Archive for August, 2016

Examining the Impact of Your Addiction on Others

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction”“Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step Two: ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my addiction.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit

This section will take courage. It is why the word “fearless” is used in step four of AA, “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” In our nine step approach, this inventory is interspersed in our first three steps, but the courage needed to take them should not be minimized. What you’re doing is necessary for change, but it isn’t easy. If you struggle with this step, as with any, seek additional support from the friend, pastor, counselor, or group.

We will look at three types of impact our addiction may have had on others: (1) active offenses, (2) absent offenses, and (3) atmosphere changes. In short, we will examine what we’ve done to hurt others, what we’ve left undone that has hurt others, and the relational culture created by our addictive lifestyle; a culture which those who love us or depend on us were involuntarily forced to live.

Active Offenses

Active offenses are things you did to cover up your addiction or to perpetuate your addiction that harmed your relationship with others. These are things you did which made it clear that something (your addictive behavior) was more important than someone (the person you sinned against). Regretting those choices later does not reduce their impact. Minimizing their importance, frequency, or impact only enables your addiction.

  • Lies: We have covered this in significant detail in step one. You cannot be a good addict without being a good liar. As your actions become more destructive you become better at covering them up in order to perpetuate the addiction.

To whom have you lied about your addiction or its impact?

  • Stealing: Addictions aren’t cheap, especially when they become so dominant that they impair your ability to earn money. Consider stealing in at least two forms: (a) the direct taking of money or property that is not yours, and (b) receiving pay for hours that you did not perform up to the expected standard because of your addiction.

From whom and how have you stolen to perpetuate your addiction?

  • Character Assassination: If you’re not honest about your vices, then you have to invent vices for others to explain why life’s not working. This is not a necessity because of the act of addiction, but it is a necessity because of the life of addiction. You live with other people. If you don’t own your shortcomings, then you have to push them off on others.

Whose character have you maligned to protect your addiction?

Absent Offenses

Christians have long held to the distinctions between sins of commission (i.e., things that we do which are wrong) and sins of omission (i.e., things that are wrong to leave undone). We can harm relationships and hurt people as much by our non-actions as we can by our actions.

  • Withdrawal: This refers to your absence from others (we will look at the other dynamic next). There are people who love you. They want to be with you and desire your flourishing. When you withdraw, they are rightfully hurt. Friends, parents, spouse, children, and co-workers have a fair expectation of your reasonable availability. When you withdraw, you place them in a lose-lose scenario. If they pursue you, you accuse them of nagging and being controlling. If they honor your distance, then you use this as evidence they don’t care.

From whom have you created a lose-lose scenario by withdrawing?

  • Isolation: This refers to other people’s inability to access you. There are not only people who want to enjoy your presence; there are many people who have reasonable expectations of your involvement. Those who are part of your life need access to you in order to plan for household, work, or social activities. When you are unavailable, you force them to place their life on hold or “move on without you.” This is another example of how your sins of omission create a lose-lose scenario for those around you.

From whom have you isolated yourself in a way that disrupts their life?

  • Dependability: When you say “yes” to something, it is right for people to take you at your word. Chances are there are many things you’ve said “yes” to because you knew they were reasonable or good requests, but failed to be dependable because of your addiction. This creates a third type of lose-lose scenario. If they accommodate your lack of dependability, they are enabling your addiction. If they try to force your compliance or micro-manage your involvement, then you claim this is evidence of an unfair lack of trust.

With whom have you been undependable?

Atmosphere Changes

These changes are less tangible and, therefore, more easily dismissed. But less tangible does not mean less real. It just means harder to define. Chances are as you read through these descriptions you will recall conversations where you felt like people were being unclear or making too much of a moment (i.e., they believed it represented a pattern, but you wanted to treat it as a single event). It may be harder to “own” these offenses at this stage in your journey, but at least begin to give them greater credence.

What is so disruptive about this type of impact is that they become a lifestyle for those who love us enough to interact with us frequently. For children, spouses, parents, and comparably close people we force them to live within this “new, unhealthy normal” mode of communication we create.

  • Emotional Confusion: Imagine a parent who yells about misplaced socks, ignores failed tests, and falls into self-pity when their child runs away. In this example, the size of the parent’s response does not correlate with the size of the offense from the child. In addiction we are like that parent. The size of our response does not correlate with the size of the subject being addressed. Those around us live in confusion because there is little discernable pattern to the size (too large or too small) of our reaction and the life context in which it occurs.

