Examining 9 Definitions of Addiction

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step One: ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

Of the things that people love to debate, “What is an addiction? Is it disease or a choice? Does it reveal a character deficit or a pitiable condition?” is likely near the top of the list; at least in counseling circles. If we frame the question in this binary, either-or fashion, we are unlikely to reach a fruitful conclusion.

Hopefully, you can already pick up that this study will draw some from both schools of thought. Every addict makes choices and addiction radically changes how we choose. The path out of addiction is lined with the stepping stones of meaningful choices and we are all predisposed (by our fallen, sinful nature) to resist these choices.

Caution: If you are struggling with an active addiction, do not get bogged down in this section. This material will make more sense in retrospect with a bit more sobriety under your belt. But the debates surrounding this subject are too prevalent to leave unaddressed until later.

Nine definitions of addiction are provided below from the resources frequently referenced in this study. Each is believed to offer a valuable perspective on the experience of addiction. This is not the time to try to write the perfect definition of addiction or deconstruct the philosophical assumptions behind each.

  1. “Addiction is bondage to the rule of a substance, activity, or state of mind, which then becomes the center of life, defending itself from the truth so that even bad consequences don’t bring repentance, and leading to further estrangement from God (p. 35).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
  2. “The critical dimensions for an addiction are (1) the development of a solidly established, problematic pattern of an appetitive – that is, pleasurably reinforcing—behavior, (2) the presence of physiological and psychological components of the behavior pattern that create dependence, and (3) the interaction of these components in the life of the individual that make behavior resistant to change (p. 4).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change
  3. “Addiction is any compulsive, habitual behavior that limits the freedom of human desire (p. 24)… When we can see our freedom impaired, we should consider the presence of addiction (p. 33).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace
  4. “Addiction is a pathological love and trust relationship with an object or event (p. 10).” Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality
  5. “Addiction is an impulse-control disorder (p. 113).” Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality
  6. “The language of sin that A.A. rejected was not the orthodox doctrine of sin as propounded by thinkers like Augustine. Rather, A.A. rejected a certain understanding of sin [Pelagianism] that had long been found theologically wanting. The church proclaims that sin is not fundamentally about human acts but about the human situation. The acts that we call sins are derivative of a deeper malaise called sin (p. 129).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice
  7. “They become conscious of the fact that they have been merely fighting the symptoms of some deep-seated malady, and that they are confronted, not merely with the problem of sins, that is, of separate sinful deeds, but with the much greater and deeper problem of sin, of an evil that is inherent in human nature (p. 227, emphasis added)… Sin does not reside in any one faculty of the soul, but in the heart, which in Scriptural psychology is the central organ of the soul, out of which are the issues of life.  And from this center its influence and operations spread to the intellect, the will, the affections, in short, to the entire man, including his body (p. 233).” Louis Berkhoff in Systematic Theology
  8. “The thematic has thus come full circle. What was originally understood as the universal condition of sin, then reduced to the pathology of a particular group, and then expanded into a proliferation of addictive diagnoses has simply become another name for a universal human condition (p. 110).” Linda Mercandante in Victims and Sinners
  9. Addiction is present whenever continued self-destructive behavior seems easier and more appealing than healthy living.

What are the most important take-aways for you from these definitions?

What important misconceptions are challenged in these definitions?

That is enough reflection on this question for now. Continue with the rest of the study.

Overcoming Addiction:
Date: Saturday September 24, 2016
Time: 4:00 to 7:00 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
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10 Ways to Lie About Addiction

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step One: ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

If this entire journey could be reduced to a single step, it would be this – be honest. Honesty may be more difficult than sobriety. At the risk of being offensive, you can’t be a good addict without being a good liar. You won’t get far enough into the process if you can’t cover your tracks. Once you’re in the addiction, the lies you’ve told become the bars in your personal prison. Honesty is the number one “technique” to emancipate yourself from addiction.

The most dangerous lies are the ones you actually believe. The first person with whom you need to be honest is yourself. When you believe your own lies they become more convincing to everyone else and the lies cripple the motivation necessary to fuel the process of change.

“When lies become your native language, you are in trouble (p. 33)… The more lies you’ve told… the more lies you believe (p. 36).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

“Self-deception is the red flag here, signaling a discrepancy between what the addicted person had hoped addiction could provide and what addiction does in fact provide (p. 175).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

Memorize this statement – you will never be more free than you are honest.

“The process of renewal starts with truth, the most healing of all principles (p. 65).” Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality

Read Numbers 32:23, Proverbs 15:3, Job 34:21, Luke 8:17, and Hebrews 4:13. Chances are you have already experienced the truth of these verses. We lie because we believe we can contain and control the truth; by the stories we tell and the information we do or don’t give. We believe we are larger than the truth rather than believing that truth is the reality in which we live. We can no more control truth than we can control the wind. As you read this section on lying, remind yourself regularly that honesty is not optional, only the timing and willfulness of honesty can be chosen. Truth will be known. The only question is whether your character will grow as you disclose it or whether you will live in fear and darkness until light invades your life against your will and to your shame. Pause and pray again for the courage to be honest, because truth-speaking and sobriety are also two sides of the same coin.

In many ways, this section may be the hardest part of this entire journey for you. You are going to be asked to be honest about all the ways you’ve been dishonest. It will be hard for at least two reasons. First, it will require you to disarm the primary mechanism of protection for your addiction. Second, it will require you to be honest with yourself about how you’ve been dishonest; not just what you’ve misrepresented.

With that in mind, stop and pray before you begin this section. Ask God to give you the courage to be honest. Ask God to show you the emptiness of living with lies. Ask God to give you a desire for freedom more than self-protection.

Fragmentation: One helpful way to think of deception within addiction is fragmentation; telling parts (i.e., fragments) of your story as if they were the whole story and expecting others to respond accordingly.

This is what we do when we ask a friend for financial help, they respond that we need to address our addiction, and we respond, “I thought you were my friend and that I should ask my friends for help when I face hard times. I guess I was wrong.” We take two fragments (i.e., friendship and hardship) and expect our friend to respond as if this were the whole story. When they point to other pieces of the plate/story (i.e., the number of times we’ve borrowed money and not repaid before) we get offended.

