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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

Do You Believe in Miracles?

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

During the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, broadcaster Al Michaels uttered these memorable words as the final seconds ticked off the clock during the medal round of the men’s ice hockey tournament. This game between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would determine which team would go on to face Finland in the gold medal round. On paper, the U.S. team seemed to be no match for their Soviet counterparts – amateurs vs. professionals – yet the U.S. won that pivotal game 4-3. The event would henceforth be known as the “Miracle on Ice.”

Do you believe in miracles?

Jesus’ disciples did. So did the crowds who witnessed his compassionate acts of healing, his stunning acts of power. The lame could walk again. The blind could see again. The deaf could hear again. Those in pain found lasting relief. Those plagued by demonic spirits were restored to wholeness. Those afflicted by seizures were made well. Those with leprosy were made clean.

Jesus not only restored individuals to health; he also resurrected people from the dead. Jairus’ daughter was raised from her death bed. A widow’s son arose from his coffin. Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

But Jesus’ miracles were not limited to healing and resurrection. Jesus walked on water. Jesus calmed a storm. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast. Jesus fed thousands of hungry men, women, and children with five loaves of bread and two fish.

The Greek word that is translated as “miracle” is dynamis; this word is also rendered in the New Testament as “mighty work,” “strength,” or “power.” When the crowds witnessed one of Jesus’ miracles, they marveled at his mighty works and praised God. Those who were healed by Jesus experienced transformation that exceeded the cessation of the original symptoms of sickness. Jesus offered holistic healing of body, mind, and spirit. Jesus offered restoration of relationships. Jesus offered reengagement with community.

Do you believe in miracles?

That’s a question still worth asking. If you could be a fly on the wall of my office, I think you would believe in miracles. The word comes up often in conversations as clients sit across from me and share their stories.

“I overdosed. I flatlined. But the paramedics revived me with Narcan. It’s a miracle that I’m alive today.”

“I shouldn’t still be alive. I’ve overdosed too many times. It’s a miracle. I don’t know why God saved me, but I now believe that God has a plan for my life.”

“After the wreck, I was told that I would never walk again. But look at me! Now I’m walking. It’s a miracle.”

The evidence of God’s healing, redemptive power is abundant at The Next Door. The full spectrum of miraculous transformation is on display daily. Clients who once thought they had lost everything realize that all is not lost. They do not have to be defined by their past. Day by day, the claws of addiction loosen their grip. Day by day, freedom is regained. Day by day, hope is renewed. Day by day, health is restored.

God still works miracles in our world. God is working miracles in this place. The Next Door is able to empower women for lifetime recovery because God empowers the staff to use their gifts and training and skills and compassion to facilitate healing – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. Hope and encouragement are freely dispensed by staff members who are further along on the road of recovery. As clients are welcomed into our community by our staff and volunteers and treated with respect, they realize that they are worthy of love and deserving of the best treatment we can provide. Seeds of faith are planted and nurtured as clients reconnect with God or connect for the first time with their Higher Power. Wholeness is no longer an impossible dream.

The offices, medical suites, clinical suites, group rooms, dining rooms, consult rooms, and bedrooms at The Next Door’s treatment center in Nashville are filled with walking miracles. The apartments at the Freedom Recovery Community in Nashville are filled with walking miracles. The community spaces and group rooms and bedrooms and offices at the Correctional Release Center in Chattanooga are filled with walking miracles.

Do you believe in miracles?

I do.

Thanks be to God, who continues to work miracles in our world. Thanks be to God, who continues to work miracles at The Next Door.

“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” – Psalm 77:14

Monday Meditation: Healing

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

As a child, I was fascinated by the story of the four men who carried their paralyzed friend on a mat to Jesus because they believed that Jesus could heal him. Since a large crowd had gathered to hear Jesus that day, when the friends arrived at the house in Capernaum where Jesus was preaching, they could not get in the door. Unwilling to give up on their mission of mercy, the friends carefully carried their friends to the roof of the home and made a hole directly above Jesus.

I wonder how much debris fell on Jesus before he stopped preaching. I wonder what the homeowner said when he saw a mat being lowered by ropes through his new sunroof. I wonder what the paralyzed man was thinking when his mat came to rest on the floor in front of Jesus and he looked up into Jesus’ face.

What happens next is somewhat surprising: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:2-5) When Jesus witnessed the faith of these friends – a faith that led them to go to great lengths to access healing for their friend – Jesus responded with mercy.

