Over the years I have spoken to many tough and skeptical crowds. Soon after graduating from university, I was responsible for building an unknown organization called Special Olympics. Trying to convince parents and professionals that exercise and competition would be good for people with mental disabilities was a hard sell. I encountered a lot of anger, disbelief and verbal abuse. However, over the decades, the virtues of the Special Olympics program have been embraced around the world.
Explaining to addicts and alcoholics that they need God in the battle against addiction can be an equally tough challenge. Although the founders of AA stated the importance of accepting God’s help to conquer addiction — and millions have followed this path to establish a strong recovery — the skepticism continues. As a Christian addiction rehab facility, we encounter frequent resistance to the proposition that God’s participation is necessary to overcome the power of addiction.
Why do addicts and alcoholics often rebel against seeking God’s help? There are many reasons, but a few are heard over and over again.
Forgiveness. Addiction often leads people to do things that are a source of great shame. Lying, stealing, promiscuity, infidelity, rage, manipulation – the list is long and painful. “Surely God will not forgive sins that are so great,” is a frequent rationale for avoiding God. Because the Christian concept of God – who has an infinite ability to forgive — is foreign to human nature, it can be hard for the addicted person to believe that God still loves them.
Abandonment. When life gets difficult and nothing seems to go as we hope, it is easy to blame God. “Where was he when I needed him?” is a common question. Appreciating the gift of freewill, which enables us to live our lives very far from God’s will, is a hard concept to embrace, especially when addiction can make it difficult to see the positive signs of God’s compassion.
Pride. People hate to give up even the smallest amount of control – which trusting in God demands. “I want to do it my way,” is the mantra of most people, addicted or not. Acknowledging that addiction recovery requires the help of others is for many addicts a huge step. Giving God control, and responding to his will, is a high mountain to climb.
Naiveté. Many people have never been introduced to God, read scripture, or learned the basics of the Christian faith. From this position of ignorance, it is hard to understand who God is, why he cares, and how he loves. This lack of knowledge requires that the road to recovery also become a journey to discover the true meaning of “trust in God.”
At St. Joseph Institute we believe that spiritual growth is always a personal experience. We encourage, but we do not preach. We teach, but we allow each person to reach their own conclusions. As a Christian organization we know what we believe, but we do not make demands to conform. Each person must wrestle with God in their own way, and find their own answers.
The early Fathers of the Christian Church constantly reminded people that faith was a “gift from God.” At St. Joseph Institute we encourage addicts and alcoholics to search for that gift — knowing that it will make their recovery so much easier, and bring back the joy that so many have lost.