Christian Biblical Counsel: ALCOHOL, DRUG ABUSE (Updated)



Habitual use of alcohol often results in addiction. The drinker’s inadequacies, faults, and problems become intensified, and often personality changes result. Though feeling confident when under the influence of alcohol, he or she is often immature, insecure, and afflicted by guilt and depression. The alcoholic does not feel good about himself or herself and cannot face the addiction and the problems it creates; so he or she denies the problem and is dishonest in covering it up and in blaming it on family members, parents, work supervisors, or the “bad breaks” of life. This deviousness and denial leads to a masquerade in life that at times assumes almost comic, though actually tragic, overtones.

Alcoholics desperately need help. Alcoholics Anonymous maintains that until alcoholics hit rock bottom, admitting their life is out of control, there is little hope of any change. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step on the road to recovery.

There is hope for the alcoholic: God is able to deliver from this as well as any other addiction.


Helping Strategy

1. If the inquirer is drunk or “high,” any help you try to offer will be futile, a conversation with the alcohol and not with the person; it could even be counterproductive for the alcoholic. Arrange a meeting or have him or her telephone the following day when he or she is sober. If the person appears to be out of control, get him or her to a detox center. In some cases, you might ask if there is someone else available to take the person to a center.

2. Because alcoholics are often dishonest and deceivers—con artists—you must evidence a “tough love” in dealing with them. Ask if he or she really wants help. Or did he or she just get in touch with you in order to make excuses or blame the problem on other things and people, while hiding his or her real self and the real problem? In taking a tough stance, avoid being judgmental and do not use the Bible as a club. Helpful Scripture texts will come out naturally as you present the Gospel. Assure the inquirer that he or she is in touch with the right person because you care and are glad to speak with him or her (unless he or she is drunk).

3. Emphasize that the alcoholic must admit having a problem he or she can’t cope with alone, and must be willing to make a commitment to quit drinking for good. Nothing short of this will do! The masquerade must stop, once and for all. He or she must admit being personally responsible for the condition and the problems.

4. This might be the time to ask the person if he or she has ever received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Christ went to the cross specifically for him or her; Christ offers both salvation and reformation. Share Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD.

5. Return to the things you were discussing on point number 3; the alcoholic must:

A. Never again use alcohol. Living one day at a time, he or she must learn to trust God’s promise in regard to temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13; see “Scripture”).

B. Sever all relationships that cause enslavement to this pattern of behavior: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV).

C. Establish new relationships:

• Seek out a local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous or other support groups. They are listed in the telephone book.

• Identify with a Bible-teaching church for the spiritual support of worship, Bible study, and fellowship.

6. Be honest with the alcoholic in warning about possible relapses, but also encourage him or her that a relapse doesn’t mean that all is lost. Renewal may be sought on the basis of 1 John 1:9, and the steps of point 5 must be practiced a day at a time.

7. Pray for deliverance from the compulsion and bondage he or she is under, and for a transformation of mind and life by the power of God (see Romans 12:1–2). Explain the value of a life of prayer.

8. If your inquirer is a Christian who has become a victim of alcohol, use the above steps, then share Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION, emphasizing 1 John 1:9 and 2:1.

9. Whatever the situation, urge the alcoholic to seek further counseling from a pastor or psychologist who understands alcoholism or chemical dependence. Many times it is necessary to deal with the underlying

causes of the addiction, such as insecurity, guilt, failure, stress, or deviant sexual behavior.



“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).


Other suggested Scriptures:

Matthew 11:28

John 3:16

Romans 12:1–2

Romans 14:11–12

2 Corinthians 2:14

Galatians 5:22–23



A drug is any substance which produces physical, mental, or psychological changes in the user. Since earliest times, people have experimented with drugs in an effort to escape reality. Today hundreds of millions of people are involved in drugs which range all the way from mildly addictive caffeine to illegal, deeply addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

Anyone can become physically and psychologically addicted to any drug if exposed to high dosages for a sufficient period of time.

Drug users come from all walks of life. Many of the roots of dependency are to be found in insecurity, fear, guilt, disappointments, immorality and deviant sexual behavior, frustration, stress, peer pressures, and intense competition, as exemplified in professional sports. Add to these the great spiritual vacuum which has resulted in a breakdown of moral standards, the disintegration of the home, four major wars in this century, and the staggering availability of drugs of every kind to every age group, including grade school children.

Drug dependency is a problem of the whole person—spiritual, physical, emotional, and social. Once addicted, the dependent lives in an illusory world characterized by paralyzed feelings and emotional responses, mental denials and delusions, social isolation, and spiritual limbo. For many it is a helpless state, a life of no return.

The effort to withdraw from a drug addiction can be very painful, both physically and psychologically. Unmonitored withdrawal can be dangerous. Getting free from dependency, and the subsequent rehabilitation, is usually a long-term process. A strong support system involving the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical is needed.

In order to be helped spiritually, the drug dependent must desire to be helped and must take some initial step to seek such help. This is where the Christian helper comes in. We should seek his or her commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This initial step of faith should lead to a new perspective and motivation for the drug user, which will lead, hopefully, to rehabilitation and a life of wholeness.

Even after commitment to Christ, however, there is often a need to work on the personal issues that led to the addiction, such as a poor self-image, insecurity, incest, homosexuality, immorality, fear, or guilt.


Helping Strategy

We can contribute in three ways to helping a person become free of a drug dependency:

• Help the individual spiritually, by seeking his or her commitment to Christ.

• Put him or her in touch with a local drug rehabilitation center, where he or she can begin the process of withdrawal and recovery.

• Stay with the person in order to offer support and encouragement until he or she has a deeper understanding of what it means to make a commitment to Christ.

1. Do not moralize about the evils of drugs or the person’s addiction. Use the Scriptures on sin only as opportunities to do so occur naturally in your presentation of the Gospel.

2. Be cordial. Be compassionate. Encourage him or her by saying that you are sympathetic and willing to listen and offer help.

3. Hear the person out, giving ample opportunity for the expression of feelings and opinions. Offer reassurance of God’s love. God’s grace is sufficient to meet any need in his or her life. (A definition of grace: God loves us with no strings attached.)

4. The inquirer will need to be faced with his or her responsibility for the addiction. At some point, he or she made a conscious choice to take drugs. He or she has moral responsibility for the behavior which led to the addiction. If there is an effort to lay the blame for the problem at the feet of circumstances, other people, society, etc., always bring the discussion gently back to the issue of personal and moral responsibility: “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14, NIV).

5. At the opportune moment, share Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD.

6. Continue to Christian Biblical Counsel: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION if indicated: Start reading and studying God’s Word. Learn to pray. Begin to fellowship with a Bible-teaching church.

7. The drug-dependent person must abandon the people and surroundings that have tied him or her to drugs. He or she must stop all use of drugs. This will probably mean treatment at a drug rehab center where withdrawal and early rehabilitation can be properly monitored. Around the- clock supervision is often needed.


NOTE: You will often need to take the initiative to help the dependent find a center for treatment and check in, or perhaps assist the addict’s family in doing this. Indicate that you intend to do this. The addict cannot be trusted to handle this alone. He or she may promise, but never follow through. Both during and following treatment, the helper should be as supportive as possible. Visit frequently. Start the recovering addict in the reading and study of God’s Word and prayer. Assist in finding a support group of Christian ex-addicts, if such is available. Get the person involved in the life of a caring, Bible-teaching church. Get him or her in touch with a Christian professional counselor or group experienced in the treatment of addicts. He or she will need ongoing help with those personal problems which led to addiction in the first place.

CAUTION: Do not promise help in finding treatment, only that you will do the best you can.

8. Pray with the drug-dependent person for courage, for commitment, and for the power of the Holy Spirit to be released. All these are necessary in the redemptive process: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).



“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives. . . . And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ . . . So they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, ‘What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out’” (Luke 4:18, 21, 36).

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:11–13, NIV).

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14–15).

“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3, NIV).


The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996

Alcohol, Drug Abuse

See also Overcoming Sin.

1.   Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 6:15. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!

1 Cor. 6:19–20. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

2.   Jesus warns against the abuse of alcohol.

Luke 21:34. “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”

3.   Wine is a mocker, beer a brawler.

Prov. 20:1. Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

4.   Don’t love wine.

Prov. 21:17. He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

5.   Heavy drinking brings misery.

Prov. 23:29–35.

6.   Consider the sad picture of a drunkard. (The Bible tells it like it is!)

Prov. 23:32–35.

7.   God’s wrath was upon Israel for its sin of drunkenness.

Isa. 28:1–4.

8.   Isaiah gives us a vivid picture of a drunk losing his moral judgment.

Isa. 28:7–8. But they also have erred through wine, And through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filth; No place is clean.

9.   Paul gives us a timely warning and instruction.

Eph. 5:15–18. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.

10. Drunkenness breaks down morals.

Gen. 9:20–23. (the example of Noah)

Gen. 19:30–38. (the example of Lot)

11. No drunkard shall enter heaven.

1 Cor. 6:9–10. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

12. One can be saved from drunkenness and set free.

1 Cor. 6:11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

13. Don’t associate with drunkards.

1 Cor. 5:11. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

14. Be wise! Don’t join those who abuse alcohol.

Prov. 23:19–20. Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way. Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;[1]

Alcohol & Drug Abuse

Breaking Free & Staying Free

by June Hunt

He was an all-American hero. Some say he was the greatest baseball player who ever lived. Mickey Mantle seemed to have it all—fame, fortune, and millions of fans. The day of his graduation from high school in 1950, he signed with the world renowned New York Yankees, a decision that began his road to stardom. The statistics support his superstar status: 536 career home runs, three Most Valuable Player awards, a career batting average of .298, seven World Championships, and baseball’s Triple Crown, meaning he led the entire major league in the three categories of highest batting average, most home runs, and most runs batted in.

However, Mickey also lived an extravagant, alcoholic lifestyle filled with various types of abuse. When he was diagnosed with liver cancer, it was evident that the years of drinking had intensified the damage. Despite his successful treatment for alcoholism, the assault to his body was too severe, and death came swiftly. During the final inning of his life, Mickey stood before the microphones at a press conference, gestured toward himself, wanting the world to know that he was no role model, and said, “Don’t be like me.”

What could take the greatest switch-hitter in the game of baseball from adoration down to addiction? Why do millions of people each year take that same painful path? The Bible gives this explanation …

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

(Proverbs 16:25)

I.     Definitions

A. What Is a Drug?

A drug is a chemical substance introduced into the body that produces physical, emotional, or mental changes. Some drugs are helpful, and some are harmful.

Three primary ways of using drugs are …

•     Ingesting—swallowing pills, powders, liquids

•     Inhaling—breathing in powders, smoke, fumes, and other inhalants

•     Injecting—inserting a substance directly into the veins, which provides a more direct effect, or injecting the drug underneath the skin (called “skin popping”), which allows the drug to be absorbed more slowly into the blood stream

Three ways of obtaining drugs are …

•     Over-the-counter (including alcohol)

•     Prescription (only prescribed by a medical doctor)

•     Illegally (The legal status of a drug varies from country to country.)

Question: “Is it possible to abuse drugs and alcohol and not become addicted?”

Answer: Yes. Just as every drug is different, everyone’s physical makeup is different. Some people become addicted after small amounts of a substance; others consume greater quantities before becoming dependent. Because of the destructive risk of addiction, using unnecessary drugs is dangerous. Substance abuse is like playing Russian roulette—it can cost you your life.

Conscientious Christians need to know that our bodies are not our own to abuse in any way—they belong to God.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

B. What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is the use of a chemical, legal or illegal, to the point of causing a person physical, mental, or emotional harm.

There are five types of substance abusers.

•     An experimental user is a person who uses a drug out of curiosity.

•     A recreational user is a person who “gets high” on drugs on special occasions (parties, celebrations).

•     A regular user is a person in a constant pattern of drug abuse who also attempts to live a normal lifestyle.

•     A binge user is a person who uses drugs uncontrollably for a brief period of time and then abstains until the next binge.

•     A dependent user is a person who is emotionally and physically hooked on drugs and whose life centers around obtaining those drugs. This person has a chemical dependency.

Regardless of the substance, the Bible describes the substance abuser.

“When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, ‘I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.’ This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.”

