Overseers & Deacons
Read 1 Timothy 3:1-16
To be a church leader (overseer”) is a heavy responsibility because the church belongs to the living God. Church leaders should not be elected because they are popular, nor should they be allowed to push their ideas. They should respect the truth, both in what they believe and in how they live.
The word overseer can refer to a pastor, church leader, or presiding elder. It is good to want to be a spiritual leader but the standards are high. Do you hold a position of spiritual leadership or would you like to be a leader someday? Those with great responsibility must meet high expectations.
The lists of qualifications for church office show that living a blameless and pure life requires effort and self discipline. All believers, even they who never plan to be church leaders, should strive to follow these guidelines because they are consistent with what God says is true and right. The strength to live according to God’s will comes from Christ.
When Paul says that each overseer should have only one wife, he is prohibiting both polygamy and promiscuity. This does not prohibit an unmarried person from becoming an elder or a widowed elder from remarrying.
Christian workers and volunteers sometimes make the mistake of thinking their work is so important that they are justified in ignoring their families. Spiritual leadership, however, must begin at home. If a man is not willing to care for, discipline, and teach his children, he is not qualified to lead the church. Don’t allow your volunteer activities to detract from your family responsibilities.
New believers should become secure and strong in the faith before taking leadership roles in the church. Too often when the church is desperate for workers, new believers are placed in positions of responsibility prematurely. New faith needs time to mature. New believers should have a place of service, but they should not be put into leadership positions until they are firmly grounded in their faith with a solid Christian life-style and a knowledge of the Word of God.
Younger believers who are selected for office need to beware of the damaging effects of pride. Pride can seduce our emotions and cloud our reason. It can make those who are immature susceptible to the influences of unscrupulous people. Pride and conceit were the devils downfall, and uses pride to trap others.
Paul expected the behavior of prominent women in the church to be just as responsible and blameless as that of prominent men. Paul says that potential deacons should first be tested before they are asked to serve. Deacon means “one who serves.”
Paul laid down certain qualifications for selecting leaders in the church. These qualifications would help the church weed out undeserving candidates, develop Christian maturity, and bring glory and honor to God. leaders must know God’s Word and have a mature Christian lifestyle. Every Christian ought to pursue these characteristics. Leaders must already have them.
How do we tear down the pedestals? How do we vigorously assert the biblical mind-set of servant leadership, so radically at odds with the celebrity-crazed culture in which we live? Like everything else, it begins with each of us coming under the conviction of God’s truth. All of us – pastors and lay leaders and members – need to take a hard look at ourselves.
First, we must reassess our objectives….
The church, as a witness to the kingdom of God, is to be a community that worships God and equips men and women to be his disciples, growing in holiness and service. How can the church fulfill these functions if it is not a servant church – from pulpit to pew? And this being the case, the principal job of the pastor is to equip others to serve….
Our second task is to consciously strive to avoid the snares. This is not easy. Temptations surround us every day – both our natural inclinations and the world’s style of authoritarian leadership. But there are ways to protect ourselves….
William Booth, founder and first general of the Salvation Army, sent a command to all of his missionaries in India: “Go to the Indian as a brother, which indeed you are, and show the love which none can doubt you feel… eat and drink and dress and live by his side. Speak his language, share his sorrow.”…
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: “The church is herself only when she exists for humanity…. She must take her part in the social life of the world, not lording it over men, but helping and serving them. She must tell men, whatever their calling, what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others.”
If the church can only be the church when it exists for others, then the Christian can only be truly Christian when he or she is willing to be emptied out for others. There are no harder words in all of Scripture than Jesus’ commandment that we love one another as He loved us – which means love that lays down its life for another.
(From The Body by Charles Colson)
Make a list of all the qualifications Paul gave Timothy for Christian leadership. Rate yourself on each item. What steps can you take toward maturity? Pray that your family and friends would notice a difference in the next weeks as you sharpen your character.
Although applied specifically to leaders here, why are these qualities important for all Christians?
Of these qualities, what are two or three you have made progress with in this past year? In which area do you want to grow now? How can the class help you in that process?
Training for Addictive Behavior
As we approach the subject of addictive behavior. You may be tempted to throw up your hands and say, “Whoa, this is too much for me. Someone who is addicted to something needs a professional!” In some cases you are right, and I’ll give you guidelines to help you know when to insist that someone get professional help.
In some cases people don’t have money for treatment. They don’t understand that many professional groups, including the majority of Christian counseling services, have sliding scales to make it possible for almost anyone needing help to receive it.
But often they are not willing to place themselves under the care of a professional whom they do not know or trust. They will, however, turn to you and ask for your help. In some cases it will be the parents or the mate of someone who is hurting who asks, “What do you think I should do?”
Addictive behavior is a pattern of activity which has been established by a person who is emotionally or physically dependent on something or someone. It may be a physical dependency as in substance abuse (alcohol and drugs). In other cases the addictive behavior is an emotional dependency or attachment (co-dependency).
Defining Your Limitations as a Trainer-Leader
When you encounter addictive behavior, you are always confronted with the question, “Can I help?” Much of that answer depends on whether or not the person who is hurting will allow you to help.
These questions provide guidelines in knowing whether to undertake the task of helping or to make a referral and see that the person follows through.
Will the Individual Respond to Confrontation?
If the person with the problem is the one who has come to you and asked, “What do you think I should do?” the confrontation issue is not difficult. It’s more complex, however, when a mother says, “I was cleaning my son’s room this morning and I found an envelope of white powder I think is cocaine. My son says it isn’t his. He says it belonged to the boy who spent the night over this weekend. But I don’t believe him. My husband and I think he’s a user.”
Although we try to avoid it, confrontation is absolutely necessary if a person is to find help. Described as “tough love,” this kind of confrontation means that a family is willing to say, “Look, you’ve got a problem. You know it and we do too, but we love you so much that we insist you get help. We’re going to stand with you, but this cannot go on. You have to get help.” When you as a trainer/leader help another person, the issues of wrongdoing and poor choices must be confronted.
Is the Person willing to Face the Consequences of the action?
In phase two of the training process, you are striving to help your trainee see the options which are available and the ultimate consequences of his choices. As long as a person refuses to acknowledge he has a problem, he hasn’t faced the consequences of his actions. he has to acknowledge that substance abuse or continued addictive behavior will ultimately damage or destroy relationships in his/her family; the abuse may even take his life.
Does the Person Have the Desire to Change?
Most of the individuals who come to you for help are struggling with some kind of addictive behavior really want help. One of the beautiful things about training in the power of the Spirit is that God will help an individual who acknowledges his need and turns to the Lord for help. You are like a midwife whose efforts will be accompanied by pain and travail. When a person comes primarily because someone else wants him to come, to get the “monkey off his back,” their is little that you can do. When I see red flags in this regard. I may even tell someone, “Look, I don’t think you are ready for us to work together in this problem. I want you to know that I care and I’m available, and when you are ready to work with me. I’m ready to help.”
Will the Person Be Completely Honest with Me?
Experience has shown that your ability to help someone is directly related to that person’s honesty. Deception and dishonesty are marks of individuals who haven’t reached the point of being willing to accept help. When people lie to me, I tell them that I can’t help them when they are dishonest. I’ll still be their friend, but there is no point in either of us wasting time in that kind of situation.
Is the Individual Willing to be Accountable?
Accountability means a person is willing to show up punctually for appointments and to accept responsibility for his actions. When a person comes to you and wants help, and he also goes to one or two other friends for help, you need to ask the person to make a commitment to one of you. What the other friend wants to do may be exactly what you want, but the way he strives to reach his goal may be at cross purposes with what you are trying to accomplish.
Is the Person Willing to Work with Me?
