A.A. – Christian Recovery Program Observations

Different Strokes for Different Folks

“Christian Recovery” probably means very different things to various fellowships, groups, organizations, and individuals. And recognizing diversity is the first step toward tolerance and effectiveness.

Some Christian churches may see Christian recovery in terms of salvation and living in accordance with revelations from God, from His Son Jesus Christ, and from the Bible. Others may view Christian recovery as something apart from the worship, prayer, Bible study, and liturgical observances of the congregation. Still others may frown on the idea of “recovery” as distinguished from the receipt of forgiveness, wholeness, and the power of the Holy Spirit that accompany the new birth. And then there may be others ranging from Roman Catholics to New Thought proponents that believe that a new birth is not an appropriate term for their adherents.

This is not to define church viewpoints. It is simply to express how different a church view of recovery may be from that of other recovery approaches and disciplines.

In Twelve Step Fellowships, and particularly in A.A., there is disparity as to what people believe one needs to recover from. Is it a disease of alcoholism or addiction? Is it a sin to be overcome? Is it a behavioral malady, a mental disorder, or a physiological state that requires services some believe are beyond those involved in salvation and the walk of a new man in Christ? And then, of course, there is the ever-present argument over whether one can ever be cured; or whether one can only receive a “daily reprieve” contingent upon practicing a 12 Step process; or whether one is forever “in recovery” or “recovering,” and therefore must not conclude he is or can ever be fully “recovered.”

Finally, how does a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a therapist, a counselor, a program director, a detox center, a rehab, a treatment program, or a sober living facility deal with whether or when one is either cured or recovered or simply has an illness that has been “arrested.” And if and when the present view of “relapse” comes into play, how is this explained in terms of the illness, the malady, the disorder, or the disease? Or even “prevention.”

If Christian Recovery Is an Objective,
What Should a Christian Recovery Program Involve?

Is it enough that there be a daily, weekly, or periodic Bible study? Is it enough to have an ordained minister on tap to counsel, pray with, and teach the patients? Is it appropriate to have a quiet time or meditation period conducted by a Christian counselor? Or can the program offer a great deal more than completion of Twelve Steps, a “spiritual awakening,” a Christian fellowship setting, pastoral counseling, prayer sessions, and the teaching of the Bible and applying biblical verses and ideas to the Twelve Steps?

My View as a Non-professional, Recovered, Christian Bible Student Who Helps
Alcoholics and Addicts in Recovery Meetings, Groups, Retreats, and Conferences

First, today I take my cue from the original, highly-successful, A.A. “Christian fellowship” founded in Akron in 1935, for which early A.A. claimed a 75% success rate among “seemingly-hopeless,” “medically-incurable,” “last gasp,” “real” alcoholics who went to any lengths to find or rediscover God, place their reliance on Him, and get well.

The simple, early program insisted on only a few “musts.” The alcoholic must acknowledge that he is an alcoholic, has lost the ability to control his drinking, has seen his life getting progressively more disastrous, and has often tried every kind of “human help”–without receiving the desired result. This person must decide he wants of his own will to quit permanently and forever.

He must, as a precaution, seek medical evaluation, and perhaps detox medication, or hospitalization.

He must acknowledge that he believes in God. He must accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He must turn without qualification to God for help. He must resolve to abandon sinful conduct and walk in accordance with God’s will. He must be humble and teachable enough to seek God through prayer, through Bible study, through reading helpful Christian literature, through observing quiet times with his heavenly Father, and through the support and fellowship of like-minded believers. And he must recognize that he is an ambassador for Christ with a duty to witness and help others by the same means. He must recognize his need for Christian observances and instruction through his church, his Bible fellowship, or other Christian teachers and counselors.

What about the recovery arena in the world “outside.” If he chooses or is required to choose a 12 Step Fellowship, he needs to go for broke. This means regular meeting attendance, obtaining a sponsor, studying the Big Book, taking the Twelve Steps, sponsoring others, and committing himself to serving others within the fellowship whether as speaker, secretary, “trusted servant,” coffee-maker, greeter, or broom-sweeper. He will profit from involvement in the many other aspects of the fellowshipping—phone communications, birthday celebrations, dances, camp-outs, conferences, “meetings after meetings,” and study groups.

And What about the Adversary?

If a Christian is to survive in the world outside, he needs to recognize, know, resist, and overcome his enemy. And this requires recognizing secular intrusion, idolatry, phony “spirituality,” and temptation—however it is presented. It requires prayer, using the manifestations of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and rebuking the enemy and his forces in the name of Jesus Christ. Without being taught how to discern evil spirits and recognize the wiles of the devil, he can easily fall prey to the secular wisdom, language, opinions, and practices “of the rooms.” And it won’t take long for the devil to lodge in his hair, whisper in his ear, play the role of the great liar, and teach him that wrong is right.

Where Christian Recovery Help Is Available

The time has come for those who are Christian leaders and workers in the recovery arena to inculcate the Christian message, inform about the nonsense gods and idolatrous ideas that prevail today, support the godly aspects of the recovery arena, and prepare the Christian newcomer for studying the Word, praying, renewing his mind, resisting the devil, and putting on the whole armor of God.

This message can be carried in A.A., other recovery fellowships, churches, treatment programs, prisons, mental wards, homeless shelters, the streets, the slums, and on the park benches.

My own experience has been that it took a long time for me to get over the illness into which I had plunged. Fear, brain damage, societal problems, confusion, bad advice, erroneous teaching, and lack of Christian grounding left me awash in a godless sea of myths and shibboleths—awash without a paddle. And the sooner I began rejecting the secularism, going with the flow in the program, and placing my reliance on God, the sooner deliverance came. The solution is God. The power and love of God are equal to any task and available in any plight. And Christians need to call on God in the name of Jesus Christ at every turn, thank Him for each victory, and report to others His power and love and deliverance.