(Deuteronomy 29:19)

Question: “I have friends who drink heavily—sometimes to excess—and they want me to party with them. Is it okay for me to go with them, even if I am not drinking?”

Answer: There’s an old saying, “You become like what you hang around with” or, as the Bible says, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NASB). Going with those friends is not wise. Scripture clearly states,

“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat.” (Proverbs 23:20)

C. What Are the Four Major Drug Classifications?

Drugs are generally classified into four major groups depending on their effect on the body.

#1  Depressants are drugs that produce a calming effect and slow down the central nervous system.

  Prevalent types are … alcohol, sedatives (sleeping pills), tranquilizers (valium), barbiturates (“downers”), and organic solvents (model airplane glue, gasoline, and aerosols).

  Psychological symptoms are … poor concentration, distorted thinking, lack of judgment, and aggressiveness.

  Physical effects are … drowsiness, slurred speech, lack of coordination, tremors, decreased energy, coma, impaired vision, decreased pulse rate and blood pressure, respiratory depression, and death.

The Bible refers to those who …

“Stagger from wine and reel from beer … and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions.”

(Isaiah 28:7)

#2  Stimulants are drugs that excite bodily functions and speed up the central nervous system.

     Prevalent types are … cocaine, crack, meth, and amphetamines (“speed” or “uppers”).

     Psychological symptoms are … excitability, increased energy, exaggerated self-confidence, heightened sexual drives, temporary exhilaration, irritability, apprehension, and intensification of all emotions.

     Physical effects are … hyperactivity, restlessness, insomnia, loss of appetite, dry mouth, bad breath, itchy nose, dilated pupils, rapid and unclear speech, perspiration, headaches, dizziness, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, psychosis, and death.

The Book of Proverbs describes those who walk without wisdom, those who are victims of their own folly. Like the one who takes stimulants …

“Disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”

(Proverbs 6:15)

#3  Hallucinogens are drugs that alter and distort reality.

     Prevalent types are … LSD, marijuana, PCP (“angel dust”), and mescaline.

     Psychological symptoms are … hallucinations, heightened sensitivities, anxiety attacks, lowered inhibitions, and out-of-body experiences.

     Physical effects vary with the drug … LSD acts as a stimulant; marijuana acts as a depressant (reactions differ with each individual): sleeplessness, loss of appetite, increased energy, increased pulse rate and blood pressure, eyes fixed in a blank stare or rapid involuntary eye movements, slurred or blocked speech, higher rate of accidents and violence, disorientations, and death.

Although the Bible does not directly mention hallucinogens, it does address the hallucinogenic effect of alcohol, which is frightening and disturbing.

“Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. ‘They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?’ ”

(Proverbs 23:33–35)

#4  Narcotics are drugs that reduce pain and elevate a person’s mood.

     Prevalent types are … opium, morphine, codeine, heroin, methadone, and meperidine.

     Psychological symptoms are … temporary euphoria, dulled senses, lethargy, and confusion.

     Physical effects are … relief of pain, droopy eyelids, constricted pupils, slowed reaction and motor skills, drowsiness, lack of coordination, depressed reflexes, dry mouth, constipation, scars or abscesses at injection sites, and death.

When you are in pain, rather than turning only to drugs, turn to the Lord, be dependent on Him, and seek His direction for pain relief.

“I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.”

(Psalm 69:29)

D. What Is the Downward Spiral of Dependency?

You may start by thinking that a drug serves you, but to think that a drug is serving you is to have a “tiger by the tail.” It will inevitably turn on you. Do not be deceived: The drug that serves you today will own you tomorrow.

“Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”

(Romans 6:12)

     Intoxication occurs when the influence of a substance in your body causes changes in your behavior, including mood changes, faulty judgment, slurred speech, poor coordination, unsteady gait, sexual impropriety, aggressive behavior, and impaired social functioning. Intoxication may result in becoming comatose or even in death.

—  Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines intoxication as “poisoning; the state of being poisoned.” How interesting that Moses said,

“Their grapes are filled with poison.… Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras.” (Deuteronomy 32:32–33)

     Abuse occurs when your use of drugs results in your failure to fulfill responsibilities or to maintain healthy relationships or when you put yourself or others at risk of potential harm.

     Addiction occurs when you experience these three leading indicators:

—  Drug tolerance.… you need increasingly more to obtain the same effect.

—  Physical dependence … you suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.

—  Craving … you develop a pattern of compulsive drug use.

Other common indicators include:

—  Failing at attempts to control or decrease your substance abuse

—  Spending your time targeting activities to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of the substance

—  Reducing or abandoning your meaningful social, work, or recreational activities

—  Continuing to use the substance despite recurring physical or psychological problems

     Withdrawal occurs when the distress caused by a lessening or lack of the drug severely disrupts your daily life.

The Bible describes a distressing time when …

“No longer do they drink wine with a song.… In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished.”

(Isaiah 24:9, 11)

Question: “How can I be held responsible for my drug dependence since most drugs are addictive and actually cause the addiction?”

Answer: Your drug dependence has been created both by your choice to use drugs and by the drug itself. Intoxication results from the makeup of the drug you use and the way it is metabolized by your body. The only way to avoid addiction is to choose to stop abusing drugs.

“How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.” (1 Samuel 1:14)

E. What Is Codependency?

A word often associated with chemical dependency and the dysfunctional relationships that accompany drug abuse is the term codependency.

•     The word codependent was first used in the 1970s to describe a family member living with someone dependent on alcohol, the alcoholic. The prefix co– means “with” or “one associated with the action of another.”

•     The codependent person or “enabler” enables the alcoholic to continue with the addiction without drawing and maintaining boundaries.

•     The word codependency became a term describing the dysfunctional behavior of family members seeking to adapt to the alcoholic’s negative behavior. The dynamic of codependency is similar to that of having an elephant in the living room that no one talks about, but everyone maneuvers around in such a way that the elephant will cause as little disruption as possible.

     Codependency is a relationship addiction. Just as the alcoholic is dependent on alcohol, the codependent is overly dependent on the relationship with the alcoholic.

•     Today, the word codependent refers to anyone who is dependent on another to the point of being controlled or manipulated by that person.

Question: “How can I know whether I am being an enabler?”

Answer: You are an enabler if you perpetuate another’s substance abuse by protecting that person from painful consequences that could actually serve as a motivation for change. For example, a passive parent allows the daughter’s drug abuse to continue—even to the detriment of other family members. Or the codependent wife calls her husband’s boss to say he has the flu, when instead he has a hangover. Ask yourself, How many lies have I told to protect the reputation of the one I love? The Bible has strong words about those who protect the guilty.

“Whoever says to the guilty, ‘You are innocent’—peoples will curse him.” (Proverbs 24:24)

II.    Characteristics Of Substance Abuse

When the fans saw Mickey Mantle—a power hitter with the speed of a sprinter—they were in awe. Yet did the average fan see the symptoms of the alcoholism? Most did not, but his family did.

Mickey’s children spoke of his increasing inattention to his family while they were young. He became more depressed, more irritable. When the Yankees lost a game or when Mickey struck out, the children knew to leave their dad alone. The entire family walked on eggshells, hoping to prevent the inevitable verbal abuse. Not only was Mickey in denial about his alcoholism, but his wife also minimized the problem.

Mantle made excuses for his absences, which often included time spent with other women. His increasing use of alcohol was a desperate attempt to boost his self-esteem. More and more, alcohol was necessary for him to function during the day; then more and more it became necessary in order for him to sleep at night.

A therapist once commented, “Mickey is totally controlled by fear. He is filled with fear about everything.” Mickey himself stated, “I am embarrassed by what I did when I drank: the foul language, the rudeness, having to face people the next day that I didn’t remember insulting the night before.”10 No wonder he had fear.

Mickey lived out the second part of this Scripture …

“Those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:7)

A. What Are the Warning Signs of Substance Abuse?

Mickey Mantle showed typical symptoms of addiction, yet from time to time we all feel depressed or may be inattentive to our families. When do certain characteristics become signs of an addiction? For a substance abuser, a combination of many symptoms can be observed—symptoms that fall into all four of these categories: emotional, physical, behavioral, and spiritual.


•     Unpredictable mood swings

•     Depression

•     Fear of rejection

•     Frustration over little things

•     Guilt

•     Shame

•     Anger

•     Anxiety

Notice this warning from Jesus in which He gives a graphic consequence …

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”

(Luke 21:34)


•     Poor general health

•     Shaky hands

•     Night sweats

•     Bloodshot eyes

•     Loss of sexual desire

•     Tendency to look older

•     Weight gain or puffiness

•     Unhealthy looking complexion

Again the Bible describes the addict …

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?… Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.”

(Proverbs 23:29–30)


•     Secretiveness Attempting to   hide behavior
•     Exclusiveness Associating   only with other users
•     Compulsiveness Responding as   though the drug is absolutely necessary
•     Defensiveness Shifting blame   to others
•     Denial Refusing to   admit there is a problem
•     Dishonesty Deceiving   others about frequency of use and expenditure of money
•     Weak/strong will Being too weak   to stop/too stubborn to get help
•     Rebelliousness Refusing to   act responsibly

The Bible even describes a self-indulgent alcoholic son …

“This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.”

(Deuteronomy 21:20)


•     Feeling estranged from God

•     Withdrawal from church life

•     Conviction by the Holy Spirit

•     Fear of being disciplined by God

•     Diminished prayer life

•     Aversion to Scripture

•     Lack of joy

•     Hardened heart

The Lord describes those who choose to turn away from Him and instead choose “new wine.”

“They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me.”

(Hosea 7:14)

Question: “What objective data can I give my teenager to discourage the use of alcohol or drugs?”

Answer: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Summary for the year 2000 revealed that youths who use alcohol or drugs are more likely to commit suicide than youths who do not use.

•     Total (users and nonusers):

—  9.4% of 12 to 13 year olds are at risk for suicide.

—  13.7% of 14 to 17 year olds are at risk for suicide.

•     With alcohol use:

—  19.6% of youths who drink alcohol are at risk for suicide.

•     With other drugs:

—  25.4% of youths who use any illicit drug (including marijuana) are at risk for suicide.

—  29.4% of youths who use any illicit drug except marijuana are at risk for suicide.

Be aware that the Bible says,

“The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.” (Proverbs 11:6)

B. Checklist for Discovering a Chemical Dependency

Had Mickey Mantle—or his family and friends—examined his drinking pattern in light of the following checklist, his addiction to alcohol would have been clearly seen and recognized years before it came to light.

C         Do I ever attempt to conceal my habit from others?

H        Do I ever think about getting help for my habit?

E         Do I ever have problems at my place of employment because of my habit?

M       Do I ever experience a loss of memory related to my habit?

I          Do I ever become severely intoxicated?

C         Do I ever feel unfairly criticized because of my habit?

A        Do I ever feel my habit is abnormal?

L         Do I ever lose friendships or have relationships as a result of my habit?

L         Do I ever lower my intake but then return to my previous level of consumption?

Y        Do I ever neglect my young ones or other loved ones because of my habit?

D        Do I become defensive or argumentative about my use?

E         Do I fail to get in touch with my emotions because of my use?

P         Is my physical health affected by my use?

E         Do I enjoy only functions where alcohol or other drugs are available?

N        Is my need for the substance affecting my finances?

D        Do I deny that I experience any consequences from my habit?

E         Do I evade difficult situations by indulging in my habit?

N        Is my need to feed my habit affecting my relationships?

T         Is my tolerance level for the substance getting higher?

If you answered yes to five or more of the above questions, you may have a serious dependency.

If Mickey had acknowledged his alcoholism and received treatment early in his career, his title of hero to thousands of youngsters and champion of baseball would not have been marred by subsequent years of drinking.

“Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks.”

(Isaiah 5:22)

Question: “If I am a habitual, compulsive drinker and drug user, can I really change and permanently stop?”

Answer: All habits, compulsions, and addictions are highly resistant and are therefore very difficult to change, yet not impossibly so. Repeating actions actually alters the brain, making it more difficult to change a pattern of choices. New patterns of behavior, however, can be learned. If you are a true believer, you have His Word to change your way of thinking, His church with specialized community groups to support your life change, and His Spirit to empower you from within to follow through to stop drinking.