For whom have you created emotional confusion by your inconsistent reactions?

  • Six Degrees of Separation: You know the game. You try to pair two things or people within six examples of other things or people they’re related to. When we live with secrets, we force people to play this game in unhealthy ways. We don’t want to talk about our secrets, which means we don’t want to talk about things related to our secrets, which means we don’t want to talk about things related to things related to our secrets, etc… Pretty soon most of our life feels off limits and those who love us can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong to get such aloof or defensive responses to seemingly innocent conversation prompts.

Who have you trained to try to crack the code of your six degrees of separation game?

  • Addiction Replaces Relationship: We tend to do relationships in a way that discerns where we “rank” in other people’s lives. “If I ask for [blank] and [name] asks for the same thing, who gets it?” When we struggle with addiction those who love us get used to living with a “mystery other” in our lives. Before they know about our addiction, they can’t figure out who or what they keep coming in second to. After they learn of our addiction, they begin to realize the rank of addiction is comparable to an adultery partner in a marriage. The sense of betrayal they have been feeling finally makes sense.

“Your addiction went from being a friend to a lover to a slave-master (p. 25).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

Who has been replaced or demoted in your life due to your addiction?

Read Matthew 22:37-40. This is the well-known “Golden Rule” passage. Everything we’ve talked about in this section is a violation of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself (v. 39).” This simple principle is sufficient to protect us from hurting those around us in all the ways we’ve described. But it is not easy. The opposite of simple is complex. The opposite of easy is difficult. Your loved ones may have said, “It seems so simple what needs to be done.” And they’re right. Basic honor in a relationship is not complex. But chances are you’ve heard them say, “It should be easy to do these things.” The more honest you are about why it’s hard and the more faithful you are in walking this journey, the more confusion you’ll remove from your loved one’s lives and the more understood you will feel.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

Examining the Impact of Your Addiction on You

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step Two: ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my addiction.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit

addiction wheelEvery addiction has different effects. Stimulants have different effects than depressants. Hallucinogens have a different effect from pain medication. Both the short-term effects of use and the long-term effects of abuse are different. The chart below is meant to help you identify the primary effects of various drugs.

For this reason, it would be very easy for you to use this section to minimize your struggle. You will read material that does not sound like it applies to you, because your substance of choice does not have those particular effects. Please avoid the false assumption that when a particular section does not apply to you that this seminar does not apply to you.

Physical Effects

Whenever the negative health effects related to AoD are discussed, the inevitable counter is to discuss the positive health effects. Both are usually true. When both positive and negative health effects exist for the same substance their impact is represented by a bell curve; the initial benefits peak with moderate use and then quickly slide into significant health concerns. When moderation is lost, health will be compromised.

“In any event, all data agree that the consumption of three drinks per day offers no benefits over those observed with one or two, and at four drinks per day the risk for heart disease and cancers as well as other life-threatening problems increases significantly (p. 74).” Marc Schuckit in Drug and Alcohol Abuse: A Clinical Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment

However, this brings up a very relevant point in the discussion of addiction. Most of us had strong warnings against AoD as children. These warnings included education about the dangers of AoD. When experimentation began but these dangers did not occur, we assumed the warnings were false – exaggerations intended to scare.

The pleasures of AoD were quick, episodic, and intense. The dangers of AoD are delayed, cumulative, and lasting. This is a combination of factors that allow for a high degree of self-deception and growing mistrust for the voices that would speak wisdom into our lives. Avoid making the same mistakes with these warnings that you did with your early warnings.

Read Genesis 3:1-24. What was one of Satan’s primary strategies in tempting Eve? He called into question long-term consequences that had not had the time to come to fruition, “You will not surely die (v. 4).” Imagine Satan whispering to a 17 year old you, “You will not surely wind up with a broken marriage, jobless, or unable to think straight without your substance.” In both cases, Satan was short-term accurate and long-term wrong. Satan used this strategy to cause Eve to doubt God. Satan still uses this strategy to get you to doubt parents, teachers, coaches, friends, bosses, or any other voice that would lead you to the way of life instead of the ways of death. Become aware of this empty sales pitch so you can begin to mistrust it.

In this section we will examine ten body organs or systems affected by addiction.