Is the individual sincere in his willingness to follow the counsel and training given? As I’ve already mentioned in this course, when a person is close to you or your family and you think accountability means acknowledging some embarrassing or distasteful things, you may want to refer your hurting trainee to someone else for help.
You probably won’t get an unqualified and enthusiastic “yes!” answer to all of these six questions. And as the training process flows, there will be times when you may think that you are making little headway, but as long as you see a person is trying to work with you, you can be successful as a trainer.
But What if the Trainee Doesn’t Take My Advice
There is always the chance that the person you are trying to train will ignore your advice and make a choice that you believe is a poor one. What happens to your relationship then?
Your trainee will probably avoid you, at least until you let him/her know that no matter what he or she does, you will still love them and be their friend. Jesus had that kind of love for His disciples. The week prior to His death at Calvary, He instructed the disciples to love each other as He loved them (see John 13:34-35).
Jesus’ love separated acceptance from behavior. At times He reached out to people in love and concern, and they responded by loving Him in return. At other times they turned and walked away, rejecting His love. But His love for them was not diminished by their rejection or personal failure.
You do have limitations as a human trainer: you cannot make people follow your advice, no matter how right you may be. But you can continue to love your trainee the way Jesus loved those He ministered to.
While the Bible does not teach abstinence when it comes to the use of alcoholic beverages, it does teach moderation. Paul instructed Timothy, No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23). The wine of the first century was a beverage with approximately one -third of the alcoholic content of Wine today. It also was used as an antiseptic and a medicine. In the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-37), the Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of the injured man.
Drunkenness or alcoholic dependency is clearly forbidden by Scripture. Romans 13:13 says, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness… “Drunkenness” is also singled out as one of the manifestations of the flesh in Galatians 5:21.
Ephesians 5:18 instructs: “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; be be filled with the Spirit,” and Romans 14:21 says, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”
Most of the people who struggle with alcoholism are generally aware that the Bible condemns their problem; they just don’t know what to do about it.
Until an individual accepts the fact he or she has a problem with alcohol, you won’t be effective as a trainer-leader. At Alcoholics Anonymous individuals begin their testimony with the words, “I am an alcoholic.” Recognizing the problem opens the door for solutions. Often your contribution may be to support the alcoholic as he or she begins treatment in a dependency center or in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Motivation in overcoming any dependency has to be stronger than the force of the problem. For a child of God, an understanding that his or her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit is the agent of behavioral change, and that the individual is responsible and can change. As you pray with and for your trainee, expect change, and don’t be satisfied until change takes place.
Though some individuals are delivered instantaneously from a dependency on alcohol, most individuals need a great deal of support and help over a period of time. Support from the family and your support as a trainer-leader are vital. When you don’t have the time or the emotional energy to offer this support, it is wise to make a referral to an alcohol abuse support group such as Overcomers Outreach, a church-related group. The number of these programs is growing rapidly.
In our generation drug abuse has escalated in an unprecedented fashion, making it the number one problem confronting people today. There is no one set of circumstances which accounts for the use of drugs today. There is no one set of circumstances which accounts for the use of drugs today. Probably the greatest factor in drug abuse is peer pressure. Among young adults cocaine and crack (free-based cocaine, sold in ready-to-smoke form) have become the drugs of choice. (See Ross Campbell, Your Child and Drugs, published by Scripture Press).
Your job as a trainer-leader includes the determination as to whether your trainee has been involved in recreational drug abuse (an occasional user) or has developed an actual drug dependency. An individual who is addicted will stop at nothing to support the craving that his or her body has for drugs, which only underlines the severity of the problem. Drug dependency goes far beyond cocaine. A growing number of individuals, including a large number of women, are dependent on amphetamines and weight control medication. Whether it is cocaine or caffeine (from tea, coffee, or carbonated beverages), a person is addicted when he or she feels physical discomfort (“I get a headache without my coffee”) because of its absence.
Scores of individuals who dabble in drugs could have been saved tremendous heartache iif someone – like a trainer – had picked up on their problems early enough and cared enough to confront the person who was experimenting. When an individual has become addicted and he is physically affected, you will have to refer him to a doctor of drug rehabilitation program where there is supervised help on a 24-basis.
First Corinthians 6:19, 20, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Five powerful words are motives for change: “You are not your own.” Then to whom do you belong? To Jesus Christ.
Peter also reminds us of the price of redemption. “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold… but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
Many people struggling with addictions can successfully be helped by a trainer-leader who care enough to ride out the storm. Several suggestions may be helpful as you work through the training process.
Remember, from a Christian’s perspective, dependence on drugs is a matter of choice. The individual became addicted as the result of choices he or she make. You are unlikely to counsel with an individual who became addicted to a substance because someone forced drugs on that person.) Likewise, freedom from addiction can come through the decision to resist and live a drug-free life. If drug addiction is harmful (and it is), then it is also sin before God and should be dealt with on that basis.
Complete and absolute dependence upon the Lord is necessary for deliverance. The person who kicks a drug habit “cold turkey” without help is a rare and strong individual; most need help, and that’s where you come into the picture as a trainer-leader.
Help your trainee develop independence from his peer group. This is probably one of your most important functions. Slogans such as “Just say no!” are well and good, but when an individual’s best friends urge him or her to say “Yes!” slogans are meaningless.
Help restructure the environment by offering the support necessary to change the peer group. Being involved in a church or support group where people say, “Man, I can relate to your problem. That’s where I was two years ago, but God gave me deliverance and now I’m clean.” reverses the process from participation to restraint.
Utilize the power of prayer as you work with a person.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines the verb “addict” as “to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.” In relationship to sex this includes obsessive sexual relations, infidelity, and promiscuity.
Obsessive Sexual Relations
In the context of this book I am not talking about the person who wants to have frequent sexual relations in marriage, or the manner in which he or she find sexual fulfillment with his mate. Neither am I talking about the youngster who has a perfectly normal curiosity about the sexual functions of his body, I am describing the individual whose sexual appetites have become inflamed to the point of being obsessed with sex just the same as the individual who is addicted to cocaine.
Is such a discussion really necessary in a course like this? If this course was created even a decade ago, I would probably have answered, “No!” and eliminated this section: however, in the context of our current environment and life today, it is necessary.
We are living in a sex-addicted culture, so stated Pitirim Sorokin, a Harvard University sociologist who made those charges in the early 1970’s. Since then, our culture has become so permeated with sex that it oozes from the pores of our national life. Sexually explicit material which would never be allowed in Communist countries, or even in the United States a few decades ago, is now commonplace on American television and in the theater.
In our day the videocassette recorder/cable television has moved the x-rated movie from the theater to the home. With today’s rating standards, R-rated movies are extremely explicit sexually. In this environment, millions of people who a few years ago would have strongly objected to the sex-saturation of our culture have gradually tolerated it and even embraced it.
Constant exposure to sex does one of two things: it creates a blasé indifference, or an obsession to the degree that one’s perspective become totally distorted. Sexual addiction is a perversion of a normal appetite whose fulfillment in marriage has the blessing of God; it becomes a jaded, unsatisfied craving which is wrong. What normally would have satisfied is no longer sufficient. Sexual appetites remain unfulfilled.
How does this happen? In some cases an individual is looking for a missing part of his life: an authentic, valid relationship with someone. Looking for intimacy and companionship, the person goes from one relationship to another, driven by a desire which confuses sex with love. The person suffering from sexual obsession may be the women who was never held and loved by her father (or her husband) and thus confuses sexual expression with loving relationships. Often it is the male who in his youth did not relate well to women, or to healthy male role-models, and finds a perverse satisfaction in pornography which doesn’t talk back or challenge his masculine ego. Having become addicted to pornography, he gradually turns to unsatisfying, unfulfilling sexual encounters.
