Emotions and Addiction Recovery – Index

One of the surest signs that addicts are moving toward recovery is the return of their emotions. Once active use stops, their feelings are allowed to rise to the surface, often for the first time in many, many years. This period can be one of the most exciting – and one of the most dangerous – of early recovery. Without proper support, it is easy to fall back on their drug of choice to bring things ‘back under control.” Additionally, even if they don’t go back to intoxicants, there is also a concern that they might engage in other compulsive activities in order to circumvent the difficult process of returning to emotional health.

With this in mind, I decided to post a series of articles that I originally wrote for Rescue magazine, published by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, which appeared in the September 2000, November 2000, January 2001, and March 2001 issues.

  • Self Awareness- In this first installment, the importance of emotional self-awareness is explored, along with a discussion of the affect of growing up in dysfunctional families on emotional health.
  • Early Recovery- This second installment looks at the early days of recovery from addiction and the emotions addicts experience. The main focus is helping addicts to avoid relapse by constructively dealing with these feelings.
  • Grief – The third installment, entitled “The Role of Grief,” focuses on this particularly difficult emotion and how to help newly recovering addicts to deal with in a constructive manner.
  • Anger – The fourth installment focuses on another difficult emotion, anger, and provides some tips to help newly recovering addicts to successfully handle it.
  • Hope - The residential recovery program’s first goal is to create hope in our clients.  Here are some ways we can accomplish this.
  • Depression – Depressive disorders, which are more subtle, can be overlooked as factors that prevent program participants from moving forward in recovery.

Salute to Brother Wayne White

wayneOn February 28, 2012, I lost one of my best friends, Wayne White, founder and director of Footprints, Inc. of Kansas City, Missouri. Better known as “Brother Wayne,” he started the organization in 2001 and served as director until his passing.  He was a Missouri Certified Substance Abuse Counselor at the highest level, with over eighteen years of experience. The name of his organization came from the devotional poem, “Footprints in the Sand.”

For ten years he operated the Footprints Life Change Station a Christian counseling center located on Troost Avenue, one of the toughest streets in town.  It’s doors were open seven days a week so those struggling with addiction to alcohol and drugs can have a safe place to begin a new life.  The program included one-on-one counseling, spiritual development and recovery classes and therapy groups, plus support groups for both recovering addicts and their family members.

As a Vietnam Veteran, his compassion for his fellow veterans led him to establish the emergency shelter, Heroes Homegate, in 2010. Brother Wayne devoted much time and effort to professionalizing faith-based efforts to reach the hurting and addicted. He was an active participant in several statewide organizations and received a number of awards for his work with Footprints, Inc.  He was also a popular spiritual motivational speaker.

Wayne was a passionate life change agent in the urban community, as well as a pioneer in substance abuse recovery. His dedication and commitment to the healing of people was paramount. Most of all, he was a brother in Christ with whom I shared a nearly twenty year relationship that went back to my earliest days as Director of Education with the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions.  It was my work with the Alcoholics Victorious network that initially brought us together.  He went on to establish several AV support groups in the Kansas City area and throughout the states of Kansas and Missouri.

I have had the privilege of serving as his friend and adviser; as well as as a member of the  Footprints, Inc. board of directors.  Mostly, we walked together through years of joy and pain, praying and sharing with one another at a level well beyond mere acquaintance; but rather as dear friends and brothers in Christ.

In his life time, he went from the mean streets of Newark, NJ to a distinguished career in Corporate America.  But drug addiction finally landed him back on the mean streets – this time in Kansas City.  But, thanks to the miraculous work of God, his life was transformed.  In the end, God lifted him up to the place where he held important positions of leadership and gained deep respect in both the church and the professional recovery communities.

Brother Wayne is a trophy of God’s grace and certain evidence of how He can use a man who has truly yielded his life to Christ.  Hundreds of people who are sober today can credit him as being the instrument God used to bring them to recovery and salvation. A great leader in the community, he will surely be missed.

A Christian Philosophy of Addiction and Recovery

There’s a long standing debate in Christian Counseling circles as to whether addiction is a sin or a disease.  I have addressed this issue in a previous article.  What I want to say here is simply, any rescue mission,  Salvation Army ARC or other Christian organization working with alcoholics and drug addicts must establish an official philosophy of addiction.  This is best done at the level of the board of directors.  How we approach addicts from a philosophical and theological perspective will ultimately guide everything we do. Certainly, it will serve as the framework for our counseling approach.  But it will also influence whom we hire, the curriculum we develop, and the expectations we have for the people in our programs.

For potential use with your program, and to serve as a framework for developing your philosophy, I offer the Philosophy of Addiction and Recovery I developed for New Creation Center, the residential treatment program I led in Atlantic Mine, Michigan for over ten years. Feel free to use as much of it as you wish.

We accept the American Medical Association’s definition of alcoholism:

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.

The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.

We recognize alcohol as a powerful and addictive drug. We further believe that alcoholism has a genetic basis in many individuals. In others, it is the result of repeated heavy drinking, even in the absence of a genetic predisposition.

Concerning the spiritual implications of alcoholism; we believe it has its roots in alienation from God and the violation of conscience. We accept the Biblical definition of “drunkenness” as a sin which prohibits those who practice it from entrance into the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21) Romans 7:21)

We believe that God’s power is able to deliver individuals from the compulsion to drink, and to set them free from the emotional, psychological, social, spiritual, and physical consequences of an alcoholic lifestyle.

Although an individual may be delivered from the compulsion to drink (and is no longer a “drunkard” in the spiritual sense), we recognize that he is still an alcoholic in the therapeutic sense. We believe the continued abuse of alcohol results in changes in the emotions, mind, and body that do not disappear upon an alcoholic’s salvation. On a physiological level, he will always be “sensitized” to alcohol. Total abstinence, therefore, is a must; any use of alcohol can “activate” the chemical mechanisms of addiction leading to compulsive drinking and behavior.

We believe this physical aspect of the disease of alcoholism will remain with the recovering alcoholic until he is glorified and receives his new body from the Lord. With the acknowledgement of this fact, the Christian alcoholic will be all the more diligent to abstain from drinking, recognizing the dire consequences of alcohol use. We further believe that, if he never drinks again, this physical aspect of the illness will have no other actual effect on his life and Christian walk.

We believe that professional counseling and therapy is usually necessary to help individuals to overcome the consequences of alcoholism. Also, we recognize that alcoholism is a “family illness,” and believe that all of the members of the alcoholic’s family need to be a part of the recovery process by receiving specialized help themselves. We accept the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as a reliable and orderly approach to recovery from alcoholism. We also believe that are some very specific scriptural principles that must be applied to such an individual to assist him in a victorious and fruitful Christian walk.

Many of the attitudes, temptations, feelings, and patterns of thought resulting from the alcoholic lifestyle are not immediately removed upon an alcoholic’s spiritual rebirth. We believe these things constitute elements of this “sinful nature,” or “flesh,” that he will struggle with as long as he remains in this world. Therefore, through a process of discipleship, he must “transformed by the renewing of his mind” (Romans 12:2) and must learn to “walk in the Spirit that he might not fulfill the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

See also Theology of Christian Recovery