she’d been told—forcing him to a program didn’t mean he would change.
Despite all she learned, Rhonda had yet to understand that addiction wasn’t just stealing her son’s life, but it was also stealing hers. Her life was consumed with Andy’s needs and problems, and in the process, she had lost her own hopes and dreams. Rhonda didn’t understand the nature of the battle Andy was engaged in, nor did she understand the enemy at work in his life. She was fighting a battle she had not been authorized or empowered to fight on her own, and was suffering devastating defeat as a result.
Both Rhonda and Andy needed help—desperately. Once Rhonda became equipped with the tools of recovery, she still could not save her son. But she stood the best chance of establishing an environment where God could intervene on her behalf.
And so, like anyone who has ventured on the journey of recovery, Rhonda began the journey to understand her son’s addiction, while at the same time, understanding her own pain and heartbreak.
Is There Help?
No matter your relationship with addiction, this book is not a gimmick or quick fix. It doesn’t slap a quick and easy solution onto a large and difficult dilemma. But it does provide the pathway someone like Rhonda needs to go on. And it is written for anyone who has ventured down that road and genuinely wants the help of the True God of the Universe. Our desire in presenting this workbook is to offer families a solution for understanding the problem and the cure of addiction by dealing with rooted issues. While some will argue there is never a cure, the sufficiency of the blood of Jesus opened the doorway for every area of sin and stronghold to be defeated.
This book is not being written through a scientific model and not based on specific research in any one area. We are not doctors, nor are we in any way trying to replace the need for medical assistance. Rather, this is the culmination of life experience, professional experience, education, evidence-based treatment, personal redemption and—most important—the unshakable, unchangeable Word of God. We have witnessed thousands of lives ravished by addiction and then brought back together through the resources of God. We’ve also, sadly, seen some people lose this battle. We don’t say this to discourage or invoke fear—but to be real. Addiction is deadly. It’s also lifelong—a commitment that far too many people in recovery take lightly.
No one aspires to be a drug addict. Andy didn’t wake up one morning and decide to become hooked on drugs and alcohol. But he did initially make a choice to partake in the “fun” of partying. Andy most likely had no idea where the “innocence” of a high would lead. Addiction would become his best friend, the love of his life, and what he would serve and invest his future into.
But that was far from Andy’s destiny. In truth, he wasn’t “born that way.” He was born with a purpose—an inner desire to find significance, acceptance and his own personal calling. Yet Andy, like every other human being, was consumed with the inward void of separation from God. Even though he was raised in a Christian family, there is a good chance that Andy didn’t learn how to partake of intimacy with God. Without that filled or satisfied, he was left to try to fulfill his needs, desires and that gaping hole in his heart with something or someone else.
An Escape Route
But while his spiritual need was central, it also must be clear that Andy, and everyone else caught in addiction, has a reason for wanting to escape. In his case, Andy most likely had much disconnection and inability to express or feel emotions. With an alcoholic father, he had a critical relationship unavailable to him in many regards. But that’s only one example. The reasons people are vulnerable to drug use can vary. At New Life Spirit Recovery treatment center, over 70 percent of program participants have dealt with a level of sexual assault. That statistic is astounding and can’t be negated as contributing to the susceptibility to addiction. Abuse, trauma, neglect, unmet needs, or even peer rejection can all create fertile soil for the introduction of substance.
That’s because the addict uses the “high” of addiction as a coping mechanism. It becomes a normal reaction to abnormal situations. Addictions are particularly attractive because of their ability to deliver false strength during times of challenge. However, this strength is a counterfeit of what God has to offer. There is a price to pay for these short-lived moments of pleasure. They are always followed by pain and suffering that eventually affects everyone and everything in their path.
Bob was only sixteen years old when he saw his cousin shoot heroin for the first time. He was horrified at this behavior and questioned the sanity of sticking a needle through one’s skin. He also knew his cousin’s life was filled with chaos. But only one short year later he was doing the same thing. In his rational thinking, Bob knew it wasn’t logical or right to insert a drug-filled needle into his own body. But the conditions of his heart and life made pleasure and escape from pain utterly alluring. Bob was escaping life and pain—even though he was never in touch with that pain enough to understand it exactly. In fact, the frightened boy who wasn’t comfortable in his own skin became extremely confident under the influence. It didn’t take long for full-blown addiction to manifest.
It’s easy to label the drug addict as a “bad” person. But anyone who has loved an addict understands that the manifestation of addiction is quite different from the person behind it. Andy and Bob were acting out from a compulsive obsession with drugs—to where their authentic personalities and identities were swallowed up by the addiction. Their entire lives became driven by chasing a high. People became merely a way to get that high. Not only that, the drug use stunted their emotional growth because it literally shut their emotions down. Did that make them bad people? In a behavioral sense, it was bad. Yet deep down, they were hurting kids who were lured to believe that drugs would resolve their inner conflict.
