Ministering to People With Addiction: The First Step

Identify false gods. Identifying the false gods that dictate how we live our lives is, as psychologist Ed Welch and pastor Gary Steven Shogren suggest, to fill in the blank in the following statement: “If I only had _________, I’d be happy.”4 Alternatively, ask yourself what in your life, if you lost it, would cause you the greatest grief.

Look at intimate relationships. Finally, take a look at your intimate relationships (both past and present), and ask yourself where you have been hurt or caused hurt to others. Many addicts have experienced childhood trauma like physical, verbal, emotional, spiritual or sexual abuse. Such things need to be addressed (if they have not been already), ideally with the help of a good therapist. In this step, you will also need to scrutinize the places where you have been inconsiderate or disingenuous toward others. How have you used your sexuality to harm others?

This is not the time for moralizing, but for gentle, honest and rigorous introspection. Because twelve-step programs like AA seek to create a nonjudgmental environment and because they view problems with sex as on par with other problems, AA will not make your sexual choices and behaviors a litmus test for membership by ranking it above other issues. A review of your most intimate relationships within the context of step 4 is really about uncovering another dimension of your recovery by shedding light on your addictive thoughts and behaviors.

Following the above steps will allow you to assess what one thing, or two or three, you have pursued over and above a connection with God. We need to be brutally honest about these things. Do you find yourself constantly obsessing about a particular thing—like that bonus at work or a new car? Maybe you catch yourself paying more attention to your iPhone than to the person in front of you.

If a personal inventory unearths certain unhealthy behavioral patterns, that’s because nobody is invulnerable to addictive tendencies, regardless of where they fall on the continuum. So continue to ask God on a daily basis to reveal the fault lines in your soul that keep you from finding real freedom in the Spirit and deeper relationship with the One who most wants you to be happy, joyous and free. God will show you the areas where you, too, display addictive tendencies or compulsions, a clear measure of which will be the humble recognition that addicts are not “over there” but right here in our midst, among us, and even in the mirror.

In this way, our own homecomings are inextricably bound with those of the addicts we hope to help recover. And the adventure, messiness, joy and heartache—both the risks and the possibilities of a shared journey together—really begin with the question “How do I help this person get into recovery?” As is the case with most journeys, there are some ways you can prepare while surrendering the rest to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Soulful, meditative preparation is just the first of a number of things you will need for your journey home to the heart of God—but it is arguably the most important.

Taken from The Recovery-Minded Church by Jonathan Benz with Kristina Robb-Dover. Copyright © 2016 by Elements Behavioral Health, Inc. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.

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