As you read through this material on deception and addiction, begin to notice how many forms of deception (i.e., omitted, facts, false emotions, minimizing, blame-shifting, etc…) are in this brief example.

1. Omitted Facts

The story you’re telling is true and there are not false statements in it. However, the most relevant information for maintaining sobriety is omitted. Example – a “I went to the store and picked up a few things. Here’s the milk you said we needed… (but no mention of the 6 pack you bought on a separate receipt using cash).”

As a rule, if there is a question you hope is not asked, then you should voluntarily disclose the answer. People should not have to ask the right question to get the needed information to help you. That is the equivalent of a patient lying to their doctor about “where it hurts” because he didn’t ask, “Are you having chest pains?”

How do you lie by “omitted facts” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

2. False Facts

This is a step beyond omitting facts. Now the story may be true but elements of the story are false. Example – “I got to talk to my sponsor today and he said he was really encouraged by how things were going… (actually, the sponsored called because he was concerned about the lack of recent contact).”

If anything you say is false, then everything you’ve said is self-destructive. We never lie to cover up the things that make our life better. We only lie when what we’ve done is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves.

How do you lie by “false facts” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

3. False Emotion

Now you have to play the part. If your lies are true, then they would require certain emotions. If you are going to remain “free,” then you must become an actor (the role itself implies lying when the “audience” does not know it’s watching a “show”).

Violating this principle is the best way to teach people to mistrust you. When people can tell that not only our words but also our emotions are misleading them, they realize they’ve lost any means to trust anything we report which they cannot directly observe happening.

How do you lie by “false emotions” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

4. False Story

False facts produce false emotions. Together they require a false story. Your lies are starting to create their own world in which they could be true. You are forced to try to live between these two worlds; reality won’t bend and your lies can’t break without you being found out. You and those that know you (those that are left anyway) are forced to live stretched between these two worlds.

Telling the truth now means more that correcting facts. Initially this form of lying feels the most powerful, because you’re playing a God-like role. But acknowledging this type of lying is the most shameful, because we realize how much we have manipulated everyone around us.

How do you lie by “false story” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

5. Minimizing

Maybe you are “smart enough” not to take the false route. Everyone can see how that would inevitably blow up in your face. The “better” route is to not change the facts but the significance of those facts. Minimizing is one of the more popular methods of lying (to others and to yourself).

As a rule, you should not “weigh” any addictive behavior until it has been fully disclosed to someone acquainted with your struggle. The significance of “two beers” is different when you’re in addiction than when you haven’t been. You should be more concerned about any setback until someone who knows you, your struggle, and is committed to your sobriety tells you to be less concerned.

Avoid language that “sizes” a concern as small: slip, mishap, setback, mistake, etc…

How do you lie by “minimizing” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

What vocabulary represents your most prevalent phrases of minimization?

6. Blame-Shifting

Maybe you accept the facts and admit how serious the problem is, but you lie by shifting the responsibility. It’s true and it’s bad, but it’s not my fault. Some of the favorite targets for blame-shifting are: your spouse, your friends, your history, your personality, your emotions, or “it just happened.” Engaging your addictive behavior is always a choice. Focusing on anything other than your choice as the cause of re-engagement puts sobriety in jeopardy.

As a rule, explanation comes after ownership. If you are trying to explain why something happened or remedy the influences that contributed to the setback before fully owning your choices, you are blame-shifting. How do you lie by “blame-shifting” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

Who or what are your favorite targets for blame-shifting?

7. “I Don’t Know”

It is legal to “plead the fifth” in a court room, but it is deceitful to do so in life. Laziness in response is not an exception clause for omitting important information. “I don’t know” is often used as a way to buy time while preparing to do a “better” job at one of the other forms of lying. “I don’t know” is also used to force the questioner to nag or badger so their action can become the focal point of the conversation.

If you know the answer but are not proud of it, share it any way. If you are tempted to blame-shift, be honest about it – “Right now I’m having a hard time answering your question because I can tell I’m wanting to blame others.” If you are genuinely uncertain, allow the person to hear how far you can identify an answer – “I know this won’t completely answer what you’ve asked, but here is how far I can trace my motives or explain my actions…”

How do you lie by “I don’t know” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

8. Late Truth

Post-discovery confession is not honesty. But often we want points for admitting what people already know. When we add to “late truth” the “false emotion” of being offended that “our best is not good enough” or “I’ll never be able to please you” we only compound the situation.

Expecting trust to be built based on merely acknowledging truth that had already been discovered is manipulative. It is like expecting to be paid for someone else’s work. Remember, you only “earn” trust for truth that you voluntarily contribute to the relationship.

How do you lie by “late truth” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

9. Changing Definitions

Altering the definition of words is one of the most prevalent tactics of manipulation. How many times has someone said, “I thought you were my friend?” as a way to assuage a situation where their sin was being put on the spot? Here “friend” is being defined as “someone who wouldn’t give me a hard time about offending them or living in a self-destructive manner?” Forgiveness and trust are other frequently mis-defined words during manipulative-addictive conversations.

Be very cautious when you are hinging your defense or a request on an emotionally-loaded word like friend, forgiveness, or trust. There is a strong probability you are using these words, intentionally or not, in a manipulative manner.

How do you lie by “changing definitions” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

10. Exaggeration

This is deception by magnification. Unlike other forms of lying which seek to shrink or hide the truth, exaggeration makes truth larger than it really is. Truth moves from being an enemy to being a weapon; when it should always be a friend (even when it hurts; Proverbs 27:6). Example – use of words like: always, never, only, etc…

Exaggeration places the emphasis on your perspective or experience more than truth. Exaggeration is an attempt to force people to live in your world rather than join them in the real world. Addiction creates a proclivity for all-or-nothing thinking. Living between minimizing and exaggerating is both the essence of honesty and the remedy for one of addiction’s primary impacts on your thinking processes.

How do you lie by “exaggeration” and what are the most recent or significant examples?