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

(Philippians 2:13)

C. What Clues Come from Chemically Dependent Kids?

If you observe 50% or more of the following signs and symptoms of drug use in your teenager, it is likely that your teen is involved in harmful substance abuse—typically with friends. Pray for wisdom to recognize whether your teenager is in trouble, and tell your teen …

“You may be sure that your sin will find you out.”

(Numbers 32:23)


•     Drop in grades

•     Drowsiness/sleeping in class

•     Tardiness, skipping classes, truancy

•     Forging parents’ signature on excuses

•     Breaking the rules/breaking the law

•     In-school suspensions, alternative school referral

•     Shortened attention span, difficulty concentrating

•     New set of friends in school or out of school

•     Dropping out of once valued extracurricular activities


•     Moody, irritable

•     Agitated, angry, hostile

•     Short or long-term memory loss

•     Unmotivated, lethargic, undisciplined

•     Change in appearance, posture, grooming

•     Change in appetite, eating more but consistently losing weight

•     Looking unhealthy, bloodshot eyes, enlarged pupils, nagging cough

•     Experiencing frequent skin and respiratory infections

•     Sexually promiscuous, irregular menstrual cycles


•     Withdrawn, indifferent

•     Argumentative, disrespectful, rude

•     Using obscene or profane language

•     Quiet and defensive about new friends

•     Taking money and valuables from house

•     Using air fresheners to cover up drug odors

•     Decorating bedroom with posters of rock groups and drug related slogans

•     Collecting pipes, small containers, cigarette papers, or other drug related items

•     Leaving peculiar smelling cigarette butts, seeds, or leaves in ashtrays or pant pockets

The Bible gives this general warning to young people who walk without wisdom …

“He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.”

(Proverbs 5:23)

Note: If either you or your son or daughter is experiencing these symptoms, be sure to consult your health care professional.

Question: “What should I do? Recently my teenage daughter swore me to secrecy before telling me that my son-in-law had offered her illegal drugs. Although she refused the drugs, she is adamant about my not saying anything because she doesn’t want to ‘cause a problem.’ ”

Answer: You already have a problem! Right now, you must consider what is in the best interest of your daughter. She should be protected by relatives, not tempted by them. Tell your daughter that you don’t have the peace of God about keeping this confidence because your son-in-law’s actions have betrayed the family bond. Let her know that you must confront him because, instead of violating family boundaries, he needs to respect them. Explain to your daughter that confronting the truth could open his eyes and ultimately save his life.

“A truthful witness saves lives.” (Proverbs 14:25)

D. What Clues Are Characteristic of Children with an Addicted Parent?

     Guilt—Does the child see himself or herself as the main cause of a parent’s chemical dependency?

     Anxiety—Does the child worry about the situation at home?

     Embarrassment—Is the child ashamed to invite friends home or ask for help?

     Distrustful—Does the child have difficulty trusting others due to distrust of a parent?

     Confusion—Does the lack of a regular schedule at home or fluctuating temperaments of parents create instability?

     Anger—Is the child angry at the addicted parent or at the non-addicted parent for enabling?

     Depression—Does the child feel lonely and helpless to change the situation?

     Hypervigilant—Is the child especially sensitive to the moods of others?

     Overly responsible—Is the child quick to assume responsibility for others?

     People-pleaser—Does the child avoid conflict at any cost?

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.’ ”

(Luke 17:1–2)

III.   Causes For Being Chemically Dependent

Baseball great Mickey Mantle, who was both cheered and booed, once said, “Baseball didn’t turn me into a drunk. I drank because I thought we were having fun. It was part of the camaraderie, the male bonding thing.”

While there can be numerous causes for a person’s becoming an alcoholic, what could possibly contribute to the greatest switch hitter (one who batted both left-handed and right-handed) becoming addicted to alcohol? Mickey’s father died of Hodgkin’s disease at the young age of forty, and three other relatives succumbed to the same disease before their fortieth birthdays. For that reason, Mickey believed he also would die young, and the fear of dying gave him the impetus to “party hard” while he was young.

Mickey also remarked on the ready availability of alcohol in the sports world. Fans sent drinks to his table; hotel management sent complimentary bottles of wine to his room. Drinking helped fill the boredom of the frequent times of waiting, such as flying on planes and sitting around hotels. Mantle said, “In those days, how well you could hold your liquor was, for many of us, a measure of being a man.”

Little did Mantle know that his “measure of manhood” would poison his system and ultimately cause his death. Little did he know the caution given in the Word of God.

“Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.”

(Proverbs 23:31–32)

A. How Does a Chemical Dependency Develop?

People do not start their lives being dependent on substances, but they become dependent through repetition, by repeatedly using something to satisfy some need or longing.

While childhood sexual abuse and chronic bedwetting had been a part of his past, Mickey Mantle’s addiction developed after the death of his father as he drank to help deal with depression, guilt, and fear.

Once drug use is established, a cycle develops that is common among those who abuse drugs. It is a vicious cycle that entraps and enslaves … but it is a cycle that can be broken!

     Pain from the past … provocation

“Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.” (Proverbs 14:13)

—mood-altering drugs

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)


“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:20–21)

—violating values

“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19)


“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” (Psalm 38:4)


“My disgrace is before me all day long, and my face is covered with shame.” (Psalm 44:15)

Question: “How can I stop using drugs to escape the emotional pain of my past?

Answer: Face the fact of your painful past. Take steps to overcome making decisions motivated by your emotions and the need you feel to escape. As a child and as an unbeliever, you coped in ways that are now controlling you; those ways, however, are not true solutions. Emotions are responses to thinking. Therefore: If you are experiencing emotional pain …

•     Evaluate your painful thoughts and redirect them toward God.

•     Pray for the people who come to mind, reaffirming your forgiveness of them and committing them to God.

•     Verbalize to the Lord your commitment to reflect the character of Christ. He prayed for his enemies, and you have His Spirit within you, enabling you to forgive and to focus your thoughts on things that are uplifting for you and that encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11–12)

Question: “Is there any objective data apart from the Bible or cultural morality that supports a case against drinking alcohol?”

Answer: Yes, while numbers can change from year to year, the following statistics from 1993 taken within the United States prove to be quite sobering.

•     25% of American families have problems because of alcohol.

•     33% of marriage failures are alcohol related.

•     25–40% of people receiving hospital treatment do so as a result of alcohol.

•     41% of all auto fatalities are alcohol related (US Department of Transportation USDOT).

•     50–67% of all murders and major assaults involve alcohol.

If you are trying to quit drinking, consider reading the following passage every day to strengthen your stand and to reinforce your resolve.

“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1)

Question: “What could possibly discourage someone from smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products?”

Answer: Tobacco smoke contains more than 200 known poisons. Those who smoke two packs a day shorten their life expectancy by eight years.

Tobacco …

•     Is the most common cause of lung cancer

•     Causes emphysema, making breathing very taxing, which in turn causes death

•     Is a major cause of hardening of the arteries, which in turn causes strokes and most heart attacks

•     Is a major contributor in mouth and throat cancers, which can disfigure a person for life

•     Produces chemicals that erode the lining of the stomach, which in turn causes gastric ulcers

•     Increases the risk of bladder cancer

•     Produces carbon monoxide and retards the growth of a fetus in a mother who smokes, which also increases the risk of premature birth and infant death

•     Contributes to heart disease, the leading cause of death for men

“ ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but everything is not constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

B. What Are the Most Influential Factors?

No two people have exactly the same story about what contributed to their developing a drug dependency. But no matter how many factors are involved in becoming chemically dependent, they all fit into one of two categories: external or internal influences.

•     External Influences … family and social

—family environment

Were you raised in a family that accepts social drinking?

—dysfunctional family

Have you used drugs to relieve emotional pain?

—physical problems

Are you dependent on medication for backaches, headaches, sleeplessness, dieting?

—social acceptance

Have you been served alcohol at most social functions?

—peer pressure

Are you seeking social acceptance by those who use drugs?

—cultural endorsement

Have you been continuously exposed to alcohol through TV, movies, advertisements, and magazines?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

(Romans 12:2)

Question: “Without offending them, how can I say no to my friends who drink heavily and offer me drinks?”

Answer: A simple “No thank you,” or “Thank you, I’m not interested,” should suffice. Most people do not like drinking or doing drugs alone, but most will also respect—if not envy—someone who is strong enough to not follow the crowd. If they are offended, that is a reflection on their own insecurity, not on your convictions.

You and you alone are accountable for the boundaries you set for your life. Anyone can give in to peer pressure, but only those who have strength of character will resist the pressure. Be aware that your enticers are walking on dangerous ground. The Bible says,

“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk.” (Habakkuk 2:15)

•     Internal Influences … genetic and psychological

inherited inclination from family

Were you born to an alcoholic parent, or do you have close relatives who are alcoholics? (The risk for alcohol dependence is three to four times higher for those who have close relatives with a dependence on alcohol.)

inherited vulnerability from an ethnic group

Were you born within an ethnic group that has a high rate of alcoholism? (Scandinavians, Northern Europeans, and the Irish are more susceptible, whereas Asians are less susceptible. “The low prevalence rates among Asians appear to relate to a deficiency, in perhaps 50% of Japanese, Chinese and Korean individuals, of the form of aldehyde dehydrogenase that eliminates low levels of the first breakdown product of alcohol, acetaldehyde.”)

Alcoholics process alcohol in a way that sustains and reinforces their addiction. Unlike nonalcoholics, it is difficult for them to process a chemical in alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde, creating collateral addictive chemical compounds that interfere with the brain’s process and create an opiate-like addiction.

psychological makeup

Are you prone to seek drugs as a relief from anxiety or stress?

Alcohol soothes underlying nerves and thus calms the intense responses to stress such as perspiring palms, skin flushing, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.

habits and compulsions

Do you have habits that are resistant to change? (Repetitive actions alter the brain itself where connections between neurons are slowly modified, thus making it more difficult to make different choices.)

No matter the reason for any enslaving habit that has mastery over us, God says we can change masters.

“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:19)

Question: “Is alcoholism an inherited disease over which I have no control?”

Answer: Medical professionals continue to debate whether or not alcoholism is a disease. Because of the strong and lasting changes alcohol can have on the brain and other organs, many consider it a disease. Others take the position that it is more behavioral.

A disease is an abnormal condition of the body caused by …

•     Infection (for example, catching the flu or smallpox from outside the body)

•     Genetic defect (for example, being born with diabetes or with a genetic makeup where alcohol is not processed normally)

•     Environmental factors (for example, being exposed to toxins and pollutants; developing cirrhosis of the liver where excessive alcohol has caused so much stress on the liver that it no longer functions properly)

While alcoholism can be influenced by genetics and by chemical alterations, the vital fact to remember is that you do have control over whether you succumb to alcoholism or whether you are restored from alcoholism. Your family background and genetics can make you more susceptible to alcoholism; however, these influences can be resisted.

By preplanning to exercise self-control, you can set boundaries and protect yourself from problems with alcohol.

“Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.” (1 Peter 1:13)

Question: “What can I do to reduce my risk of becoming an alcoholic?”

Answer: Because the risk for alcoholism is higher among people who begin drinking at an early age, avoiding underage drinking reduces your risk.

As an adult, the best way you can avoid alcoholism is to avoid drinking. However, if you drink in moderation, you reduce your risk by having no more than one drink a day if you are a woman or two drinks a day if you are a man.

If you have a family history of alcoholism, you should be especially careful even when considering moderate drinking. If you are a recovering alcoholic, a woman who is pregnant or is trying to become pregnant, or if you are engaged in activities that require attention or skill, you should not drink at all.

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)

C. What Excuses Do People Give?

No one has to be taught the art of justifying behavior, but all of us manage to somehow learn it. People who are chemically dependent become proficient at rattling off reason after reason for using their drug of choice, but, ultimately, there is no valid justification, only excuses. In the final analysis, they are persuaded that they genuinely need it, or they feel entitled just because they want it.

“I need it …

… to pick me up.”

… to quiet me down.”

… to relieve my pain.”

… to be more sociable.”

… to forget my failures.”

… to satisfy my cravings.”

“I want it …

… to relax.”

… to feel good.”

… to have more fun.”

… to relieve my stress.”

… to be more accepted.”

… to escape my situation.”

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

(Proverbs 16:2)

Question: “If alcoholism can be both inherited and a disease, how can it be a sin? Since I’m an alcoholic, isn’t it beyond my control?”

