Part of helping an individual to recover from substance abuse involves education. Education is crucial as it gives tools that can be used in the moment. For example, learning about triggers (how to recognize them and what to do when they happen.) Or tips to help us remain clean and sober at holidays or family gatherings. Currently there are three classes that are part of the curriculum taught within a Chemical Recovery group. These classes should be taught to participants prior to graduation. These are not the only classes that may be taught but these are essential. Read through the classes and familiarize yourself with them so that you will be prepared. The classes are as follows:
- Defining Chemical Dependency
- Reaching Out To The Chemically Addicted
- Shepherding The Recovering Christian
Defining Chemical Dependency
What does it really mean to be an alcoholic or a drug addict? An alcoholic or drug addict is someone who is powerless over their using. They experience negative consequences, both in their own lives and in the lives of those close to them and yet continue to use. It is someone who uses chemicals to deal with their emotions. They must alter life in order not to deal with it. It is a consistent abuse.
Concept of Powerless:
1 in every 7 people who drink or use drugs become addicted
According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (a survey conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration):
In 2012, nearly one quarter (23.0 percent) of persons aged 12 or older were binge alcohol users in the past 30 days (that’s about 59.7 million people.) Among young adults aged 18 to 25 the rate of binge drinking was 39.5 percent in 2012. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the 30 days prior to the survey.
23.5 million Americans are currently addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs. That’s approximately one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12.
With nearly one in 10 Americans over the age of 12 classified with substance abuse or dependence, we have a big job ahead of us as disciples if we are going to win the world for Christ. At least 10% of people in church and sister churches have alcohol or drug problems. That’s why its important for us to know what it is. We’re talking about a tremendous problem. We need to be able to relate to people and their problems (with their thinking.) And we need to be equipped to help people. As Christians we make mistakes in helping people the wrong way. Enabling people doesn’t help the real problem. We need to learn to be comfortable letting people experience the consequences of their actions.
Powerlessness. This scripture defines powerlessness perfectly: Romans 7:14-25 – When we want to do good, evil is right there with us. This is talking to us about who we really are. Treatment Centers and AA may help, but God and the scriptures are the most effective and easiest to relate to.
3 Areas Under Powerlessness:
: The bible doesn’t condemn alcohol or some drugs; alcohol is not evil. Jesus drank at the wedding at Cana. However, it is wrong to get drunk and abuse it (Gal 5:19-22, 1 Corinthians 6:10). The scriptures condemn abusing it. Marijuana, cocaine, crack, etc are wrong because they are illegal and because they violate God’s law by harming His temple – our bodies. Drunkenness is sin and God hates sin.
II. Abuse : Drunkenness is sin because use turns into addiction. Someone crosses an invisible line and becomes powerless. Use turns into abuse and abuse into addiction. How can you tell if someone is powerless? The best way to tell is if they continue to use despite negative consequences of their actions. These consequences can take many shapes from their children being afraid of them to DWI’s and jail time. Example: If, every time you ate broccoli, you became physically ill, blacked out, crashed your car, slapped your wife and kids etc, you would stop eating it. If you didn’t then you could surmise that you have a serious broccoli problem.
For the addict, many times, this connection is not made. Sure we see the problems but it couldn’t be the drink or the drugs. It must be my spouse or my kids or my fill-in-the-blank.
Pride and excuses keep us from admitting we’re powerless. We tell ourselves lies and make excuses. We don’t “deal” with life but we blame everything on the circumstances in our life…anything but the drink and drugs.
Alcohol and drugs will become my best friends. I will go anywhere, do anything, make any promise, tell any lie to get my next ‘fix’.
III. Addiction: Addiction is just sin in control of our lives, it is abuse driven to conclusion. If we’re powerless, we’re powerless!
We Need To Destroy the Myths!
Some of the myths that are important to know:
1. “Willpower works” – We cannot change on our own. We need God’s help.
