Professionals, Pastors & Spouses, Recovery Pros

Organizing the Addiction Counseling Process - Part 1Premium Content

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

In the past thirty years of my work, I have had the opportunity to visit many facilities that help the homeless. When I see a man in a recovery program I like to ask, "How is he doing?" I usually just get a pat answer like, "Well, he’s been with us for six months." The problem with this answer, of course is that a sober, healthy lifestyle is not automatically picked up just by hanging around the mission for a certain length of time.

The only way to really know is by keeping accurate written records that show how we are meeting the individual needs of the people in our programs. A formal needs assessment process is needed. The information that is gathered provides the foundation for a written recovery plan (or discipleship plan). The purpose of such a plan is to help program people think through their options, to identify their own needs, and to determine which specific actions they must take to get their needs met. To ensure maximum "buy in," the plan should be developed with lots of input from counselees themselves.

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Work Therapy in Recovery ProgramsPremium Content

Rescue missions, Salvation Army centers and other types of recovery programs depend on labor provided by people in their facilities to do a variety of tasks that are essential to their operations. Men and women in recovery programs can be found in kitchens, performing housekeeping and maintenance tasks, providing office support, and driving trucks to pick up donations. Certainly, we value the services they provide. Equally important, though, is the need to give additional meaning to their efforts by creatively using their work assignments to invest in their lives. What follows is a list of some ways this can be accomplished:

A. Develop a purpose statement for work projects -- We need to have a definite philosophical basis for every activity in which we involve program participants that is both spiritually sound and "therapeutic." In other words, we need an official statement that establishes the fact that we are not just looking for free labor, but rather that the work they do really is intended to help them. If people in our programs feel used, they are certain to shut themselves down to the recovery process. The mission is there for the clients, they are not there for the mission!

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Aftercare for Recovery ProgramsPremium Content

For Christian programs that work to help addicts, the primary goal is to help them to become integrated into two vital communities -- the Church and the recovery community. If our goal is truly to work ourselves out of a job, then we must make sure we are spending enough time and energy preparing our clients for life after our programs. If we don’t, we have done them a great disservice. No matter how success we are with newly sober clients, they will still leave or programs as struggling baby Christians. We must be sure that these new believers knows where to find help when they experiences struggles, even 2, 5, 10 years and more in the future, no matter where they live.

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What is Wisdom and How do We Acquire it?Premium Content

We know there are a lot of broken, miserable, angry, sad, frustrated, married couples who are not living their marriage in the "ways of the Lord". Every day they trudge in their daily routine barely able to take another day. When we are going through such issues in our marriage, such as being married to an abusive alcoholic, or married to a unfaithful man or woman we only see as clear as our feelings will let us see. This is not enough to repair damage done to the marriage.

We have to go beyond our feelings and emotions and try to understand what is happening in our marriage so we can do something about it in the spiritual way and not through how we are feeling about it. It's difficult to do but it is what NEEDS to be done. If we continue in our own perspective by "how we are feeling" we truly do not grow spiritually and we stay within our own private little world of emotions.

This is where wisdom comes into the picture. As scripture says, we have to throw off everything that hinders us or lay aside every weight that is keeping us from seeing clearly so we can win the race; this includes how we are feeling, which may be ill will and resentment towards our spiritually sick spouse and other loved ones. Feelings are ok to have, we need to experience our feelings, but we also need to recognize when our feelings become stumbling blocks in our growth with God.

    …let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

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Avoid Burn-out by Practicing Good Self-carePremium Content

Urban mission work and recovery outreach are certainly unique. The rewards can be tremendous, as well as the discouragements. So, here are a few of my thoughts on how to avoid burn-out by practicing good self-care:

A. Keep a life for yourself -- I often struggle to find the balance between personal priorities and ministry opportunities. It's easy to get caught up in ministry and put my own needs on the "back burner." Because urban missions can be a very stressful place to work good self-care practices are essential. One of the most important of them is to cultivate a life that is separate from the mission and its staff and clients. We need to leave work stress behind and pursue our own interests and relationships. For people who live in the mission facilities, failing to develop meaningful outside relationships and activities is a sure path to "burn-out."