Answer: It is not a sin for you to be a nondrinking alcoholic, but it is a sin for you to be a drunk alcoholic. Drunkenness is listed with other sins that we are commanded to avoid. While alcoholism may be a disease over which you have no control, drunkenness is clearly a sin over which you do have control. Choosing not to drink is setting a boundary for your life that will break the power of sin over you.

“Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (Romans 6:12)

D. What Is the Root Cause?

Initially people take drugs for two reasons: either to treat a legitimate medical problem or simply to feel a pleasurable sensation. Those who are trying to feel different typically begin drinking or using other drugs because of peer pressure or to satisfy their curiosity. But they continue in order to satisfy their perceived needs. Substance abuse occurs when the substance moves from being a need-meeter to becoming the need itself.… Instead of using a substance to relieve stress, the mere absence of the substance in the body causes stress.

God designed you with legitimate needs—physical, emotional, and spiritual—and a part of His design is for you to come to Him and to be dependent on Him to be your true Need-Meeter.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:19)

Wrong Belief:

“I don’t have a chemical dependency. I just enjoy (alcohol and/or any other drug(s) of choice). I could stop at anytime, but drinking/using helps me cope with my difficult situations and eases my painful emotions.”

Right Belief:

“I realize that what I depend on in my life will have control of my life. I choose not to let any chemical have control over me. Instead, I choose to give Christ control of every area and to depend on Him to satisfy my needs.” The Bible says, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

Question: “How do I evaluate whether I should drink or not? I’m a new Christian and want to do what pleases God.”

Answer: While the Bible does not prohibit the consumption of all alcohol, it does speak to the dangers of wine, beer, and strong alcoholic drinks. “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler” (Proverbs 20:1). But for many people, the most persuasive argument for abstinence is “the stumbling argument”: the concern that someone might stumble because of your questionable example.

Since people tend to be followers, if you drink alcohol—or do drugs—those who follow your example could stumble, and their lives could be harmed because of following in your footsteps.

“It is better not to eat meat [sacrificed to idols] or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” (Romans 14:21)

IV.  steps to solution

To break free of an addiction, one must first recognize the problem and then be willing to face it and seek healing. For Mickey Mantle, an early wake-up call was the illness and subsequent death of his son, which resulted in part from a chemical dependency.

As Mickey agonized over the helplessness of watching his son die, then seeing the destruction of his family, he recognized that all four of his sons had a drinking problem and floundered as adults. Finally he realized that his approach to life wasn’t working. Mickey admitted, “I couldn’t go on the way I was living, drunk and sick and depressed, covering up with lies, trying to remember where I was going or where I had been.”

Despite his enormous fears of having to be open before others and to let others really know him, Mickey Mantle entered the Betty Ford Center and began the long, painful process of recovery. His son Mickey Jr. said, “Out of all the things he did, the World Series teams he starred on, the home runs he hit, the records he broke, his induction into the Hall of Fame, what I admired him for the most was getting sober.”

Mickey hit a home run in regard to his recovery. As he rounded the bases touching each of his three remaining sons—beginning a new relationship with each of them—he headed for “home” when he began treating his estranged wife differently. No more verbal abuse. No more emotional distancing. He found that he liked being sober, and he started telling his family he was proud of them. What a difference his changed life meant to his family and to himself! If only long ago he had known …

“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”

(Proverbs 15:32)

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

(Isaiah 41:13)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Ten Truths about Temptation from   1 Corinthians Chapter 10
    #1   If you think you’re standing firm, be   careful that you don’t fall. v. 12
    #2   If you think your trial is unique, clearly   it is not. v.   13
    #3   God won’t let you be tempted beyond what   you can bear. v.   13
    #4   God will provide a way for you to withstand   the test. v.   13
    #5   Everything is permissible—not everything is   beneficial or constructive. v.   23
    #6   Don’t focus on yourself, but rather on the   good of others. v.   24
    #7   Don’t violate the conscience of others;   curb your freedom for their sake. v.   29
    #8   Whatever you eat or drink, do it all for   the glory of God. v.   31
    #9   Do not cause anyone to stumble by your   actions. v.   32
#10   Seek the good of others so that they might   be truly saved. v.   33

Question: “Does the Bible condemn drinking alcohol as sin?”

Answer: While the Bible does speak of medical benefits of wine (1 Timothy 5:23) and Jesus provided wine at a wedding (John 2:1–11), the Bible clearly condemns both drunkenness and addiction to alcohol as sinful.

God does not want you to lose control because of the influence of alcohol, but rather to yield to the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit. Addiction to alcohol or any other drug makes you a slave to that controlling substance. God wants you to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be free.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)

C. Deliverance from Dependency

Just as chemical dependency does not develop overnight, neither does deliverance from dependency occur overnight. There is a sequence of events that leads people into bondage and another sequence that leads people into freedom.

At the moment of your salvation, you were delivered from the penalty of sin (eternal death), and through the enablement of the indwelling Holy Spirit, you can experience being delivered from the power of destruction. But you must realize that freedom from the power of dependency is a process that requires focused, active participation on your part. You must choose to believe and practice the truth about yourself and God.

#1  Admit you are powerless over your dependency.

“I am unable to manage my life—I cannot control my life.”

     Accept your dependent condition and your vulnerability to chemical addiction.

     Acknowledge your inability to manage your life and to overcome your drug dependency.

     Articulate to God your total inadequacy and your great need of His power in your life.

“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

#2  Realize that the God who made you has the power to restore you.

“I am asking Christ to be my Redeemer, to restore every area of my life.”

     Accept the Lordship of Christ Jesus in your life as your Master, Ruler, and Owner.

     Acknowledge your need for God to comfort you and to restore you to wholeness.

     Articulate your gratitude to God for His saving power operating within your mind, will, and emotions, and thank Him for what He plans to do in and through your life.

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” (Psalm 71:20–21)

#3  Yield your will to the will of the Lord.

“I am asking Christ to take control of my life.”

     Accept the fact that your sinful nature died on the cross with Jesus and that sin (your addiction) is to no longer rule your life.

     Acknowledge the devastation that has resulted from your self-willed living in the past.

     Articulate your determination to stop your self-willed living and your decision to yield your will to the Lord.

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’ ” (Matthew 16:24–25)

#4  Face reality—face your true self.

“I will look honestly at my life, asking God to uncover my sins and character flaws.”

     Accept the truth that you have deceived yourself about your chemical dependency and your desperate need for help.

     Acknowledge your reluctance in the past to face the truth about your sinful choices and patterns.

     Articulate to God and to others your willingness to know the truth about yourself and your commitment to honestly evaluate your life, your strengths, and your weaknesses.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

#5  Admit your struggle with sin, both to God and to someone else.

“May I see my sin as God sees it and hate my sin as God hates it.”

     Accept the depth and the duration of your struggle with chemical dependency.

     Acknowledge to a supportive person the power that the bondage to drugs has had over you, and confirm your present commitment to freedom.

     Articulate to both God and a friend your desire to overcome your chemical dependency and to live in the victory Jesus secured for you at Calvary.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

#6  Humbly accept God’s help to change your patterns of the past.

“I will commit my life into the care of Christ.”

     Accept your limitations and your need for help in changing your unhealthy patterns of dealing with life.

     Acknowledge your frailty and the feebleness of your willpower and self-effort to effect change.

     Articulate to God your helplessness and your pledge to cooperate with Him as He changes you from the inside out.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7)

#7  Confess your defects and daily failings.

“I’m willing to see myself as God sees me.”

     Accept that you are not perfect and that you will fail at times despite your good intentions.

     Acknowledge your failures immediately and confess them to God and to those you have offended. Then correct your course.

     Articulate any sins and shortcomings to God on a daily basis, and claim His forgiveness and cleansing.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10–12)

#8  Ask forgiveness of those offended.

“I will find those whom I’ve hurt and from my heart ask forgiveness.”

     Accept your need to ask forgiveness of anyone you offend, even though you may have been offended yourself.

     Acknowledge your great need of God’s mercy and grace and your resolve to extend mercy and grace to others.

     Articulate to both God and to those you have offended your grief and regret and your resolve to change in the areas where you need to change.

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23–24)

#9  Make restitution where you have wronged others.

“I will make amends and go to do so with the help of God.”

     Accept your obligation to do whatever is within your power in order to right your wrongs.

     Acknowledge to God and to those whom you have wronged your desire to make amends in any way possible.

     Articulate your responsibility to make restitution and your commitment to repay whatever debt you owe, whether it’s money or labor, correcting a lie, showing respect, or extending love.

“If he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.” (Ezekiel 33:15–16)

#10      Keep a clean slate when you realize you have been wrong.

“Each day I will take responsibility for my irresponsibility.”

     Accept your charge to keep a clean slate before God and every person.

     Acknowledge each and every failure in order to live as God would have you to live.

     Articulate each failure to God on a moment by moment basis, making no excuses, but recommit to living a self-controlled, Spirit-empowered life.

“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.” (Titus 2:11–12)

#11      Pray and know God’s path for your life.

“I want to be led by the Lord and to be put only on His path.”

     Accept your new dependence on God and your vital need to communicate with Him through Bible study and prayer.

     Acknowledge your need to have the prayer support of others to know God’s truths and God’s ways.

     Articulate to God your desire to be what He wants you to be and to do what He leads you to do.

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4–5)

#12      Reach out to others with your hand and your heart.

“I will care for those who need care and will help with a heart of compassion.”

     Accept your need of others and their need of you.

     Acknowledge your giftedness from God and His mandate to use your God-given gifts to serve others in tangible, practical ways.

     Articulate ways God may be leading you to minister to others and ask for His confirmation and for the guidance of mature Christians who can help you to reach out to others.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Question: “Since I became a new creation when I became a Christian, didn’t that change my addictions and my tendency to sin?”

Answer: When you put your trust in Christ, you did indeed receive a new life! God’s Spirit lives within you and is a new power source to enable you to overcome sin. While you have been saved from the penalty of sin (eternal separation from God) and while the power of sin over you has been broken, you must still choose not to sin when you are tempted. You must choose daily to put off your old self and refuse to be controlled by it. (Doing that would include the choice to put off your addictions and your addictive tendencies.) Then you must choose to put on your new self and to be controlled by it—that new self which was created to be like Christ.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22–24)

D. Seven Don’ts for Deliverance

As you go through the process of deliverance from dependency, knowing what not to do can be just as helpful as knowing what to do.

#1  Don’t fight addiction on your own. Participate in a legitimate drug recovery program.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

#2  Don’t be blind about your ability to lie to yourself and to others!

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

#3  Don’t socialize with those who encourage your habit.

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

#4  Don’t worry about the future. Walk with God one day at a time.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

#5  Don’t give up if you relapse. It is never too late for you to get back on track.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

#6  Don’t become prideful as you succeed in the recovery process.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

#7  Don’t be surprised at temptation!

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Question: “When I became a Christian a year ago, I kicked cocaine and marijuana for eight months. But now I’m back on marijuana with no motivation to quit. How can I overcome this habit?”

Answer: Motivation is a vital factor in overcoming any addiction. The more you realize that you are not only causing great harm to yourself, but also grieving the heart of God, the more you will have “good guilt,” which can produce the motivation you lack. The Bible says we are changed by the renewing of our minds, which is another key to overcoming a destructive habit. You previously relied on the power of Christ within you, but along the way your focus changed, and you left your power source. Rather than focusing on what you should do, focus on being conformed to the character of Christ. Repent from doing what merely pleases you, and do the things you did when you were first saved.

“I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love [Jesus]. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4–5)

E. Ten Spiritual Tips for Recovery

Your freedom must first be gained in the spiritual realm before it can be experienced in the physical and emotional realms. Take to heart the following tips as you walk down the road to recovery.

#1  The time to begin your recovery is today.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15)

#2  Realize that recovery is a lifelong process, not a onetime event.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12)

#3  Pray daily for victory! It is through prayer that God protects you.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

#4  Read your Bible every day in order to get strength from God.

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28)

#5  Meditate on Scripture to fight against falling into sin.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

#6  Attend church every week to worship God and to grow with others.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)

#7  Share your struggles with caring loved ones.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

#8  Have confidence in God! Prioritize growing in your relationship with Him.

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

#9  Depend on Christ’s strength to stay drug free.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

#10      Know that permanent change is possible.

“Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

Question: “I am a recovering addict but I’ve continued to relapse. Recently, I’ve become a Christian, and now I feel that God has delivered me. Is that possible?”