2. “I’m unique” – 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “temptation is common to man”. Alcohol and drugs are not a unique problem. Our discipleship partners can help us. As long as someone has experienced any kind of powerlessness, they can help us and relate to the dishonesty, depression, feeling trapped, etc. There are unique consequences to our abuse. For instance our families and friends suffer with us and it destroys them. Pride is bad but it doesn’t carry the same consequences that alcohol and drugs do. Some unique consequences are:
A. Sociological Devastation – Destroys relationships between us and our family. We start to ask ourselves, “What am I doing with these people?” A lot of conflict is created. It’s a breakdown in our society.
B. Economical Devastation – Drugs and alcohol devastate us financially. We’re always broke.
C. Physical Devastation – Drinking and drugging has done a number on our central nervous system. Nerves create feelings and when we destroy nerves, it hurts our bodies. The effects of the drugs damage our central nervous system and it will take a while to heal and to feel less irritable. This really shows powerlessness and desperation in that we keep getting high even after we destroy ourselves physically.
D. Emotional Devastation – Intense mood swings and immaturity are something drugs and alcohol create. We’ve been medicating our feelings and emotions for so long. We don’t grow up emotionally so we are, in reality, younger emotionally than our actual age. Drugs and alcohol paralyze us and we don’t learn to deal with anger or hurt or bad experiences.
E. Mental Devastation – It takes six months drug-free or sober for someone to be tested physiologically because drugs and alcohol mess us up so much that doctors can’t tell what is caused by the drugs or alcohol or by our own emotions. The alcohol and drugs make our thinking irrational, a form of insanity. We use our mind to cover up or rationalize. For example: “It’s the weekend” or “I just got paid,” or “It’s National Hardware Week”. We get pulled in and get devastated mentally.
F. Spiritual Devastation – We pile up a lot of garbage; drugs and alcohol abuse cause us to do things that make our life stink. We lie, do things we didn’t really want to do, hurt people we love. Sin has a grip on us. But now we have God to overcome our powerlessness.
continuing with myths:
3. “Most alcoholics are on skidrow” – Ninety percent of alcoholics and drug addicts are functional and they live and work all around you. They are your doctors, lawyers, bus drivers and teachers of your children.
4. “I’m an alcoholic and not a drug addict” – Destroy the myth of thinking that if we’re an alcoholic, we’re not a drug addict and vice versa. We have to realize that if we are powerless, we are powerless over everything because alcohol and cigarettes are drugs. It’s the addiction that makes us powerless.
The journal is important because it shows us our powerlessness. It helps us get honest with ourselves and shows us our history so we can confront our addiction. We can’t be slaves to sin anymore. That’s all chemical dependency is.
Reaching out to the chemically addicted
You will meet “users” and “abusers”, it is crucial to know the difference. It is not necessarily sinful to use alcohol but it’s wrong to abuse.
Addiction = when getting drunk or high progresses to the point where you have no choice over it anymore.
Question: How do you know when you are enslaved?
Answer: You keep getting the consequences for using and they get worse and worse but you keep using.
We have to be willing to get honest with ourselves and accept on an emotional level that we are powerless over drugs.
Ephesians 1:18-19 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, God wants for our hearts to see the truth about who we are in real life. We have an awesome power at our disposal if we submit to God, that is, the same power that raised Christ from the dead.
There is no problem in the addict’s life that God cannot fix. The question is the same as Jesus asked the paralytic, “Do you want to get well?”
When reaching out to the chemically addicted, as with anyone, there must be a relationship forged, a genuine caring relationship. We need to understand that drug and alcohol abuse is prevalent today and that many people you meet will have a problem.
Don’t be naive
Many Christians who have had drug/alcohol problems themselves assume that others don’t. There is a one in three chance that this person either is a user or is being affected by a user, so you need to be wise and ask questions.
Most people have experimented with drugs & alcohol at some point in their lives. Your job is not to figure out if someone has used but how much they have abused.
Watch for indications of drug/alcohol use (see below)
Visit the home
Watch for drug paraphernalia – we have to be wise when we study the Bible with people.
Walk in a room and look around
– what kind of pictures are hanging on the wall?
