A Christian, Sober for Years and Still an Alcoholic?

I am an alcoholic.  I know what it is like to burn with a desire to drink that is so overwhelming that family, jobs, and friends mean nothing compared to the desire for liquor.  I know what it is like to wake up in a hotel room not knowing where I am or how I got there.  I also know the joy of complete deliverance from the power of alcohol addiction and never cease to praise God for such deliverance.

Jerry Dunn from God is for the Alcoholic

 How can a Christian who has been sober for many years still say he is an alcoholic?

Jerry Dunn, a former president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, caused quite a stir back when his book first came out in the sixties.  Some leaders within our movement challenged him by asking, “How can you say you’ve experienced complete deliverance and still call yourself an alcoholic?”  Even today, some Christian workers struggle with this dilemma.  While his words appear to be contradictory, if we look more closely we will find some real wisdom in them.

A.     Misuse, Abuse & Addiction: When Christians think of alcoholism, they tend to focus on whether an individual is drinking or not.  Yet, statistically, only about ten percent of alcohol users become addicted.  The rest are people who drink occasionally, seemingly without any negative impact on their lives.  Certainly some drinkers do experience serious harm to themselves and others.  But misuse and abuse of alcohol is not the same as the therapeutic condition known as alcoholism. What separates the alcoholic from the alcohol abuser is loss of control.  This means that once an addict begins drinking, he has absolutely no ability to control how much he will drink or for how long he will keep drinking.  This is more than just a bad habit or psychological condition.  The phenomenon of loss of control has its roots in heredity, brain chemistry, and changes in the addict’s physiology that result from alcohol abuse.  This is all accompanied by other negative psychological symptoms such as memory loss, distorted thinking and a preoccupation with drinking.  Worst of all, in order to keep drinking, addicts develop a denial system that enables them to avoid, at all costs, the acceptance of the fact that they have lost control of their drinking.

 B.     Body, Mind & Spirit: There is a simple answer to Jerry Dunn’s apparent contradiction.  While he could honestly praise God for the new birth and a renewed mind and spirit, Jerry recognized that he still lived in a fallen earthly body.  We know that salvation and sanctification deal with the inner, eternal person.  On the other hand, the body (or the flesh as it is called in the Bible) is still part of this fallen world.  Until the Christian receives a new body from the Lord, he or she must contend with all of the habituations and corrupted physiology of the old, unredeemed body.  This applies to all types of temptation and life-dominating sins, especially alcoholism.

 C.     The Power of Words: Some believers have worried that saying one is an alcoholic after years of recovery is a negative confession that may actually give alcohol more power one’s life.  It has just the opposite effect because acknowledging that I am an alcoholic helps me to remember not to drink!  This may seem simple, but in light of the growth of social drinking among evangelical Christians, it’s essential.

By acknowledging that  I am an alcoholic, I know in my heart that as long as I walk this earth, if I want to stay healthy, connected to God, sane and sober, the notion of drinking at all, ever, must remain totally out of the question.  Helping its participants come to this understanding must be the primary aim of every recovery program.  Acceptance is where a fulfilling, sober life actually begins.  It is the direct opposite of denial.

 

For more information see; Theology of Christian Recovery and A Christian Philosophy of Addiction

Introducing Jean & Charles LaCour

Jean and Charles LaCour

For nearly twenty years, the LaCours have dedicated their lives to nurturing, equipping and training Christians to serve the needs of hurting people. Their passion is fueled by a firsthand experience of God’s power which saved them from addiction and destructive lifestyles.

In her search for fulfillment, Jean LaCour was once involved in a hippie lifestyle that eventually left her broken before realizing her need for Christ. Charles’s journey was similar. He forfeited a successful career in South Florida’s hotel industry before he found salvation and recovery.  As they continued together in recovery and grew spiritually, they had a real desire to bring the message of healing they received to others who were in need.

In 1996, they founded the NET Training Institute to meet the training needs of the Florida Network on Addictions – which was established in the 1980’s.  The Institute  was formally incorporated in 1998.  The acronym stands for their first priority; to NURTURE, EQUIP & TRAIN front line workers and others concerned about the ravages caused by addiction.  Their goal is to support Christian workers who are on the front lines of human problems and pain.

Their teaching and curricula integrates solid Christian spiritual perspectives and sound clinical approaches.  It supports students in their continued recovery and personal growth while learning the knowledge, attitudes and skills to help others who suffer.  Their approach is strength based, building on the unique capabilities of the client, the counselor and the recovery coach to promote increased wellness.

Since its inception, the NET Institute has served over 4,000 students, including individuals from India, Egypt, Russia, Finland, Ghana, Africa, Ireland, Central and South America, Pakistan, South Africa, Singapore, Iran, Sri Lanka, Ireland, UK and Bermuda. Their addiction curriculum meets international standards for several professional addiction certification boards thereby providing  foreign students with a truly unique training opportunity.

In 1997, NET Training Institute was among the founding organizations of the International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition (ISAAC).  Charles and Jean have provided support for training conferences and workshops. And they have partnered with member organizations desiring to establish more extensive training programs in their own nations. Dr. Jean LaCour has served at every level of ISAAC leadership, including President.