Answer: Some Christians do receive a supernatural deliverance from drugs, while others do not. No matter which is true in your case, by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, there is good news for you. When you received authentic salvation, you not only were saved from the penalty of sin, but were also saved from the power of sin. Drugs are no longer your master—Jesus is now your Master. Through the power of Christ living in you, you can rely on His supernatural power for deliverance over you’re addiction.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.… For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:6, 14)

F.  Set Beneficial Boundaries … with the One Addicted

Boundaries are barriers that protect from external harm and guard against internal harm. Those involved with someone struggling with a chemical dependency need to learn how to set appropriate limits on what they do for their loved one. These boundaries will help prevent you from taking on excessive responsibilities that belong to your loved one. Boundaries serve to keep the addict’s problem from becoming your problem.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

(Proverbs 4:23)

•     Give up all expectations of the addict.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:5)

•     Learn to detach from the addict’s problem, and take control of your life.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” (Psalm 25:15)

•     Shift your focus from the addict’s behavior to your responses.

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40)

•     Learn all you can about drug abuse.

“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16)

•     Stop acts that are enabling (making excuses, protecting).

“These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” (Psalm 50:21)

•     Let the addict know the effects of the addiction on you and on others.

“Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25)

•     Pray for and expect God to bring consequences into the addict’s life.

“A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” (Proverbs 5:21–23)

Question: “When my husband drinks too much, he gets angry and physically abusive. What should I do to protect myself and my children and still remain biblically submissive to my husband?”

Answer: The Bible never says that a wife—in the name of submission—is to submit to domestic violence. A husband’s substance abuse never gives him the right to dole out physical abuse. Conversely, the Bible says, “Do not associate with one easily angered” (Proverbs 22:24). Therefore, communicate your boundaries. Tell him that if he is abusive again, you will call the police.… He can no longer live at home.… You will leave with the children. Then follow through if he again violates the boundary.

“A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” (Proverbs 19:19)

G. Conduct a Crisis Intervention … with the One Addicted

Most often, the most powerful act on behalf of a substance abuser is a crisis intervention—it is effective 80 percent of the time. And the most powerful aspect of a crisis intervention is the group dynamic—there is power in numbers! Typically a family member will seek to stop the addict’s behavior, but sadly the appeal falls on deaf ears. In privacy, others state their concern, but one by one each plea is dismissed. As individuals they are powerless—as a group they are dynamite. In fact, a group can be empowered by God to move the immovable. God’s Word lays out the blueprint for such an intervention.

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

(Matthew 18:15–16)

(Read Ezekiel 3:18–19.)

•     Pray for wisdom and understanding from the Lord.

“The Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

•     Educate yourself regarding crisis intervention programs. Attend meetings on chemical dependency (for example, Overcomers Outreach, Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Narcotics Anonymous). Read materials on intervention and visit treatment facilities.

“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she [wisdom] is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” (Proverbs 3:13–14)

•     Call a counseling office to refer you to a Christian leader trained in intervention procedures.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

•     If possible, meet with an intervention specialist to plan the approach. Discussion needs to include treatment program options, preadmission plans, procedures, insurance, and the impact of treatment on the addict’s employment.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)

•     Enlist the aid of key people who have been affected by the addict’s harmful behavior and are willing to confront (caring family, friends, doctor, employer, coworkers, and spiritual leader).

“A truthful witness saves lives.” (Proverbs 14:25)

•     In absolute confidentiality and without the addict present, hold a first meeting in which these key people rehearse (if possible with the trained leader) what they will say, how they will say it, and the order in which they will speak when confronting.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” (Proverbs 27:5–6)

•     Hold a second meeting with the addict present where one at a time each key confronter communicates genuine care for the addict and shares the rehearsed confrontations (The Four P’s of an Appeal).

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

The Four P’s of an Appeal

#1  The Personal

•     Affirm rather than attack.

—  “I want you to know how much I care about you (or love you), and I am terribly concerned about you.”

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

#2  The Past

•     Give a recent, specific example describing the addict’s negative behavior and the personal impact it had on you.

—  “Last night when you slurred your speech in front of my friend, I was humiliated.”

“A truthful witness gives honest testimony.” (Proverbs 12:17)

•     Be brief, keeping examples to three or four sentences.

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17:27)

#3  The Pain

•     Emphasize the painful impact the addict’s behavior has had on you. Use “I” statements.

—“I was devastated and deeply hurt because of the way you yelled at me.”

“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)

#4  The Plea

•     Make a personal plea for your loved one to receive treatment.

—  “I plead with you to get the help you need to overcome your addiction. If you are willing, you will have my deepest respect.”

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)

•     Be prepared to implement an immediate plan if treatment is agreed on.

—  “Your bags have been packed, and you have been accepted into the treatment program at .”

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Proverbs 24:11–12)

•     If treatment is refused, detail the repercussions.

—  “We cannot allow you to come home or to be with our family until you have been clean and sober for (name a specific period of time).”

“Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die.” (Proverbs 15:10)

The Don’ts of Dialogue

We can be on the side of right, yet our actions can be wrong. Many times we can influence a person to want to change, not by what we say but by how we say it. The Word of God says, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1).

     Don’t involve yourself in name-calling, preaching, or being judgmental.

—  “Last night you were a jerk. Who wants to be with a drunk?”

“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” (Proverbs 11:12)

     Don’t come to the defense of the addict when others are confronting.

—  “He really didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“There is a … time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)

     Don’t argue if your facts are disputed.

—  “You may be right, but what I’ve read is different.”

“The Lord’s servant must not quarrel.… Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26)

     Don’t over react—keep your emotions under control.

—  If verbally attacked, calmly state your position, and if again opposed, calmly repeat the same words again … and again. “This is in your best interest.”

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19–20)

     Don’t give ultimatums unless you are prepared to follow through with them.

—  If your loved one, who has been away for only a short time, says, “I promise not to do it anymore; just let me come back this one time,” you say, “No, you cannot come back until you have completed treatment.”

“Let your ‘Yes’ be yes, and your ‘No,’ no.” (James 5:12)

     Don’t shield your loved one from facing the consequences of addiction

—  “I will not lie to your boss again.”

“A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)

     Don’t accept promises with no commitment for immediate action.

—  “I can’t go now, but I promise to go next month.”

“A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15)

This second meeting concludes with the addict either immediately entering a treatment program or experiencing the consequences of refusing treatment.

“He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.”

(Proverbs 28:23)

Question: “What can I do to help my grandchildren whose parents are both alcoholics and are violent and combative when intoxicated?”

Answer: Several options could be considered:

•     Calls to crisis intervention could be made by several significant people.

•     Report the situation to a local CPS office (Child Protective Services).

•     Report drunk and disorderly conduct to the local police department.

•     Petition the court for custody of minor children.

Prayerfully consider which option would hold the greatest possibility for effecting change, and, with the support of prayer partners, develop a plan. Consult with a professional in this area, if possible.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

H. Realize the Power of Prayer … on Behalf of the One Addicted

Prayer is accessing God. Prayer is bringing all that He is into this situation. Through prayer, ask that His power and peace be your power and peace.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

(2 Peter 1:3–4)

•     Pray with thanksgiving for what God has done for you.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7)

•     Pray for God to reveal your harmful responses.

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (Psalm 51:6)

•     Pray for more love for the offender.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

•     Pray for strongholds to be broken.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5)

•     Pray for faith that, with God, lasting change is possible.

“All things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

•     Pray for the addicted person.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:9–11)

•     Pray with consistence and persistence.

“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

(Psalm 100:4–5)

Question: “Should I continue to be around my alcoholic father again and again when he is abusive to me?”

Answer: Would you continue to put your hand in a fire again and again when you know it will burn you? Obviously not. You would maintain a healthy distance. Likewise, you need to establish not only a healthy physical distance from your father, but an emotional distance as well. That is why you need to present a “boundary” to your father. When your father is not being abusive, explain that you love him and want to see him, but that his verbal abuse is too painful for you to be around. Therefore, you are setting a boundary. Simply put, if he becomes abusive, you will quietly, but quickly, leave his presence. Be aware that he will test you to see whether you will actually leave. Emphasize that the choice is up to him! If, instead, he wants to spend time with you, he will have to choose to stop being abusive. Be sure to follow through with what you’ve told him. Quickly leave every time he begins to be abusive. In time he will see that you mean what you say. Ultimately, he will respect you and hopefully will begin to think before he speaks.

“There is … a time to embrace and a time to refrain.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5)

Never Give Up Hope

Mickey Mantle’s story was one of success as he gained control over the unmanageability of his life. But there was still something missing.

When Mickey was diagnosed with liver cancer, he knew he was facing death. He called his longtime friend and former teammate, second baseman Bobby Richardson. Knowing that Bobby was a committed Christian, Mickey asked him to pray for him over the telephone. As the cancer progressed to an even more critical stage, Mickey’s death seemed imminent, and the family once again called Bobby Richardson. As he entered Mantle’s hospital room, Bobby remembered the many times he had talked to Mickey about the Lord and once again made the appeal, “Mickey, I love you, and I want you to spend eternity in heaven with me.” Mantle smiled and said, “Bobby, I’ve been wanting to tell you that I have trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior.”

At Mickey’s funeral, Bobby Richardson told the audience that there are only two kinds of people: those who say “yes” to Christ and those who say “no.” And since none of us knows how much time we still have on earth, saying “maybe” is really the same as saying “no.”

Before Mickey’s death, he made this poignant statement: “It’s hard to look back. But you learn from it.… I want to make a difference, not because I hit home runs, but because I changed my life. If I can, anyone can. It is never too late.”

If you have never seriously considered where you would spend eternity or if you have always thought you had plenty of time to decide, make today the day of decision. Just as Mickey Mantle realized near the end of his life that he needed to be forgiven of his sins, you may feel the Lord leading you to the same conclusion. If your desire is to live in a right relationship with the Lord, you can pray for Him to enter your heart and take control of your life, no matter how unmanageable it may have become.

Prayer of salvation“God,   I need You in my life. I admit that I have sinned, and You have said that my   sin deserves death. Many times I’ve gone my own way instead of Your way.   Please forgive me for all of my sins. Thank You, Jesus, for dying on he cross   to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my life to be my Lord and Savior.   Take control of my life and make me the person You want me to be. Thank You,   Jesus, for what You will do in me, to me, and through me. In Your holy name I   pray. Amen.”

Don’t Give Up Hope!

Bobby Richardson never gave up on Mickey Mantle. How blessed was the Mick to have a faithful friend who consistently shared Christ with him. Bobby represented the heart of these two verses.

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

(James 5:19–20)

Bobby knew that in the last inning of his life, Mickey had passed over death to life because Jesus said,

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

(John 5:24)

Don’t Do Drugs!

Young people are under increasing pressure to try tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Unfortunately, the vast majority of teenagers do experiment with these substances, and many suffer the devastating effects of addiction. We adults often think that drug abuse and its terrible traumas will never touch our children, much less us. Facts tell us otherwise. Facts tell us that NO ONE is safe from drugs.

Both we and our young people must become aware of the perils of drugs before being enticed and experiencing their deadly dangers. Adults who care about kids are willing to tell them the truth.

“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.”