“In addiction, as in all of life, we overcomplicate things in order to avoid facing the truth (p. 179).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

5 Levels of Motivation for Overcoming Addiction

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step One: ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a couple dozen times,” captures well the pattern of trying to change any unwanted but enjoyable behavior. We want to, but we don’t. We’re motivated, but we’re not. We think we should, but wish people would just leave us alone. This mindset is called “ambivalence” – feeling two contradictory emotions about the same thing. Even if we didn’t know what ambivalence was, we’re good at it.

Read James 1:5-8. This is often a guilt passage. We read it and think, “If it applies to me, I should freak out because it sounds really bad.” Start with verse five and realize the passage begins with presenting God as generous. God is not upset about supplying what we need in our double-minded moments. This will help you not doubt that there is hope for your fickle desire to change (v. 6). God is a gentleman. He won’t change us against our will (v. 7). But God is also loving and warns us against the dangers of our double-minded tendency. At this stage in your journey, you’re just getting comfortable admitting what God already knows. There is hope because God is not surprised even if we are surprised when we admit how bad things have gotten. Hope begins where you are and God will always join you there.

You need to name this tendency early in your journey or this attempt will merely be the latest edition of your good intentions. Don’t feel ashamed of your conflicted motives. God already knows and he still wants to help. The only person you can lie to is yourself and those who love you. In this section, you will look at five levels of motivation from Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change (bold text only). In the parentheses, we’ll map out how these correlate with the nine step journey of this study.

1. Pre-Contemplation (before you started):

This is the stage when you don’t anticipate making any changes in the foreseeable future because you don’t think they are needed. You are probably annoyed and offended if someone suggests that you change. “Change” as a concept is either not on your radar or is met with resistance instead of consideration.

2. Contemplation (Step 1):

Now you are beginning to believe that change might be beneficial and are wondering what the process might look like. You are trying to decide if change is “possible,” and, if so, if it’s “worth it.” You want to know what would be required and whether these sacrifices would produce a more satisfying life than continuing to neglect them.

3. Preparation (Steps 2-4):

In this phase your consideration becomes more concrete. You gather the information necessary to enact an effective and sustainable plan. You assess obstacles; both logistical (external) and motivational (internal). You begin to enlist people to come alongside of you for the journey.

4. Action (Steps 5-7):

At this point plans come to life; ideas become choices. Progress is made and setbacks are navigated. There are successes and failures, but the trajectory of your journey is forward. Techniques become habits and habits become a lifestyle. The roles once filled by your addiction are now filled with healthier and more satisfying ways of managing life.

5. Maintenance (Steps 8-9):

A new lifestyle is embraced. Increasingly your emotions and thought patterns conform to this new lifestyle. Your addiction is no longer your “reward or escape of choice” so you are enjoying life. At this stage you begin the work of restoring relationships and pursuing interests that were damaged or made impossible by the addiction.

Exercise: In the margin beside these five levels of motivation write “today” beside where your motivation is now. Write significant dates or events in the margin that came to mind when you read each description. Chances are this is not your first attempt at this journey. Recognizing where you will begin to cover new terrain is important. Begin now realizing that every relapse is an opportunity to learn. There is no shame in falling; only quitting.

If you have multiple substances or behaviors with which you have an addictive struggle, you may not be in the same place –motivationally speaking – with each one of them. Be honest about that so you can weigh the implications of tackling your addictions one at a time versus all at once.

In the chart below list the substances and activities with which you might have an addictive struggle in the left hand column. Then for each one place an “x” under the stage of change that best represent where you are.

  • If you doubt it is a problem, that would be “pre-contemplation.”
  • If you’re willing to consider whether this item represents an addiction, that is “contemplation.”
  • If you’re committed to change and are actively creating a plan, that is “preparation.”
  • If you are actively working on recovery in this area, that is “action.”
  • If you are working to preserve more than 6 months of sobriety in this area, that is “maintenance.”
Substance / Activity Pre-Contemplation Contemplation Preparation Action Maintenance

 

“Motivation for change occurs when people perceive a discrepancy between where they are and where they want to be (p. 8).” William Miller, et al in Motivational Enhancement Therapy Manual

Overcoming Addiction:
Date: Saturday September 24, 2016
Time: 4:00 to 7:00 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

On-Line Evaluation for Substance Abuse & Addiction

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step One: ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

Click Here to Link to the On-Line, Self-Score Evaluation

A PDF version of the evaluation can be found here.

The material for this evaluation is arranged into three categories, which are commonly recognized in addiction research; although different counselors use different vocabulary. Understanding these categories will help you utilize what you learn from this evaluation.

Stage of Addiction Common Addiction Language Craig Nakken Language inThe Addictive Personality Ed Welch Language inAddictions: A Banquet in the Grave
Stage One Use Internal Change Sin
Stage Two Abuse Lifestyle Change Slavery
Stage Three Dependence Life Breakdown Tragedy

Under each stage the following characteristics of addiction are assessed.

  • Use / Internal Change / Sin
    • Violating Wisdom Principles
    • Violating Moral Precepts
    • Fading Conscience and Loss of Willpower
  • Abuse / Lifestyle Change / Slavery
    • Lifestyle Adapting to Addiction
    • Tolerance
    • Withdrawal
    • Psychological Dependence /Cravings
  • Dependence / Life Breakdown / Tragedy
    • Relational and Professional Damage
    • Health Damage
    • Tragic Life Consequences

 

How to Conduct an Effective Intervention

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an appendix to the seminar. To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

If you are reading this, you are hurting because someone you love is destroying their life with drugs and alcohol. You likely feel angry that they cannot see what they are doing to themselves and others. You feel frustrated that previous conversations have not been heard. Part of you wants to give up and part of you refuses to do so. Often we come to the idea of conducting an intervention as a “last ditch effort” to get through to someone that we love.

This appendix is meant to help you take this step strategically rather than desperately.

Sometimes we are prone to think that interventions are a modern invention, but intentional, tough love conversations in the context of people who know the spiraling individual best have always been part of God’s design.

“Curiously, intervention is hailed as one of the most significant advances in drug treatment. Yet church discipline is the original and intervention the imitator (p. 96).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

If you read Matthew 18:15-20, the primary biblical passage for outlining the process of church discipline, you see an intentional order: personal conversation, small group conversation, and large group conversation. This raises an important question as you consider conducting an intervention: have you had a direct personal conversation that addresses your concerns?

