Prescription Drugs

Recovery Ministry and The Local Church

If you told me five years ago that recovery ministry would make as much progress in the Christian community as it has made during the last five years, I would have said you were crazy. There is still a long, long way to go of course... but significant progress has been make. It occurred to me recently that I have seen six distinct ways in which local churches invest in recovery ministry and I think it has some value to distinguish between these different approaches.

AA In The Basement Strategy

Historically the most common way for local churches to be involved in recovery ministry is for the church to allow AA or NA or some other organization to meet in church facilities. It is difficult to imagine where AA would be today if it were not for this kind of participation by local churches over the years. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have begun their sobriety in AA meetings in church basements. This is a wonderful kind of ministry for a local church. Even though most of us are very supportive of AA and other 'secular' programs, however, something makes us anxious about congregations whose commitment to recovery is limited to this strategy. Why is it that the power for personal transformation is facilitated by an organization external to the local church while the local church contributes only space? Why is recovery ministry at the margins of congregational life rather than at the center? Don't misread me here - I am not suggesting that the church become more entangled with AA. What I am suggesting is that if recovery ministry remains at the margins of congregational life, we will miss enormous opportunities.

Beginning Recovery: What are You Waiting For?

BEGIN

It’s that simple. After all the planning and anticipation, you have to turn the crank the first time.

Without knowing what will happen or where it all will lead, you begin.

I used to think these beginnings should be a big deal, with some sort of grand official sendoff. Simply starting seemed anti-climatic.

Now, though, I sort of like it. I like the notion that you start by starting. It doesn’t require a ceremony or a permit or a “ready-set-go.”

Are Recovery Groups Needed in Churches?

Not long ago I heard someone say: "I don't see any need for recovery groups in our congregation because we already have a very vital small group program." This comment started me thinking about the differences between traditional small groups in the local church and recovery groups.

I have been a participant in small groups and small group ministries for a long time. I have led groups, I have been trained as a group leader, I have written curricula for small groups, I have organized small group ministries and trained small group leaders. These experiences have been very helpful to me and I count them as some of the most valuable of my entire Christian experience. None of them prepared me, however, for the kind of group experiences found in what we now call 'recovery groups'. I remember, for example, the first time I attended a 12 step group. I knew, from the moment the very first person began to speak, that I was participating in a group dynamic which was dramatically different from any other I had experienced.

In order to understand the differences between traditional small groups and recovery

Honey Bear: Identifying the Idols in Our Lives

Most of us wouldn't think twice about a honey bear.

And, likewise, most of us are familiar with the Biblical account of the golden calf the Israelites worshiped, just before Moses arrived with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32:1-35). Impatient as they were, waiting for the blessings to hit their lives, they concluded if they created their own visible god, they'd be happier and finally have their dreams.

Eh… not so fast…

And that brings me to the innocuous honey bear. At first glance, I'd never view it as an idol. As a child, I remember it was there with the maple syrup and the strawberry jam, sitting on my family's kitchen table. That's all.

But, as I spiraled into my eating disorders, as I reached the paralyzing lows of anorexia and frantic desperation of bulimia, I turned to an off the wall strategy: the honey bear, or more specifically, arts and crafts with the honey bear.

Please bear (pun intended) with me.

As I was struggling with my eating disorders, painful issues and stressors on full blast, I had the idea to distract myself. Yes, that was my answer. If I could just keep myself occupied enough, I'd be okay.

So, after my college classes, I turned to a honey bear I emptied on one of my recent binges. I thought I'd do something creative with it and keep myself busy. I decided to spray paint the bear gold. That's right, gold.

Managing Change Wisely

I recall hearing from a wise mentor once that, the definition of insanity was... "repeatedly doing the same thing the same way, whilst also expecting a different outcome." Duh! For me, that was also a good definition of stuborness or willfulness. ROTF

C.onscious approach to daily living
H.opeful that the future is bright
A.cceptance of transitory nature of life
N.on-attachment and non-addiction leads to serenity
G.iving control over to a higher power.
E.xpecting only the best.

1. One of the most useful personal management skills today is that of managing personal change. In times of turbulence, many people are feeling scared and frustrated about their lives for a number of reasons.

2. We live in turbulent times no doubt, which makes managing change an important skill in today's age. It takes knowledge and Work to be able to adapt to changes in life so you can stop worrying and start living more of your life.

3. Virginia Satir, a pioneer of family therapy, developed a Model of how individuals experience Change. The Satir Change Model says that as we cope with unexpected or significant Change, we predictably move through four stages: Late Status Quo, Chaos, Practice and Integration, and New Status Quo.

