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Intersection of Life and Faith

Recover from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

  • 2002 13 Mar
Recover from Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Theoretically, five steps need to be accomplished for the chemically dependent person to be healthy. First, the dependent person must realize the inadequacy of chemical use and the accompanying behavior as a source of value and security. He must come to a point where continuing on his present course becomes more painful than recovering would be. In other words, he must realize that he is chemically dependent.

Second, he must discover a way to get from the spiritual and emotional pit to normal without having to use chemicals to do it. This discovery involves finding a new, more adequate source of well-being. The religious community preaches everything from a relationship with God to self-generated worth in the name of God as the answer to this need. Secular humanism promotes self-generated worth in the name of self and humanity. Alcoholics Anonymous talks about a higher power that can restore us to sanity.

To say that it is not possible for someone to recover from chemical dependency without a relationship with Christ would be incorrect. My opinion, however, is that the only adequate source of life, value, and meaning is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Only value and meaning received as a gift because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross can erase the messages of shame so deeply engrained by our own lack of performance in life and relationships. From the place of Christ-earned value and life, a person can confidently go on to steps three, four, and five. From a place of self-generated worth, a person can proceed only tenuously.

Step three involves thawing frozen, hidden emotional pain and bringing it into the light where healing can take place. This is less likely to happen completely when worth and life depend on personal performance or the benevolence of some nondescript, unknowable force or being. This is most likely to happen in safe, grace-full relationships with God and others.

Fourth, from that same grace-full place, a person can begin to take a serious look at his dishonesty, manipulativeness, and game-playing. These have kept him and others from dealing with the real problem for so long.

Finally, step five involves learning or relearning healthy living skills in order to have a productive life and healthy relationships. This includes learning to go toward people and God with emotional pain, taking responsibility for actions and decisions, and being unconditionally honest in relationships.

Where do people get the strength to be able to take these steps, threatening as they are? The answer is relationships, grace-full relationships with Christ and His followers. Through a relationship with Jesus Christ, a person can find the gift of life, value, and meaning. Only life and worth received for free on the basis of Christ's performance can erase the messages of shame so deeply engrained by lack of personal performance in life and relationships. Only from a place of Christ-earned value can individual take the kinds of personal inventory that will lay bare the psychological dishonesty that has kept them and others fooled for so long. Such an inventory from any other than a grace-full place would prove too big a self-indictment and further cement the same. From spirituality based upon Christ (and not on the ability to pretend not to feel things), frozen and hidden emotions can be shared and support sought for the emotional pain chemical use and denial once numbed.

Jeff VanVonderen is a highly sought after speaker and consultant both nationally and internationally. For over 25 years, individuals, families, and organizations have benefited from his skills and understanding in the areas of addiction, family systems, and recovery. He is the director of Innervention, Inc. (www.innervention.com)

Excerpted by permission from Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them?, copyright 1991 by Jeff VanVonderen. All rights reserved. Published by Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minn., www.bethanyhouse.com, 1-800-328-6109.

Are you struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or do you know someone who is that you'd like to help? If you've made some progress yourself or in trying to help someone else, how has God helped? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.

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