As Spiritual Leaders; How Do We Heal Addiction?

Counseling a person caught up in addiction can be one of the most difficult, discouraging and time draining relationships a spiritual leader can have. Yet more and more of these hurting people are finding their way into our churches. Not to mention that many of them are already in our congregations.

As I said in last week’s blog, addiction is not only a spiritual/moral issue (what destructive behavior isn’t?) but it has a real physical component. The brain chemistry of an addict has been altered to such an extent that their ability to make healthy decisions has been greatly diminished. So to tell an addict to simply quit their addiction is not only feudal but medically insensitive.

Addictive drugs provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. The hippocampus lays down memories of this rapid sense of satisfaction, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli ... dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain’s system of reward-related learning.
— Harvard Health Publications

In other words the brain is hijacked and the ability to choose not to continue in the addiction is greatly diminished. Understanding this process allows us to look at creating solutions that are both compassionate and practical.

Compassionate because we can see their addiction from a medical point of view and help them to step out of their shame and look objectively at the challenge before them.   

Practical because we can support a path of healing that will truly work at defeating the addiction.

What you can do for those caught in addiction:

  • Recognize that it is going to take a team to break the hold the addiction has so don’t go it alone! Can God miraculously cure us? Yes, of course, but it appears that God would rather teach a number of character lessons on the road to recovery. A combination of a truly functional small group, a counselor who is competent to work with addiction and (if available) family member(s) who will support their recovery.
  • Continued discipleship focused upon “the renewal of the mind” Rom. 12:2 so that the addictive mind is rewired to become the “mind of Christ”.

As always if there is anything we at Total Wellness Resource Center can do to assist you we are here to help.