A group intervention should not be the first attempt to address an addiction. We need to model the courage it will take to acknowledge an addiction in the way we address the addiction. We need to have the courage to say, “I am concerned about you and I can’t be your friend and be silent. I think you have a problem with [substance]. Can we talk about it?”

Nobody with a substance abuse problem ever wants to hear the phrase, “You have a problem.” In fact, most addicts don’t think they have a problem at all. Those who do are apt to deny it – strongly. But the reality is that hearing a friend or loved one utter those four simple words may save someone’s life.

A group intervention is most effective when it’s the culmination and echo of these loving, personal interventions. With that said, let’s look at how to conduct an effective group intervention in three phases.

Phase One: Before the Intervention

An effective intervention is not a spontaneous event. It requires planning and preparation. Each of the factors below is an important part of preparing for an effective intervention.

  • Pray: What you desire as the outcome for the intervention is more than you are able to accomplish even if you do everything in your power as well as you possibly can. You can’t force your friend’s eyes open to the destructiveness of their choices. You want humility to replace defensiveness. You want acknowledgement to replace denial. Those are not things we can manufacture. Those are realities only God can create in the heart of your friend.

When we fail to recognize this we either become controlling or codependent; we either try to force change or blame ourselves if our friend doesn’t begin to pursue recovery. In this sense, we need to pray (protecting our own heart) as much as our friend needs to be prayed for (that God would soften their heart).

  • Decide Who: Three questions should determine who participates in the intervention. An ideal number for an intervention is 5-10 people. Preferably these people would represent different spheres of the individual’s life (i.e., family, work, church, friends, etc…).
    • Who has the quality of relationship to allow their voice will be heard? It should be obvious why each person present has a vested interest in the individual acknowledging their addiction.
    • Who has the concrete information that is most irrefutable? More will be said on being concrete in a latter point.
    • Who has sufficient self-control so that their presence will not be a distraction? These meetings are often emotionally intense; immature or short-tempered members of the intervention team can easily become a distraction from the intent of the meeting.
  • Decide When and Where: There is no such thing as a perfect moment, however, giving thought to when and where an intervention takes place can increase the meeting’s opportunity to be successful. An intervention should not occur in a public place (i.e., restaurant, work office, etc…). Embarrassment would distract from the content of the meeting.

Most often interventions are staged events; meaning the individual being confronted is unaware the meeting will occur. Usually this involves having the intervention team present at the individual’s home or apartment at a time when he/she will be predictably arriving (i.e., after work or class).

  • Decide How: An intervention should not be a long meeting; its effectiveness is not found in the abundance or words. The meeting needs to stay on message; unless you prepare and rehearse for the meeting, that is unlikely to occur. It is recommended that you have a written agenda for the meeting. It should be simple enough that those on the intervention team don’t need to have it in their hand. A sample meeting plan might look like this:

Note: Each person who speaks should begin by expressing their love for the individual and saying that their goal is to see them restored to health; not to punish or shame them. If needed, the leader may call on each person when it is that person’s turn to speak.

    • Leader: Express love for the person, explain reason for meeting, ask for cooperation with the process of the meeting
      • Reason for the meeting: We believe you have a problem and cannot in good conscience remain silent.
      • Process for the meeting: We want you to hear us and, after that, we’re committed to hearing you.
    • Participant One: Express love for the person and sites most concrete examples of risk taking behaviors (i.e., drinking and driving, having to pay back threatening drug dealer, etc…)
    • Participant Two: Express love for the person and sites most concrete examples of health deterioration (i.e., see chapter two material)
    • Participant Three: Express love for the person and sites most concrete examples of neglecting relationships that the individual is known to value (i.e., lack of time with children, neglecting friends, etc…)
    • Participant Four: Express love for the person and sites most concrete examples of financial deterioration (i.e., borrowing money, being behind on bills, etc…)
    • Participant Five: Express love for the person and sites most concrete examples of neglecting school or work (i.e., negative performance evaluations, examples of being fired, dropping grades, etc…)
      • [Each person present should speak to an aspect of how the individual’s addiction is destroying their quality of life. Only the most irrefutable areas of life and examples should be used.]
    • Leader: In light of these concerns and our love for you, we believe you need to seek help for your addiction. We have several options we believe are viable and effective. We are asking that you consider these.
    • Listen: We know what we’ve said cannot be easy to hear, but we want to know what you think and what you think would be wise for you to do in light of the concerns we’ve raised.
    • [If the intervention is rejected, meaning the individual is unwilling to acknowledge the addiction and seek help, then the meeting would conclude with a list of consequences the group is willing to mutually enforce for the individual’s good.]
    • [If the intervention is embraced, then the group becomes a support network for the individual as he/she begins to enact the steps agreed upon and work on a more comprehensive plan of recovery.]
  • Be Concrete: Every example you use should be factual and irrefutable. Expect that the weakest example you verbalize in the intervention will be the focal point for the individual’s response. Do not provide a weak example that could be used to discredit the other concerns. Step two of this material will help you think through the most concrete examples.

 “If you create a rule about something that you can’t monitor, you are creating opportunities for more lies and deception (p. 125).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

  • Repent Personally: It is easy for the level of frustration and hurt amongst the intervention team to overpower their sense of empathy. When this happens, the intervention will feel harsh and unloving. Amongst each other, the intervention team should spend some time acknowledging their personal need for the same grace that they want their friend to embrace.

This exercise generates a better appreciation for the degree of vulnerability that the group is asking their friend to display. While this exercise is unlikely to change the content of what is shared or asked (nor should it), it is very likely to impact the tone of the meeting and increase the tangibility of the group’s love for the person being confronted.

  • Rehearse: If the time from initiating the meeting to listening is going to be less than 30 minutes (which is ideal), then each person will need to think through what they are going to say and practice saying it. Just like it takes longer to write a short e-mail than a long one, it takes a bit of work to concisely say important things.

As the intervention team rehearses the meeting, several questions need to be asked about each segment of the meeting:

    • Is it clear that love for the individual is more important than the pain they’ve caused or damage they’ve done?
    • Are any examples used that sound weak or could be easily debunked?
    • Is language used that begins to make excuses for or explains away the addictive behavior?