Interestingly, spiritual healing preceded physical healing. “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So Jesus said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ The man got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:9-12)

Faith is one of the core values of The Next Door. Often our clients’ family and friends keep the faith long after our clients have given up hope that they might experience healing. They are the ones who call our Admissions Team and drive their loved ones to our door seeking help; they are the ones who pray for healing for their incarcerated mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends who are completing their sentences at the Correctional Release Center.

Where do you see yourself in this story? How have you helped a loved one access healing in the past? Who has helped you experience physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual healing? Who needs your help this week to receive the healing they seek?

Alcohol Awareness Month: Withdrawal

– Written by Vanderbilt School of Nursing Students

The Positive Effects of Quitting Alcohol  

Stopping and reducing your alcohol use has many positive effects on your body. This includes lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and reducing your risk for heart failure and cancer. Quitting alcohol significantly increases life expectancy. Once you stop using alcohol, your liver has time to heal and restore itself. Alcohol cessation can also elevate your self esteem, decrease anxiety, and promote better sleep.

What is alcohol withdrawal?

After long term use of alcohol, your brain starts to adjust to the constant presence of alcohol in your system. Because alcohol is a central nervous depressant, your brain must work harder to communicate with your body when using alcohol. When alcohol use is suddenly stopped, or seriously cut back, the body experiences alcohol withdrawal. During withdrawal, your brain cannot adjust quickly enough to the removal of the depressant and continues to work in overdrive causing a potentially dangerous set of symptoms.

What does detox feel like?

Detox is the process of removing the substance out of the body. Symptoms typically develop within several hours to a few days of quitting and usually worsen after 48 to 72 hours. These symptoms include:

  • Cramps
  • Increases in heart rate
  • High Blood pressure
  • Hyper alertness
  • Jerky movements, tremors and shaking
  • Irritability
  • Easily startled
  • Vomiting

How detox can become a medical emergency

The medical emergency that can occur due to withdrawal from alcohol is called Delirium Tremens. Delirium Tremens can be deadly and should be managed with the help of medical professionals. Delirium peaks at 2 to 3 days after cessation of alcohol and lasts 2 to 3 days

Symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Disorientation and Clouding of Consciousness
  • Seeing or Hearing Hallucinations
  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Agitation
  • Delusions
  • High Grade Fever
  • Seizures

These symptoms can be severe, even deadly. If you have an alcohol use disorder or are worried about your alcohol use and want to quit, it is safest to find a treatment center that has a detox level of care so that you can detox safely.

Treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder can significantly improve quality of life, but it’s not something anyone should go through alone. It can be made easier with support from places like The Next Door. If you or someone you love are thinking about quitting alcohol, please reach out to your provider or a facility such as The Next Door for emotional and medical support.

Ready to detox safely with help and support?

  • Call The Next Door at 855-863-4673

Looking for more information about alcohol addiction or withdrawal?

Experiencing a medical emergency related to alcohol withdrawal?

  • Call 911

Monday Meditation: Easter Sunday and Trauma

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

Although we tend to focus on rejoicing on Easter Sunday, the gospel narratives remind us that the first Easter Sunday was the culmination of three days of trauma, and trauma doesn’t simply evaporate. Three days prior to the discovery of the empty tomb, Jesus’ partners in ministry scattered in fear after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Afterwards, as Jesus predicted, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Consumed by shame, Judas – Jesus’ betrayer – died by suicide. A small group of women who had supported Jesus throughout his ministry followed Jesus all the way to the cross, bearing witness to his brutal execution. From the cross, Jesus called out to his friend John, instructing him to care for his mother Mary, who watched in horror as her firstborn son took his last breath. Unforgettable, horrific images were seared into their minds.

On Easter Sunday, when the grieving women went to the tomb bearing spices to anoint Jesus’ body, they were still reeling from all they had witnessed. Can you imagine the range of emotions they must have felt when they arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled away and the body of their beloved Christ missing? More trauma. The women were terrified when angels suddenly appeared and asked them, “Why do you search for the living among the dead? Jesus isn’t here! He has risen from the dead?” How could they possibly process all they were experiencing?

