TREATMENT AND SUCCESS
Treatment for addictions is multifaceted.
Treatment must address both the obsession and the addictive agent regardless of whether the chemical is from an internal or external source.
Treatment success is greatly dependent upon the willingness and participation level of the addict.
At times, failure in addiction treatment occurs because the treatment plan does not adequately address all of the necessary components. Just like an iceberg, the part that is seen (outward behaviors) is fueled by what is hidden underneath (past trauma, secrets, mental issues, spiritual struggles, etc.). What is underneath is often much bigger than what is seen.
Spiritual Support: This includes teaching from a spiritual authority about sin and overcoming sin, establishing an accountability relationship, and obtaining spiritual support and encouragement from the church and church leadership.
Addicts must learn and live out the spiritual attributes of accountability, honesty, and humility. Overcoming addiction requires the person to be willing to wholly devote himself to these attributes. As with a three-legged stool, missing one of these attributes can cause a recovery to stumble.
Accountability: Refers to the addict’s willingness to let others know what is going on in his life. It means that he is willing to do whatever it takes to overcome, even though it is often difficult and inconvenient.
Honesty: Refers to the addict’s willingness to be 100% honest about his life and to break through denial and/or attempts to skirt the truth. This also means the addict is willing to confess sin and is quick to report slips and any areas of compromise to his support people.
Humility: Refers to the addict’s need to submit himself first to God and then to others. It is recognizing that he cannot overcome sin and addiction by It also means that the addict takes responsibility for his actions (both past and current), does not blame his behavior on others, and does not respond to others with defensiveness.
At times, some addicts will give the appearance of being accountable, honest, and humble; however, promises and good intentions are not enough.
The addict’s actions are much more important than his words. The following question should be considered: “Is the person actually following through on doing what is necessary to overcome?” Proverbs 22:4, “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.”
Support Group: This may include groups specifically focused on overcoming the addictive agent (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous), and/or it may include regular meetings with accountability partners and/or mentors.
Sometimes attending a support group with people who are dealing with overcoming a similar problem can be very helpful.
Addictions thrive in isolation. Therefore, addicts must develop healthy relationships wherein they can be edified, supported, and challenged.
When an addict is attending a freestanding support group (e.g., AA), he should also meet regularly with support people from his local church. This helps avoid the situation in which the addict may feel like people outside of the church understand his struggles, but that people within the church don’t. The goal is to have good continuity in the addict’s support system.
Medical Treatment: This involves treatment for the substance. Examples include nicotine patches, sedatives, methadone as a replacement drug for heroin, or alternate behaviors for eating or exercising.
This may include inpatient treatment, medicine to control symptoms of withdrawal, medicine to reduce craving for drugs, etc.
While some addictions do not require treatment with a medication or hospitalization, adequate attention should be given to dealing with the physiological cravings for the addictive agent.
Professional Counseling: This is face-to-face time and case management from a person trained to work with addictions. This may include education about the nature of addictions, training for lifestyle changes, treatment for irrational or unhealthy thinking, and assistance at working through relationship and family issues.
Treatment for irrational/unhealthy thinking is very important. Examples include recognizing how denial works and how to stop it, recognizing and overcoming self-worth issues, and recognizing the wrong priority of exercise over family or work. 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
Addicts must learn to use healthy alternatives to the addictive agent. From one perspective, addictions can be understood as a way to cope (albeit a dysfunctional way to cope). When the addictive behavior is stopped, the person’s current coping skills are removed. Therefore, they must be replaced by godly, healthy coping skills such as spiritual growth, healthy relationships, physical exercise, etc. Not having good replacement skills, activities, etc. leaves the person very vulnerable to relapse. In many ways this mirrors Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:24-26.
Treatment for associated issues is important regardless of whether those issues led to the addiction or were caused by it. These issues could include unresolved trauma, difficulty dealing with stress, marital problems, depression, anxiety, etc.
Family Counseling: Addictions at some point will inevitably affect the people closest to the addict.
The addict’s family often needs support and guidance in how to set healthy boundaries with the addict and establish new patterns.
Spouses of addicts often require the most specific assistance in learning how to separate themselves from the addiction and avoid enabling or being entangled in the addiction cycle.
If the addict has children, their needs should be attended to directly. Children of addicts oftentimes internalize many unhealthy and distorted messages about themselves, relationships, and even God.
Family counseling to help with understanding the addiction, repairing the hurt relationships, and establishing godly, healthy patterns of relating is important to assist in the healing process.
For some types of addictions, support groups are available that can be helpful for the family members and children of addicts (e.g., Al-Anon, Alateen).