– what type of music do they listen to?
What type of person are they?
– do they miss appointments?
– do they miss work on Fridays and Mondays?
– Monday: hangover from weekend, so can’t go to work
– Friday: starts partying Thursday night.
– have they been in the hospital a lot? why?
– do they appear to always have cold or flu?
– they have a good job but they’re always broke
– are they always just paying off bills?
– people tend to minimize their using; lie to themselves; part of the deceit
– people think that if they get away their problems go away
– or if you go away you’ll get good drugs
– or effort to control things – i.e. “this cocaine is killing me but if I go to the city it will be better”
– talk to people about where they go and find out where they spend time
Type of job they have
– some of favorite jobs for abusers: bartender, pharmacy, painter, hospital, selling drugs, liquor store, clubs or self-employed, restaurant work. Also, house painting, plumbers, landscaping
– gives them free time to drink.
– haven’t completed school or anything else, frequent job changes
– people who quit before they are fired
Smell of alcohol, red eyes, slurred speech
– don’t think too well, poor memory
– in trouble with law, alimony, back debts, wrecked car, old debts, drug debts
– spouse talks about person using a little too much
– Is it a pattern? Drinking and drugging makes you a pathological liar – you have to do it to maintain
– Check out the lies
– blaming others for problems; blaming God.
– no matter how perceptive you are you will miss some things; there are people who are slicker than you. Pray and ask God to expose things
– before a study ask God to expose whatever needs to be talked about
When the Bible studies begin, assess person’s willingness to accept responsibility for themselves; this is what we do when we give the Berean challenge in the Word study:
– get them to determine whether or not they want to do some things
– addicts are used to manipulating others to do things for them so when they find church people, they try to get them to do it one more time.
– spend time studying the Bible with people who are serious about applying it to their lives (don’t waste time)
– Don’t be only person in their lives; get them in relationships with other people
– Get other people to say what they see in them – get help
– When you study sin don’t ask if they use, ask how much they use
– Follow your instincts / play your hunches
– Assess whether or not they are powerless
– Look at the consequences
– Do they continue to use after the consequences?
Study out repentance thoroughly – 2 Corinthians 7 – draw distinction between worldly vs. godly sorrow.
– realizing what sin has done to God gets people to repent
– reading the Word changes hearts
– look for alarm, urgency, willingness to see justice done
– don’t baptize someone because they look like they are sorry
People who truly repent will go to any lengths to change
– Asking for advice and taking it will change them
– May be necessary for someone to go to detox for week to 10 days – after 7-10 days most drugs are out of system then it becomes a spiritual problem. After they get out of detox, get them to church, into relationships, into the Bible.
– Be aware that psychiatric hospitals typically use thorazine, treating addiction as a psychiatric problem; a detox center may be more appropriate.
– Doing a journal will help person determine whether or not they have repented.
– Person who has genuinely repented will not use again
– Believe what people do not what they say!
Work with people who want to come to church, read the Bible. Need to win people who want to change.
– Rescuing = pouring time and energy into someone who doesn’t want to help themselves
– You can’t do something for someone if they don’t want it.
– If you don’t accept your limitations you will always be a rescuer.
– Attitude of concern and love is good but if you get in there and pay their bills you will always be a rescuer
– Rescuing = Enabling
– You will enable them to continue to use while you take care of them.
– Sometimes we feel guilty that we don’t give people money but we are enabling them to die.
– When you play the part of the rescuer and people don’t get better and take advantage of your ‘kindness’ you feel victimized.
– As a victim you get angry and start persecuting the addict, they in turn come back to you as the ‘real’ victim and say things like “how could you as a Christian treat me like this?” At this point you feel that you have misjudged the person and you then start to rescue them again.
– Jesus helped people who were willing to help themselves.
– Get them to take notes, etc so you can assess what they want to do.
– The chemically addicted may talk a lot, making excuses and promises. The most loving thing you can tell them is: “I’ll believe what you do, not what you say.”