First Corinthians 3:16, 17. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God. God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” Second Peter 1:3, 4, “His divine power has given to us… great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
How do you help a person overcome this obsession?
Begin by finding out what’s being fed into the mind of the person with this problem. As the person you are training to tell you the names and ratings of the last five movies he has seen. Ask how long pornography has played a prominent part in his or her sexual life.
Help a person to see that sexual expression is no substitute for meaningful relationships (more about this in the section under promiscuity).
In helping your trainee see himself as God sees him, you will have to label this problem sin and deal with it on that basis. Scripture says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
Replace negative sexual input with the powerful cleansing of the Word. In 2 Peter 1:4 (quoted above), Peter talks about escaping the corruption and lust of the world through the great promises of God’s Word” (Ps. 119:9). Quoting and memorizing Scripture reprograms many of the sensual and lustful images which have affected a person’s mind and thinking.
Insist on accountability as you work with your friend over a period of time. This includes honesty, openness and willingness to change.
For every married couple today, there is one single adult. Many of them fall into the ranks of the formerly married, individuals who at one time carried on normal sexual relations with a long-term partner but because of death or divorce find themselves single again. For the formerly married, sex was a very ordinary part of their relationship. It represented intimacy, the expression of love, and the emotional and physical release which accompanies orgasm.
For the formerly married, being sexually pure is often not without a struggle. Loneliness and isolation often create situations which cause a person to set aside biblical values for the warmth of another human body. Casual sex has become relatively common for singles who nonetheless consider themselves to be “born again.”
In her book Being a Woman, Dr. Toni Grant, a popular talk-show psychologist, says:
“Many contemporary women with whom I speak have lots of ideas about sexuality and relationships but no standards by which they live and share their bodies. I am constantly getting calls from women who don’t know how to say no, who don’t even have the language for setting standards of any sort, who are desperately afraid that if they do say no, they will loose the men in their lives.”
Casual sex is sex without commitment, and apart from marriage there is no lasting commitment. Today scores of men and women seeking satisfaction confuse sexual experience and commitment. In relationships outside of the commitment of marriage, the woman is the greater loser. To her, sex without marriage is not merely a physical response but an emotional commitment which may not be reciprocated. As Dr. Grant put it, “Any way you slice it, the woman is an uncommitted sexual relationship is between a rock and a hard place… uncommitted sex has not worked very well for women.”
What God expects of singles, he expects of married couples – sexual purity, which means abstinence before marriage and commitment to one individual, your mate, in marriage. While casual sex may be the norm and even have a measure of acceptance in our culture, it is wrong in the sight of God.
First Thessalonians 4:3-5: “For this is the will of God… that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel (his body) in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” In this matter, there is no ambiguity and no hedging.
Writing to Timothy, Paul instructed the widowed young women to marry again and assume the responsibilities of a wife and mother, thereby avoiding sexual temptation (see 1 Tim. 5:11-16). Another passage which gives a powerful motive for sexual purity is Romans 12:1, 2. In this Paul admonished believers to present their bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Phillip paraphrases the words “do not be conformed to this world” as “Don’t let the world force you into its mold.”
Of course, promiscuity is not solely the struggle of the formerly married. Sexual temptations confront the teenager and the young adult eager for acceptance. Recent studies indicate that at least 60 percent of teenage girls participate in their first experience because of peer pressure.
The sexually promiscuous person, going from partner to partner, is an insecure individual desperately seeking love and acceptance among partners whose commitment lasts only for a night. Such an individual has emotional needs which can be met only in the context of marriage.
Infidelity in Marriage
Unfaithfulness in marriage usually ends in divorce, but it doesn’t have to. Although mentioned in Scripture as valid grounds for divorce (see matt. 5:31,32; 19:4-9), unfaithfulness can be forgiven. Restoration and healing can take place. That’s your goal as a trainer-leader.
When a Christian marriage is affected by an affair, both husband and wife feel guilty. The offending party feels guilty, realizing he or she has sinned before God and broken the promise made at the marriage altar. The offended party also has a sense of guilt because she (or he) thinks, “If only I had met his (or her) needs, if only I had kept myself as beautiful as the other woman (as handsome as the other man), my husband (wife) would not have strayed!”
In dealing with the issue, try to determine if the offended party contributed to the failure of a mate by not meeting the needs of the one who strayed. This does not remove the responsibility from the unfaithful spouse but helps the offended partner accept responsibility for his or her part in the marriage breakdown.
At times, though, the failure of one person to meet the needs of the other is not the issue at all. Ask a group of people, “How many does it take for a marriage to fail?” and the majority of people will respond, “Two!” But the fact is that when only one person in a marriage says”i don’t want to be married to you any more; I want my freedom,” a marriage is finished.
A husband or wife may deeply love his or her mate, but when confronted with sexual opportunity the individual gives in to temptation. Afterward the person deeply regrets what took place. This situation offers the greatest opportunity for forgiveness and healing.
In another lesson we dealt with the issue of forgiveness. This never comes easy, especially when the deepest of all relationships is violated, but healing can take place. Just as a broken bone can heal stronger than before the accident took place. a restored marriage can make a relationship deeper and more treasured because of the crisis which has been weathered.
The traditional Judeo-Christian position is that homosexuality, among other practices, is condemned by God. Paul included this lifestyle in cataloguing the former failure of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:10 and 11.
The old Testament clearly condemned the practice. Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” (Also see Lev. 20;13.) The New Testament continues the prohibition. First Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” In Romans 1 Paul spoke of those who received the revelation of God and rejected it.
“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1;26, 27).
In training with individuals who have practiced homosexuality, the important thing to remember is that sexual preference is a choice which we make as an act of the will, not a genetic predilection which a person cannot control. At this writing there is absolutely no scientific evidence or support for the gay position that an individual has been “trapped” by his genetic code which would relieve him or her of responsibility in the sight of God.
For God to condemn an individual for a practice which he or she could not help would be unjust. The fact is that homosexuality is one of the many practices which can be forgiven by God, and with His forgiveness comes His enabling power to change – something which the church is often strangely silent in proclaiming.
Be cautious in labeling individuals. One or two encounters of a homosexual nature no more make an individual a homosexual than one or two drinks make an individual an alcoholic. Consistent homosexual practice, however, does result in that person being a homosexual.
my experience has been that individuals who come for training with this problem fall into two categories: those who want acceptance in this lifestyle and those who realize their lives are displeasing to God and want to change. For this second group there is every reason to believe that the Holy Spirit will bring deliverance. While it is difficult to reorient sexual preferences, it is not impossible any more than it is for an individual who has been delivered from alcoholism to resist when he encounters alcohol.
In training with homosexuals, remember that God loves the individual. it is the sin which God condemns. All too often we condemn the person along with his sin. Strive to let your trainee know that you love and accept him or her as a human being.
Compulsive Eating Disorders
our English word bulimia is a transliteration of the Greek word which means “great hunger.” It is an eating disorder involving gorging on food, followed by self induced vomiting or purging. It’s opposite is anorexia, self-induced starvation. Both are serious disorders. The possibility of your helping as a trainer is dependent on your following the guidelines which are in the beginning of this lesson. As with other addictions your greatest contribution may be to help your trainee recognize the seriousness of the problem and then guide and support the individual in receiving professional help.
When emotional needs are met we act in a responsible manner, but when needs are not met a spectrum of irresponsible activities follow, which may include eating disorders. One of the most difficult things for someone struggling with this issue is to admit there is a problem. Usually these individuals try to hide the problem, not wanting family or friends to know what is happening.
