Helping the Addicted

by James Rudy Gray

Addictions can take on many different shapes and sizes. We used to think of addiction as a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. Now we know that people can be addicted to any number of things (i.e., eating, gambling, sex, etc.). There are a couple of problems that a Christian counselor or pastor must struggle with in the process of helping an addict.

The first question is, "Is there a cure?" I teach a class on relationships each week at a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation residential home. The residents enroll for eight weeks of a rather strict lifestyle, 12-step meetings, various kinds of teaching and preaching, hard work on the campus, and different types of group and individual counseling. At this particular facility, the "cure" rate is about 40%. That is very good. Most government programs or state homes may have "cure" rates of less than 10%. However, at 40% that means that about 60% are not "cured." So, is there a cure for addiction? Yes, but… .

There are many variables but the one constant that is often overlooked is that an addiction is actually some type of spiritual search. A person is looking for something that can only be filled by God Himself. There is a cure for addiction but the cure is found when a genuine relationship is established with God. A counselor should never underestimate the power of God's Word in dealing with addictions. Sometimes, this approach is judged as too simplistic by those in secular addiction counseling. However, their "cure" rate does not begin to reach that of Christian centers. God's Word cannot simply be thrown at someone, but we can take the time to hear their pain and put forth the effort to help them learn the eternal truths of Scripture.

The second question is, "Is there such a thing as an addictive personality?" I believe there is. In his book, The Addictive Personality, Craig Nakken has written, "Research in the areas of alcohol and gambling addictions shows that the addicted person's first few experiences are often very enjoyable and very intense-profound. This intensity gets mistaken for intimacy, self-esteem, social comfort, or any number of things." The basic illusion on which addiction is built is finding relief through objects or substances. The addictive personality Nakken writes about is not something inherent in a person but rather something a person becomes. "This personality does not exist prior to the illness of addiction, nor does it represent a predisposition to addiction; rather, it emerges from the addictive process."

An addictive personality is the person inside the person that develops through the addictive process. Some people do appear to be more susceptible to an addiction than others-not because they were born that way but because of what has happened to them in life. For example, if a person was treated badly by others or was taught not to trust people, he or she is more prone to addiction than someone who didn't have those same negative experiences.

There is always reward for an addict. In the beginning it seems good, but once the addiction has taken over, it is destructive. Moses chose to endure ill treatment with the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Jesus said that the one who commits sin is the slave of sin. Addiction is a pleasure than brings bondage and pain. It is a deceptive way of thinking and reasoning that slowly destroys life.

Is there hope for an addict? Yes. But the answer is not a particular methodology like the 12 steps or a particular philosophy. The answer is in the truth of God. Jesus said He was the truth and that He would set us free. He also said His truth would set us free. Applying the truth of God to the real condition of an addict can bring about remarkable changes. I have seen it happen. It doesn't always happen, but then not everyone who joins a church and claims to be a Christian really is a Christian, either.

A counselor should study the material that is available on addictions. He or she should then submit that information to the authority of Scripture and strive to help people struggling with addiction on the basis of God's truth. We may use information, methodologies, strategies, etc., from secular sources, but our base of authority must always be God's unerring Word. God's truth works because God is at work in His Word.

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