Gambling

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.

A Really Close Shave

A shower and a shave doesn't always make you feel better. Sometimes you have to take a longer look in the mirror.

My thoughts were crowded with recent and intersecting histories of bad decisions, poor choices, and failures. I felt like hell, so I got out of bed, walked into the bathroom, and splashed water on my face to wash away the problems I was facing. Not wanting to face myself after last night’s performance, I forced myself to glance upward into the mirror. I stared for a moment before falling into a dreamlike trance. Was I still high, or was my conscious trying to talk to me face to face?

My face, unclean and unshaven, deep dark circles around my eyes, a network of lines and crevices, reminded me of Rocky Balboa’s face after having gone fifteen rounds with Apollo Creed.

My hair, greased with sweaty palms from the habit of running my fingers through my hair when faced with nervous and jittery decisions, needed to be washed.

Addiction and Boredom

When was the last time you said, “I’m bored”, and when was the last time you used drugs because of it?

Everyone gets bored sometimes; it’s only natural. But let me tell you something about boredom, and the dangerous apathy that creeps into the minds of men. Man is the only one of God’s creatures who is capable of being bored. No other living thing can ever be bored with itself or its environment.

Boredom is one of the sure ways to measure your own inner emptiness. Like mercury in a thermometer, it accurately measures just how hollow your inner spirit really is. Each person who is thoroughly bored is living in a vacuum, and nature requires that all vacuums be filled. Like “what goes up must come down”, it is one of the unfailing rules of the universe. But it is entirely up to us how the vacuum is to be filled.

God Expects You To Be Better By Now (Resistance to Recovery)

See: Part 1 | See: Part 2

(The third in a three part series on resistance to recovery.)

In the first of this series of articles I emphasized that the most difficult form of resistance to recovery is our own resistance. Recovery is not easy. It is a difficult process. Telling the truth, acknowledging our need, accepting help, making amends - these are some of the difficult tasks of recovery. It is understandable that we resist such a difficult process. In addition, recovery involves change. We have spent many years practicing our dysfunctional ways of living. The path of least resistance for us is to keep doing the same old things. Change is difficult and it is understandable that we resist it. In the second in this series of articles, I emphasized that in addition to our own internal resistance to recovery, recovery also often takes place in a hostile environment. For a variety of reasons, not everyone in our lives will welcome the changes which recovery brings.


Many of us, unfortunately, have experienced some distinctively Christian forms of resistance to recovery and it is this kind of resistance which I would like begin to discuss in this article.

Criticisms of Recovery - Part 2

See: Part 1 | See: Part 3

In a previous article I discussed the most insensitive, intransigent and personally painful kind of resistance to recovery - our own resistance. We tend to be our own worst critics. We resist the changes most tenaciously. In most cases we fight it, reject it, hate it - probably more than anyone else.

It is often true, however, that the recovery journey takes us through territory that is either ambivalent towards or downright hostile to recovery. Recovering codependents, for example, may find that some people prefer the 'good old days' when they were more compliant and self-sacrificing. Unpleasant emotions, once medicated with addictive substances or processes, may be experienced as threats to relationships that have adapted over the years to the insanity of addiction. Some people in recovery experience hostility when they start telling the truth in social systems which have been committed to silence for generations. Other people experience shame and rejection when people are skeptical about or merely uncomfortable with the changes that recovery brings.

Recovery is about change and most of us will encounter resistance when change produces new and unfamiliar behaviors. It is not reasonable to expect that all of the changes which take place during recovery will be received with rejoicing as if they were 'answers to prayer'.

Resistance and Rejection
Most of the resistance we encounter in recovery will be personal and painful. Even when resistance comes in the form of intellectualized 'arguments' against recovery, it may feel like personal assault rather than dispassionate analysis. For example, suppose someone says: "You can't change the past, so you should focus on the positive." This may make some intellectual sense to you. It may 'ring true.' It might, indeed, be good advice at this particular stage of your recovery. But for many people it may also feel like a profound dismissal of their struggle towards sanity. The key to sorting out confusing stuff like this is not the truth or falsehood of "you should focus on the positive". What is critically important is the tone of voice in which you hear "you should focus on the positive". Is the tone practical and understanding? Or is it shaming and dismissing? Do I feel rejected as a person when I hear this?

Criticisms of Recovery - Part 1

See: Part 2 | See: Part 3

Let's begin with the obvious. The most argumentative, tenacious, illogical and misguided criticism of recovery comes not from other people but from me. When it comes to my own recovery journey, I am the person who resists the most. Like many of us, I have always been my own worst critic. I can think of 50 reasons, easily, why my recovery is just a pop-psychology, navel-gazing, trusting-the-wisdom-of-men-instead-of-God, self-pity-party.

I do not need any external hostility to recovery in order to remind me of how I should be better by now, of how I should be able to just pray about it and trust God, or of how I should spend more time helping others rather than selfishly focused on my own needs. I have yet to find a criticism of recovery that I haven't already internalized in some way. I have recently finished reading a series of books highly critical of the recovery movement and there were few surprises for my personal Inner Board of Critics. This distinguished panel of Judges has left few stones unturned in criticizing my own recovery. I suppose there are some obvious reasons why we resist our own recovery so tenaciously. Let me mention just three.

Resistance to the Truth
First, of course, we experience denial as having such tangible benefits. Denial has a lot of appeal - it always seems like it's going to be less painful than facing the truth. I've gotten along so far without having to face this, why should I have to deal with it now? The truth, by contrast, always seems like the worst possible thing. So, we resist recovery because it is less appealing than denial. This is, of course, why few of us choose recovery just as a kind of personal enrichment activity - most of us don't begin the recovery journey until our pain becomes so intense that we are forced to take measures that in ordinary circumstances we would resist if at all possible.

What Do You Think Jesus Wants You to Do?

"My Yoke Is Easy."

What do you think Jesus wants you to do?

I'm not thinking of specific choices like whether to have pizza or turkey for lunch (I don't think He cares). But in terms of overall life choices and directions, what do you think He wants? There are probably a lot of answers to that question, but I'm thinking of one right now that I'll bet nobody else mentioned.

I think He wants me to quit. (It's okay if you're surprised.)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

The scripture above is one of the most well-known passages in the bible. It's a source of comfort to folks who are buried under the weight of illness, despair, and impossible expectations. But it's even more comforting when we understand the historical context.

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