By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C, Bellevue Christian Counseling
References “The New Copendency” by Melody Beattie
“Healing the Shame that Binds You” by John Bradshaw
People do not abuse substances because they love vomiting on themselves or watching the veins in their arms fall apart. They do it because getting high feels better than how they feel when they aren’t. Sobriety means having to deal with this. While getting clean is life saving, it also removes the wall between you and whatever the drugs kept out.
Addiction as a Curse and a Cure
Addiction is a two-fold problem. On one hand you have the biological problem that you cannot stop at one drink. You are chemically dependent on alcohol. On the other hand you have the problem that alcohol is how you cope with difficulty. Eventually, it becomes the only way you know how to make yourself feel better. Treatment is excellent for dealing with the biological drive to drink, but you often must wait until afterward to confront the issues that drove you to self-medicate with alcohol, as Melody Beattie says in “The New Codependency.”
Beattie likens the emotional struggles during sobriety to taking away medication from a person who suffers from chronic pain. They were using that pain medication for a reason. It was how they dealt with their pain. Now they must go through the difficulty of finding a new way to alleviate the pain, while also feeling the full brunt of their discomfort.
Confront Your Pain
Getting clean may eliminate some problems, such as being too hungover to work, or humiliating your spouse in public. It does not fix everything. Self-medicating addicts must wean themselves from their emotional dependency on alcohol by confronting the problems that drove them to drink. “When and if another recovery issue presents itself, or if you’re in recovery for one issue and your recovery stops working, see if there’s another problem underneath.” (Beattie 75)
Addictive behaviors are rooted in neurotic shame, says John Bradshaw in his book “Healing the Shame that Binds You.”
Shame begets shame. The cycle begins with the false belief system that all addicts have, that no one could want them or love them as they are. In fact, addicts can’t love themselves. This deep internalized shame gives rise to distorted thinking. The distorted thinking can be reduced to the belief that I’ll be OK if I drink, eat, have sex, get more money, work harder, etc. The shame turns one into what Kellogg has termed a ‘human doing,’ rather than a human being.” (Bradshaw 15)
An abuser may have convinced you that you are unlovable. Or you may believe that after losing loved ones because of your drunken behavior. Christ came to set us free from shame. Remember his compassion toward the adulterous woman. The Pharisees planned to stone her. Jesus stopped them. Christ’s lesson in John 8 is that everyone sins, but there is always hope for redemption.
Bradshaw draws a distinction between guilt and shame. He says brief guilt is productive. It is your conscience pricking you when you do wrong. It keeps you humble and steers you toward righteousness. Conversely, shame weighs you down. It saps your spirit with poisonous reminders of your least lovable deeds and qualities. This is not what God wants for us. Christ condemned the Pharisees for how they shamed others. He came to liberate fallible humans with a gospel of forgiveness, redemption, and hope.
Christian Counseling for Addiction
Complete healing from addiction means you must stop stoning yourself. If your journey toward a life free from alcohol or drugs is stalled by your emotional burdens, get in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They can help keep you on track with your physical sobriety. They can also help you address the psychological struggles that tempt you to the comfort of drugs or alcohol. A professional Christian counselor will use the hope of Christ’s forgiveness to guide you to a better life.
Help-addiction-christian-counseling Salvatore Vuono
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