  1. Kidney: Your kidneys filter your blood. Therefore, the more (by quantity and potency) foreign substances you put in your body, the harder your kidneys have to work. Your kidney literally lays down its life to protect the rest of your body by storing these substances until they can be metabolized and removed from the body.
  2. Liver: The liver plays a filtering function similar to the kidneys. Drugs’ negative effect on the liver can range from general symptoms (e.g., fatigue, a generic feeling unwell, nausea, itching, and loss of appetite) to more severe symptoms (e.g., jaundice, enlarged liver, pain in the upper right abdomen, confusion, disorientation, and reduced alertness).
  3. Heart: Most illegal drugs can have adverse cardiovascular effects, ranging from abnormal heart rate to heart attacks. Injecting illegal drugs also can lead to cardiovascular problems, such as collapsed veins and bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves. Any change in the energy level in your body will affect the activity level of your heart. The more you artificially change your heart rate the unhealthier it is for your heart.
  4. Lungs: Next to the brain, drugs impact the lungs more than any other organ. Even when drugs are not consumed through smoking, drugs interact with the gas exchange that happens in our lungs, making it more difficult for our lung tissue to exchange gases. The damage to delicate lung tissue is exemplified when the drugs are smoked.
  5. Immune System: When the body is under stress of any kind, one of the first places it pulls energy from is the immune system. As your body uses energy to return to the equilibrium disrupted by the AoD, it pulls from the immune system. Irregular sleep patterns, imbalanced nutrition, and other body stressors created by AoD abuse further decrease the amount of energy the body can devote to the immune system.
  6. Exposure to Diseases: It is not only the suppressed immune system that leads to increased illness. With AoD abuse frequently brings an increased exposure to diseases. Habits of personal hygiene are usually not a high priority while under the influence of mind or mood altering substances. Compromises in judgement result in more risky health behaviors (i.e., unprotected sex, sharing needles, etc…). The toll on body organs and systems combined with this increased disease exposure accounts for the escalating physical effects of addiction.
  7. Testosterone (for men): The body has biological priorities. Testosterone is not at the top of the list. When the body is under a degree of stress that it cannot achieve all of its normal functions, it neglects its non-survival functions. So, in the same way the immune system is neglected during stress, so is the production of testosterone.
  8. Brain: In the next section we will examine the cognitive and emotional changes that addiction produces, but here we will consider the physiological changes that happen in the brain. Addictions interfere with neurotransmitters, damage connections within the brain, reduce the ability to experience pleasure, and ingrain expectations of unhealthy habits into brain circuitry. These physical changes account for many of the difficulties in breaking an addiction.
  9. Stomach: Anything you put in your mouth that burns (e.g., hard liquor), burns all the way down. Your digestive system was made to process nutritious food. When you frequently introduce substances that it was not designed to store or metabolize, then your stomach must adapt. Another example would be opioid drugs, which create constipation. After your body adapts to abusing these, the result is a season of irritable bowel. When our body adapts to unhealthy circumstances we force upon it, the result is pain and suffering.
  10. Tooth Deterioration: Many drugs have the side effects of dry mouth or teeth grinding due to elevated energy level and body tension produced. Both of these side effects result in significant tooth decay.

The more parts of our body that become uncomfortable, the more prone we become to abuse AoD. The mind or mood altering effects of AoD begin to be used to offset the very symptoms they created.

“No matter how they start, addictions eventually center in distress and in the self-defeating choice of an agent to relieve the distress. In fact, trying to cure distress with the same thing that causes it is typically the mechanism that closes the trap on an addict—a trap that, as just suggested, might be baited with anything from whiskey to wool (p. 131).” Cornelius Plantinga, Jr in Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin

Read Psalm 102. We do not know if the affliction experienced by the author of this psalm had anything to do with addiction. But, regardless, we find in this psalm an invitation to make our physical pain known to God. Notice the rise-and-fall of this psalm. It doesn’t move from despair to hope. It has many ups and downs. But even its downs are Godward downs. This is the pattern God wants you to follow. Bring your pain to him; even when you caused it. God is willing to comfort your suffering even when it’s caused by your sin; which He is eager to forgive if you are willing to relinquish it. Be honest about when your fear is greater than your hope. Despairing to God is a form of faith.