(Proverbs 16:23)

Drug   Name Drug   Classification Desired   Effect Damaging   Result
Alcohol(booze,   juice, sauce, brew, vino) Depressant Intoxication,   sensory alteration, anxiety reduction Toxic   psychosis; brain, stomach, and liver damage; fetal alcohol syndrome;   dependency, blackouts, aggression, or depression
Marijuana[cannabis]   (pot, grass, dope, weed, homegrown, sinsemilla, Mauie-Wowie, reefer, J, Thai   sticks, joint, herb, roaches, indica, smoke, Mary Jane, bugs, bag, dime,   quarter, Acapulco Gold, THC, concentrated resin called hash or hashish) Depressant,   hallucinogen Euphoria,   relaxation, increased sensory perception Cancer,   bronchitis, conjunctivitis, possible birth defects, destroys brain cells,   gateway to heavier drug use, damages immune system, severely strains   cardiovascular system, alters mood, inhibits motivation, reduces short-term   memory, hampers concentration, dependency
Amphetamines(uppers, ups,   speed, crank, white crosses, dexies, bennies, crystals, prescription diet pills) Stimulant Alertness,   activeness Dependency,   malnutrition, stroke, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, toxic psychosis,   violence, depression, skin disorders, ulcers
Methamphetamine(crystal,   crystal meth, chalk, crank, tweak, speed, dope, raw) Stimulant Euphoria,   alertness, loss of appetite Irritability   due to sleeplessness, illness due to weakening of the immune system, tooth   loss, sexual compulsion, seizures, stroke, narcolepsy
Nonprescription stimulants(speed,   uppers, ups) Stimulant, decongestant,   appetite suppressant Alertness,   activeness, weight loss Same as   amphetamines, and hypertension, stroke, heart problems, anxiety, headaches,   dependency
Cocaine(coke, rock,   toot, blow, snow, pearl, flake, girl, doing a line, lady, baseball, crank) Local or   topical anesthesia Stimulation,   excitation, euphoria (subtle) Malnutrition,   depression, violence, convulsions, nasal injury, heart attack, seizure,   psychosis, stroke, brain damage, dependency
Cocaine freebase(base,   freebase, crack, rock, C., dynamite, snorting) Local or   topical anesthesia Shorter and   intensified cocaine effects Weight loss,   depression, agitation, hypertension, hallucinations, psychosis, chronic   cough, tremors
Barbiturates(bluebirds,   barbs, tooies, yellow jackets, blues, downers) Sedative   hypnotic Anxiety   reduction, euphoria Severe   withdrawal, dependency, possible convulsions, toxic psychosis, birth defects
Methaqualone(ludes, 714S,   sopors, blue/red devils, yellows, candy, rainbows, Q’s, downs) Sedative hypnotic Euphoria,   aphrodisiac Coma,   convulsions, insomnia, severe anxiety, dependency
Heroin(H, junk,   smack, China White, black tar, harry, horse, brown) Narcotic   (opiate) analgesic Euphoria Addiction,   constipation, loss of appetite, heart disease, congested lungs
Analogs of synthetic narcotics(China White,   synthetic heroin, MPTP, MPPP, PEPAP, ecstasy, MDA, MDMA, Eve, MMDA, MDEA,   XTC, TMA, STP, PMA, DOB) Narcotic   (opiate) analgesic Euphoria,   exhilaration Addiction,   MPTP-induced Parkinsonism [uncontrollable tremors, drooling, impaired speech,   paralysis], permanent brain damage
Morphine(white stuff,   M, morf) Narcotic   (opiate) analgesic Euphoria Addiction,   constipation, loss of appetite, nausea, organ damage
Codeine(schoolboy) Narcotic (opiate)   analgesic Euphoria Addiction,   constipation, loss of appetite, nausea, organ damage
Methadone(dolly) Narcotic   (opiate) analgesic Euphoria,   opiate withdrawal prevention Addiction,   constipation, loss of appetite, nausea, organ damage
Inhalants(solvents,   glue, transmission fluid, correction fluid) None Intoxication Impaired   perception, coordination, and judgment; dependency, heart failure,   suffocation, toxicity
Nitrous Oxide[laughing   gas] (gases, whippits, nitrous, blue bottle) Inhalation anesthetic Euphoria,   relaxation Kidney or   liver damage, peripheral neuropathy, spontaneous abortion, violence, nausea,   vomiting
Amyl and butyl nitrite(liquid   incense, poppers, room deodorizer, rush, locker room, snappers) Vasodilator Exhilaration Damage to   heart and blood vessels, may aggravate heart problems
LSD(acid, LSD-   25, blotter acid, windowpane, named after pictures on paper, mesc). Hallucinogen Insight,   distortion of senses, exhilaration, mystical/religious experience Intensifies   existing psychosis, panic, confusion, suspiciousness, flashbacks, possible   brain damage, strong psychological reaction, impaired judgment
Mescaline[peyote   cactus] (mesc, peyote, peyote buttons) Hallucinogen   (milder than LSD) Same as LSD Same as LSD,   and extreme mood swings, distortion of senses and perceptions, deep   depression
MDA, MDE, MDMA, MMDA(love drug,   ecstasy, STC, X, Adam) Amphetamine-based   hallucinogen Same as LSD Neurotoxic,   same as LSD, sense of distance and estrangement, anxiety, catatonic syndrome,   paranoia
Psilocybin(magic   mushrooms, shrooms) Hallucinogen   (milder than LSD) Same as LSD Same as LSD,   and sleeplessness, tremors, heart and lung failure
PCP(Crystal,   tea, THC, angel dust) Dissociative   anesthetic Distortion of   senses, stimulant Psychotic   behavior, violence, coma, terror, psychosis, convulsions, impaired judgment,   dependency
Tobacco(cigs,   smokes, butts, cancer sticks, chew, coffin nails, puff, snuff) Toxin Relaxation Loss of   appetite, addictive, cancer [lung, jaw, mouth], effects on fetus, increased   blood pressure and heart rate, dependency

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

(Psalm 143:10)

See Jay Johnson, Jane Carlisle Maxwell, and Marian Leitnerschmidt, A Dictionary of Slang Drug Terms, Trade Names, and Pharmacological Effects and Uses (Austin, TX: Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, 1997),

Selected Bibliography

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed., text revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Beck, James R. “Substance-Use Disorders.” In Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology, edited by David G. Benner, 1128–30. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985.

Bustanoby, Andre. When Your Child Is on Drugs or Alcohol. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Hope, 1986.

Cheek, Ed. Mickey Mantle: His Final Inning. Garland, TX: ATS, n.d.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University. “Substance Abuse: The Nation’s Number One Health Problem; Key Indicators for Policy.” October 1993. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Johnson, Carolyn. Understanding Alcoholism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.

Mantle, Merlyn, et al., with Mickey Herskowitz. A Hero All His Life: A Memoir by the Mantle Family. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

McGee, Robert S., Pat Springle, and Susan Joiner. Rapha’s Twelve-Step Program for Overcoming Chemical Dependency: with Support Materials from The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

Milam, Jarmes R., and Katherine Ketcham. Under the Influence. New York: Bantam, 1983.

Parker, Christina B. When Someone You Love Drinks Too Much: A Christian Guide to Addiction, Codependence, & Recovery. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

Rogers, Ronald, and Chandler Scott McMillin. Under Your Own Power: A Guide to Recovery for Nonbelievers … and the Ones Who Love Them. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992.

Ross, George R. Treating Adolescent Substance Abuse: Understanding the Fundamental Elements. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993.

Shaughnessy, Collette. Reachout. Q & A Columns. March 1999. Lowe Family Foundation. (accessed October 22, 2003).

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Summary of Findings from the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA Series: H-13, DHHS Publication No. SMA 01-3549).” 2001. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Taylor, Elizabeth J., ed. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 27th ed. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders, 1988.

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Traffic Safety Facts 2001: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System.” 2001.

Van Cleave, Stephen, Walter Byrd, and Kathy Revell. Counseling for Substance Abuse and Addiction. Edited by Gary R. Collins. Resources for Christian Counseling, vol. 12. Dallas: Word, 1987.

VanVonderen, Jeff. Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them. Rev. and updated ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

The World’s Best Anatomical Charts: Diseases and Disorders. Skokie, IL: Anatomical Chart Company, 2000.[2]

[1] Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] Hunt, J. (2008). Bibilical Counseling Keys on Alcohol & Drug Abuse: Breaking Free & Staying Free (1–46). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Alcohol Abuse and Dependence. Humans have used, abused, and become dependent upon alcohol from the time of earliest recorded history. Until about five hundred years ago alcoholic beverages were made by fermenting organic juices, with a natural maximum alcohol content of 14%. Then Europeans developed distilled spirits, with an alcohol content of up to 99%.

Noah is shown to have become drunk (Gen. 9), and various ancient cultures record both the use and abuse of alcohol. The Book of Proverbs admonishes the reader not to abuse alcohol (Prov. 23:29–35).

The Roman philosopher Seneca was aware of the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. He “distinguished sharply between ‘a man who is drunk’ and one ‘who has no control over himself … who is accustomed to get drunk, and is a slave to the habit’ ” (Keller, 1976, p. 1698).

According to the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, more than 7 million Americans are estimated to be alcohol abusers, and 10.5 million people are affected by alcoholism. Alcohol is a factor in 50% of all traffic fatalities. Hospital emergency room studies implicate alcohol in 22% of home injuries, 16% of on-the-job injuries, and 56% of fights leading to hospital treatment (Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 1989, p. 2).

Definition and Diagnostic Criteria. The World Health Organization (1977) defined alcohol dependence syndrome as “a state, psychic and usually also physical, resulting from taking alcohol, characterized by behavioral and other responses that always include a compulsion to take alcohol on a continuous or periodic basis in order to experience its psychic effects, and sometimes to avoid the discomfort of its absence; tolerance may or may not be present.”

In 1994 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) updated its diagnostic criteria for alcohol-related problems in a way that clearly differentiates among alcohol intoxication, abuse, and dependency. This is particularly helpful for pastors and other Christian workers who seek to understand how the sin of drunkenness and the disease of alcoholism relate to each other (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, pp. 181–197).

Alcohol Intoxication. The APA (1994) does not define a single use of alcohol leading to intoxication as alcohol abuse. However, while not labeling intoxication as sin, the APA describes the effects of intoxication as “clinically significant maladaptive behavioral changes,” such as “inappropriate sexual or aggressive behavior, mood changes, impaired judgment, impaired social or occupational functioning [accompanied by] slurred speech, incoordination, unsteady gait [up to and including] coma” (p. 197).

Life Patterns Related to Alcohol Abuse. As seen by the APA (1994), “the identifying characteristic of alcohol abuse is a maladaptive pattern … manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences” (p. 182). Alcohol abusers may have poor school and job performance, neglect their children or homes, operate vehicles while drunk, or initiate family violence yet not show the three key signs of alcohol dependence. While such persons have a chronic sinful life pattern, they may not have the disease of alcoholism.

Diagnosis of Alcohol Dependence. There are seven professional diagnostic criteria for all types of substance dependence, including alcohol dependence (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). The three leading indicators for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence are evidence of tolerance, symptoms of withdrawal, and a pattern of compulsive use. Physical tolerance as related to alcohol means the need or ability to drink increasing amounts of liquor to get the same effect. It can also mean that individuals no longer get obviously drunk with the same amount of alcohol that used to make them intoxicated. Many maintenance alcoholics have high tolerance levels yet do not appear to be drunk.

Physical withdrawal from alcohol is defined as including at least two of the following: “sweating or pulse rate greater than 100, increased hand tremor, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, transient … hallucinations, psychomotor agitation, anxiety, and/or grand mal seizures” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 198).

Compulsive use of alcohol means that alcohol is often taken in larger amounts over a longer period of time than planned. The alcohol-dependent person does not have the ability to be a moderate drinker, although this individual does have the ability to be abstinent, with the help of Jesus Christ, a supportive church family, and a recovery fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Overcomers Outreach.

The APA (1994) sets forth four additional criteria for substance dependence, including alcohol dependence: “unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use, a great deal of time spent in activities to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of the substance, important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced … and … continued [use] despite recurrent physiological or psychological problems [caused by it].”

Presumed Causes. There are agreed-upon professional standards for defining the differences among alcohol use, intoxication, abuse, and dependence. However, in spite of significant research in this field, major differences of opinion remain regarding the presumed causes of alcoholism. The field has not become substantially more unified than it was in 1959, when Mann, a leader in alcohol research and treatment, wrote, “Almost everyone who has given it any thought at all, has had an opinion on the cause of alcoholism. These opinions, however, have differed widely. The temperance groups held that alcohol was the cause, and the only cause. The wet groups, not only the dispensers of liquor, but drinkers as well, have held that the cause lay in the individual drinker’s own deliberate abuse of the privilege of drinking. A third major opinion held that alcoholism was caused entirely by the drinker’s lack of will power or character” (Mann, 1959, p. 11).

How one understands the cause(s) of alcoholism will greatly influence the preferred approach to treatment. Differing approaches to understanding the etiology of alcoholism may be loosely grouped into three categories: physical models, moral models, and pain-based models.