4. A lot of people don't have goals other than working, errands, household chores and relaxing with family and friends. Of course there is nothing wrong with doing these things. If you are perfectly content with the structure and current direction of your Life, then don't Change a thing.

5. It's not enough that we have to deal with the normal Personal changes that we all go through in life, but these days we also have broader issues to contend with such as the global economy, the domestic economy (job loss, company closures), the environment, technology, and changing cultural values.

Addiction and Laziness

Those who have done the most for their recovery have been early, on a daily basis, to pour headway on their desires to remain clean.

He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunities and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking recovery will make poor headway seeking it the rest of the day – especially newcomers whose addiction had been escalating in an alarming manner. If recovery is not first in our thoughts and efforts, we may become sidetracked, by temptation, toward certain failure. Morning listlessness demands listless recovery.

It is not simply the getting up that puts recovery to the front, but it is the ardent desire which stirs and breaks all self-indulgent behaviors. Early morning promotion may also increase your strength to the desire rather than the quenching of it. This strength in the face of laziness and self-indulgence gives rise to our faith, fullness, and gladness during the labor of the day.

What is Addiction?

The term "addiction" is used in many contexts to describe an obsession, compulsion, or excessive physical dependence or psychological dependence, such as: drug addiction, video games, crime, alcoholism, compulsive overeating, problem gambling, computer addiction, pornography, compulsive shopping, workaholism, over exercising, etc.

Addiction severely impacts not only the addicted or dysfunctional person but also everyone who comes in contact with them (loved ones, friends, family, children, co-workers, neighbors, associates, etc.).

Addiction may involve having a dependence on a substance (i.e., alcohol, marijuana, food, prescription or nonprescription drugs) or an activity (i.e., shopping, gambling, hoarding, self-injury, etc.). It can be either a physical (as in the case of most drugs) or psychological (as in the case of most activities) compulsion to use the substance of activity as a way to cope with everyday life, problems and/or circumstances. The dysfunctional person will often have deep seated feelings of guilt and shame which they try to cover up.

Addiction is a habitual behavior that is extremely difficult to control and leads to activities that are designed solely to continue or cover up the addiction itself (e.g., an alcoholic hiding bottles around their home, the drug addict embezzling to support their habit, lashing out in anger blaming others for their own behaviors or consequences of those behaviors).

What is Powerlessness?

I have been reminded recently that the Christian faith is as offensive and outrageous as it has always been. It is still, as the Apostle Paul put it, a kind of foolishness. That the weakness of the infant Jesus could contain the power at the heart of all of creation is sheer foolishness. That the weakness of the cross could possibly constitute the decisive victory over the forces which oppose God's rule seems preposterous. Indeed, it is rare today to find anyone, either within the Christian community or elsewhere, who speaks in praise of weakness. Our understanding of power has become decidedly unparadoxical. We want our power untainted with anything as undesirable as weakness. We prefer peace through strength and salvation through self-reliance.

A growing critique of the recovery movement makes precisely this point. Stan Katz and Aimee Liu put it this way in their book The Codependency Conspiracy: "relationships that are based on mutual weakness cannot serve as sources of strength or enrichment". This is a remarkable conviction - and one that is quite contrary to my personal experience. But it is a very popular conviction. Recovery through strength is much more appealing than recovery which begins with the appalling weakness of 'admitting powerlessness'.

Finding a Church to Support Your Recovery

Because recovery is a spiritual journey, it will result in spiritual changes as well as emotional and physical ones. That is one reason, among many, why having a supportive faith community during recovery can be crucially important. In addition to the resources of a therapist and/or a support group, having a safe community of people with whom to worship and learn can be a big help.

Finding such a community may not, unfortunately, be easy. It is not difficult to find congregations with a performance orientation and a spirituality rooted in shame. That is not always the case, however, and it's well worth the effort to find a congregation that is at least sympathetic to recovery. There are, of course, no perfect churches out there - just as there are no perfect support groups, perfect therapists or perfect programs. So, give careful thought to what you really need from a church during this time in your life. If you have a supportive group and a therapist, you may not need a congregation to have recovery programming. It may be more important to have a place where you can experience grace-based worship and teaching.

Self Deceit is Rarely Obvious

Unlike the deceit of others, self-deceit is almost never deliberate and intentional.

The act of deceiving ourselves is rarely that obvious. Without realizing it, we mask our behaviors in ways that are more acceptable, rewarding, and socially beneficial. In fact, we try very hard to look good in front of others and the mirror. Sometimes we try so hard to look perfect that we nearly convince ourselves that it’s true. Then, when someone tells us, or when we see the light on our own, we remember who and what we really are – human.

Contact Us

Syndicate content