“It is an act of faith to bring that complaint to him in the pattern of these psalms. Your faith in God should never silence you in the dark hours of grief. Rather, this is when we begin to understand how deep, rich, and sturdy God’s love for us really is (p. 9).” Paul Tripp in Grief: Finding Hope Again

Emotional-Cognitive Effects

Often we falsely assume our brain only has one control center. Actually, our brain has many control centers. Emotions, reason, and rewards (just to name three) have their own region of the brain where they weigh incoming data and arrive at conclusions. An imperfect metaphor would be that these control centers are like different branches of the United States government meant to hold each other in check.

One way (not the only way) to understand addiction is that reward and emotion mutiny against reason. Taken too far, this metaphor reveals why many addicts believe they will never be able to live sober: If reason has to dominate over reward and emotion, then the only way for me to be sober is to never be happy. But the actual goal is a balance of power, not a reverse mutiny. Restoring balance may feel like suppressing reward and emotion initially, but a livable sobriety will require balance in these three faculties.

As you read through the emotional-cognitive effects of addiction, don’t just look for examples of these in your life but also consider how these reveal a diminished-imbalanced role for reason in your decision making process.

  1. Depression: There are at least three ways addiction can contribute to depression. First, many AoD’s are depressants (review the chart earlier in this chapter). It only makes sense that regularly consuming significant quantities of a depressant would increase your level of depression. Second, it is physically exhausting to be addicted. Fatigue increases your rate of depression. Third, addiction requires time, and this time comes at the expense of rewarding activities in which you can find satisfaction.
  2.  Anxiety: Stimulants are to anxiety what depressants are to depression. Additionally, the mounting number of daily chores and work-school responsibilities that are neglected create a growing sense of anxiety whenever we begin to allow reason to play its intended role again. It is often this sense of being overwhelmed that causes us to retreat to processing life through our emotion and reward centers again.
  3.  Paranoia: At least two factors related to addiction can foster paranoia. First, addiction involves regularly violating our conscience, at least that part that remains sensitive (I Timothy 4:2), and sometimes involves violating the law. These factors create a growing sense that we are doing something wrong and everyone knows it. Second, AoD can deteriorate the reality testing area of the brain – the part of our brain that goes dormant while we sleep which accounts for fanciful dreams. The result of this deterioration is that is becomes more difficult for us to discern rational fear from irrational fear; which fuels paranoia.
  4. Shame: The emotion of shame is a strong indicator that our addiction is seeping into identity (more on this in the next section). One common way to differentiate guilt and shame is that guilt is a negative emotional response to what we’ve done while shame is a negative emotional response to who we are.
  5. All-Or-Nothing Thinking: This may be the most destructive cognitive disruption that emerges (or becomes more pronounced) because of addiction. In this mode of thinking things are either great or awful, easy or impossible, perfect or ruined, etc… Because overcoming addiction (or doing anything else worthwhile) is a journey and requires a process, they are deemed impossible. It may be helpful for you to create a chart when you find yourself getting trapped in all-or-nothing thinking.
Negative Extreme Reality Positive Extreme
Ruined Learning / In-Process Perfect
Impossible Worth a Bit of Hard Work Easy

6. Distorted Sense of Time: Addictions work fast. “Delayed onset addictive substance” is an oxymoron. If there was a cheap drug that had a long high but had a 24 hour delay between consumption and its effects, it would not be popular. The low cost and pleasurable high would not offset its delayed effect. This accounts for how addiction begins to dominate life. Most things worth doing take time. When addiction creates a life built around immediacy we lose our tolerance for these long-term investments. This undermines recovery, because recovery takes time.“Addicts may not seem as illogical as they first appear if we understand one thing: the addictive thinker’s concept of time (p. 27)… Addicts are intolerant of delay for the sought-after effect (p. 28)… To effectively prevent chemical use among young people, we would have to establish (1) ultimate goals in life other than sense of gratification and (2) tolerance for delay. Our culture is not likely to embrace these changes. Instead, our culture embraces addictive thinking (p. 16).” Abraham Twerski in Addictive Thinking

7. Negative Emotion Intolerance: The goal of addiction is to feel good, or, at least, to not feel bad. The more we build our life around this value, the less we are able (or willing) to tolerate unpleasant emotions. Empathy, uncertainty, grief, boredom, insecurity, doubt, and similar emotions become “reasons” to use. The more we escape these normal (often healthy) unpleasant emotions through substance, the more intolerable we perceive them to be; which results in more and more emotional reasons to use. “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascal in PenséesA primary effect of #6 and #7 combined is impulsivity. As we increase our demand for immediacy and lose tolerance for anything unpleasant, our decision making becomes profoundly reactionary. We are no longer thinking. We begin to simply demand and escape.