Romans 12:1, 2 reminds us that our bodies are to be “a living sacrifice holy acceptable to God.” First Corinthians 3:16, 17 says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit of God literally indwells our bodies giving us a motive for health.
Eating disorders can be serious addictive problems, equally as dangerous as drug and alcohol addiction, and cannot be treated lightly. While you may feel the problem is more serious than you can handle, you may be the link between disaster and life through your friendship, warmth, compassion, and training. You do make a difference.
Drugs and Alcohol
There is nothing new about the problem of Addiction. Since the beginning of recorded history a certain percentage of people have had serious trouble with drugs whenever or wherever they have been used. In some cultures, opium or marijuana have been the problem drugs. In Western societies there have been problems with “hard drugs” like heroin or cocaine. But the most common addictive drug of all has been alcohol.
Dr. George A. Mann, Medical Director of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis – a center for understanding and treating chemicals addictions – has written that all addictive chemicals have one thing in common: they change moods. Some mood changes are very potent and highly addictive; others are very much less powerful.
Almost any person can become psychologically and/or physically dependent on these drugs if that person is exposed to a high dosage for a long enough period of time. With a drug like heroin the time need not be long and the effects are both fast and very dangerous; with caffeine the time is longer and the effects are almost negligible.
It is possible to divide our lives into four general categories: family life, social life, vocational life, and spiritual life. When a chemical interferes with the productivity, tranquility, efficiency or well-being of any of these areas; and when we are made aware that this is happening but still persist in using the chemical, then we are addicted, at least psychologically. If we get physically ill when the drug is withdrawn, then we are physically addicted as well.
It is almost impossible to present accurate statistics conerning the prevalence of addictions. Figures change so quickly that they probably are outdated bfore they appear in print. In the United States alone almost ten million people (including 1.3 million teenagers under the age of 18) have serious drinking problems. This means that of the people who drink, have serious drinking problems. This means that of the people who drink, have serious drinking problems. This means that of the people who drink, one person in ten will become alcoholic and millions of family members will suffer as a result. Alcoholism is one of the four major public health problems in America (along with heart disease, cancer and mental illness), and costs an estimated $25 billion every year. To this add the millions of persons addicted to other drugs and it is easy to see why addiction has become a problem of crisis proportions. It is a problem which every Christian lifestyle trainer will encounter at least periodically and probably frequently during his or her training career.
The Bible and Addiction
The Bible does not specifically mention drugs in general but it does say some things about heavy drinking and it lays down some principles which could apply to the issue of addiction. perhaps these can best be listed as a series of ‘don’ts” and “do’s.”
1. The Don’ts
•Don’t Break the law.. The Bible instructs us to be law-abiding citizens. It is wrong, therefore, to buy, sell, condone, possess, or use any drug illegally.
•Don’t Expect to Come to God through Drugs. Several years ago a controversial book argued that psychedelic drugs offered a superior route to discovering truth and entering into meaningful religious experiences. Such a view denies the fact that we come to God only by ways of Jesus Christ, and that we are to come with clear minds, rather than with brains drugged by addictive substances.
•Don’t Be Mastered by Anything. Surely this includes a prohibition against our being controlled by or addicted to drugs, including alcohol.
•Don’t Assume That Drugs Resolve Problems or Reduce Tension. As we shall see, stress is one of the major causes of addiction. The alcohol or other drug gives a feeling of euphoria and a sense that all is well. But this serves only to avoid responsible action and ultimately can create additional problems. The person who escapes through drugs fails to acknowledge the scriptural directive to bring burdens to Christ where we can face them squarely and deal with them directly.
2. The Do’s
•Do Remember Our Responsibility to Control Creation. God told Adam to subdue and rule over the earth, but over the centuries we have abused and misused God’s creation. As new creatures in Christ, believers have a responsibility to take care of the things God created, including their own bodies. Therefore, “the use of any drug for the purposes of entertainment and escape, mind-control, religious worship, occult experiences, magic, or murder is a sin against God, the Creation, the Society, and the Individual.”
•Do Avoid Drunkenness. This is clearly and explicitly condemned in Scripture and called a sin. It surely would be consistent with biblical teaching to extend this clear prohibition beyond alcohol. We should not become drunk with any chemical substance.
•Do be Filled with the Spirit. “Don’t get drunk with wine” (or with drugs?), we read in Ephesians 5:18, “… but be filled with the Spirit.” A life controlled by the Holy Spirit is presented in the Bible as a superior alternative to life filled with chemical addiction.
•Do Keep the Human Body Pure. The Holy Spirit dwells in the body of each Christian and for this reason we must do whatever we can to keep our bodies free of pollutants – including drugs and excessive amounts of food. Every human body was made by God and the Christian body belongs to him both because of divine creation and because of divine redemption. Scripture and common sense tell us, therefore, that we should take care of ourselves so that we can “glorify God” with our bodies.
•Do Use Moderation, If Not Abstinence. The Bible does not teach abstinence, although it does teach temperance. In Psalm 10, wine is included among the blessings from God and described as something which “makes man’s heart glad.” In his first miracle, Jesus turned water into wine, wine apparently was taken at the last supper, and it appears that Jesus himself drank wine.
According to one writer, the wine in first-century Palestine was mixed with water, probably on an average of three parts water to one part wine. Translated into modern terms, two present-day martinis would equal twenty-two glasses of Palestinian wine. nevertheless, the early wine could produce drunkenness and the headwaiter at the Cana wedding implied that people drank freely and at the end of the celebration were less able to tell good wine from bad. Whether the wine was strong or diluted, however, the drinker had a responsibility to control his or her input.
Although the Bible teaches moderation in drinking, abstinence was also considered favorably. John the Baptist was a special messenger from God who “drank no wine,” and when a dedicated person took the Nazarite vow, “to dedicate himself to the Lord,” this was marked by abstinence from wine and strong drink. Many Christians today would conclude that while moderation is good, abstinence inherent in drinking and chemical abuse.
•Do Allow for Christian Liberty. While all things may be lawful, including drugs such as alcohol, not all things are wise or profitable. If something like drinking alcoholic substances hurts the body, leads to immorality, or causes another Christian to stumble, then such practices should be abandoned and avoided. Here is a principle of the believer having the liberty to use restraint since this would be for the good and growth of the body of Christ – the church.
Do Allow for Drugs As Medicine. When Jesus was on the cross he refused to take the wine which would have dulled his pain. Elsewhere, however, he spoke approvingly of the Good Samaritan whose art of compassion included pouring wine on the wounds. And it is well known that Timothy was encouraged to use a little wine to help his ailing stomach.
The above paragraphs show that wine is mentioned frequently in the Bible. These scriptural teachings have clear relevance to our present-day era, especially the repeated warning against chemical addiction. But what drinking or taking drugs; neither is it easy for persons who are in the process of becoming addicted to reverse the process. It is here that the Christian lifestyle trainer can help.
The Causees of Addiction
It has been suggested that ours is an era of “pill-taking.” Early in life, most children become well acquainted with medicines thaat take away pain and make one feel better. Teenagers watch parents consume aspirn, cold tablets, sleeping medications and a host of other drugs. Millions of people relax with coffee, a cigarette or a drink before dinner, and when problems arise, tranquilizers are available to calm our troubled nerves. Little wonder that young people follow this adult example and, in turn, perpetuate the idea that drugs are the first line of defense against physical and psychological pain.
Of course, few people would assume that drugs in themselves are bad. Their medicinal value is well known and perhaps there is no harm in the occasional use of mild stimulants or relaxation-producing drugs. But many people become dependent both on mild drugs like caffeine or nicotine, and (what is worse) on more harmful and addictive chemicals, including alcohol.
