A note from Kelly King: Addressing addictions hasn’t always been welcomed in the local church. For those who find themselves caught in an addiction, there are fears of gossip and shame when they consider how others will respond—especially among those in the church. Instead, what if our churches became safe havens for those who are struggling? What if we saw the church as Jesus did—as a hospital for the sick? Kaye Hurta’s article today is a challenge for all leaders who want to do this better.
Addiction. According to Dictionary.com, the word addiction means, “The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” The Latin origin of this word means, “a giving over, surrender.”
Addiction is no longer about “those people.” We are those people. It is more common than we realize and devastatingly harmful to the human spirit. According to AddictionCenter.com, in 2011 over 20.6 million people in the United States over the age of 12 suffered with some form of addiction. Those numbers increase yearly. The sad truth is, most people do not get the treatment they need. This is especially true within the walls of our churches.
My husband Chris has been leading our church’s Recovery ministry for over 6 years. Every week hundreds of people, like you and me, gather together to find help, hope, and healing. They gather around gender specific tables that focus on three areas: 1. Directly Affected (substance abuse, eating disorders, gambling), 2. Relationally Affected (co-dependency, the struggle of dealing with a loved one who is struggling) and 3. Sexual Integrity (pornography, perpetrators and victims of sexual betrayal). These people have taken an honest inventory of their lives and determined they need help. They courageously face their need and with humility model what it looks like to long for a dependence on God rather than a substance or a relationship.
Last week I interviewed my husband around his experience with people struggling with addiction. I started with questions that I would encourage you to ask yourself (because leaders go first) and those you are ministering to. The questions are, “How do I know if I’m addicted? How do I know if I have a problem?” These are courageous questions to ask because the truth is, most addicted people live in denial. Do you have an addiction? Here is how he answered. Here are three questions to ask yourself:
- Can you stop _________ (fill in the blank with your habit/behavior) for 30 days. Take an honest self-evaluation. Give it a try. If the answer is no, you have a problem.
- Are you hiding? Do you hide your substance or your behavior? Do you avoid talking about it with those you are close to? If the answer is yes, you have a problem.
- Are the people closest to you saying something, and do you get defensive when they bring it up? If the answer is yes, you have a problem.
If, after answering these questions, you suspect you have a problem, then be kind and gracious to yourself by getting help. Here is a start:
- Tell your family (unless your family is not a safe place; always get safe first). The point is to enlist support. Addiction’s breeding ground is secrecy and isolation. That’s just how the enemy of your soul has designed it. Fight for yourself! Bring it to the light.
- Tell someone in your church. Why? Because you need accountability, support, and the resources or programs your church may provide to help you.
- Take advantage of hotlines and other resources that can help assess the severity of your situation and direct you to the best next steps.
If you are looking for help, a great place to start is www.celebraterecovery.com. You can also check out the website I referenced earlier, www.addictioncenter.com. No matter where you start, just start. Let’s be a people who seek to normalize pain, crush shame, and deliver hope—for the glory of God and our good.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.