Meanwhile, the remaining 11 apostles were huddled behind a locked door, fearful that they would be the next ones to be executed. They, too, were traumatized by the loss of their teacher and friend; their dream for a new kingdom of God on earth had been shattered. When the women arrived to pass on the angelic message of Christ’s resurrection, the men did not believe their story because they thought it sounded like nonsense. How did the women feel then? Two of the disciples were curious enough to check out the women’s story and discovered for themselves that the tomb was indeed empty. How did the men feel then? Even after Jesus finally mysteriously appeared in that locked room and revealed the wounds in hands and his side, the disciples’ joy and relief was tempered by the trauma they had experienced.

Yesterday as I led the Easter worship service at TND in Nashville, I was mindful of the trauma and grief present in the midst of our rejoicing. One client was marking the one-year anniversary of the death of her partner. Several were grieving the loss of loved ones in recent months. Others were desperately missing their children; some took comfort knowing they would soon see their children again while others grappled with the grim reality that they have permanently lost custody.

With this in mind, let us focus our prayers this week on clients and staff who are grieving and wrestling with traumatic events:

  • Those who are grieving the loss of loved ones
  • Those who are grieving the separation from their children – either temporarily or permanently
  • Those who are grieving missed opportunities, fractured relationships, and time lost due to addiction
  • Those who are grieving the countless losses and absences and unrealized dreams due to COVID-19
  • Those who have been traumatized by abuse
  • Those who have been traumatized by racial bias, ethnic discrimination, racism, and hate crimes

“Blessed be Abba God, the God of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Source of all mercies and the God of all consoling, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comforting God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:2-4

Monday Meditation: Do You See This Woman?

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

As The Next Door focuses on the core value of respect throughout 2021, we can turn to the Gospels and look to Jesus for inspiration. A story from Luke’s Gospel seems particularly relevant.

A religious leader had invited Jesus to be his honored guest for dinner. The meal was interrupted when a woman with bad reputation in the community entered the home uninvited. She was carrying a bottle of expensive perfume and weeping as she approached Jesus. With great humility, she knelt down and began to anoint Jesus’ feet, her tears mingling with the perfume on his skin. The host was astounded and offended by her actions, thinking to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). Reading his host’s mind, Jesus told him a brief parable about a creditor and two debtors as a way of explaining that the woman’s actions reflected her deep gratitude for forgiveness.

Jesus contrasted his host’s failure to wash Jesus’ feet – an expected expression of hospitality – with the woman’s gesture of respect. “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:44-47).

Do you see this woman? Arguably, the religious leader did not truly see this woman. He had labeled the intruder as a sinner from the moment he laid eyes on her – someone who was less worthy than he was of Jesus’ attention and love. Jesus, on the other hand, truly saw this woman and welcomed her with love, treated her with respect, and blessed her for her actions.

Every woman who walks through our doors deserves to be welcomed with love and treated with respect without judgment. May our gratitude for the forgiveness and love that God and others have shown us fuel our desire to treat others with respect and compassion. Do you see this woman? May we learn to see each client with Jesus’ eyes.

 

Published on March 29, 2021

Monday Meditation: A New Look at Psalm 23

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

At least once a month, I lead a Spirituality in Recovery group focused on Psalm 23, perhaps the most famous of the 150 psalms included in Scripture. This psalm is frequently read aloud at funeral services because of this line: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” When I discuss this psalm with clients, I frame it as an expression of delight in God. The author – believed to be David, the shepherd who became Israel’s second king – gratefully expounds upon the ways that God has demonstrated provision, protection, and compassion for him.

In her book Guide My Feet: Prayers and Meditations on Loving and Working for Children, Marian Wright Edelman includes a version of Psalm 23 that she heard at All Saints Convent in Catonville, Maryland. Entitled “The Nuns’ Twenty-Third Psalm,” this variation on Scripture speaks to our need for provision, protection, and compassion from God in our work at The Next Door.

The Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush.
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals;
He provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind.
And His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity
By anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours for
I shall walk in the place of my Lord and dwell in His House forever.

May you sense the loving presence of the Good Shepherd as you work this week.

Published on February 8, 2021

Monday Meditation: The Beatitudes

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

When Jesus sat down on a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee to deliver what would come to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” I imagine that the women and men and children who gathered around him leaned forward, straining to hear his provocative words. The opening passage of this sermon is called “The Beatitudes” – a list of blessings. Jesus’ litany of those who are blessed is somewhat surprising. For example, how can those who are mourning be considered to be blessed? And yet, upon closer inspection, we can see a pattern in Jesus’ words.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10)

The poor in spirit are those who have learned that they must rely on God in all circumstances. Those who mourn depend on God to sustain them as they move forward into a future without the companionship of their dearly departed ones. The meek are not people who are weak; they are those who approach God and others with humility. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness trust God to guide their lives, to direct their paths. Those who are merciful demonstrate Christ-like compassion for others. Those who are pure in heart manifest integrity – there is no differentiation between their public life and their private one. Those who are peacemakers desire to live in harmony with God and others. Those who are persecuted for doing what is right take comfort in knowing that they do not walk alone on the path of righteousness.