8. Inflated Sense of Normal: After the prolonged exposure to the artificial reality created by AoD, normal feels dull, painful, muted, or subdued. It is comparable to the experience we have after jumping on a trampoline. Afterwards, when we are off the trampoline, our normal jumping feels stunted.

“Regular cocaine users begin to find that ‘normal’ life, experienced without the influence of cocaine, has lost its color and excitement (p. 49).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

Read Psalm 51. Notice that David prays that God would “restore to me the joy of my salvation (v. 12).” He was aware that his sin with Bathsheba (the artificial high of an illicit relationship and high stakes political maneuvering to cover it up) had impacted his thinking and emotions. He needed them to be recalibrated. The purpose of this section is raise our awareness of what we are asking God to restore so that we can increasingly cooperate with God’s grace through faith and obedience.

Functional Effects

Addictions don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist in space and time. They cost money. They require planning. They force us to rearrange priorities. While addictions may be hard to define, it is easy to identify their functional effect in our life if we are willing to acknowledge these effects.

In this section one of the things you should learn is that addiction is not just an activity; it’s an investment. When we only view addiction as recreation, it is easier to minimize it. When we see the value of what we are investing to perpetuate our addiction, it becomes harder to avoid the reality of what’s going on.

In this section we will look at four functional effects of addiction for you to consider. These four forms of impact will serve as a transition for you to consider how your addiction is affecting others.

1. Time: There are two types of time investment in addiction: direct time and indirect time. In this point, we will consider the first.

    • How many hours do you spend using AoD?                    _____ per week _____ per month
    • How many hours do you spend high or intoxicated?  _____ per week _____ per month
    • How many hours do you spend “hung over”?                _____ per week _____ per month

2. Planning and Covering Up: The indirect time cost associated with addiction has to do with planning and covering up your addictive behaviors.

    • Hours spent planning for your addiction?                 _____ per week _____ per month
    • Hours spent covering up for your addiction?           _____ per week _____ per month
    • Hours spent ensuring access to your addiction?     _____ per week _____ per month

These first two points allow us to make a very practical assessment that is likely beginning to creep into your thinking, “Is the amount of time I’m spending on this study ‘worth it’?” Now you can do the math.

    • Hours Working Steps:                    _____ per week
    • Hours Invested in Addiction:  – _____ per week

It would be easy to view this as a math trick. It’s not. It’s reality. These are the kinds of decisions that you have to begin to make. This is an example of allowing reason to have its right role over emotion and reward. When whether it’s “worth it” to pursue sobriety becomes an emotional decision you will end up making choices that cost you huge portions of your future for relatively small slices of present sacrifice.

    • Net Gain/Loss                                      _____ per week
    • Hours in Counseling / Group:   + _____ per week

3. Money: As it does with time, addiction comes with a direct and indirect financial cost. Scripture calls us to consider the financial cost of addiction (Proverbs 21:17, 23:21) as a way to awaken ourselves to the danger and folly of our actions.

  • Money spent on AoD:                                 _____ per month
  • Money lost because of work missed:    _____ total

Now convert this total amount of money into hours (by dividing it by your hourly wage) and include it in the “worth it” computation above.

    • Money lost due to injury or accident:     _____ total
    • Money spent because of guilt:                    _____ per month

4.Priorities: This functional effect is less tangible. We can’t create a countable commodity like hours or dollars. But the lack of tangibility does not make this impact less significant. If anything, this aspect of addiction’s functional effect is more significant. The questions below are meant to help you identify the way addiction has changed your priorities.

    • What dreams have died or have you stopped pursuing because of addiction?
    • What relationships have been lost, or at least placed at risk, because of addiction?
    • What opportunities have you not pursued because of addiction?
    • What difficulties do you willingly live with instead of abandoning your addiction?
    • What values and beliefs have you changed in order to accommodate your addiction?
    • What would you want that is better for your children than what you experience because of your addiction?

