5 Counseling Tips for Christian Addiction Recovery
When believers think of Christian discipleship we tend to take a long-term view. We think of a lifelong process where we try to model our lives after His through prayer, fasting, Scriptural meditation and selfless service.
But when it comes to Christian addiction recovery, former addicts brings a set of immediate challenges and potential barriers to Christian discipleship, where the power of sin is broken but the pull is not. The addictive personality may still be present, despite their best intentions to break with it.
This is where your efforts as Christian counselor or mentor can really make a difference. Loving confrontation and stepped-up accountability through Christian AA groups are highly recommended, even as former addicts exceed expectations in one area while falling short in another. As a Christian counselor, you’ll provide additional opportunities for one-on-one accountability.
1. Remorse v. Repentance
Former addicts will focus on rehabilitation, and rightly so. They’ll tell you about the plans they have now that they’re clean. Encourage them to submit these plans to the Lord and be led by His spirit. Hearing and obeying His voice will be a slow and steady process, one step at a time, and will never be the outcome of endless planning or scheming.
They should remain on guard: The enemy of their souls, who helped cultivate their addiction, is cunning and will try to lay a similar trap for them in the future. There may be temptations to behave in deceptive ways and a failure to recognize the difference between remorse (feeling sorry) and repentance (a sorrow that leads to behavioral change). Look for subtle (or not-so-subtle) violations of the “people, places and things” principal, as described by Alcoholics Anonymous. In this sense, the goals of Christian discipleship and addiction recovery are closely aligned.
Remember that recovering addicts are dealing with a sin problem when they give in to their addictive behavior, which may involve scheming, manipulating, deceiving, and defrauding others. What real rehabilitation looks like, then, is faithfully living in a way that doesn’t lead them down a similar path of deception and destruction. They may want things to change overnight, but leave the timing to the Lord.
2. Relational Boundaries
Learning relational boundaries is another mainstay of Christian discipleship and addiction recovery. Teach them to be sensitive to behavior that crosses over into manipulation or seems like bullying through over-persistence. Help them understand the chaos this creates in other people’s lives. Never violate another person’s free will and always give them space to make up their own minds, you might explain. Asking roommates to borrow a car occasionally may be a harmless request, for example. But it crosses over into manipulation if the recovering addict tries to guilt them into compliance or hurls insults and accusations.
3. Unlearning Deceit
When the recovering addicts pray teach them to focus on banishing every form of deceit. It’s important for them (and everyone else) to make a clean break with deceit and pledge wholehearted allegiance to the Truth, the Word of God. Scripture teaches that the powers of darkness will try to lie, steal and deceive, but that Jesus, the Truth and the Life, will lead them by His Holy Spirit.
The process of unlearning deceit involves forgiving others, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32). Teach them to renounce a victim spirit that manifests through a sense of entitlement, where they feel that others owe them something. Have them take responsibility for their addiction and brook no excuse if they try to blame the system or others for their behavior. Instead, encourage comparisons to the snowy-white standards of God’s Word and the example of Jesus.
4. Faithful In Little Things
Another principle of Christian discipleship and addiction recovery is an emotional investment in the present moment. As they study the Bible they’ll find hope, peace and the ability to be faithful in the little things, rather than endlessly plotting about their future. Teach them to live in the present moment, referencing Proverbs 3: Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
5. Receiving His Peace
The former addict must let go of striving and receive God’s grace. Things will get better: The darkest time of night is always just before the dawn. God is able to restore all things. Remind all your recovering addicts about His love: He’s not mad at them—He wants to give them a hope and a future, turning their lives around so He can shine His glory through them.