Recovery Pros

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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Helping Recovering Addicts Reconnect With the Church Premium Content

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.

Becoming active in a church home is ab­solutely essential for homeless addicts who want to establish themselves in a new, independent, sober and godly lifestyle. They must develop a personal system of ongoing support that replaces the structure provided by the mission residential program. This might also in­clude participation in support groups and finding a program sponsor. All of this can only be accomplished if we have a definite "aftercare" strategy in place.

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Motivating Addiction Recovery Program Participants (Part 3)Premium Content

See: Part 1 | Part 2

I have mentioned in an earlier post, I am firmly convinced that we must help people in residential programs to be come integrated into two vital communities - the Church and the recovery community. There is life after the mission program and if we don’t spend enough time and energy preparing our clients for it, we have done them a great injustice. If we are truly successful, the program graduate leaves the mission as a newly sober, struggling baby Christian. We must be sure that this new believer knows where to find help when he/she experiences struggles, even 2, 5, 10 years and more in the future, no matter where they live.

There is a lot going on at rescue missions in the areas of life skills, employment, literacy and education, etc. But, an often-neglected aspect of preparation for life after the program is helping our residents to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Getting involved with the wrong people is a major contributor to relapse. Another is the tremendous stress those clients with inadequate relationship skills experience as they try to live with others.

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Motivating Addiction Recovery Program Participants (Part 2)Premium Content

See: Part 1 | Part 3

When I came to Kansas City in 1990 and my focus turned from direct involvement to training people to become addition counselors and helping them to manage more effective programs. However, I’ve stayed in touch with the "hands on" dimension of recovery work by volunteering at local rescue missions and for other organizations that help addicts and their families. Conducting chapel services for program participants and interacting with them is something I always look forward to doing.

One local mission, the Kansas City Rescue Mission, where Joe Colaizzi serves as executive director, is an example of a rescue mission recovery program that is doing a lot of things right. Their recent follow-up efforts reveal that for three years running, 70% of their graduates are still sober for year or more after leaving the mission. This is a very good rate of success. So, what are some of the things they are doing to promote such success?

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Motivating Addiction Recovery Program Participants (Part 1)Premium Content

The more time I spend with rescue mission recovery programs, the more I’ve become convinced that the most important “gift” we can give homeless addicts is community, a place to belong. Homelessness is a state of complete disaffiliation—being cut off from all meaningful and supportive human relationships. Suc­cessful mission residential programs actually provide a supportive “family” environment where homeless addicts can examine their lives and take the difficult initial steps toward a new, sober, and productive life.

There are two other important communities that program participants must become involved with so the process of change begun at the mission continues after they leave. The first is the Church, the Body of Christ, where program graduates experi­ence fellowship with other believers and spiritual nurture.

The second is the recovering community where involvement with support groups for recovering addicts give them a place to continue personal growth through mutual sharing and encour­agement with others who have overcome addiction.

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A Christian Philosophy of Addiction and RecoveryPremium Content

There's a long standing debate in Christian Counseling circle as to whether addiction is a sin or a disease. I have addressed this issue in a previous article. What I want to say here is simply, any rescue mission, Salvation Army ARC or other Christian ministry that works with alcoholics and drug addicts must establish an official philosophy of addiction. This is best done at the level of the board of directors. How we approach addicts from a philosophical and theological perspective will ultimately guide everything we do. Certainly, it will serve as the framework for our counseling approach. But it will also influence whom we hire, the curriculum we develop, and the expectations we have for the people in our programs.

For potential use with your program, and to serve as a framework for developing your philosophy, I offer the Philosophy of Addiction and Recovery I developed for New Creation Center, the residential treatment program I led in Atlantic Mine, Michigan for over ten years. Feel free to use as much of it as you wish.

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Creating Hope in Our ClientsPremium Content

I have often said that the residential recovery program’s first goal is to create hope in our clients. What are some ways we can accomplish this?

Before people can begin the process of change they must fully understand two basic truths;

1) that change is needed in a certain area of their lives and

2) that change is possible.

In previous articles, I have discussed strategies of breaking through the addict’s denial system, which is the starting point for his or her accepting the need for change. But if we only convince people that their lives are a mess we may leave them in a place of despair. We must create an environment full of hope where they can catch a vision for how their lives could be in Christ, along with giving the tools to build a life of faith and recovery.

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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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