Physical Models. Alcoholics Anonymous (1989), the largest and most successful self-help program for alcoholics, understands alcoholism to be physically based and defines it as “an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured, but which, like some other illnesses, can be arrested. Going one step further, many AA’s feel that the illness represents the combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol, plus a mental obsession with drinking which, regardless of consequences, cannot be broken by will power alone” (p. 4). This approach, pioneered by Jellinek (Jellinek & Haggard, 1942, pp. 4–5), is called the disease model of alcoholism.

Some genetic studies, most notably that regarding the dopamine D2 postsynaptic receptor gene published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Blum et al., 1990), have suggested specific genetic causes for up to 69% of alcoholics. Other biochemical researchers have noted various brain differences between alcoholics and nonalcoholics but attributed these to a progressive degeneration of brain function due to prolonged alcohol abuse. Adoption studies, which isolate physical inheritance from sociological factors, have shown alcoholism rates up to three times as high in adopted-away sons of alcoholic parents as compared with adopted-away sons of nonalcoholic parents. Studies of the inherited transmission of alcoholism in women have been less conclusive (Svikis, Velez, & Pickens, 1994, p. 195).

Moral Models. The effective contribution of faith-based ministries to the reclamation of alcoholics and other addicts, such as the services provided by the members of the International Union of Gospel Missions, the Salvation Army’s 119 Adult Rehabilitation Centers, and the extensive network of Teen Challenge residential programs, is often overlooked by non-Christian professionals. The religious understanding of the cause(s) and treatment of addictions, including alcoholism, is often labeled moral or, more negatively, moralistic.

However, there are two significantly different types of moral models regarding the use of alcohol and other addictive substances. One model is a conservative, abstinence-based model that is usually but not always religious in nature, the dry moral model. This model suggests that no one should use these substances, even if they are fortunate enough not to become addicted. Some evangelical versions of this model define all use of beverage alcohol as sin even for nonaddicted individuals, sometimes adding that as Christians we accept social responsibility for the failures of others due to our example (1 Cor. 8:6–13).

In contrast to the dry moral model, the wet moral model of alcoholism is a moderation-based rather than abstinence-based approach. This model asserts that the nonabusive use of beverage alcohol and other intoxicating substances (such as marijuana, if it were legal) is legitimate and even beneficial. Primary support for this model comes from the alcoholic beverage industry, some religiously liberal groups, and most moderate nonaddicted drinkers. Scientific rationale for this model is presented by some behavioral psychological theorists who postulate that immoderate drinking is due to problems in intrinsic or extrinsic reinforcement and/or the failure to learn appropriate coping responses to limit alcohol intake.

The moralism of the dry moral model lies in its assumption that those who cannot or will not drink moderately are demonstrating a basic failure to exercise will power and personal responsibility. In this model the goodness or badness of the use of various mood-altering substances is determined solely by the responsibility that the user takes for moderate use under appropriate circumstances. Therefore, those persons who are able to control their use are seen as responsible (good) persons. Those persons who are unable to control their use are seen as irresponsible (bad) persons. No social responsibility is accepted by the moderate users for the anguish and torment that accrues to the immoderate users.

Pain-Based Models. The dominant secular psychological approach to the causes of alcoholism is the medical model used in both inpatient and outpatient therapy. The medical model is actually a psychological rather than a biochemical model. The primary premise of this model is that beverage alcohol is being misused in an attempt to self-medicate in order to cover up underlying psychological stress, which may stem from childhood development problems, sexual abuse, adult experiences of failure, or other unresolved emotional experiences or unconscious needs.

A study by the Research Institute on Addictions in Buffalo, New York, showed that 42% of adult alcoholism patients had experienced either sexual abuse or severe physical violence as children. Physical abuse was reported by 33% of the women and 29% of the men, while sexual abuse was reported by 49% of the women and 11% of the men (Windle, 1996, p. 9). Addiction psychologists Hemfelt and Fowler (1990, pp. 18–19) suggest that the first two steps of the addictions cycle are “(1) pain, and (2) reaching out to an addictive agent, such as work, food, sex, alcohol, or dependent relationships to salve our pain.”

A more holistic, pain-based healing model is being explored by some Christian psychologists and pastors who work regularly with alcoholics. This model combines psychodynamic insights with biblical understandings of spiritual woundedness and sin into a Christian conceptual framework for understanding alcoholism and recovery (Arterburn & Stoop, 1992).

Treatment Approaches. During the last 30 years a somewhat standard process for middle-class alcoholism treatment has developed: interventiongroup persuasion by family members, employer, or clergy to enter treatment; detoxification3 to 5 days of medical or social treatment eliminating alcohol and/or other drugs from the body, followed by treatment21 to 28 days of hospitalization, including individual and group therapy and introduction to Alcoholics Anonymous; and followup1 to 2 years of outpatient counseling, along with regular participation in a self-help group for recovering alcoholics.

However, because there is such a difference in understanding of the cause(s) of alcoholism, there is also substantial variation in what approach is used during the process of alcoholism treatment. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH), after investigating the most effective treatments for alcoholism, stated, “[The hospital alcoholism treatment] staff need not be committed to any particular thought or philosophy” (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, 1974, p. 4).

In a separate review the New York State Division of Alcoholism (1975, p. 24) defined alcoholism as “a complex illness whose etiology is currently not understood.” While recommending eight categories of service (such as 24-hour emergency services or outpatient clinics), this task force was unable to define any favored treatment modality, stating, “while alcoholic persons share a common illness, their needs and responses to care often differ.”

These differences among alcoholics and the documented differences in response to varied treatment approaches mean that treatment strategies are often selected by treatment providers on the basis of individual beliefs about the causes of alcoholism and the hope for reversal or remission of its effects.

Two different Alcoholics Anonymous approaches, a new physically based treatment, the conversionist dry and behaviorist wet moral models, and two psychodynamic medical and healing models are reviewed below.

Two Different Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Approaches. All members of AA attend regular meetings to learn “a simple program that has proved effective for thousands of other men and women” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1989, p. 4). Although AA believes alcoholism to have a physical origin, neither of these approaches is biophysical, since AA understands that an alcoholic will always be physiologically addicted, even when in recovery and not using alcohol for many years. Interviews with hundreds of AA attenders show that they do not all interpret the “simple program” the same way, and they can be roughly classified into two groups regarding their understanding of the effective sobriety-producing agent present in Alcoholics Anonymous.

While AA literature promotes a 12-step program of recovery, many persons who have attended AA seem to have comprehended only a fellowship model. “Alcoholics Anonymous, the most successful organization involved in the treatment of the alcoholic, has made fellowship a cornerstone in their efforts to help the individual. We must do the same, no matter how difficult, if we are going to help our alcoholic” (Dunn, 1986, p. 83). A familiar AA slogan is “people, places and things.” The idea of this slogan is that a person stays sober by spending his time in AA and with sober AA people instead of at the bar. Although this is a somewhat fragile prescription, many people have begun their sobriety in just this way. However, this is not the complete 12-step model of the AA literature. Still, many people believe they are working the AA program when they are working this fellowship model rather than a 12-step model. In a sense these people are following psychological behavior theory. They have not changed their intrinsic motivators, but they have changed their extrinsic behavioral reinforcers.

The complete AA 12-step model is much more complex than that of mere fellowship with sober companions. The 12 steps may be loosely listed as admission of powerlessness over alcohol and openness to spiritual factors (steps 1–3); internalization of moral factors in self-control (steps 4–6), repentance toward God and rediscovery of personal responsibility (steps 7–9), and the spiritual maintenance steps (steps 10–12) (Hemfelt & Fowler, 1990, pp. 18–19).

Therefore, when Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step-based organizations begin to work with a person, they are offering neither medical treatment nor fellowship and support. They are offering a new, spiritually based way of life. Although the AA program is not specifically Christian or even religious, it can lead to a strong, vibrant Christian life when appropriate pastoral support and biblically integrated recovery materials (Arterburn & Stoop, 1992; Hemfelt & Fowler, 1990) are provided to the recovering person.

Physically Based Treatment Approaches. Although many researchers, including the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and researcher Theodore Reich, a psychiatric geneticist at Washington University, are “convinced that there is a pharmacogenetics of alcoholism” (Holden, 1991, p. 163), there has been no vaccine or any other medical cure. However, in 1995 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the drug Naltrexone as the “first pharmacologic agent for alcoholism in 47 years” (Enos, 1995, p. 2). Preliminary research shows that Naltrexone reduces the pleasurable effect of alcohol and may reduce alcohol consumption. Caution in the prescription of Naltrexone is still indicated, since the drug is approved for use only in conjunction with an alcoholism treatment program and not in the absence of other psychological, social, or spiritual interventions.

Two Different Moral Treatment Approaches. As described by its proponents, the dry moral model treatment approach has less to do with morality and legalism than with the power of religious conversion to Jesus Christ. This conversionist (and sometimes, deliverance) approach emphasizes the power of God to release one from the sinful bondage to alcohol, the redemption of the cross, the fellowship with God’s people on earth, and the reward of heaven as powerful stimulants to sobriety. This approach has been highly effective in promoting an initial release from alcohol use and abuse, and the conversionist dry moral model’s emphasis upon lifelong abstinence is seen as protecting the physiologically addicted person from relapse and backsliding. However, the most effective faith-based alcoholism programs also have residential components with behavioral limits, linkages with strong, caring church fellowships, psychological support where appropriate, and educational and vocational opportunities for those who need them.

The wet moral model, by comparison, places a strong emphasis on the positive value of moderate drinking, with the following therapeutic implication: “a person is not cured of the liquor habit until he can take a drink without going into an alcoholic binge” (Richardson & Woolfolk, 1954, p. 109). This absolutist condemnation of both those who are alcohol dependent and those who are alcohol abstinent has been maintained by some apparently responsible theorists, although the most highly publicized research project for creating moderate drinkers from those previously addicted ended in complete failure: “In the 1970’s, two American psychologists, Mark and Linda Sobel, claimed to be able to teach hospitalized alcoholics how to control their drinking. A subsequent independent followup of these supposedly happy controlled drinkers showed just the opposite. The vast majority were rehospitalized for alcoholism, arrested for alcohol related crimes, divorced, seriously ill from alcohol induced diseases or dead” (Kirk, 1995, p. 5).

Although there are some anecdotal accounts of individual alcohol abusers who have apparently become moderate drinkers, the limited studies of moderation programs have usually been conducted by those attempting to operate and promote those programs rather than by independent researchers. One example is a RAND Corporation study that “claimed to find that a quarter of its sample of alcoholics was capable of normal drinking. But the further work showed that only a tiny fraction of the sample could sustain patterns of lower consumption over longer periods. Most subjects, if they did not try to remain completely sober, were drinking dangerously and destructively” (Kirk, 1995, p. 5).

In spite of recurrent theoretical proposals and uncritical media publicity for experimental moderation programs, no substantial body of research evidence supports the idea that alcohol-dependent drinkers can be trained to increase their will power and refusal skills (“know when to say when”) to reduce their drinking patterns to moderate levels on a lifetime basis. What appears to be good advice for the moderate drinker has not been proven helpful for the addicted alcoholic. It remains possible, however, that a small minority of alcohol abusers may be able to alter their drinking patterns to moderate use without becoming abstinent.

Pain-Based Treatment Approaches. Two different pain-based models share the common psychodynamic assumption that addiction to alcohol is primarily a symptom of underlying pain. The pain-based medical model is not the same as the disease model, since its causal assumptions are psychological rather than biological in nature.

The medical model, which is rooted in humanistic psychology, assumes that people are born good and would, in a perfect world, grow up with healthy egos and would not become addicted. However, psychological pain, in the form of emotional or physical childhood neglect, sexual abuse, or other psychosocial stressors, has become internalized and unresolved and results in the symptom of alcoholism and/or other addictions. Individual insight therapy and psychodynamic group therapy are recommended to bring the damaged emotions and unresolved conflicts to the surface. This awareness will, it is proposed, result in the addiction becoming no longer necessary. This model does not take a specific position on the value of abstinence versus moderation, although individual therapists may emphasize one or the other.

The healing model is also a pain-based model. The understanding of the etiology of addiction is similar to or even identical to that of the medical model, except that this model acknowledges the universality of original sin rather than assumes the inherent goodness of the human race. A major difference between the two models is in the arena of treatment. Psychodynamic insight is valued in both models, but the healing model attempts to heal the emotional woundedness that insight reveals, through prayer therapy (in this model’s more intellectual form) or by using specific words or symbolic acts of spiritual deliverance (in this model’s more concrete and active form). The healing model shares some language forms and theological presuppositions with the dry moral conversionist model, but its treatment approaches are more graduated and share similarities with the medical model. A strong emphasis on the relational value of acceptance into the church as a loving family of God is also a characteristic of this approach. The healing model usually promotes abstinence from alcohol rather than moderation.

