Thoughts on Addiction and Recovery
Virgil Stokes is a Pastor and Teacher, serving churches since 1980 in Oklahoma, New York, and Arizona. He and his wife, Judy, pioneered Faith Christian Fellowship of Tucson in 2004. Prior to entering ministry Virgil worked as a Registered Nurse in the field of mental health and addictions treatment. A recovering addict himself, Virgil has written and spoken extensively on Christian recovery. He is the author of several books, and is the founder of Faith Ministry Training Institute, a training program empowering local pastors to equip ministers in their own churches. Pastor Virgil is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Rhema Bible Training Center. His passion is getting people out of the pews and into the harvest.
The following are two writings recently sent out by Pastor Virgil Stokes (Tucson, AZ).
Funny how thoughts come back to you. I remember sitting at a bar back in 1975. I was having a boozy conversation with another inebriate. For some reason, I remember proudly declaring, “I’m an alcoholic!” then laughing uproariously while ordering another drink. I was a drunk and I knew it, but it was 4 more years before I did anything useful about the problem. In the meantime, I lost my job, ruined any number of relationships, and deteriorated physically.
At each crisis moment I instituted many plans to cure myself: I went to detox, I exercised more, I changed my diet, I went to counselors galore. I even went to church! I did everything I could think of to cure my own misery. The problem, you see, is the number of “I’s” in this paragraph. Even though I admitted my problem, I had to come to the place of hopelessness—I couldn’t cure me.
This is true for any difficulty that consistently plagues me, be it bad habits, bad attitudes, or bad company. The things that keep me from living free and happy are so entrenched that I can’t overcome them on my own. In order to get help, I must go on from admission of the problem to two more milestones:
- Desperation: As long as there is some hope that you can help yourself, you are not likely to reach out for God with complete abandon. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you ever tried to control this problem yourself? What was the outcome?
- Have you ever had prayer, counseling, or treatment for this problem?
- What has hindered your success?
- Do you believe you can quit on your own? If so, what is stopping you?
- Are you convinced that you can’t do this alone? If so, maybe you are ready!
- Willingness: Your desire for help must be willing to do whatever is necessary. If there is any non-sinful behavior you are loath to undertake, then you are not yet willing.
- Willingness usually comes from pain. Only you can decide when you have had enough.
- Are you willing to apply spiritual means to solve your problem?
- Are you willing to ask for help from other people?
- Are you willing to change the way you think about life?
- If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then you are not ready for the rest of the process. You will have to suffer some more. Please come back when you are willing.
Somebody Said: Most people don’t have that willingness to break bad habits. They have a lot of excuses and they talk like victims. Carlos Santana
Scripture Reading: Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 NLT).
If you have seen a problem, and you are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” then take a step of some kind. Make a phone call, respond to an email, go to church…do something! Willingness costs too much to squander it.
If you pay attention at all, you have heard something about the epidemic levels of drug addiction and death by overdose in our nation. The CDC says that in the U.S. about 80 people die every day from opiate overdose alone. That is a remarkable number. And it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. Alcohol, meth, hallucinogens, etc. are destroying lives even faster. For a pastor, the numbers have faces. I see people whom I love relapse. Some go to jail, some to detox, some to their graves. I see wives and mothers and children weeping and worrying and feeling guilty. Simply put, I hate addiction.
Over the years we have spent a good deal of time and effort in trying to help addicts get and stay clean. One tool we use is called “7 Principles of Recovery.” This is a discipleship program for addicts (or anyone, actually) who want to stay free. These principles are found in some form in all effective programs. Here are the 7 principles we use:
- Deflation: Admission – Desperation – Willingness
- Admission: Destruction of the alibi system, a breakdown of denial, and an admission of the need for help.
- Desperation: The end of hope in self-effort and ability.
- Willingness: The motivation to take difficult action that springs from the recognition that there are no alternatives or compromises.
- Faith in God: Dependence on God, not self. A commitment to pursue a spiritual way of life.
- Accountability: Using other people as an external control while internal controls are established.
- Self-examination: Developing the habit of questioning our own motives and thinking patterns, then allowing God to correct areas found lacking.
- Restitution and restoration: Taking positive steps to right wrongs and restore relationships with people. Making repentance a spiritual reality, not a mental exercise.
- Commitment to ongoing spiritual growth. A defined commitment to specific activities, including church involvement, which enhance and encourage spiritual development. Recovery is a process, not an event.
- Service to others. You cannot keep that which you do not give away.
Somebody Said: “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” Carl Jung
Scripture Reading: Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32 NKJV).
I firmly believe these principles will help us all to live free indeed. We have materials for small groups, online courses in ministering to addictions, and books with biblical information on the subject. If you have reason to be interested in how to live free, visit our website at www.fcftucson.org, call our office at 520-792-3238, or check out our classes on www.fmtionline.com.