In 2007, Charles and Jean, along with their colleagues at the NET Institute, collaborated with City Vision University to develop a uniquely Christian online bachelors degree completion program in Addiction Studies. Intended to help workers in the recovery field obtain their undergraduate degrees, it has become the most popular course of study at the university.

Dr. Jean LaCour has led the way in networking with a cadre of faith-based instructors and leaders who worked to develop five diploma programs and over 350 hours of addiction, recovery and ministry curricula. She holds a doctorate in counseling psychology from Cornerstone University. Dr. Jean is both a licensed clinical pastoral counselor and a certified addiction prevention professional. She has served on the federal government’s SMHSA steering committee for its Partners for Recovery Initiative and on the leadership council of the International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition whose members come from over 30 nations.

Charles LaCour  has an extensive background in business, real estate and community service, including service as past president of both the Daytona Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the Daytona Beach Hotel/Motel Association. Charles is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a degree in mathematics and has training from the International Seminary in Central Florida. He is also a graduate of Leadership Daytona and the prestigious Leadership Florida sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Charles holds the Certified Addiction Professional credential in the State of Florida.

For their leadership and commitment, all Christians who work in the field of addiction recovery owe them a debt of gratitude.

 

Emotions and Addiction Recovery – Depression

The unrelenting sadness and hopelessness that characterized my experience with depression is something I will never forget.  In the grips of depression I often felt paralyzed, not possessing the strength to rise from bed or even to open my eyes in the morning. I felt completely alone, unable to make contact with anyone, not even Almighty God. 

I lost interest in life and the things that make life special. I became reclusive and withdrawn, not wanting to be with friends  I alternated between insomnia and exhaustion. I couldn’t concentrate. And always, I felt inexplicably sad. Nothing made me happy.  Most frightening of all, I made intricate preparations for my death.  1

This year, 17 million Americans will suffer from depressive illness.  In 1988 the General Accounting Office estimated that up to half of the homeless suffer from chronic psychiatric disorders. 2   – many also addicted to alcohol and drugs.  While severe forms of psychosis are readily recognized, depressive disorders, which are more subtle, can be overlooked as factors that prevent program participants from moving forward in recovery.

People with a depressive illnesses cannot simply “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, their symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.  Depressive disorders include; major depression, dysthymia (a less severe type of depression), and bipolar disorder, formerly called manic- depression. People with bipolar disorders have alternating cycles of depression and elation (or mania).  In the depressed cycle, they experience many of the symptoms of depression; persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, insomnia, fatigue, thoughts of death or suicide; difficulty concentrating, headaches and digestive disorders.  Symptoms of the manic cycle include; inappropriate elation or irritability, grandiose notions, increased talking, disconnected and racing thoughts, markedly increased energy, poor judgment and inappropriate social behavior.

While often inherited, depressive disorders occur in people with no family history of problems. Genetic, psychological, and environmental factors all contribute to the onset of a depressive disorder.  A serious loss, chronic illness, difficult relationship, financial problem, and unwelcome change in life patterns (like becoming homeless) also trigger depressive episodes.  The root cause of these illnesses is usually physiologial, having too little or too much of certain neuro-chemicals, especially the compound called serotonin.

Specific Suggestions for Helping Residents with Depression

  • Evaluation from a Medical Professional– This is important because certain medications and health problems cause symptoms of depression.
  • Get the Proper Treatment – This usually involves a combination of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.
  • Monitor Medications – Though not habit-forming, antidepressant drugs must be carefully monitored.  People suffering from depressive disorders often forget their medications or stop them taking without consent of a doctor. For bipolar disorder or chronic major depression, medication may have to become part of everyday life.
  • Provide emotional support —  Provide lots of understanding, patience, and encouragement. Be a good listener and remind them that they will feel eventually better. Don’t expect them to take on a lot responsibility or make too many decisions until after the depression has lifted.  Watch for remarks about suicide and report them to their therapists.
  • Engage Them in Constructive Activities – This could include taking walks and participating in activities such as hobbies, sports, and spiritual activities. While they need diversion and company, too many demands can increase their feelings of failure.

People can recover from depressive illnesses, if they get the right help. Here’s how one person describes his own recovery:

I am able to maintain my sanity through prayer, studying the Word, honest sharing with close friends, the support of both a counselor and a pastor, regular exercise, good eating habits, and an antidepressant drug which boosts my serotonin levels. None of these things by themselves was enough, in my case, to create balance in my emotional life. But taken as a package, they have each played a part in the restoration of my sanity and in making me a strong and productive part of the body of Christ. 3

For more information go to:

 

1  Missionary Charlie Lehardy shared his experience with depression in STEPS magazine, quarterly journal of the National Association for Christian Recovery.

2  A Nation in Denial, Alice Baum and Donald Burnes, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 1993

3  STEPS magazine

Much of the information in this article can from “Depression,”  a National Institute of Mental Health publication