Christian Counseling for Addiction: Chaos and Control
By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C, Bellevue Christian Counseling
References “The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help is Not Enough” by Sharon A. Hersh, M.A., L.P.C.
Addiction is about control. It may not seem like it, as an addict often feels completely out of control. “Addiction goes deeper than obsession and compulsion. It is worship. It is giving my heart and soul over to something that I believe will ease my pain and provide an outlet for my fury at being out of control in a world that hurts me, scares me, or leaves me alone,” as Sharon Hersh says in her book, “The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help is Not Enough.” (15)
Hersh likes to talk about the “gift” of addiction. She means the illuminations during recovery that show you why you became addicted to your crutch, and teach you how to walk without it. When you learn to distinguish between what you are responsible for, and what is best left to the Lord.
Controlling your Life with Addiction
God created humans as insatiable and earthly pleasures as temporary so people would eventually realize he is the only thing that can ever fully satisfy. Some people call it the “God-sized hole in our hearts.” Hersh describes addiction as an attempt to reduce that cavernous longing into something more manageable. But addiction is not just about unmet desire. It is about all those uncomfortable feelings we would rather avoid like insecurity, regret, and pain.
Shy addicts drink to control insecurity brought on by social activities. Abused addicts use to control the pain caused by past trauma. Other addicts drink because they should not have to feel guilty for living life on their own terms. Addiction sells you a false set of goods. It promises you will be the one in control, and then locks you up when you’re not paying attention.
Why Addicts won’t get Help
Addicts are in denial about how little control they have over their lives. Hersh quotes William Crisman about the power of self-delusion, “‘It is dynamic, constantly drawing energy to itself to buttress itself and expand its hold. And in a very short time, it becomes the lens through which all the awareness, feelings, and behaviors of its subjects are filtered.’” (54-55)
The source of their addiction was supposed to give them mastery over themselves. It is hard to accept it did the opposite. So they convince themselves otherwise. Delusion helps addicts avoid acknowledging they are powerless and feeling the accompanying shame.
‘Let go, and let God’
Nothing in scripture leads us to believe we can manage every aspect of our lives so that we never have to deal with anything unpleasant or unexpected ever again. In Jeremiah 29, God tells us he knows the plans he has for us. He divests us of any responsibility to control the trajectory of the future. What will happen next is for him alone to know and orchestrate.
However, this is not to say we should just sit on our hands waiting for God to force us into action. Hersh discourages this “passive spirituality.” She says the key to recovering from addiction is “learning what I am responsible for and what God is responsible for.” (8)
Christian counseling for Addiction
No one ever plans to become an addict. They were just looking for a way to deal with life. But, as Kersh points out, using and drinking only make things better for a little while, until they make everything worse. After confronting the chemical dependency, finding healthier solutions for dealing with difficulties is the most important part of recovery. A professional Christian counselor will use therapeutic techniques and Biblical principles to help you reevaluate how to orchestrate your life.
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