Professionals

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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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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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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