How To Overcome Addiction With God — The Christian Response to God

Amanda Stevens

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Everyone, and we mean everyone, who seeks treatment for addiction has the same horrible moment of clarity when they realize they aren’t in control of their behavior anymore. It’s a feeling of powerlessness, shame, fear, exasperation, and regret. One minute ago, you felt in control, and one minute later, you needed help.

To ask for help is to humble yourself. It’s a vulnerable position to take because it means you need an outside power to give you extra strength you can’t summon on your own. Fortunately, God is love. He has consistently shown us that He loves us even in the midst of our addiction (Romans 5:8), and that He desires our full mental, physical, and spiritual restoration. He can help us overcome any addiction.

Key points:

  • We form addictions to fill a spiritual void caused by sin.
  • God is working on renewing us from the inside out.
  • We need to establish vulnerable disclosure with God via prayer.
  • God fills our need for connection and desire to express our authentic selves.
  • Christian rehab can help you overcome addiction.

Why Do We Get Addicted?

Broadly speaking, mainstream Christian theology assumes we are created with two unique needs:

  1. Need for connection and relationship to God
  2. Need to express our authentic selves

In the beginning, the first created humans, Adam and Eve, were able to express their authentic selves in the midst of connecting with God without any inherent tension. They were able to satisfy both needs.

But, when they willfully disregarded the desires of God, sin corrupted everything. They became aware of their nakedness, felt shame, and tried to hide their authentic self in order to preserve their connection with God. After this, the relationship between God and humanity was never the same.

At some point, we all realize that some people don’t care for our authentic selves. So, we hide, deflect, or ignore our authentic selves in order to preserve our connection with others. But that repression comes with a price. It creates a spiritual void that we fill with things like alcohol, drugs, and substance abuse.

Christian Response to Addiction and Recovery

For Christians trying to figure out how to overcome addiction with God, the average Christian response to addiction and the Christian view of alcohol or drug abuse is not always supportive and compassionate.

The governing conceptions of Christianity’s theory on addiction and recovery are that addiction is an attempt to fill our spiritual voids through substance use and that recovery is only possible through salvation and a long-term relationship with God.[1]

We learn in Ephesians 2:5 that God is working on renewing us from the inside out: “God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (New International Version)

God didn’t wait to love us until we had gotten sober. He loved us when our houses were still ramshackle and in disrepair. He doesn’t want us to wait to establish a relationship with him until we’ve cleaned up–He wants to help us do the cleaning.

Any outward physical transformation must start with an inward spiritual transformation. Once God restores our hearts to proper functioning, the presence of the Holy Spirit can begin to manifest Himself in our recovery from addiction.

How Does Christian Therapy Work?

Christian therapy is modeled after a vibrant prayer life. Why? Because there’s intimacy in disclosure.

Someone could know everything about you, but you still wouldn’t feel close to them. Close relationships are established when you voluntarily disclose your vulnerabilities and someone else voluntarily listens.

God modeled this vulnerable disclosure to us by sending His only Son as a helpless human baby. He disclosed Himself to us in a way we could understand.

This relational mutuality is at the heart of Christian life.[2] God already knows everything about you, but it’s only a relationship once you tell Him. He wants you to disclose your struggles, and in return, he’ll disclose Himself.

The Christian Therapy Advantage

During Christian therapy, your therapist will model the kind of relationship God wants to have with you, and you can model the vulnerability God desires. Relationship comes first, and behavior change comes second.

Secular behavioral therapy posits there is nothing more foundational than our thought patterns and behaviors, so that is what gets treated as the problem. Christian therapy addresses the twofold creational premise of desiring connection and expressing authenticity as the root cause of undesirable thought patterns and behaviors.

For example, if someone with substance use disorder believes they are a failure and acts like they are a failure, then according to the Christian theory-driven model, helpful advice from a therapist who merely provides them with objective, realistic, and uncritical thought patterns and effective coping strategies will not result in their lasting recovery.[3]

But, if the Christian therapist can give them a relational connection in their authentic, lonely self where they are accepted as a full person during their failure, only afterward could they find the strength to change their stagnant thoughts and behavior.

How Does God Help Us Overcome Our Addictions?

God handed down his perfect law, knowing full well it would be disregarded and not upheld.

In fact, part of the reason He gave the law was to be a mirror to His people. He reflected His people’s thoughts and feelings back to them.

Jesus mirrored back the feelings of the Samaritan woman at the well, Martha’s anxiety during her preparation, and his disciple Peter’s impending denial. He didn’t berate them–he simply told them what he was seeing.

How do we overcome addiction with God, then? God helps us overcome our addictions by fulfilling our need for connection and desire to express our authentic selves. He fills the spiritual void we’ve been stuffing with alcohol, drug, or substance abuse with more of Himself.

He loves us amid our addictions before we even get sober. He mirrors our thoughts and our choices as we read through Scripture and pray earnestly.

How to Deal with Addiction as a Christian

Just like a Christian needs community in the form of a local church, a Christian struggling with addiction needs a supportive, sober community for the sake of pursuing recovery.

We weren’t meant to do this alone. As we already discovered, willpower alone won’t cut it. We need to tap into a higher power that is more significant than ourselves to reclaim control over our own lives.

While the relationship with God is foundational, a sober and supportive faith community is the visible manifestation of God’s restorative power. Doing the hard work to get sober in the context of an embodied community can make all the difference.

The main reason why AA (spiritual, but not necessarily “Christian”) is more effective than psychotherapy alone is because of the emotional support of the community.[4]

Faith-based Rehab for Overcoming Addiction

One way to be inspired to strengthen your relationship with God and unlock the restorative power of a sober and supportive community is through faith-based rehab.

Faith-based rehab involves licensed and credentialed counselors who utilize your faith in God as a strength in the recovery process. Your faith-based treatment could include practices like prayer, scripture recitation, group sessions, individual sessions, engagement with faith-based music, and more.

Treatment centers that offer faith-based rehab for addiction recovery do so in combination with other evidence-based practices such as medication-assisted therapy and psychotherapy.

Multiple modalities of treatment offer the greatest chance of success for long-term sobriety.

Sources


[1][3] SM;, M. L. J. B. (n.d.). Conceptual bases of Christian, faith-based Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Programs: Qualitative analysis of staff interviews. Substance abuse. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16150675/

[2] Roberts, R. (n.d.). Mental health and the virtues of community: Christian reflections on Contextual Therapy. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232554816_Mental_Health_and_the_Virtues_of_Community_Christian_Reflections_on_Contextual_Therapy

[4] News Center. (2020, March 11). Alcoholics anonymous most effective path to alcohol abstinence. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/03/alcoholics-anonymous-most-effective-path-to-alcohol-abstinence.html

About the Author

Amanda Stevens is a highly respected figure in the field of medical content writing, with a specific focus on eating.

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