Addiction and Faith

As The Next Door delivers its addiction treatment services, it does so with faith being at the heart.

“Everything we do, from staff meetings to client care, upholds a Christ-centered focus,” says Ray Brocato, the CEO of The Next Door.  “Our goal is to meet the women’s spiritual needs as well as their physical and mental ones.”

But exactly how are faith and addiction related?

How Should Christians View Addiction?

Much of the world views addiction as a problem, a result of bad choices, or a disease.  However, Pastor Glenda Sutton, the founder and senior pastor of Family Affairs Ministry Fellowship, says people of faith need to define addiction very differently and that a crisis in identity can be the root of substance abuse.

“Addiction occurs because of pain. Hurting people are looking for something to heal them,” says Pastor Sutton. “Faith tells us we were created in the image of God. If you don’t know what you were created for, you gravitate to something else to deal with the pain.”

Dr. Monty Burks, Director of the Faith Based Initiatives of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, warns of Christians sticking labels on people. “You start calling someone an ‘addict,’ and that’s how they feel like they have to operate.  As Christians, no matter what people are going through, we need to be the way out.”

The Role Faith Plays in Recovery

“Faith was everything in my recovery,” says Joel Frame, Director of Outreach & Community Life at Hope Church. “I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for 20 years, attempting to stop using on my own power. When I completely and fully surrendered to Jesus Christ, I actually found freedom from addiction.”

The well-known 12 step program, which serves as the foundation of many recovery groups, finds its roots in the Christian faith, tracing its origins back to the Oxford Group, a religious movement in the early 20th century. After a spiritual experience led him to quit drinking, a man known as “Bill W.” founded Alcoholic Anonymous using the principles of the Oxford Group.

Step 2 in the program is believing that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  Is it possible for someone who doesn’t believe in a higher power to recover from addiction?  Amanda Dunlap, the Director of Clinical Services at The Next Door, believes this lack of belief makes it a much harder journey.

“Those that don’t think of something higher than themselves often hit a block,” says Dunlap. “Recovery is not a solo journey.  It’s necessary to believe in a higher power and later on, we give our power to the higher power.”

What the Church Can Do

Drug overdoses recently became the leading cause of death in the United States for people under 50—claiming over 72,000 lives last year. Tennessee is 13th in the nation of fatal drug overdoses.  In Nashville alone, overdose visits rose 30% in 2020.  What role can the local church play in what has become a public health crisis?

Recovery advocates say, first of all, churches need to stop piling shame and guilt upon addicts.  By doing that they are missing their opportunity to offer the healing and true redemption only they can give

“I heard the fear church goers had of addicts and the shame they associated with it,” says Frame.  “I knew it wasn’t a safe place to find help.”

Dunlap adds that people need to be welcome in the church before they feel comfortable seeking help for addiction. “We have to find a sense of belonging before we believe.  I am not going to seek help from where I don’t feel like I belong.”

That is the aim of The Next Door. As a hurting, broken woman walks through the doors of The Next Door, she is welcomed with open arms by a loving, Christian community that is invested in her recovery.

For more information on Faith and Addiction, view our recent panel discussion on our YouTube Channel

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