Pastoral Prevention and Intervention. While the family is undoubtedly the most effective force in a child’s life for prevention of alcohol abuse and dependence, school- and church-based alcohol prevention educational programs may augment positive family influence. The largest national program in public schools is Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), which presents information about addictive substances and exposes manipulative advertising in an effort to counterbalance the pressures placed on children to drink and use drugs. An effective Christian group program for grade-school children, used by an increasing number of churches, is the “Confident Kids” program developed by the National Association for Christian Recovery (NACR) in Yorba Linda, California (Kondracki, 1995, pp. 20–21).

Pastors and other Christian workers seeking to determine whether an adult who drinks is alcohol-dependent may find it helpful to use the CAGE questionnaire developed by the Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina. There are four basic questions: Ever feel the need to Cut down on drinking? Ever feel Annoyed by critics of drinking? Ever been Guilty about drinking? Ever take an Eye-opener drink in the morning? Positive answers to one or more of these questions have been shown to have an 86% correlation with more extensive diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence (Liskow et al., 1995, pp. 277–281).

Pastors may be tempted to refer a person experiencing alcohol problems to a family doctor; however, a 1982 poll taken by the American Medical Association shows that 71% of physicians feel either incompetent or ambivalent about treating alcoholism (Lewis, 1989, p. 8). Therefore, it is recommended that pastors identify a residential or outpatient resource in the community that is staffed by persons who have specific experience in working with alcoholism.

For those churches wishing to form a Christian 12-step recovery group for believers, similar to AA but church-based and focused specifically on Jesus Christ, information is available from Overcomers Outreach in La Habra, California. This organization has a network of more than 1,800 church-sponsored groups in the United States (Bartosch, 1993, pp. 2–7).


Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (1989, March/April). Alcoholism. ADAMHA News, 2–4.

Alcoholics Anonymous. (1989). 44 Questions. New York: AA General Service Conference.

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Arterburn, S., & Stoop, D. (1992). The life recovery Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

Bartosch, B. (1993). Chemical dependency, compulsive behaviors and codependency within the church. La Habra, CA: Overcomers Outreach.

Blum, K., Noble, E. P., Sheridan, P. J., Montgomery, A., Ritchie, T., Jagadeeswaren, P., Nogami, H., Briggs, A. H., & Cohen, J. B. (1990). Allelic association of human dopamine D2 receptor gene in alcoholism. Journal of the American Medical Association, 263 (15), 2055–2060.

Dunn, J. G. (1986). God is for the alcoholic. Chicago: Moody.

Enos, G. A. (1995, April 24). Researchers: Naltrexone use requires knowing possible pitfalls. Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly, 7 (17), 2.

Hemfelt, R., & Fowler, R. (1990). Serenity: A companion for 12-step recovery. Nashville: Nelson.

Holden, C. (1991). Probing the complex genetics of alcoholism. Science, 251, 163–164.

Jellinek, E. M., & Haggard, H. W. (1942). Alcohol explored. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

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Kirk, C. H. (1995). The fallacy of the moderate-drinking argument. Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly, 7 (48), 5.

Kondracki, L. (1995). Recovery for kids. Steps, 6 (3), 20–21.

Lewis, D. C. (1989). Putting training about alcohol and other drugs into the mainstream. Alcohol Health and Research World, 13 (1), 8.

Liskow, B., et al. (1995). Validity of the CAGE questionnaire in screening for alcohol dependence in a walk-in (triage) clinic. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 56 (3), 277–281.

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[1] Benner, D. G., & Hill, P. C. (Eds.). (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of psychology & counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Substance-Use Disorders. The abuse of drugs is not a new phenomenon, but the extent of abuse in the twentieth century has been remarkable. Drug abuse has become a major public health problem since the 1960s. Although alcohol consumption has declined in the 1980s and 1990s, “there are more deaths, illnesses and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition” (Horgan, 1993, p. 8). In the 1950s drug abuse in the United States consisted mainly of heroin usage by persons in large metropolitan areas. Now a wide variety of drugs is available in most all parts of the country, and one can find users of these substances in all segments of society.

A substance-use disorder, according to the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), consists either of substance dependence or substance abuse. The DSM-IV describes both dependence and abuse syndromes for nine substance classes (alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, phencyclidine, and sedatives) and dependence but not abuse for one substance class (nicotine). The DSM-IV describes neither an abuse nor a dependence syndrome for caffeine, however.

Dependence. The central feature of substance dependence is continued use in spite of serious problems stemming from use of that substance. A craving for the substance is a feature of dependence. One can make a diagnosis of substance dependence when any three of the following seven features are present during the same 12-month period: tolerance (a need for larger amounts of the substance to achieve the same effect); withdrawal (the specific pattern of which will vary according to the substance involved; see Substance-Induced Disorders); more extensive use than intended; desire to stop use or a lack of success in curtailing use; large amounts of time spent on acquisition of, use of, or recovery from the use of the substance; abandonment of important activities; or continued use despite awareness of its dangers. Tolerance and withdrawal (criteria 1 and 2) may or may not involve physiological dependence.

Abuse. The central feature of substance abuse is a “maladaptive pattern of substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences” of that use (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 182). The diagnosis of substance abuse is less severe than that of substance dependence and is not made if a person meets the criteria for substance dependence. A substance-abuse diagnosis is appropriate if one or more of the following have been present within the last 12 months: substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill other major obligations, substance use when it is physically hazardous, recurrent legal problems related to use of the substance, or ongoing use in spite of other serious problems associated with that use.

Attitudes toward substance-abuse problems can vary widely across various cultural groups. Substance dependence usually begins in the first half of adulthood. When it begins in adolescence, it is usually associated with other disorders of conduct, including school problems. Males predominate in substance-use disorder diagnoses. The pattern of substance dependence is variable and can include periods of total abstinence, heavy use, or nonproblematic use. High relapse rates occur in the first year after a substance-dependent user has entered a period of remission. Persons diagnosed with a substance-use disorder often suffer from accompanying medical disorders.

Major Drug Families. Amphetamines, including speed and appetite suppressants, are stimulants that one can take orally or by injection. Their use can lead to increased alertness and insomnia. The stimulant effect of amphetamines is longer-acting than that of cocaine. Aggressive and/or violent behavior is associated with amphetamine dependence. The amphetamines can have legitimate medical uses under the supervision of a physician for the treatment of obesity, narcolepsy, and other physical problems.

Cannabis (marijuana, hashish, THC) is a family of drugs derived from the cannabis plant. Its use is illegal in the United States but not in some other parts of the world. No known physiological dependence forms, but a moderate amount of psychological dependence can occur. Tolerance does form. The drug is taken orally or smoked. Cannabis euphoria includes a relaxation of inhibitions and some disoriented behavior.

Cocaine is a narcotic and a stimulant that can be either injected or sniffed. Freebase conversion allows the drug to be smoked. Cocaine produces powerful euphoric states and users can quickly become dependent on it.

Hallucinogens (LSD, ergot, mescaline) are mostly used for brief periods of time and are best known for the delusions and hallucinations that occur following their use. The use of hallucinogens is often accompanied by serious legal and interpersonal problems.

Inhalant-related disorders are induced by inhaling odors given off by various substances such as gasoline, glue, various paint products, and other volatile compounds. Because these products are readily available, large amounts of time and effort to obtain them are not necessary, as is the case with other substances discussed in this article.

Opioids (naturally occurring heroin, morphine, and synthetics such as methadone) are narcotics with high levels of physical and psychological dependence potential and with serious tolerance and withdrawal features. The drugs can be administered orally, smoked, or injected. Abuse and dependence of opioids usually go together. The annual death rate is high, often accompanied by violence or serious drug-induced health problems. Opioid users usually have a history of previous polydrug use.

Sedatives, including barbiturates, entail all prescription drugs for sleeping and most antianxiety medications. When they are taken at high doses and with alcohol, these drugs can be lethal. Dependence on these substances can be intense.

Nicotine dependence is physiologically and psychologically intense, probably due to the overlearned quality of the behavior, the ubiquitous presence of cues in the environment, and the unpleasant features of withdrawal.

Related Problems. Substance abusers frequently experience accompanying pathologies. For example, long-term use of cocaine can lead to paranoid ideation. The cost of obtaining illicit substances can lead to illegal actions and criminal behavior. If a drug abuser is trying to self-medicate for an anxiety or depressive disorder, the condition can worsen instead of improve due to incorrect administration and/or dosage levels. Drug abusers who experience extremely labile moods are also subject to violent outbursts. In addition to the accompanying pathologies, substance abusers can experience resulting psychopathologies such as the substance-induced organic mental disorders (intoxications, withdrawals, deliriums, hallucinosis, and amnestic disorders). Physical health often suffers and Depression is frequently a resulting mood disturbance, as is evidenced by high suicide rates among drug abusers.

Substance abuse often seems to occur in persons suffering from personality disorders, especially the antisocial personality disorder. Certain features of the antisocial personality (chronic violation of societal rules and expectations, delinquency, truancy, running away) may predispose the person to drug abuse. The most powerful predicator of future drug abuse are signs of behavioral deviance in elementary school. Some researchers have described a drug-dependent personality (not an official DSM-IV classification) that includes low self-esteem, low capacity for affection, and low frustration tolerance.

Treatment. The traditional individual psychotherapeutic interventions have not been very successful with substance-abuse problems. Other methods such as psychosurgery, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), hypnosis, and psychodrama have had unremarkable success. The most successful approaches are group approaches using homogeneous populations in residential treatment. Group rules, isolation of the abuser from previous drug-filled settings, high levels of motivation, and gradual return of privileges as behavior becomes better socialized seem to be the key factors in successful treatment (Glasscote, Sussex, Jaffe, Ball, & Brill, 1972). Teen Challenge is one such nationwide program, which also includes the spiritual dimension and a strong call to drug abusers to reform by being spiritually regenerated. Methadone maintenance is used with some success in helping heroin addicts ease off addiction, improve their physical health, and cease their illegal activities. Ethnic and multicultural issues can have an important bearing on treatment planning (Gordon, 1994).


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Glasscote, R. M., Sussex, J. N., Jaffe, J. H., Ball, J., & Brill, L. (1972). The treatment of drug abuse: Programs, problems, prospects. Washington, DC: Joint Information Service.

Gordon, J. U. (Ed.) (1994). Managing multiculturalism in substance abuse services. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Horgan, C. (1993). The nation’s number one health problem. Princeton, NJ: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  1. R. Beck[1]


[1] Benner, D. G., & Hill, P. C. (Eds.). (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of psychology & counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Resources: Organizations and Self-Help Groups



Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

468 Park Avenue South

New York, NY 10016

(212) 686-1100

Alcoholics for Christ

1316 North Campbell Road

Royal Oak, MI 48067

(419) 782-1684

Narcotics Anonymous World Services Office, Inc.

P.O. Box 622

Sun Valley, CA 91352

(818) 780-3951

National Council on Alcoholism

12 West 21st Street, 8th Floor

New York, NY 10010

(212) 206-6770

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol Information

P.O. Box 1908

Rockville, MD 20850

(301) 468-2600

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

5600 Fishers Lane

Rockville, MD 20857

(301) 443-2403

National Clearinghouse for Drug Abuse Information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Room 10A56, Parklawn Building

5600 Fishers Lane

Rockville, MD 20857

(301) 443-6500

National Cocaine Hotline

(800) COC-AINE


Box 580355

Houston, TX 77258

(800) 227-2657

Christ-centered in-hospital care units for substance abuse problems in several states.

Substance Abusers Victorious

One Cascade Plaza

Akron, OH 44308

(216) 253-5444

Teen Challenge

444 Clinton Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11238-1602

(718) 789-1414

Charismatic evangelical drug rehabilitation programs, nationwide, for teen and young adult drug abusers.


P.O. Box 1069

Doylestown, PA 18901

(215) 348-7090[1]


[1] Villareal, L. (2002). Counseling Hispanics. In Healing for the City: Counseling in the Urban Setting (pp. 333–334). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.


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