At the end of rehearsing the meeting, it is wise to role play how the individual might respond, so that the group can think through how to end the meeting in each instance. Possible resp0nses to prepare for would include:

    • Active Resistance: “You’re all wrong. I don’t have a problem.”
    • Being Personally Offended: “I can’t believe you would all team up and attack me this way.”
    • Debating Details: “I can explain why every example you’ve given isn’t as bad as you say.”
    • Changing Whose on Trial: “How can you say this about me when you [blank]?”
    • Passive Compliance: “You’ve given me some things I need to think about and I will.”
    • Getting Lost in Sorrow: “[Sobbing] I can’t believe I’ve as bad as you say. I’m a horrible person/friend.”
    • Active Repentance: “I do have a problem. I need to address it. [Blank] option seems like the best start.”
    • Other: You know your friend. What other responses seem likely? _________________________________
  • Research Options: The ultimate goal of an intervention is not acknowledgement but action; acknowledgement is merely a means to an end. The team needs to have tangible, actionable follow up steps that begin the process of recovery available to engage immediately following the meeting.
    • If the substance abused and degree of abuse warrant detox, then the intervention team needs to know the local detox centers and entry process. This can be determined by calling the local hospitals.
    • Knowing the days and times of local recovery group meetings or ministries. Timing the intervention to occur just before one of these meetings would be ideal.
    • Knowing the intake process for viable residential programs if this is a potential good fit for your friend.
    • Having a list of local counselors who specialize in addiction assessment and counseling. If this seems like it is likely to be the most agreeable next step, ask the counselor if you can scholarship a session immediately following the intervention.
      • Note: The individual would have to make the appointment and complete the necessary paperwork. But having a scheduled, paid-for assessment session already in place can help remove barriers from taking immediate action.
    • Having a list of individuals who are willing to serve the role of accountability friends and a schedule for when these meetings could occur.

Remember, don’t offer options that aren’t a good fit. The type of resources in your community or the type of addiction your friend struggles with may make some of these recommendations a bad fit. Providing bad follow up options is a good way to undermine an otherwise well-run intervention.

You’ll notice an effective intervention is preceded by many phone calls and, potentially, some financial investment. It is worth it. In an intervention, you are likely risking your last remaining social capital. The work leading into an intervention helps make sure this risk is a good investment.

From this research you will be able to use names when referencing options (i.e., “When we spoke to Dr. Smith at the detox center, she said… And counselor Davis indicated his initial assessment helps individuals determine….”). Being able to talk this concretely helps make everything you say seem more immediately actionable and reasonable.

Phase Two: During the Intervention

Once you get to the intervention, the only surprises should be whether your friend shows up and how he/she responds at the end. If you prepare well, everything in the middle should be well established. Here are some suggestions for the intervention.

  • Remember the Objective: Your goal is to prompt your loved one to engage the recovery process. When you begin to think your goal is to “save your loved one” the dynamics of the meeting will become much more emotionally intense. Review the meeting objective with the intervention team prior to the meeting.
  • Never Meet Resistance Head On: If the intervention becomes an argument or debate, you lose; the likelihood your friend will begin to engage recovery will diminish significantly. The following points are meant to help you “roll with resistance” that is likely in the intervention without delving into debate or conceding to your friend’s perspective.
    • Stay emotionally even keeled. When you display anger or exasperation you are becoming a distraction to your point. Your friend can focus on how your talking instead of what you’re saying. Being at peace with the idea that you can’t change anyone and that your responsibility is to speak the truth in love (i.e., the most receivable manner under the circumstances) will help you remain even keeled.
    • Evidence good listening. At the beginning of the meeting you said you would listen. So, listen. If your friend begins to talk for a long time and doesn’t want to be interrupted, ask if you can take notes because what they’re saying is important to you. Begin what you say, when it’s your turn to speak, with a summary of what they’ve said; not a rebuttal. Represent the tone and content of their words fairly when you summarize.
    • Raise discrepancies as friendly questions. After you summarize, there will doubtless be discrepancies in what they’ve said. It is okay to point these out. Be sure you begin with the most central and solid examples. Be sure you raise the discrepancy with respect. You might say, “You say you want to be a good husband and father, but your wife says you are usually home for less than an hour before you start drinking each evening. How does that fit with your desire to have a strong family?” or, “You say your career is important to you, but your last three performance reviews have marked you down for inability to focus at work because of sleepiness and excessive sick days when you’re hung over. We have a hard time understanding how your lifestyle is fitting with your life goals.” After a statement like this, listen again.

“If there is going to be a battle, you want it to be between the person and God, not between the person and yourself (p. 94)… If love rather than anger is clearly expressed during the intervention, addicts typically appreciate what was done after they are sober (p. 110).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

    • Ask how they would like the concern raised. If raising discrepancies meets resistance, don’t meet that resistance head on either. You might say something like this, “We know these things are hard to hear. We love you too much to be silent. Can you tell us how to raise these concerns in a way that is more receivable? We have tried as individuals but we didn’t feel heard. We are open to anything that is truly for your good.” Then, listen.Respect their right to choose. The choice of your friend will be the end of the meeting; for better or worse. Either the meeting will end with your friend pursuing recovery, or the meeting will end with your friend rejecting the concerns raised. The team needs to be prepared for either outcomes and should resist looping the meeting back to the beginning when the desired outcome is not met. If your friend chooses to dismiss the concerns raised, then the next point becomes relevant.
  • Provide Consequences: Consequences are not the same as punishments. Punishments seek to inflict unpleasant experiences to coerce or motivate change. Consequences, in this context, are a way for those near an addict to opt out of supporting or enabling the addictive lifestyle.