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Re-wrting AA History and Proven Recovery PrinciplesPremium Content

Circling the Wagons to Drive Off Documented History, Unwanted Divine Aid, And Proven Recovery Ideas

The longer dissertations, government grants, academic gatherings, and religious writings attempt to describe Alcoholics Anonymous History the more they seem to swerve away from God’s power and love and from real recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous.

To be sure, candidates, government agencies, academia, and religious commentators have their place in examining the overwhelming problem of drug addiction and alcoholism. But, when they try to exclude Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps, God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible from their writings, they do little to advance the rewarding and effective grunt work involved in working with the despairing drunk and addict who still suffers.

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Homelessness and Addiction RecoveryPremium Content

Every substance abuse counselor has probably at one time or another pointed to the "skid row bum" and said, "You don't have to be like him to be an addict or alcoholic! " While this type of person may represent only 5% of all addicts, Christians who are in recovery have a lot more in common with him than they may think!

A drive through the streets of any major city reminds us that the "skid row bum" has not disappeared. Alarmingly, he has been joined by hundreds of thousands of people now called "the homeless. " Who are they? 18-35 year old men, women who are 16-30 years of age, and single parents with children now represent the bulk of the homeless population. Most are minorities and local people, not transients, who have been homeless for one year or less. On today's "skid row" we find people who are dependent on a variety of drugs, emotionally dysfunctional, mentally ill, and medically at-risk, especially for HIV/AIDS. A high percentage of them have been sexually and physically abused.

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Avoiding Burnout in Addiction Recovery WorkPremium Content

Working in with needy people can be overwhelming at times. Staff members of outreach ministries are surrounded daily by those in need and they often struggle with limited time and resources to help them. So, learning the art of "self-care" is essential. The key to this is developing healthy attitudes toward our ministries and ourselves. Here are a few tips that can help you to avoid "burn-out" and find more joy and fulfillment in the work of the Lord:

    A. Learn to Detach – Whenever we're focusing our energies on people and problems, we have little, if any time for care and nurturing of self, and meeting our own legitimate needs. We must remember that it is God who does the real work in the lives of hurting people. This helps to take a little of the load of responsibility off our own shoulders.

    B. Learn to Practice "Professional Distance" – This does not mean being callous or uncaring toward those whom we help. It does mean keeping good boundaries between ourselves and our clients. It means not becoming so wrapped up in their lives that we carry their struggles home with us at night. Over-involvement can cloud our decision-making process to the point where we end up playing "favorites." This will jeopardize our relationships with our other clients. We cannot assume responsibility for the decisions our clients make.

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Strict Policy of No Use in Recovery ProgramsPremium Content

I've spent many years working with counselors and rescue mission staff members to assist them to more effectively help homeless addicts and alcoholics. Whenever I speak on this topic, I am usually challenged for saying clients should be immediately dismissed from a program when they are discovered to have used alcohol or drugs. So, I thought it would be useful to restate my convictions - and my rationale for this encouraging this policy.

I am convinced that we must immediately dismiss anyone who uses alcohol or drugs while in a recovery program. The dismissal must be for at least one month, with the possibility for an evaluation for re-admission after that time period. If they do re-enter the program, they should start over - from day one - and not be allowed to regain whatever status they held before using.

Does this mean we should just throw them out on the street? Not necessarily; it might mean moving out of the program part of the building and back into the transient section. It could also mean a referral to another facility. Or, it could mean leaving the building and finding their own way to the next place, especially in the case of those who have violated the policy repeatedly.

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Helping Recovering Addicts Reconnect With ThemselvesPremium Content

Previously, we discussed the addict's need to reconnect with God. Now, we turn to another important issue, the addict's need to reconnect with himself. By this I mean gaining a new level of self-awareness that leads to positive change. This means knowing how he feels and why. And, importantly, it means recognizing his own needs. There are four essential areas of self-awareness that all who wish to succeed in living sober and healthy lives must have:

A. I am powerless over alcohol and/or drugs – This does not mean, "I am unable to avoid using alcohol or drugs." This recognition focuses on what happens when the addict uses his/her drug of choice (which may be ethyl alcohol). This is the clinical definition of powerlessness -- the admission (both intellectually and emotionally) that even in the most limited use of alcohol or drugs results in an outcome that the addict cannot predict. They need to see drinking or drugging as playing Russian Roulette with a gun. Just as every chamber does not contain a bullet, not that every using experience ends up in days of out-of-control use and behavior. But, eventually they will lose control.

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