Over the years, massive amounts of research have attempted to discover why some people become addicted while others do not. Some of these research conclusions could be listed under the following categories. Probably no one of these in itself causes drug abuse. (Complex problems rarely have only one cause.) But acting together they make some people especially prone to become addicts.
1. Personality, Heredity and Physiology. Are drug abusers unique in terms of personality or physiological characteristics? There are some traits which appear with above average frequency in those who abuse drugs. These include a high level of anxiety, emotional immaturity, problems in accepting authority, a low ability to tolerate frustration, low-self-esteem which sometimes is hidden behind grandiosity, feelings of isolationism, perfectionism, guilt and compulsiveness. It might be argued that these characteristics come as a result of drug abuse and not a cause, but Clinebell reports that, at least with alcoholism, these attributes are present before excessive drinking begins and they persist in diminished form long after sobriety has been achieved. “Impaired personalities” are even more apparent in nonalcoholic drug abusers than inn alcoholics.
In spite of these conclusions, not all specialists would agree on the personality characteristics of drug abusers. There is no such thing as a typical alcoholic or drug-abusing personality, and science has not yet discovered any heredity influence or marked physical difference between those who become addicted and those who do not. Personality, heredity, and physiology may make some people more prone to become drug abusers, but in themselves these three factors do not cause drug addiction.
2. Past Background and Culture. The family environment and society in which we are raised also can increase or decrease the likelihood of addiction.
(a) Parental Models How parents behave often influences the subsequent behavior of children. When parents drink excessively or abuse drugs, children sometimes vow to completely abstain. More often, however, they follow the parental example. It has been estimated that “without intervention, forty to sixty percent of children of alcoholic parents become alcoholics themselves.”
(b) Parental Attitudes. Parental permissiveness and parental rejection can both stimulate chemical use and abuse. When parents don’t care whether or not the children drink, there is no concern about the dangers of drugs or alcohol and misuse often follows. If parents neglect the children or are excessively punitive, the children rebel. Delinquency, excessive drug abuse, and alcoholism often follow.
According to Clinebell, the homes of alcoholics tend to show authoritariaism, success worship, overt rejection and/or a moralism which instills guilt and arouses hostility. While exceptions occur frequently, a majority of those who experience drug abuse problems come from unstable and inadequate homes.
(c) Cultural Expectations. If a culture or subcultural group has clear guidelines about the use of alcohol or drugs, abuse is less likely. Among Italians and Jews, for example, young people are generally permitted to drink but drunkenness is condemned, and the rate of alcoholism is low. In contrast, cultures such as our own are more tolerant of drunkenness. Teenage and college drinking is winked at ass a sign of growing up and inebriation becomes a topic for television and cocktail hour jokes. Since “getting high” is the “in” thing to do, conditions are set up which lead many to drug abuse.
These observations overlook the fact of individual differences within the culture. Many people who come from alcoholic prone backgrounds never become addicted; others become addicts even through this would not have been predicted by their backgrounds. The reason for these differences may largely be related to the issue of stress.
3. Present Stress. The roots of addiction most often are found in the teenage years. As an example, let us follow the addiction process as it begins in a hypothetical normal teenage male. By “normal” we mean that he likes some things about himself and dislikes others. In some things he feels competent, and in other areas he feels inadequate. Like others of his age, he experiences anxiety, fears, guilt, disappointment and insecurity in certain situations. Even though he may come from a good family there will be times of tension at home. Having been raised in an affluent society and time in history, he may be accustomed to comfort and the immediate adolescent stresses may hit him with special intensity.
Let us suppose, further, that this young person has an opportunity to take a drug. He may first be given the drug as part of medical treatment but more likely he takes it deliberately. There can be a number of reasons for this: pressure from friends, a desire to “see what it is like,” a search for personal meaning, identification with a group or hero who uses drugs, a belief that drugs (including alcohol) will “prove” one’s manhood, or use of drugs and alcohol as a way of “getting even” with parents. Some hope that the chemical will help them escape boredom or loneliness and provide acceptance from friends who are involved with drugs. Others drink or take drugs because it is a socially accepted way for friends to relax together.
When our hypothetical young person takes the alcohol or other drug he has a sense of euphoria. He feels tranquil, less nervous, more adequate and socially at ease. His problems seem less severe and the world looks good to him. There may be periodic hangovers or remorse during times of sobriety, but the drug use continues because the mood-change is so pheasant and the danger seems so minimal.
By the time the young man is in his early twenties he has repeated the drug experience many times. By the time he reaches thirty, the use of alcohol or other drugs has become an integrated part of his life style. He is now addicted psychologically and physical addiction will soon follow. Over the years, drug use has increased because it takes larger and larger quantities to create new euphoria and relieve anxiety. If the drug is withdrawn, sickness results. Thus, by early middle life, acquiring and taking the drug has become so important that his personal, family, social and business life all suffer. The person who began drinking or taking drugs as a way of relaxation now has become an addict.
Examples such as this have led many writers to conclude that stress is a major influence in addiction. To escape presures temporarily and enjoy a feeling of tranquility or euphoria, the person begins with a limited quantity of the drug and takes it only occasionally. Since nicotine and caffeine do not bring much of a sensation, people turn to something stronger. In our society, the preferred drug is alcohol because of its availability and social acceptance. Later this or some other drug becomes an indispensable crutch by which people deny stress and dull the pains of life. What began in a social setting for relaxation and fellowship becomes a way to escape stress, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. As the addiction builds, the need for the drug increases, control lessens, work suffers and so does health and family and social relationships.
4. Perpetuating Influences. In understanding addiction it is important to consider what makes some people vulnerable (including personality, culture, and background), what motivates people to start taking the drug (primarily peer pressures and stresses), and what keeps the addiction going.
At some stage in the addiction process endocrine and biochemical changes occur which make withdrawal very difficult. Even more powerful are the psychological changes which have built up over the years. The drug has become the core around which life is organized. It may be the cause of one’s problems, but it also has come to be viewed as the solution – a magic, but tragic answer to the stresses of life.
The members of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that there can be no cure for addiction until a person “reaches bottom,” admitting that he or she is “powerless over alcohol” and unable to manage life without the help of “a Power greater than ourselves.” For more on this approach see the following lessons starting with this one.
Regretfully, this determination to change often is delayed by the people who most want change to occur – the addict’s family. Alcoholism and, to a lesser extent, drug addiction have been described as family diseases. Most of the alcoholics in this country are living, not on skid rod, but at home with their families, As one’s alcoholism or other addiction gets worse, each member of the household is affected. Often, each tries to deny the reality of the situation, to both protect and criticize the addict, and to hold the family together with as little additional strain as possible. First, there is an attempt to control or stop the family member’s drug use. Then there is an attempt to understand it and eliminate the causes. Often there is an effort to hide it from the community while at home the addict is exhorted to quit.
Sometimes the family members slip into “survival roles” which are sincere and sometimes unconscious efforts to keep the family together and to prevent it from buckling under the stress. The “enabler role,” for example, is taken on by the person, usually the spouse, who seeks to take responsibility for meeting family needs. The “family hero” tries to make things better for the family and to provide self-worth for its members. The “scapegoat” gets into trouble or withdraws in a way which provides a distraction for the family. In contrast, the “mascot” tries to inject humor into the painful situation, while the “lost child” covers up his or her feelings and tries to be the one person whom the family does not have to worry about. All of this reflects the pain and pathos that infiltrates and characterizes the addict’s family.
Roles such as these help the family to keep going but, in turn, can also support the addict in his or her addiction. As long as the family seems to be getting along, there is less motivation for change. Thy family, therefore, is caught in a trap where winning is impossible. If they adjust to the addict this may perpetuate his or her problem and the pain goes on. If they don’t adjust, the family members also are hurt, and the pain goes on as well.