“Families often give enough financial and personal support for the Precontemplator to avoid the harshest of consequences of their addiction. In effect, these families neutralize the educational effects of negative consequences (p. 123).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

            Consequences might include:

    • Cutting off or restricting access to the money necessary to support the addiction
    • Reporting an instance of suspected DUI activity to law enforcement
    • Having a set time at which doors will be locked and access to the home will be unavailable until the morning
    • Limiting access to children to supervised times when sobriety can be verified
      • Note: this step would require some legal intervention to be enforceable if they are uncooperative
    • Asking them to move out of the home and force them to bear the responsibilities of living independently
    • Refusing to rescue the individual from the consequences (direct or indirect) related to their addictive lifestyle

Phase Three: After the Intervention

The most important post-intervention note is to follow through on whatever is decided at the intervention. If your friend is cooperative, follow through on the support roles you indicated you would play. If your friend is uncooperative, follow through on the consequences you indicated you would enforce.

In many ways this is the hardest part of the intervention. This difficulty is why the group intervention is good for each member of the intervention team. The group provides accountability for each member of the group; whether it is to fulfill supportive roles or to avoid lightening consequences. When there is cooperation, the group also allows the supportive roles to be divided amongst more people so that the level of support can be sustained over an extended period of time, because recovery is usually an extended process.

If you or one of the intervention team members struggle to consistently follow through on the outcomes arrived at in the intervention (support in recovery or consequences for resisting recovery), then it is recommended you utilize the resource at www.bradhambrick.com/codependency to enhance the aftercare aspect of the intervention.

Overcoming Addiction:
Date: Saturday September 24, 2016
Time: 4:00 to 7:00 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

Reflecting on Ezra 3 and Varying Perspective on Racial Justice

Recently I was reading in Ezra 3 where the children of Israel return to Jerusalem after exile in Babylon. In the early stages of restoring the temple, which involved laying the foundation, there was a starkly different reaction among God’s people to this event – some wailing, others rejoicing.

“But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” Ezra 3:12-13

The question is, “Who was right? Which set of emotions best represented God’s heart for this moment? Was it the old priests who saw how far short the new temple would be from God’s original design and how much work was left to be done? Or, was it the younger generation who saw this as a sign of God’s faithfulness and looked forward to a better life than the captivity into which they were born?” Should they have been mourning or rejoicing?

The answer is, “Yes.” There is nothing in the passage that would indicate to us that God preferred one emotional response to the other. This is an occasion when competing emotional responses are equally legitimate before God and needed to represent God’s heart for the moment.

This led me to reflect on recent discussions about racial equality. In this area, we also have conflicting emotional responses.

  • Some people are upset about how far we have to go.
  • Other people are excited about how far we’ve come.

The question again is, “Who is right? Which set of emotions best represents God’s heart for this moment? Is it those who are broken-hearted over remaining / residual distortions of justice and are unable to rest until we are significantly closer to God’s design? Or, is it those who find joy and reason for hope in the progress that has been made?”

The answer again is, “Yes.” I believe that God’s emotional response to our corporate-cultural sanctification is the same as it is to our personal sanctification; grieved over all evidences of remaining sin while rejoicing over every sign of growth and progress.

What was remarkable to me about Ezra 3 is that there was no record of a feud. Those who wailed did not feel compelled to compete with those who rejoiced; and vice versa.

This is what I believe the church is supposed to be in our culture; a place where we can be safe having starkly different emotional reactions to the same events because of our bond in Christ, a place where rejoicers are not assumed to be content being passive and wailers are not presumed to be chronic malcontents.

I know I am reading between the lines, but I think part of what made this possible was the different emotional reactions were not rooted in different views of reality. They didn’t disagree on the facts. The wailers didn’t deny the goodness of God in bringing them back to Jerusalem and having a pagan king fund the rebuilding of the temple. The rejoicers didn’t pretend the dimensions of the new temple were the same as the old temple.

At times, I fear in our modern context, we are prone to different views of reality in modern conflicts.

  • Racial rejoicers want to believe “better” (i.e., less bad) is “good” (i.e., God’s design).
  • Racial wailers struggle to acknowledge that “better” (i.e., less bad) is “good” (i.e., sign of true progress).

This is where I struggle with the tension of these two sentences as I write them. I share the wailers’ concern that rejoicing in partial progress can stall continued, needed progress. I understand the rejoicers’ belief that we “replicate what we celebrate” and wither what we ignore. That is why I don’t think there is one right emotional response to our cultural dilemmas. We need a church full of people with varying perspectives to accurately represent the full heart of God towards collective challenges. We need both rejoicers and wailers.

This is hard. Part of what makes it hard is the lack of examples where we can see this happening. I am grateful to be part of a multi-ethnic church where we are willing to be uncomfortable together. I am grateful for those who experience current events differently than I do, so that I am less prone to assume my response adequately represents God’s heart.

I pray that churches across our country and world will become living pictures of Ezra 3 to our respective cultures on the many topics that are most contentious in each context.

Summit Counseling FAQ’s (8 of 9): How Do I Find a Counselor Who Is a Good Match for My Needs?

This is the eighth post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me?
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs? (This Post)
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

When you decide that you would benefit from counseling, and that sometimes takes us a while to acknowledge, there is still another hurdle to navigate: How do I find a counselor who is a good fit for my needs? Counseling is not as objective as medicine, so finding a good match with a counselor is more important than most helping relationships.

In the Summit counseling ministries, it is important to understand the difference between how counseling pairings occur at Bridgehaven as compared to the graduate intern program. In the graduate intern program, you would complete the intake forms, submit them to the church office, and our Pastor of Counseling will assign you to the best-fit counselor from our team.

At Bridgehaven the process of matching with a counselor is more self-selecting. The steps below are meant to help you in this process and are also applicable to identifying a good match for counselors outside of Bridgehaven. When seeking outside counselors, we recommend the guidance provided by CCEF in the post “Choosing a Christian Counselor.”

Here are seven steps to identifying a counselor who is a good match for your needs.