Read Romans 5:1-11. After an examination like this, we doubtless will wrestle with shame. It is hard to acknowledge what we see in the mirror. This passage reminds us that shame need not be our destiny (v. 5). But, if we want to experience change, we must still face our shame. Jesus bore its penalty but we cannot avoid its reality. On this point, C.S. Lewis offers a helpful metaphor. Lewis compared shame to hot coffee. If we spill hot coffee on our skin we are burned, scalded, and feel disgusting. However, if we drink coffee we are warmed, nourished, and energized. When we avoid shame or wallow in shame, it becomes like spilled coffee. When we handle the stigma that may exist over addiction in the ways that are outlined in Scripture, then even our weaknesses draw us closer to Christ, remind us of the necessity of the cross, and give us testimony to share.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

Examining the History and Growth of Your Addiction

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step Two: ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my addiction.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit

Think about a rainbow; not a bold-color-contrast rainbow like those in a children’s book, but a real rainbow in the sky. Can you tell the exact point at which “red” ends and “orange” begins? How about the point where “blue” quits being blue and becomes “violet”? On a spectrum, transitions are hard to define, but key distinctions are not. In the middle of each stripe it is easy to discern blue from green.

The movement from use, to abuse, to dependence is like this as well. But unfortunately, we often use this ambiguity in these transitions to deny that blue has become green; that use has become abuse or abuse has become dependence.

The purpose of this section is not to pinpoint moments where these transitions occurred. Likely they did not happen in moments. Instead, we want to look back and “own” (take non-self-deprecating responsibility for) the reality that these transitions have occurred.

We are not going to retrace our steps out of addictions; undoing each thing we did to get where we are. The only way out of addiction is forward. We can’t unwrite history. Even when we seek to make amends with those we hurt we are not trying to retrace our steps out of addiction. Instead, we are practicing non-denial and learning to tell our story accurately.

Exercise: On a separate piece of paper sketch out your answers to these questions. You don’t have to write in great detail, because you are outlining conversations, not writing a biography. As you build relationships with people who will play a key role in your recovery (i.e., support group, sponsor, close friends), these will be important topics for you to cover in conversation. Having these honest, accurate conversations about your history will be an important step towards having conversations with those you’ve offended or hurt as you seek to make amends.

  • When did you start using? Be specific for each substance of abuse you consume.
  • When did you stop being honest? Be specific about how dishonesty emerged in each circle of relationships.
  • When did the pain you were avoiding become more satisfying than the high you were gaining?
  • When did being sober begin to feel less normal than being high or intoxicated?
  • At how many junctures did your addiction change who your friends were (or could be)?
  • What rituals or daily routines have built up around your AoD usage?
    • Another way to ask this is, how would your rhythms of life have to change if AoD were not a part of your life?
  • When did you begin to feel a sense of shame about the things you were not doing in order to use AoD?
  • What were the key events that alerted you things had gotten worse than you meant for them to?
  • Make a list of the drinking rules (or their equivalent) you have made for yourself?
    • When did each rule emerge?
    • What was each rule meant to disprove or control?
    • How did each new rule “move the line” for a previous rule?

“Drinkers, for example, have their own definition of the amount or pattern of drinking they consider to be out of control. If the individual’s drinking does not meet this definition, he or she believes that it is under control. Such definitions might include drinking before noon; drinking hard liquor instead of beer (because beer is not considered strong alcohol); and drinking alone instead of at bars because there is moderation in numbers (p. 91).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

It is as important to remember the successes you want to build on as it is to assess the failures you want to overcome. In that vein, consider these questions as well.

  • Since you began to abuse AoD, what are the longest periods of time you have been sober?
  • What were the most important factors that contributed to these seasons of sobriety?
  • What relationships or interests began to emerge during these seasons of sobriety that you enjoyed?
  • What are the skills and interests you have which would emerge if they weren’t crowded out or stifled by AoD?

Read Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; and Acts 1:13. One of Jesus’ disciples was known as “Simon the zealot.” This meant he had been part of a violent group that sought to overthrow or undermine (whichever they could) the government. In our day his pre-conversion occupation would have been called terrorism or extremism. The frequency with which he is referenced as “Simon the zealot” in Scripture indicates that he learned to tell his story without shame or pride. That is the ultimate goal of this section. It won’t be completed in this step. But as you tell the story of how God changes your life it should be marked by decreasing amounts of shame (desire to hide details you wish were not true) or pride (using the severity of your struggle to discredit the ability of others to speak into your life or aggrandize the sin).

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

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

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.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

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

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

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

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

“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

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

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

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

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 to enhance the aftercare aspect of the intervention.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.

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.