Do you see the connection – the thread running through all of the blessings? Jesus does not equate blessing with fame or fortune. Blessing flows from an individual’s intimate relationship with God, from an individual’s dependence on God.

Jesus’ words remind me to look for blessings in unexpected places, in unanticipated ways. May you experience the blessing of God this week

When I Grow Up

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney   

During the pandemic, my extended family has gathered weekly via Zoom to stay in touch. With participants ranging in age from 7 months to 81 years, these experiences have been memorable and life-giving for us.

One feature of these virtual gatherings is a trivia game, and if a family member has a birthday coming up, then the trivia game focuses on them. One of the standard questions is: “When I was a child, what did I want to be when I grew up?” The answers have been enlightening and hilarious.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a reporter. I started my own newspaper in 6th grade; as I recall, the issues of this short-lived publication focused almost exclusively on the Cincinnati Reds. During junior high school, I considered becoming a meteorologist, primarily because I was a huge fan of Tom Siler the Weather Wizard on Channel 2.

Looking back, I can now see how my desire to become a reporter was rooted in my love of reading and writing, which eventually blossomed into a fondness for researching, teaching, and storytelling. When I responded to God’s prompting in my life to go to seminary, I was confident that writing and teaching would be a part of my calling. Although I was initially surprised while in seminary by my newfound love of preaching, I realize now that it was an outgrowth of my desire to share stories.

As I listen to the stories that the clients share at The Next Door in group settings and in one-on-one sessions, I am aware that none of them dreamed of becoming an addict when they grew up. None of them hoped to become homeless. No one set a goal to spend time in jail. None of them desired to have children and then lose them to state custody.

Even though their lives have not turned out the way they imagined, many of our clients cling to the hope that the future can be different. As they embrace a newfound faith in God or recommit their lives to following the God they first learned about as children, they are optimistic that new dreams are within reach. They sense that their lives are now on an upward trajectory. They are growing spiritually as healing takes place in their bodies, minds, and spirits.

At mid-life, I have been surprised to realize that I still don’t feel like a grown up. I am aware that I still have a lot of growing to do; I still have so much to learn. The faith in Christ that I embraced as a child has been transformed and deepened through the years. Like our clients, I am still growing up spiritually. God has given me new dreams, and I am grateful.

 

A prayer for spiritual growth: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please God in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)

Monday Meditation: Fourth Week of Advent

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

The week of Christmas has arrived. As the days of Advent dwindle, our thoughts turn to love – the final theological theme of this holy season of spiritual preparation. “Love” is a word we use frequently in conversation, but often in a way that diminishes its meaning. For instance, “I love ice cream!”

The love of God as described in Scripture is relational, self-sacrificing, and unconditional. The celebration of Christmas focuses on God’s expression of love for the world through Christ: “This is how God showed his love among us: God sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). Our spiritual preparation during this season of Advent has been preparing us to worship the newborn King, yet the baby cannot remain in the manger.

In his daily meditation yesterday, Father Richard Rohr reflected on God’s love as expressed through Christ:

“The celebration of Christmas is not merely a sentimental waiting for a baby to be born. It is much more an asking for history to be born! Creation groans in its birth pains, waiting for our participation with God in its renewal (see Romans 8:20–23). We do the Gospel no favor when we make Jesus, the Eternal Christ, into a perpetual baby, who asks little or no adult response from us. One even wonders what kind of mind would want to keep Jesus a baby. Maybe only one that is content with ‘baby Christianity.’

“Any spirituality that makes too much of the baby Jesus is perhaps not yet ready for ‘prime-time’ life. God clearly wants friends and partners to be images of divinity, if we are to believe the biblical texts. God, it seems, wants mature religion and a thoughtful, free response from us. God loves us in partnership, with mutual give and take, and we eventually become the God that we love.

Just as Mary pondered in her heart the meaning of Jesus’ birth, this week ponder what it means to be an image of divinity, a conduit of God’s love on earth.

Published on December 21, 2020