  1. Determine what your goals are for counseling. Unless you can articulate what you want to accomplish, it will be difficult to identify the best person to help you accomplish these goals. No counselor does everything. The better you can articulate your goals, the more helpful the guidance you receive in step six will be.
  2. Know what is important to you in a counselor. Chances are you won’t find a perfect match. Gender, age, training, experience, personality, etc… Any of these factors and more may be legitimately important to you, but the question in step two is: Which is most important?
  3. Factor in the level of specialization required for your counseling needs. Are you struggling with a life transition, a general problem in living, a physical condition with emotional-relational ramifications, a counseling issue with legal implications, etc…? These may require particular credentials or specialization for a counselor to effectively help. To help you identify who may best serve you, we have developed this PDF summary of the role of various counseling-related helpers.
  4. Factor in the logistics of travel and expense. Counseling is rarely a one-time meeting. Gaining history, building rapport, identifying goals, examining relevant principles from Scripture or science, and developing strategies take time. For these reasons, selecting a counseling option that allows for an appropriate frequency and duration of meeting is important for counseling to be effective.
  5. Read the biographies of each counselor on the center’s website. Once you know your goals and priorities you can identify the center(s) that are a good fit and review the staff biographies with intentionality rather than curiosity. This will allow you to make an initial phone call with the information you need to ask informed questions.
  6. Call, explain your need, and ask questions. The better you can explain your need and understand the basic services of the counselor/center you are calling, the more effective you will be at identifying a good match. A good potential scheduling call to a counselor would sound like, “My name is [blank] and I am wanting counseling for [describe]. I have looked at your site and think [name] might be a good fit. Does that seem reasonable or would someone else be a good fit? If so, I would like to understand what makes them a better fit.”
  7. Realize there still may be trial and error. Counseling is as much art as it is science. You may take wise steps and still not be satisfied with the counselor you begin meeting with. This is unfortunate, but not failure. You will have learned things to help you navigate this process more effectively in identifying someone who is a good match.

We hope this guidance helps you in identifying a counselor who is a good fit to helping you reach the health, wholeness, and holiness that God desires for you.

Summit Counseling FAQ’s (7 of 9): What Can I Do to Place Myself in the Best Position to Benefit from Counseling?

This is the seventh post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me?
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling? (This Post)
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

Counseling is a verb more than a noun; it is something you participate in more than something you receive. With this in mind, it is important to ask the question, “What do I need to do to set counseling up to succeed?” We’ll consider this question for three phases of the counseling relationship.

Phase One: Before Your First Appointment

1. Be Committed

Some people come to counseling wondering “if it will work for them.” This reveals a mindset that is passive towards what will happen in the counseling relationship. Coming to counseling is like joining a gym; it is a great context for change but can’t produce the desired results without your participation.

  • When you think of expectations for counseling, think about what you’ll be doing between sessions.

2. Paperwork

Intake forms are more than an administrative necessity; they serve a vital function for you and your counselor. Intake forms are designed to help you intentionally overview your life in light of your struggle to begin solidifying the goals you have for counseling. Intake forms also allow your counselor to get to know you efficiently. Counseling often jumps into the “deep waters of life” quickly and intake forms are one way your counselor can be sure to have an overview of your life so that your struggles do not over-define who you are.

  • Spend a solid 30-45 minutes thoughtfully completing the counseling intake forms.

3. Be Humbly Self-Aware

Your counselor won’t get to know you better than you know you, and your counselor will only get to know you as you reveal yourself. This means the courage of transparency is required for counseling to be effective. Don’t be ashamed of the areas you need to grow. Prepare yourself to describe them clearly, humbly, and from the perspective of as many people as are affected by them.

  • Use more first person pronouns (I, me, my) than third person pronouns (he, she, them) in the first session.

Phase Two: During Your Counseling Relationship

1. Be Honest

Don’t make your counselor ask the “right questions” to get the “needed information.” That is like taking your car to the mechanic, but being coy about what needs to be fixed. If you are not honest with your counselor, your counselor is not really counseling you, but a figment of your imagination. The advice you receive may be sound, but it will not be well-suited to you or your situation.

  • Before each session and whenever counsel may not feel well-suited to your situation, ask yourself, “What would my counselor need to know to advise me well?”

2. Be Consistent

This means (a) making your appointments, (b) being on time for your appointments, and (c) completing any homework between sessions. When the continuity of counseling is disrupted because of missed appointments, it is difficult for the counseling relationship to catch traction. The most profitable time in a counseling session is usually the last 10 minutes, and if you’re late, you cut that time out of your session in the beginning. It is completing the homework between sessions or reflecting on the counseling conversation that ensures each session builds on the momentum of the previous one.

  • For as long as you are in counseling, make counseling a high priority.

3. Be Patient

Most of this post has been about being pro-active, but that is not a synonym for being impatient or a perfectionist. Counseling involves prioritizing important goals; that is frustrating. Counseling also involves engaging change in a way that allows the changes to endure; that is often less efficient than we would like. This means the “how” of counseling (process / verb) is more important than the “what” of the counsel (content / noun). You are learning how to approach life when it’s messy more than a set of skills to address something in tidy way.

  • Realize this honors you. If there were quick solution to the struggle that brought you to counseling that would be demeaning to the time you invested in resolving the matter before counseling began.

Phase Three: As Counseling Concludes

1. Be Known

The long-term effectiveness of counseling is largely predicated upon the quality of relationships you have outside of counseling. You want to pass the baton of trust and transparency from a counselor to trusted friends who can provide ongoing accountability and support.

  • Be a part of a small group and seek opportunities to be more open about what you’re learning and how you’re growing through counseling in the small group setting.

2. Grow Independently

As counseling concludes you should begin growing more outside of counseling in areas that are distinct from your counseling agenda than you are inside of counseling in the areas of your counseling goals. Counseling begins because struggles were interfering with life. Counseling concludes when life can be meaningfully engaged despite the remaining struggles.

  • Don’t put life on hold because you are in counseling. Especially in the latter stages of counseling, set goals for things you want to pursue, not just overcome. Let your small group be the context where you share about and seek guidance on these matters.

3. Be Joyously Imperfect

Sanctification is a life-long journey; “graduating” counseling doesn’t mean we’re a finished product. Unless we are at peace with this reality, we will never feel like life is “good enough” to free us from counseling. However, when we are honest about our struggles in natural community and these struggles no longer impair our ability to engage our primary life roles, then the artificially-paired relationship of counseling is no longer needed.

  • Enjoy being “in process.” Allow it to bring a sense of adventure and purpose to life as you continue to discover areas that God wants to grow and shape your life.

Summit Counseling FAQ’s (2 of 9): What Is the Relationship Between Bridgehaven and Summit?

