Professionals, Pastors & Spouses, Recovery Pros

Moving from Client to Staff Member - Avoiding Codependency IssuesPremium Content

Recovery programs hire many program graduates and others who have overcome addictions or have grown up in troubled families. They can be excellent examples for mission clients and usually have special compassion and understanding for those who are still hurting. On the other hand, some are hindered in their efforts to minister to others because of their own codependency.

Here are a few common symptoms experienced by these "wounded warriors":

A. Inability to detach.

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Family Doesn't Come Easily

Proverbs 17:17 NRSV
A friend loves at all times,
and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.


These days everything is throw-away. We love our fast food disposable society. Our cars break down; we buy new ones. Our homes need remodeling; we buy bigger ones. Our relationships sour; we find new "families." We've lost an important sense of investment in life. Rather than invest, we throw out. And we fail to learn many important lessons when we live like this. We also may find ourselves on the short end of the stick when adversity strikes because we won't have established the kind of relationships and skills that are necessary to persevere through the hard times.

Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process Index

I wrote a series of articles appeared in five consecutive issues of RESCUE, the journal of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. The focus was to give counselors some guidance that would help them more effectively work with homeless addicts.

Here are the five articles:

Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process – Part 1

Challenges for the Recovered Who Become Recovery StaffPremium Content

Note: Even though this was written for rescue missions, it is of value to anyone working in the recovery field.

Rescue missions hire many program graduates and others who have overcome addictions or have grown up in troubled families. They can be excellent examples for mission clients and usually have special compassion and understanding for those who are still hurting. On the other hand, some are hindered in their efforts to minister to others because of their own codependency . Here are a few common symptoms experienced by these "wounded warriors":

Inability to detach.

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Special Counseling Concerns for WomenPremium Content

1. A special strategy for people with drug and alcohol problems is essential
Addicts have special needs that the "garden variety" sinner does not have. They can be identified by using a standard alcohol screening test during the intake process. Then we can help them to get into an active program of recovery using such activities as support groups, addiction therapy, educational activities, etc. Use community resources if the shelter's staff does not have expertise in this area. Addiction is a primary issue, so all other help giving will amount to nothing if the person cannot stay sober.

2. The Issue of Toxic Shame
By definition, "toxic shame" is an inner sense of being defective, faulty, unlovable, undeserving, unredeemable and hopeless. It is root problem for addicts, codependents and people from dysfunctional families. Most adults in family shelters fall into at least one of these categories. Toxic shame is the "glue" that holds the wall of denial together and prevents hurting people from accepting the help we offer them. They think - "If I admit I have problems, it proves that I am a worthless, useless human being." Addiction leads to a total deterioration of a person's moral life leading to a destructive mix of toxic shame and guilt. The Bible tells us that admitting our problems is not an admission of hopelessness or defectiveness. Instead, it is the key to forgiveness, freedom from our pasts and a new self-image.

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Helping Addicts Who Are Mentally IllPremium Content

How can we help the addict who is also mentally ill?

A. Understanding "Dual Diagnosis" -- Up to one-third of today's homeless adults are mentally ill. The trend toward "deinstitutionalization" of the mentally ill has meant that our city streets are now being flooded with people who at one time would have been hospitalized for their problems. As many as half of them are also addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. Many are "self-medicating" -- using addictive substances to cope with their mental problems. Social service professionals usually do not like working with these "dually diagnosed" people because they can be so demanding and time-consuming. They can be too destructive and troubled for the typical addiction recovery program. And, mental health workers shy away from them because they often do not stay sober long enough for treatments to be effective. So, they end up at the rescue mission.

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Do I Need a Sponsor if I am in a Residential Program?Premium Content

Do people in residential recovery programs need "sponsors" in the support groups in which they participate?

Most support groups encourage recovering people to find a sponsor. "Mentorship” is a solid Biblical concept. The relationship between Paul, the seasoned veteran apostle, and Timothy, the young, gifted, upstart preacher is an excellent example.

Still, it is best to delay the process of finding a sponsor until the residential program participant is nearing graduation. While still in the program, the staff serves essentially as the "sponsor". Having an outside sponsor too early in the program can actually be counterproductive, especially if the sponsor gives guidance that is at odds with what the program's staff. It can also place the staff in a difficult situation in regard to confidentiality.

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Making Good ReferralsPremium Content

When people look to addiction counselors for help, they come with a wide variety of needs. These include:

  • food, clothing and shelter
  • job counseling and training
  • legal assistance
  • literacy training and other educational skills
  • parenting skills training
  • family and couples counseling
  • medical care and family planning services
  • social support services
  • child care during treatment
  • psychiatric assessment and mental health services
  • help to move into permanent housing

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Symptoms of Alcohol DependencePremium Content

Alcohol dependence, sometimes referred to as alcoholism , is the most severe type of alcohol problem and is characterized by three of seven symptoms experienced during a one year time period. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, the symptoms of alcohol dependence include:

Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence

    Neglect of other Activities: Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use

    Excessive Use: Alcohol is consumed in larger amounts over a longer period than intended

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Involving Mission Recovery Participants in ChurchPremium Content

Note: Even though this was written for rescue missions, it is of value to anyone working in the recovery field.

Over twenty years ago, Rev. Maurice Vanderberg, Executive Director of City Union Mission in Kansas City, hung the purpose of their new Christian Life Program on their chapel wall. It is a statement that should describe the intent of all rescue mission recovery programs:

    "Our goal is to see every man becomes a mature, contributing member of a Christian community."

People become homeless because they are disconnected from meaningful relationships with others. They don't know how to access social support systems. And, for most, their trust level is at about zero. As they complete our residential recovery programs, we must assist them to become "plugged-in" to places where they will experience the support, nurture, and encouragement they need to grow in faith and in sobriety.

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