Addiction and Behavior
Separation of behavior from the person using drugs is one of the most fundamental principles in understanding addiction. While some see “bad,” others only see the “good” side of the addict and excuse the behavior rather than confront it. In truth, the “bad” behaviors of addiction are nothing to condone or accept. In fact, the level of leeway the addict is given will determine how much the addiction affects those people around it. To clarify the impact in our own life experience, let’s address this behavior and how we might have been affected. It’s vital to spend time giving each area some thought.
Addicts carry common characteristics including the following:
The need to blame—Addicts will relentlessly blame something or someone else as the reason they are using. This can include statements such as “you make me do this” or “I can’t stop drinking when you’re around.” As long as a scapegoat is willing to accept that burden, the addict is perfectly justified in continuing.
Do you ever feel blamed for someone’s using? (If you are the addict, do you blame others?) If you take on that responsibility, how do you feel about it? What specific ways have you dealt with feeling responsible for their problem?
Serious denial of having a problem—Addicts are unable to see the truth (this is called spiritual darkness), and can’t understand how dysfunctional and hurtful their behavior is to all affected. Addicts are actually hurting themselves the most.
Does the addict in your life deny having a problem? Do you believe this? If so, how does that make you feel? How do you specifically react to that denial?
Emotional and mental manipulation (“head games”)—Addicts will twist and warp the truth to make others carry their shame and guilt. In dealing with addicts, left is right, up is down, and black is white. Everything is distorted and twisted because their own minds are distorted and twisted because of the nature of addiction.
Do you ever feel manipulated by the addict in your life? Explain some specific examples where truth has been changed. When you believe their “truth,” how does that make you feel? How do you react specifically to this?
Manifestation of anger (through words or violence)—Addicts can be very hostile, angry and abusive. The chemical is meant to numb their emotions, yet anger often manifests in even greater extremes.
Are you confronted with anger or rage as a result of addiction? Explain how this looks. How has that made you feel? Explain your method to defend against it.
Chronic lying—Addicts lie more than they tell the truth. Their entire world is a lie; thus they can’t be trusted under the influence. Having a rational conversation with a drug addict or alcoholic under the influence of substance is absolutely impossible. This can be painful and feel like utter betrayal, but it truly is a symptom of the cycle of addiction.
Are you exposed to chronic lying? Have you believed the addict’s convincing stories in the past? How do you feel when you are being lied to? What have you done about the lies?
Defensiveness—Addicts seek to protect themselves and their addiction. They will threaten anyone who opposes their next high. That’s because the drug or alcohol high is like a passionate love affair. Anyone who comes too close will be dealt with through fierce jealousy.
Have you ever found yourself competing with the drug? Did you ever feel if you confronted it “all hell might break loose”? How did you feel? How did you respond?
Immoral behaviors(cheating, stealing, sexual, etc.)—While addiction isn’t an excuse for immorality, it is bred directly in the addictive lifestyle. Thus, the natural fruit in an addict’s life will be varying layers of immorality.
Have you witnessed or been hurt by an addict’s immoral choices? Did you ever feel it had anything to do with you? What did you do about the behaviors?
Secretiveness—Addicts hide and keep secrets, mostly to protect themselves and their addiction.
Are there secrets in your home? Do people openly communicate or hide? What do you feel about the “secret” mentality? How do you respond? Do you comply or resist the need to hide?
Isolation—Many addicts end up living a very isolated life, where they are left alone with the love of their lives—the drug. The dependency is so great it actually competes with human relationships. In fact, human relationships are often used only to gain something that can help them get their next high.
Is the addict isolated or alone? Are there stifled efforts to connect at a relational level? How does the addict’s isolation make you feel? How do you typically respond to it?
Unavailability—Addicts under the influence cannot be spiritually or emotionally available. Thus, all their relationships will be lacking in this area, even if they are physically present (which often they are not). An addict could even be described as a “shell of a person.”
Overall, do you feel the addict is unavailable? Does that unavailability affect you? What do you do to deal with that loss?
If you answered yes to even a few of these questions, you have been deeply wounded by an addict. Their addiction has had a direct influence on how you respond and live your life. Being under the influence of someone else’s addiction is no small ordeal. You must seek help.
Please understand, if you hate the drug addiction, it’s okay. If you are angry at the drug addiction, that’s okay too. But the person and the addiction are two different things. As horrible as it is, that behavior has an influence and a reason. Once the influence is removed, that person has the opportunity to be someone altogether different. People are not their addiction. Others often fail to see this. Many times, Christians vacillate between tolerating the addict for a while, then simply casting them out. The purpose of this workbook is to do neither. Rather, it’s vital we address addiction through God’s perspective so we can wage war against the addiction—while seeking to restore the person.
We must also understand this will take time. If we think we can simply give an ultimatum that will prompt immediate change, we are not grasping the depth of the nature of addiction. Sobriety is the beginning of recovery, but it doesn’t change the initial problems (such as seeking comfort) that caused the addiction. These underlying issues and triggers must be dealt with, or when the recovering addict stumbles upon them again, he will be prone to relapse.