This is the second post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit? (This Post)
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me?
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

Bridgehaven Counseling Associates is a distinct 501c3 parachurch ministry that is a subsidiary of The Summit Church (TSC). Bridgehaven is one part of a holistic pastoral counseling strategy at TSC; which we also want to be blessing to our sister churches in RDU. You can learn about the other parts of our pastoral counseling strategy in the links above and in this Summit counseling ministry overview brochure (inside panels // outside panels).

TSC saw the need for a counseling center that provided the highest quality, gospel-centered, pastoral counseling for our members and community who desired to receive care in a formal and confidential setting. We wanted to be able to make this high quality pastoral counseling available on a scale that a church with a weekend attendance of 10,000+ would require.

Four phrases capture the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit.

  1. Functionally Controlled – A ruling majority of Bridgehaven’s Board of Directors is comprised of elders or officers from TSC. We do this to ensure that the ministry of Bridgehaven remains true to the mission and values that we intended when we launched the ministry. The Board of Directors oversees the adding-removing of counselors for the ministry, ministry budget / accounting, and approves new ministry initiatives.
  2. Fully Accountable – Our Pastor of Counseling serves as ministry strategist and supervisor for the staff at Bridgehaven. The Board of Directors serves as the first point of appeal for complaints those receiving care at Bridgehaven might have.
  3. Financially Self-Sustaining – Bridgehaven and its staff are supported through the counseling donations and teaching registrations from the ministry provided by its staff. The compensation for Bridgehaven counselors is not underwritten by the TSC.
  4. Formal Confidentiality – Information discussed in counseling is considered privileged unless there is a signed release of information or relevant mandated reporting laws. While counselors at Bridgehaven greatly value the support or involvement of pastors or small group leaders in counseling, the involvement of these individuals would only occur with the written consent of a counselee.

The launch of the downtown Raleigh office of Bridgehaven was an excellent example of how we want Bridgehaven to be seen and utilized by area churches. Several churches, led by Christ the King Presbyterian Church, expressed their desire for us to help them start a counseling center.

As we learned what they wanted in a counseling center and they learned more of what Bridgehaven was, we realized we were like-minded and launching a second office of Bridgehaven close to them met both our needs. This allowed TSC to have a center closer to our Blue Ridge, Cary, and North Raleigh campuses and for these churches to have a quality pastoral counseling resource near them.

Our goal for the TSC-Bridgehaven relationship is to continue to do three things:

  • Provide the high quality, gospel-centered, pastoral counseling on the scale our members need
  • Be a blessing to our sister churches in RDU by helping them meet the same need for their congregations
  • Provide this pastoral counseling in a context of privacy and confidentiality when that is what best serves an individual or family

#ManTrip7: High Roping and Zip Lining into 6th Grade

One of the things I have found most satisfying as a parent is setting aside time each year for a memorable trip with my two sons. In previous posts I have discussed…

(1) the kindergarten right of passage trip I took with my first son,
(2) a trip we took when he was especially discouraged at school,
(3) the kindergarten right of passage with my youngest son,
(4) the first before-school-starts joint trip we took as this tradition took on life, and
(5) the before-school-start joint trip we took to Texas (involving their first flight).
(6) the Smoky Mountain Adventure (where we began the sex talk)

As this tradition takes on more life, I think it’s important to note that I don’t rely on “man trips” as the primary means of maturing and discipling my boys. We have many conversations (example). These trips are merely meant to cement discipleship in memorable experiences. Kids have a propensity to remember “moments.”

My boys know each “man trip” has three primary objectives.

  1. Set up the next season of life – what previously was a couple of discussions now centers around a letter to each boy that we read together, discuss, and becomes part of a notebook of letters.
  2. Do something scary – so you won’t draw back from anything God calls you to do because of fear.
  3. Have so much fun it doesn’t feel like learning – so it is something they will always look forward to.

Some of the key memories and lessons I learned from this trip were:

  • Be flexible. We planned to go white water rafting and planned the whole trip around the experience. After hotel reservations were made, we learned the white water park was closed because brain eating amoebas (#yikes) were found in the water. So… it became a high ropes course and zip lining adventure.
  • We added to the sense of adventure by listening to the Lord of the Rings series in audio theatre as we drove. This gave something fun to do on the road that prevented a debate about whether technological devices needed to go on the trip with us.
  • This is the trip were I introduced the “Papa’s an Idiot Letter” (because every parents needs to give their child at least one thing to keep in their sock drawer). You can read about the rationale in the previous link, but it was interesting to hear my two boy’s responses.
    • My oldest, who is a peace-keeper par excellent, said, “I don’t want to ever think you’re an idiot,” and gave me a big hug.
    • My youngest, who is a cut-to-the-chase common sense kind of kid, said, “Can I just read it now?”
    • Continuing to see each boy’s impromptu response to unexpected social interactions is an important part of learning where they are in regards to social development, parental bond, and responding to temptation.
  • The “idiot letter” was not my personal letter to them. They each received one tailored to their next season of life (6th grade and 4th grade respectively). These letters reviewed areas of character growth, spiritual development, and social challenges I have seen or foresee for them.
    • Side Note: I do think having a notebook of letters they keep in their room helped tie this conversation with previous man trip conversations.
    • Another highlight was my older son asking me to help him highlight the verses in his Bible that I commended to him in his letter.
  • Seize the moment. We had the blessing of the fire alarm going off at 2:30 am in our hotel and not being able to get back to our room until 5am. This provided a good opportunity to walk them through crisis decision making; what do you take when you only have a few moments to decide. It also became a reason to get 4am ice cream. We did catch several new Pokemon.
  • Physically I find these trips easier now that my boys are ages 12 and 9. They are willing to sleep in, so recovering from a day of ropes courses and zip lines was much easier. They also enjoy meal times more and these become more meaningful times to review what we’ve done and talk about the letters I wrote to each of them.

This is a tradition that I would commend to any parent, but especially fathers. The value of getting 72 uninterrupted hours with my boys is something that is hard to put into words. Both the quality of bond and type of understanding I gain from this time is different from having dinner together, coaching their sports teams, or playing in the back yard. These moments create memories I will always cherish and, I hope, cement life lessons my boys will never forget.