Overcoming Addiction Through Christ
We are entering a time of year when levels of depression spike significantly. The sun setting early and rising late makes for long days. The holidays are not a joyous time for all people. Those with family turmoil or no close family find themselves quite lonely and isolated during this season. And the general state of affairs in our current day has had a negative effect on a lot of us.
To find a reprieve, some people turn to intoxicants to cope with stress or pain. In a typical year, alcohol consumption doubles during the holiday season. Alcohol-related deaths have been on the rise for twenty years. Alcohol sales in 2020 reached their highest levels in 18 years and sales remained historically high in 2021. And for too many, turning to alcohol means feeding a dark monster who will utterly consume you.
If you battle an addiction, God provides a way of escape.
From the outset I want to be perfectly clear: I am not a trained expert In this area. I offer spiritual guidance from the Bible to help those in the chains of addiction. If you are addicted to alcohol or other substances, I urge you to seek help from those with the training and experience to mentor you. To prepare for this study, I consulted a dear sister in Christ, Michelle Savage. Michelle overcame her addiction through faith in the name of Jesus Christ. She now counsels addicts in a recovery program.
Let’s begin with a very basic question: what is addiction?
From a technical standpoint, addiction is the co-opting of our pleasure and reward system. God designed a marvelous mechanism that He intended to function as a reward for positive, habitual behavior. But to relieve stress, anxiety, or depression, the brain can connect the relief of these negative emotions with craving and impulsive desire for intoxicating substances. The brain trains itself to perceive alcohol or other substances as THE way to escape negative emotions: I hurt, I want a drink, I really want a drink, I need a drink to make it go away.
From a Biblical perspective, addiction is a form of idolatry. My friend Michelle, who I mentioned earlier, called my attention to Mark 12:28-30, the two great commandments according to Jesus. If I am to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, anything I allow to stand in between or anything I serve breaks this greatest command. Michelle also pointed out the second command. Because addiction affects those closest to us in profound ways, the addict breaks the second greatest command.
From Michelle’s extensive experience, the solution is 1 Peter 5:6-9,
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
To escape addiction, one must humble themselves in the eyes of God and cast all of their cares upon Him. In addition, the addict must always be on guard. The temptation to return to the old path lurks around every corner. Though addiction corrupts a good thing God created, there is a path of escape. It begins with humility, poverty of spirit, and taking personal ownership before the throne of God.
But this is by no means an easy course out — according to Michelle, recovering addicts face definite obstacles.
One of the biggest obstacles is well-meaning friends and family members who enable destructive behaviors. Michelle urged me to observe how family members treat the addicts they love. Here is one thing she said to me in recent correspondence:
There are family members, significant others, and friends who are enablers (I know it may hurt, but sometimes the truth hurts). When an addict asks for money, or the enabler buys the addict food, or bails them out of jail, or gives them a ride to where they pick up the drug, the enabler is basically saying to the addict do whatever you want, because there will be no consequences for your actions.
Let me be clear, do not give in to them because it ends up being a co-dependent relationship, it will not only wear you out, but many times also the other person gets pulled down with the person they were trying to help. Pray for them, love them, but keep them at a distance and let God have them. He loves them more than you do, and He has the whole world in His Hands. Be patient, they will come around.
So in spite of best intentions, family members or close friends can stand in the way.
But the biggest obstacle any addict faces is self.
As I mentioned earlier, addiction is symptomatic of some deeply-seated pain or negative emotion. Maybe the addict is attempting to cope with a traumatic event that happened in childhood. Or maybe he is lonely and isolated. Or maybe life has gotten so complicated that she craves some way to escape and forget about it. Whatever the case may be, it is essential for the addict to realize no amount of beer or whiskey or tequila will ever take away the pain. \
Again, let me share with you the words of Michelle:
Many times, we do not see what we are doing to ourselves. We think that whatever we are trying to cover up, numb, or run away from will disappear. It won’t and the reason is because whatever that is, it is deep-rooted. Maybe it is something that happened in your childhood, maybe you were bullied, maybe your spouse or significant other beat you and you are trying to fill that emptiness and pain with something that will only put a band-aid on it.
This is where Jesus comes in! He came to this world to sacrifice Himself for every single person in it. He wants to heal your heart, soul, mind, and spirit! There is a hole in every person’s heart here on this Earth, that can only be filled by Jesus!
A bottle will not ease your pain. Jesus provides a solution. He knows pain and grief and heartache. Jesus, “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
To help with overcoming addiction through Christ, I asked Michelle for some Scriptures that will help addicts face their demons.
Here are a few Scriptures that are especially meaningful to her:
- 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
- Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”
- Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
- Romans 12:2, “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.”
She also mentioned the armor of God in Ephesians 6:11-18, Jeremiah 29:11, and Psalm 91.
In addition, she had a piece of advice that I think we all would do well to heed:
….when you are starting out as a baby Christian (and most of us need a reminder), read the Gospels first, they are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Gospels will help you to know Who Jesus is on a deeper level and that He will never leave you or forsake you!
I could not agree more — the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are an excellent place to start. And if you’re not sure which of those books to start with, may I suggest the book of Mark. It’s sixteen chapters long — you can read a chapter a week and be done in four months; or you could read four chapters a week and finish it in a month. It covers most of the major events of the ministry of Jesus and it will tell you how to begin your walk with Jesus.
If the Bible intimidates you or you feel lost and you would like to study the Bible with someone, you can contact me on my website, thegospelsaves.me and click on Contact in the menu.
What Michelle’s experience demonstrates is that faith plays a pivotal role in conquering addiction. Recently, I was listening to an agnostic psychologist who has done a lot of research in alcoholism; he stated that researchers in the field have known for decades that a “spiritual transformation” was THE key to overcoming the disease.
God, in His mercy, has given the addict a way of escape, a way to break free from the trap. With the help of Jesus Christ working through His Holy Spirit and the Word of God, you can change your mind and, thereby, change your life
As I draw this to a close, I’ll leave you with some hopeful thoughts.
Michelle says “do not believe what the world says about you: ‘once an addict always an addict.’ That statement is false! When you become a part of the body of Christ you are an Overcomer! With God All things are possible!”
Michelle also urges addicts to “plug into a church that speaks the Truth, which is God’s Word, and does everything they can to follow it!” The need for accountability cannot be overstated: “Keep in touch with someone you trust like a Christian counselor, a brother or sister in Christ, or someone you know will not co-sign your garbage.”
Evil company corrupts good habits, so change your people, places, and things. This means stay away from the people you used to hang around with, do not go to and, for some, live in the same place you did before getting clean, and do not do the things you once did. If going to a certain part of town triggers your mind to want to ‘go use,’ do not go to that part of town.
And once you have found freedom in Christ, “share your story when you are comfortable because you never know who is listening. Just like Jesus chose the disciples who later became apostles, He has chosen you. Remember, Christ came for the sick and the lost because someone who is well has no need for a physician.”
I am so thankful for good examples like Michelle who show us the power of faith and hope and who show us the power of God to rescue us from ourselves.