In a hard-hitting book entitled The Booze Battle: A Common Sense Approach That Works, one counselor argues persuasively that addicts must be faced with the reality of the situation before improvement can occur. Treatment will be delayed if families or employers perpetuate the problem by denying its reality, hiding it from others, and protecting the addict from facing the consequences of his or her irresponsible and self-centered behavior.
To all of this it may be added that society perpetuates the addiction problem when it overlooks the seriousness of addiction, laughs at inebriation, tolerates drunken driving, excuses crimes committed under the influence of drugs , and portrays chemicals as the ultimate, fastest and most pleasant solution to our problems, stresses and fears of social isolation.
5. Spiritual Influences. One Christian writer has emphasized that
by far the most important cause of drug abuse… is the existence of a spiritual, religious, and existential vacuum. It seems that young people today, lacking foundational value systems from stable family units are constantly looking for meaningful systems from stable family units, are constantly looking for meaningful models of identification in other places in society. When they fail to find them, they are left to struggle on their own with an increasing sense of frustration, lack of purpose, and meaninglessness. As materialism has become a god, there has been a simultaneous humanization of God…. Such a human production of God, however, will always fail to fill a sense of emptiness and to infuse any sense of value, hope, or meaning in the existence of the young person. Thus, again, adolescents become likely prospects for the psychochemical experience, fascination with the occult, and have all the prerequisites for the development of antiestablishment delinquent activities.
Stated concisely, human being have an inner need for a real and growing relationship with God. When this craving is denied, unrecognized and unfilled, there is a search for something else which will fill the vacuum. No more clearly is this stated than in the Bible: “Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit, and controlled by him.” Here, in one sentence, is a warning, an implied cause, and an answer to the problem of addiction.
The Effects of Addiction
Addiction can immobilize addict, ruin his or her family, and create immense social problems. Although the effects of addiction cannot be described adequately within a few paragraphs, it is possible to summarize them under four headings.
1. Physical Effects. Whenever a chemical substance is taken into the body there will be a physiological reaction. The nature of this reaction depends on the physical condition of the person, the type of drug taken the amount, and the frequency with which it is used.
Alcohol, for example, is a toxin (poison) which affects most body cells. If it is taken rapidly, the alcohol content of the blood rises, the brain’s functioning is impaired temporarily, and the drinker’s balance, motor skills, thinking and emotional responses are influenced. If alcohol is taken consistently and in large amounts, a variety of physical changes can result. These include destruction of brain cells with a resulting change in mental functioning, malfunctioning of the liver and/or pancreas, numbness of the limbs, and a variety of gastrointestinal diseases.
2. Psychological-social Effects. Since drug abuse, especially alcoholism, is so common, many people are familiar with the most obvious effects; dulled thinking, inappropriate behavior and emotional responses, self-neglect, withdrawal, and loss of social inhibitions. As the condition worsens, psychological defenses begin to build – most noticeably rationalizations (making excuses for drinking or the resulting behavior), repression (a spontaneous forgetting of shameful and painful memories), and projection (blaming others for one’s problems and unacceptable thoughts, feelings or actions). Later, life is built around getting enough of the drug; all else is of secondary importance.
While this affects the addict, it influences society as well. It is well known that many crimes are committed by addicts and by people under the influence of alcohol. Every week, drunken driving leads to death, injury, and the destruction of millions of dollars’ worth of property. Then, there are the deep family problems, the loss in employee production or efficiency, and the decline of military alertness which come with chemical abuse. All of this represents drug abuse at its worst, but it is surprising that chemicals with such potential for destruction are tolerated openly, used freely and advertised enthusiastically in our public media.
3. Family Effects. The family effects of drug abuse have already been mentioned. Families, at first, try to protect, control and blame the drinker or other addict. Then they take over the addict’s responsibilities, all the while living with tension, fear and insecurity. Often there is embarrassment, which leads family members to withdraw and, as a result, to experience loneliness and social isolation.
4. Spiritual Effects. It is impossible to grow spiritually when one is dependent on and controlled by a drug. Many addicts know this, but they seem powerless to change. As a result there is greater alienation from God. The drug becomes an idol of worship – the things that matters most. This can have adverse spiritual influences on one’s family as well as on the addict.
Counseling and Addiction
The table below lists the symptoms of chemical dependency in the approximate order of their appearance. Such a chart can be a helpful reference for trainers who want to know far the chemical dependency has advanced. But even if the trainee has not progressed very far or if he or she sees no need for help, there still is a drug problem if the person cannot completely control chemical intake or if the family perceives that a problem exists.
Symptoms of Chemical Dependency
Alcoholism Drug Dependency
I. Signs of: I. Signs of:
A. Growing preoccupation A. Growing preoccupation
a. During daytime activities a. Keeping track of prescribed times for dosage
b. Vacation times (fishing trips become drinking binges) b. Growing number of physical complaints which would require more drugs to relieve them
c. Growing involvement in drinking activities (bar building, receipts)
2. Growing need during times of stress 2. Growing need during times of stress
a. On job a. Begins to attempt to prevent stress — “It’s going to be a rough day so I’ll take a couple just in case.”
b. Family and marriage problems b. minor family and marriage problems
c. Emergencies c. Emergency situations
B. Growing rigidity in life style B. Growing rigidity in life style
1. Particular times for drinking during the day 1. Has particular times during day for drug usage – example – can’t sleep unless he/she takes a sleeping pill
2. Self-imposed rules beginning to change – Saturday lunch 2. Cannot go anywhere without supply of medication
3. Will not tolerate interference during drinking times 3. Will not tolerate attempts to limit or change medication (drugs) times or amounts
4. Limits “social” activities to those which involve drinking.
C. Growing tolerance C. Growing tolerance
1. “Wooden leg” syndrome – ability to hold liquor without showing it 1. Increasing dosage and/or number of a different medications (drugs).
2. Ingenuity about obtaining the chemical without others being aware. 2. Ingenuity about obtaining the drug without others being aware
a. Gulping drinks a. Seeking out a variety of physicians and dentists for prescriptions but not in forming them about each other.
b. Ordering “stiffer” drinks – doubles, martinis, etc. b. Attempting to get refillable prescriptions
c. Self-appointed bartender at social gatherings c. Use of several drug stores
d. Sneaking drinks d. Using several drugs in combination for the synergistic effect – i.e., a barbiturate and an alcoholic drink
e. Drinking prior to social engagements e. Using the drug for longer than the original prescription called for
f. Purchasing liquor in greater quantities – cases instead of six-packs f. Protecting the supply –
g. Protecting supply (1) Purchasing more before current supply is exhausted
(1) Purchasing more well before current supply is exhausted (2) Hiding bottles at home (suitcases), car, at work
(2) Hidden bottles – at home, car, on the job
D. Loss of control D. Loss of control
1. Increasing blackouts 1. Increasing blackouts and memory distortion
2. Unplanned drinking or larger doses and more frequent times 2. Larger and more frequent dosages, then prescription calls for – using another person’s prescriptions
3. Binge drinking 3. Continuous dosages – i.e., red pill every three hours , white pill every two hours, green capsule twice daily, etc.