To make better sense of addiction, picture a tree. The tree was planted as a seed (see Chapter 8). For the addict, that seed was often produced by neglect, abandonment, hurt, betrayal, lack of boundaries, feelings of worthlessness, rejection or lack of love. When seeds planted are based on lies (which are anything that contradicts God’s truth), roots of addiction begin to form, and eventually the leaves and fruit of that seed are produced.
Addiction is merely external behavior that is the “fruit” in a person’s “tree” of life. If the fruit is cut off but the root left intact, the addict will be “changed” for the moment, but that seed will eventually regenerate the “plant” of addiction and produce similar fruit. Removing the fruit alone won’t change the production cycle! This is one reason people often switch addictions.
Recovery is about dealing with the seed and the roots. An addict will require an entirely new system change. In fact, all those “bad seeds” (lies) will need to be uprooted, and new seed sown in order to establish the production of God’s fruit—fruit that leads to abundant life in Him.
Gaining God’s Perspective
Addiction carries many definitions—from scientific interpretation to the issue of morality. Many people have their opinions on what it is and how it should be treated. All the while, the families affected by addiction are engaged in their own war zone, desperately looking for a way out. As a Christian family, we must ask this question: How does God view addiction?
When addiction enters the family system, it is devastating for everyone. But even in the darkest and lowest point, we are never beyond His grasp. As a Christian, you may know that as a truth, but embracing it as your actual reality is necessary for the power of God to be activated. That means it takes faith to believe that God holds the keys and answers to your life, including the person struggling with addiction.
This is very difficult to embrace because we have so much conflicting information in our culture about addiction. Not only that, but many of us have also been bewildered by the lack of success we may have witnessed through Christian disciplines. That’s why we need to take the principles of addiction and recovery and place them under the filter of God’s perspective. In fact, we must be willing, for a moment, to see this issue not through the scope of someone or something else but purely through the foundation of His truth.
What Would Jesus Do?
When Jesus walked this earth, He dealt with people with afflictions and problems of every magnitude. Within His own culture, He interacted with alcoholics and prostitutes, society’s lowest and most mistrusted. This astounded and offended the religious people who held strict restrictions against any form of contact with such conditions. In our own culture, there can be a similar mind-set among Christian or religious people who say, “Don’t touch them.” However, watching Jesus interact with these people gives us a glimpse into His heart. In truth, Jesus was unafraid and unaffected by the sin and sickness in the human. When He looked into the eyes of a broken soul, He saw His mission before Him. In fact, His purpose wasn’t to judge sin but to provide a way of escape. Instead of pushing them away, He knelt down and met people at their point of need. He didn’t give them a standard to reach, lessons to first learn or a physical prescription to adhere to. He simply did what He came to do—offer them a spiritual remedy that would provide access to a lifestyle of freedom. If they didn’t want it, Jesus didn’t coerce—nor did He condone.
Jesus was radical in warning of the devastating consequences of separation from God. He was also radical in declaring and manifesting the incredible benefit of believing in His name. That’s because Jesus knew authoritatively that He possessed the power of God to fix, heal, redeem and restore humans. In fact, the Bible is packed with stories of Jesus engaging society’s outcasts—those who were mentally, spiritually and physically broken. It was never of a matter of what He could do. Jesus knew exactly what He came to do. The choice always rested on the person who needed what Jesus offered. Those who received Him by faith gained access to His power. While Jesus sometimes healed people physically in an instant, most of their inward changes were just beginning. With a connection to God, they now possessed everything needed to be realigned physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is biblically known as transformation.
Two thousand years later, the epidemic of addiction is still rampant and the culture is swarming with people plagued by spiritual, emotional and mental maladies. With knowledge-based science, medical breakthroughs and more technology than people could have fathomed in biblical times, the problems haven’t improved but worsened. Yet the source of power to heal and change the broken human hasn’t changed. That’s because that same Jesus is alive and well. And what He brought to earth through the gift of redemption still holds the necessary power to overcome the chains of addiction. If Jesus were to walk the earth, the question is, what would He do? How would He engage with those who are afflicted?
The nature of Jesus draws clear lines of choices. He is fierce in His warning and firm in His boundaries. But then He woos and draws people in by something even more intoxicating than a chemical—the authentic and powerful resource of His love.
Whether you or someone you love struggle with substance abuse, Jesus is the answer. He absolutely, undoubtedly can and will bring deliverance to the people who seek Him with all their heart. But He will not condone or allow the addict’s lifestyle, nor will He intervene in the addict’s life unless that help is requested. That’s why your greatest weapon to free someone in bondage is to pray to the One who can deliver him or her. And for the person who is struggling, your greatest weapon is to call on the name of the Most High.
A Prayer of Deliverance
I invoke and invite you into the situation of addiction that has hurt me or someone I love. I have been deeply affected by addiction, and it has left deep and painful wounds inside my heart. Whether or not I have been able to express it, I admit it to you right now. I don’t want to live under the influence of addiction. I want to help the addict (myself or someone else) but not in any way that will allow or condone the addiction. Oh Lord, help me! Help me to be free and able to be who you created me to be!
In Jesus’ name, amen.