Shepherding the recovering Christian
We have to disciple through God’s Word. Help people understand that counseling from the world (AA, NA, etc) is not what they need, but that the real help they need is to be found in the Word of God. Understand that you, as a discipling partner, are competent to counsel because you have God’s word. (Romans 15:14)
Expect emotional immaturity. Remember, using abusively stunts your ability to deal with emotional difficulty and problem-solving. People are therefore very susceptible to relapse in the early stages of recovery, because the life of a disciple demands emotional maturity. Here’s how to help people identify what they’re feeling:
Have them write a list of feelings: Happy, Mad, Sad, Glad, Afraid, Embarrassed. . .
Then have them write down some scriptures on how to deal with those emotions.
Help people to get in touch with feelings by asking a lot of questions: Are you feeling sad? Are you feeling angry? What are you feeling? People need to understand that it’s going to take a lot of humility and willingness to learn if they are going to emotionally recover.
Expect some mental slowness also. If someone has smoked crack every day for 10 years, it will slow them down.
Disciple people to stay outward-focused. One of the things that using does to us is make us very inward and self-obsessed. If I have hurt someone through my using, I tend to be less worried about what I can do to make amends than I am about the remorse and bad feelings that I have. This hooks us back into using. So get people out of that cycle of self-obsession by getting them into Bible studies, into serving, anything that will help them learn to be a servant and think of the needs of others. Jesus told us that he had come to serve, and we have to help people to be like Jesus.
Help people stay in touch with the body daily. Hebrews 3:13 is crucial for new disciples, especially those with a past of addiction. I Peter 5:8 teaches that Satan preys on the weak. Those in recovery usually don’t know how to bond very well, so don’t assume that they will make friends easily and not have to deal with feelings of awkwardness and isolation.
Encourage people to be in a healthy spiritual environment. This may mean moving in with brothers or sisters. Otherwise they will continue to be at risk.
Teach people the importance of openness. Deceit is one of our biggest enemies, and if you don’t talk openly about what you feel, that’s deceitful. Feelings are real, and talking about them is to be encouraged. The reason to talk about them is that we might not be controlled by them, and the best way to be controlled by them is to not talk about them.
Teach people the importance of a great relationship with God. We know that we can’t use drugs anymore, but a lot of times we don’t translate that into a great relationship with God. Realize that if you don’t have a great time with God every day, you’re going to get hurt.
Ask questions. Ask them out of genuine concern, but ask them. Services went a little long today, how did you feel about that? If they had a friend studying and he or she didn’t make it; an anniversary of a loved one’s death; a sister or brother in the fellowship that they liked but who didn’t return the affection. Be sensitive to those times in a person’s life when they’re really susceptible to wanting to deal with pain in a negative way. Be aware of Satan’s schemes.
Destroy the myth that you can’t relate if you don’t have a drug or alcohol problem. If you’re powerless over anything, you can relate to how it feels to want to drink. Romans 7: 14-25.
Help people deal with overconfidence. When people have been clean and sober for a while, there’s a real tendency to be overconfident and feel like they’ve put drugs and alcohol behind them forever. Help people to be aware of this error.
Ask people if they’re happy. Happiness is one measure of how we’re doing spiritually. Encourage people to live full and productive lives. Most healthy and enjoyable activities fall by the wayside when we’re using. It’s important to be focused on building a full and fun life. Date! Go camping! Rollerblade! Whatever floats your boat.
Have high accountability. Again, not a checklist but genuine concern. If I’m discipling someone that I really care for, I’m going to want them to know the joy of sharing his or her faith. Philemon 6. Hold people accountable with how they use money, how they spend time, and so on. An unplanned-for Saturday night with nothing to do, for instance, is asking for relapse.
Don’t assume anything! Ask questions. Don’t assume that people will not have problems with dating, or handling their money, or even going to the store. Don’t assume that people aren’t using, that people aren’t still going to hear from old friends, girlfriends or boyfriends. When you drink and drug, there are a lot of scars. It’s important to show genuine love and understanding if people are going to stay faithful. Top