4. Morning drinking 4. Repeated harmful consequences resulting from drug usage.
5. Repeated harmful consequences resulting from chemical use. a. Family
a. Family (1) Frequent blackouts which lead to many “broken commitments”
(1) Broken promises involving “cutting down” (2) Inappropriate behavior during family rituals (Christmas, birthdays)
(2) Drinking during family rituals (Christmas, birthdays) (3) Sacrificing other family needs for doctor appointments and prescriptions
(3) Sacrificing other family financial needs for chemicals (4) Changing family duties due to physical incapacity (increase time in bed, lack of motivation and drive)
(4) Fights 9physical) or arguments about drug usage (5) Drug-induced mood changes creates uncertainty and suspicion in family members
(5) Threats of divorce
b. Legal b. Legal
(1) Traffic violations – DWI, etc. (1) Buying and/or selling illegal drugs
(2) Drunk and disorderly (2) Buying from illegal sources
(3) Suits – result of impaired judgment (3) Traffic violations
(4) Divorce proceedings (4) Disorderly conduct violations
(5) Suits – result of impaired judgment
(6) Divorce proceedings
c. Social c. Social
(1) Loss of friendships because of antisocial behavior (1) Loss of friendships because of past anti-social behavior
(2) Previous hobbies, interests and community activities neglected as a result of increased chemical use (2) previous hobbies, interests and community activities neglected as a result of increased drug usage.
d. Occupational d. Occupational
(1) Absenteeism (hang-overs) (1) Absenteeism
(2) Lost promotions due to poor performance (2) Lost promotions due to poor performance
(3) Threats of termination (3) Demotions due to impaired and inappropriate behavior
(4) Loss of job (4) Loss of job
e. Physical e. Physical
(1) Numerous hospitalizations (1) Numerous hospitalizations
(2) Medical advice to cut down (2) Increasing number of physical complaints
(3) Using alcohol as medication (3) Physical deterioration due to chemical use.
(a) To get to sleep
(b) Relieve stress
f. Growing defensiveness f. Growing defensiveness
(1) Vague and evasive answers (1) Vague and evasive answers
(2) Inappropriate reactions to consequences of drug usage (2) Inappropriate reactions to consequences of drug usage
(3) Frequent attempts at switching to other areas of concern (3) Frequent attempts at switching to other areas of concern
II. Trainer should be: II. Trainer should be:
A. Direct but not D.S. (District Attorney) A. Direct but not D.A. District Attorney)
B. persistent but not threatening B. Persistent but not threatening
C. Aware of possible distortions due to sincere delusion C. Aware of possible distortions due to sincere delusion
D. Ready to seek out corroborating data from concerned person if person becomes highly defensive D. Ready to seek out corroborating data from a significant other if person becomes highly defensive
To begin, it might be helpful to list some things that usually do not help. These include criticism, coaxing, making the person promise to stop, threats, hiding or destroying the alcohol or other drug, urging the use of will power, preaching, or instilling guilt. Most families try all of these; most discover that they rarely work. What does work successfully?
1. Get the Addict to a Source of Help. This is difficult because many addicts, especially alcoholics, deny that there is a problem. Their thinking is dulled and the reality of their condition sometimes is hidden by the actions of well-meaning family members who “cover” for the addict when he or she does something irresponsible.
How, then, can the addict “get the message” that help is needed? In an accepting but firm, factual and nonjudgmental way, point out the nature of one’s actions. Present specific examples (e.g., “Last night at 11 P.M. you knocked over and broke the lamb”) rather than vague generalities (e.g., “You’re drinking too much!”). One writer has suggested that the message may be best conveyed nonverbally. If the addict collapses on the living room floo, for example, leave him or her there rather then helping the person into bed – and thus hiding the fact that the collapse occurred.
Remember that most addicts have high anxiety and low self-esteem. One must be careful, therefore, not to criticize or condemn in a way that arouses anxiety and threatens. Convey acceptance of the person but not of the behavior. Listen to the addict but do not give reassurance. Recognize that addicts are dependent, often childish, manipulative and specialists in evoking sympathy. The trainer must resist the tendency to give advice, preach, or act like a parent. Instead, show a non-condescending, firm, sensitive attitude which implies that responsibility for recovery must remain with the addict. In all of this, remember that the best trainers are gentle, but not soft-hearted, in their approach.
2. Get the Addict Off the Drug. This is a medical problem which must involve the intervention of a physician, although medical personnel sometimes work in conjunction with psychologists who use an advanced “re-learning” technique known as behavior therapy.
Why “detoxification” usually can be accomplished safely and quite quickly, this is only the beginning of treatment. A larger problem is keeping the addict free of drug use. This involves training which has least four goals: (1) repairing medical damage that has come with the addiction, (2) helping the trainee learn how to cope with stress, (3) helping him or her find an effective, non-chemical substitute for the drug, (4) building or restoring self-esteem and dealing with guilt. The first of these goals involves medical treatment. The others can be goals for non-medical counselors, preferably working with the family, support groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous), and other treatment specialists.
3. Provide Support. Drug abusers are lonely, immature people who are being asked to give up a substance which they have come to value and to change a life style which has become well entrenched. This will not be accomplished in one or two hours of individual training each week.
Many addicts are best helped within the confines of hospitals or rehabilitation centers where help is available on an “around-the-clock” basis. Some can be assisted through group counseling where recovering addicts can help each other to face the stresses of life, interact with people, and live life without a chemical dependency.
Without doubt the most effective support comes from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and related groups (Al-Anon for spouses of alcoholics and Alateen for their children). These organizations meet in cities and towns all over the world, are free of charge, listed in the phone book, and established as perhaps the most effective approach for helping alcoholics and their families. They are based on principles which are consistent with biblical teaching: acceptance of reality; faith in God: commitment of one’s life to divine care; honesty with God, self and others; desire and readiness to change one’s way of life; prayer; making amends; and sharing with others. Narcotics Anonymous has been less successful but provides, nevertheless, a support group where understanding and care abound. Surely “any treatment that promotes supportive group membership in a drug-free environment is a far more effective means of treating drug addiction than efforts to provide psychological insights or better drugs.”
In reading the above paragraphs did it occur to you that the church could also provide such supportive help? This can happen if church members are understanding, familiar with the facts about addiction, available to help and non-condemning. Since many non-addicts have trouble understanding the addict’s struggles, trainees might be encouraged to be involved in AA, plus the broader, more diversified fellowship of a local church.
4. Help with Stress Management. In the past, addicts dealt with stress by escaping through the use of drugs. Training must show that there are better ways to meet the pressures of life. To show this, the trainee must learn that he or she can trust the counselor who, in turn, must be patient and dependable. Stress in general can be discussed, but a better approach is to take each problem as it arises and help the trainee determine how it can be handled effectively. This will include considerations of interpersonal relations and how to get along with others – apart from drug or alcohol use.
5. Encourage Self-understanding and a Change of life Style. When arelationship of trust has been established, there can be value in considering some of the reasons for drug abuse. These discussions can lead to insight, but insight in itself is of little value unless it is followed by practical, specific plans for changed behavior.
Sometimes these plans involve vocational training, the consideration and establishment of life goals, an evaluation of self-esteem, and a discussion of marriage relationships.
Then there is the issue of life style. Now that he or she is not taking the drug, how will life be different? One’s style of life depends on making decisions concerning what will or will not be done. These decisions involve the trainee, but they also concern the family.
6. Family Training. Drug abuse is a family problem and the whole family must receive support, understanding and help. At times they must be encouraged to not withdraw, but to live life as best as they can despite the circumstances. The family members must be helped to see how they might be contributing to the addiction problem or how their protection of the addict might prolong the condition. They can be given facts to help them understand the addiction, and before the addict comes for help, family members can be encouraged to confront the addict with specific evidences of his or her drug-induced behavior.
Sometimes family members, especially spouses, want to rescue the addict and take responsibility for running the family. When sobriety occurs, the family must readjust to the change and learn to accept the addict as a responsible member of the home. This may be difficult either because of a fear, based on past experience, that the present “dry spell” is temporary, or because the family has grown accustomed to functioning smoothly around the addict. Family change is risky for the family, important for the trainee, and accomplished best when there is encouragement from the trainer or outside support group.
