There is no defeating addiction. For those who subscribe to the disease model with substance use, we know that remission of symptoms does not mean it cannot flare up again in the future. For someone struggling with cancer, they may still have just as many doctor’s appointments to see if cancer has come back in the first five years of their post-treatment due to relapse with cancer. The same is true with those struggling with substance misuse. We know even Church leaders struggle with addiction.
I have come up with a list of things that Christians who struggle with addiction can begin now. I should note that this is within the faith traditions of your church that may include further traditional activities, but we need to generalize much. We also assume you are a born-again Christian who is connected with a church and this is not always the case, so if you need to, go do that first.
- Acknowledge the Problem
This is the first step from Alcoholics Anonymous and I believe our fallenness and sinful selves lead to our brokenness and addictions. We must realize something is wrong and admit we have a problem. This problem is more than someone who does not struggle with addiction but moves beyond denial to break the cycle of addiction that impacts our relationships with loved ones, the Church, and God.
- Seek God’s Guidance
Before we share any other steps, go to God in prayer. Again, Alcoholics Anonymous rings in my ears that you need to seek out the higher power as Step 2 of their program and I think after we admit a problem, we need to go immediately to Him. He is our lighthouse to guide us to restoration, hope, and renewal. Remember that God is always willing to listen and help those who earnestly seek Him.
- Attend a Support Group
Whether we are talking about something like Celebrate Recovery, REBOOT Ministry, or Fresh Hope Support Groups, finding people who are peers and have been where you are is a long-term solution. Unlike resources like inpatient or outpatient services that are not designed to be a permanent solution, this can be a support for the rest of your life. Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, but with the explicit higher power being the Lord God, you may find a whole new support group for your life.
- Find Accountability
Whether this is a formal sponsorship agreement through Celebrate Recovery (they request two sponsors), working with a pastor or mentor through discipleship, or a father-/mother-figure helping lead you and call you out when you are falling back into old ways of behaving. We need to make sure people are holding us up, much like Aaron and Hur did for Moses when they fought the Amalekites.
- Establish and Deepen Spiritual Disciplines
I don’t put this before groups and accountability because of the need for support. But also think this can go in tandem with the next point of seeking professional counseling. Engaging in spiritual disciplines can deepen your relationship with God and strengthen your faith. Regularly read the Bible, attend church services, pray, and participate in worship.
- Seek Professional Counseling
Even Christians need counseling. Beyond the support of laymen and pastors, many times addiction is deeply seeded and professional, clinical counseling from licensed counselors who have had years of education and experience is needed. While faith and community support are essential, seeking professional help is equally important. Reach out to qualified therapists, counselors, or addiction specialists who can provide the necessary guidance and expertise in your recovery journey. These professionals can help you develop personalized strategies for overcoming addiction.
- Find New Self-Care
This will pair nicely with the sixth point, but coping skills and self-care are needed. This means getting a full night’s sleep, regularly exercising, eating healthy, and finding balance in a busy life. I regularly tell clients I work with in substance use treatment that addiction is a portion of a person’s identity. Whether it is the hobby you do, the way you cope, the people you hang out with, the clothing you wear, and more. If your life is a puzzle of 100 pieces, how much of that puzzle is your addiction? If we say we are going to stop and you identified 25%, that means you have 25% of your puzzle missing and we need to replace it with God, community, and these new self-care skills. Even pastors need self-care!
- Forgive Yourself And Seek It From Others
Addiction often leaves a trail of broken relationships, guilt, shame, and hurt. As a Christian, practicing forgiveness is essential for healing and moving forward. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and seek forgiveness from those you may have harmed. Allow God’s grace to wash over you and guide you toward restoration.
- Give Back
This can look like something traditional like feeding the homeless, participating in a parachurch organization like Habitat for Humanity, or serving in your church. But not only should you be connected to your church and community, but you should also be investing in them. Have you received support from everything we have listed so far, but no support group is available? Go work with your pastor to start one. Do you have a prison ministry where many individuals who struggle with addiction end up? Go witness to them with your story. Find ways to give of yourself and shine God’s light.
Don’t Forget Long-Term
Most support groups do not want you to look long-term and I don’t disagree with the philosophy. You worry about next week, next month, or next year and it leads you to stumble today. But we can also have an orientation to recovery. Recovery is a lifelong journey. Setbacks may occur, but it’s important to maintain a long-term perspective and not be discouraged. Remember that God’s love and grace are always available, and every step towards recovery, no matter how small, is significant. Stay committed to your faith, seek ongoing support, and never lose hope.