7. Be Prepared for Relapses. These are common among addicts, including alcoholics. AA has long maintained that one drink can plunge an alcoholic quickly back into the addiction. The same is true with nonalcoholic drugs. If the relapse is followed by blame and condemnation, the addict is inclined to give up and adopt an attitude which says, “I’ll never win, so why should I bother to try?”
It is not easy to work with chemically dependent people. The trainer can expect failures and after a relapse must help the trainee “pick up” and keep working on the problem.
8. Recognize That Evangelism and Discipleship Are Basic. If the trainee is to find new meaning and purpose in life, he or she must come to see that true and lasting fulfillment is found only in Jesus Christ. The trainer must depend on the Holy Spirit’s guidance to determine when and how to present the gospel. Highly emotional preaching sometimes produces false decisions which later are rejected – although there are many examples of persons converted to Christ, freed from their addiction, and permanently changed through the preaching of evangelistic messages.
Trainees are most responsive to the gospel when they recognize they have a need and that Christ can fill that need. Since addicts are masters in manipulating other people, be careful not to fall into the same pattern with an attempt to manipulate them into the kingdom. The trainee should be presented with the facts of the gospel and urged, but not coerced, into making a decision to commit his or her life to Christ.
In all of this, prayer is of central importance. Through the intercession of believers and the availability of concerned human helpers, God works to restore those who are controlled by chemical substances. He also helps to prevent chemical abuse in others.
The prevention of drug abuse begins in the home. When children are respected, loved, disciplined and raised by sensitive, concerned, stable parents, there is greater opportunity for healthy maturing and less likelihood of chemical dependence. When children’s emotional needs are met in the home, when they are helped to cope with stress, and when they are taught a clear set of values, there is a greater sense of security and self-esteem, accompanied by a greater ability to handle the problems of life without drugs.
For many people, however, home does not fit this description. Even when it does there can be outside influences which may lead one into drug abuse. To prevent this several additional considerations are important.
1. Instill a Healthy Religious Faith. A survey of 5, 648 university revealed that habitual church-goers and those who have a strong religious faith “are far less likely to be taking drugs than classmates who are shifting church affiliations in their search for the divine. And … drug use was highest among those for whom there was no spiritual search at all.” From this it does not follow that faith in God always prevents drug abuse, but Christian lifestyle trainers can be aware that when one is ‘filled with the Spirit” of God, there is less need to depend on chemical substances.
2. Provide Education on Drug Abuse. It is true that those who never drink or take a drug will never become addicts. But emotional pleas for abstinence rarely convince or influence people who are curious about drug effects of influenced by peers. Neither is it helpful to ignore thge subject of drug abuse on the assumption that discussion will arouse curiosity. When the subject is considered in a frank, open discussion, this weakens the temptation to dabble with the secret and the forbidden.
Education should (a) begin early, since most drug abusers start their long decline in the teenage years; (b) present accurate facts concerning the nature and effects of drugs, including alcohol; (c) avoid emotional appeals which involve ‘scare tactics” but little factual content; (d) clearly discuss the biblical teachings about wine and drunkenness; (e) make young people aware of why people drink or take drugs, pointing out that “the alcoholic on the road to recovery at 45 years of age has to face, without alcohol, the same feelings and problems he sought to escape through drinking in his teen years”; (f) discuss how one can say “no” in an environment where one’s peers may all be drinking or taking drugs ; (g) encourage abstinence as the best and most effective means of prevention; (i) describe the warning signs which indicate developing addiction; and (j) alert people to the availability, place and nature of help for those with developing drug-related problems.
One writer has summarized the nature of a truly effective prevention program:
There is … the task of helping the abstinent youngster to understand his behavior in an environment in which most others are drinking. There is the task of making the youngster who drinks aware that alcohol is not just another social beverage, but an intoxicant which in specific amounts for a given individual has specific effects. There’s also the task of helping youngsters to understand the alcoholic as a person with a behavior disorder who can be and ought to be helped…. What is needed is not less alcohol education, but alcohol education which is realistically supplemented by a broad concern for identifying and helping the youngster with problems of social and personal development, whether or not his problems are alcohol.
This last sentence leads to the next aspect of prevention.
3. Teach people How to Cope with Life. if we can assume that drug abuse often reflects a failure in coping, then the approach to prevention is teaching people to openly face, discuss, and deal with the stress-related problems of life. “The key to prevention,” concludes one report, “is to reduce exposure to stress where you can and to teach healthy means of coping with stress that can’t be eliminated.”
4. Provide Realistic Adult Examples. In his book on alcoholism, Clinebell reports that parental example is the most influential faactor in determining whether or not children will develop chemical dependency. When parents regularly rely on drugs and alcohol, children learn to do the same. When parents rigidly prohibit and condemn the use of chemical substances, children often react by partaking of this “forbidden fruit.”
More effective is an open attitude about drugs and alcohol, a recognition of their dangers, an encouragement of moderation if not abstinence, and an example of parents who enjoy life without having to rely on drugs to meet problems or to enjoy fellowship with others.
Conclusions about Addiction
Is drug abuse a sickness or a sin?
Many Christians conclude that it is a sin which must be confronted, confessed, and stopped. In contrast, trainer and former addicts (including AA members) maintain that addiction is a sickness which the addict is powerless to stop and must be treated as such.
Probably it is more accurate to conclude that addiction is both a sin and a sickness. The addict originally chose to subject his or her body to a poison, but the poison then took control and the person became powerless to stop the deterioration without help from others.
Addicts and their families are not helped by moralizing about the sins of drug abuse; neither is it fair to dismiss drug abuse as a sickness, devoid of wrongdoing and for which there is no responsibility. The addict must be helped professionally to overcome the sickness and taught spiritually to live the rest of life in obedience and submission to Jesus Christ. Only then is the difficult problem truly and effectively resolved.
When God is pleased with a leader’s life, his divine presence is unmistakable. Charles G. Finney was a nineteenth-century evangelist whose life demonstrated the obvious presence of God. During a visit to New York Mills in 1826, he visited a cotton manufacturing plant where his brother-in-law was superintendent. As Finney passed through a spacious room in which many women were working at looms and spinning jennies, he noticed several young women watching him and speaking among themselves. As Finney approached them, they became more agitated. When Finney was about ten feet away, one woman sank to the ground and burst into tears. Soon others were sobbing, overcome with conviction of their sin. This outpouring of the Spirit spread rabidly throughout the building until the entire factory was singularly aware of God’s presence. The owner, an unbeliever, realized God was at work and temporarily closed the plant. He asked Finney to preach to his employees and tell them how they might find peace for their souls. Finney had not spoken to any of the laborers. He had simply entered the factory. God’s powerful presence in Finney’s life had been too overwhelming to ignore. When God chooses to exalt one of his servants, the world sits up and takes notice.
You are the only true treasure, Almighty God. In your love there is no need, to want. Fill me with the true treasure of your Spirit. Help me to know you in all ways. Amen.
1. We are going to do some more brainstorming. Remember, the key to brainstorming is that you just throw out ideas as fast as you can, without bothering about whether the ideas are good or bad. In fact, discussing or criticizing of ideas is not allowed during the brainstorming session itself. Enter down every idea you come up with. We will discuss them later.
Okay, come up with a list of every adjective you can think of to describe the type of training usually given by someone who is doing it out of obligation, someone who is doing something because he or she thinks they have to, not because he or she wants to. Take five minutes and see how many adjectives you can come up with. Go ahead.
Now, brainstorm another list, make a list of adjectives describing the type of training you would expect to find from someone who is doing it out of his or her own desire. See how many adjectives you can list in five minutes.”
Take a look at the two lists. Compare them, then decide the most important things you learned from this exercise. Take another five minutes.