Today, millions of Americans struggle with substance use disorder, otherwise known as addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a service provided by the government, suggests that over 19 million of us are addicted. That same study goes on to say that only 11% of us ever seek out treatment, or rehab.
Taking that first step to recover from an addiction is difficult, bordering on impossible for many of us. Insurance helps with financial barriers, government regulation like the Affordable Care Act and Americans with Disability Act remove barriers relating to work and school, and many rehab facilities offer child-care and support as part of rehab. So, what’s stopping us from getting help? Many of us face immense pressure from our social circles, including our congregations, we hide our addictions and our problems, and we do our best to present an outward face of being a good Christian.
That’s important if you’re concerned about how you will be treated by your congregation after rehab. Answering this question is complex, because people are complex, but whatever the answer is should not stop you from attending rehab and recovering your own health.
The smaller your community, the less likely you could hide anything from them. Moreover, you shouldn’t try. It’s important to be honest, to talk about your struggles with addiction, about your choice to move into recovery, and about where you are now.
People are people, so chances are not every single person will understand. You might not want to talk about this openly to your full congregation. However, you can discuss details with your pastor in private, talk to him about how you feel, about how hard you’re working, and about how you need the support of your congregation.
Most churches will actively work to embrace recovering addicts. Many of the people who recover from drug and alcohol abuse do so by turning to God, surrounding to a higher power, and acknowledging that they need help.
You might also be surprised to learn that many of your congregation have likely had their own struggles with substance use disorders. 1 in 10 Americans will struggle with a substance use disorder during their lifetime, so chances are, someone in your congregation is, has been, or personally knows an addict. They might understand more than you think.
Taking the first step to attend Christian addiction treatment is a massive step. It requires stepping back from your ego and self-delusions and recognizing that you are not in control. It means recognizing that you are wrong, and your behavior and decisions have led you astray and away from God. It also means acknowledging that you need help. Seeking help and availing yourself of the help available is the ultimate surrender to God and his ability to provide for you.
That’s important when you move back to church. You may have made mistakes, but you have recognized them. You might have gone astray but you are actively working to put yourself back on the righteous path. You are still returning to your congregation as a sinner, but everyone is a sinner.
If your congregation isn’t aware of that, you may be able to discuss it with them, ask your pastor to, or otherwise prove it by continuing to show humility and commitment to change.
Most congregations offer a lot of support for individuals in recovery. Some offer groups, sober parties and events, and will offer opportunities to volunteer and engage with the community as you re-discover yourself and what you want to do. But, it’s not the same as being in a community made up of people who know what you’re going through.
12-Step groups offer Faith-centric support for individuals recovering from addiction. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous focus on surrendering to the higher power of God in order to recover, finding real humility as motivation to change, and actively working to improve and change yourself. You’ll also get support from your peers, including a Sponsor who has been in recovery long enough to know what everything is like so that they can guide you.
12-Step groups offer social motivation, accountability, and an outlet to share progress, talk about cravings, and discuss experiences. It can allow you to grow, validate your feelings, and talk about things in a non-judgmental environment, without fear of being shamed or shunned.
Your congregation is unlikely to shun you outright, but some members may be surprised by your revelation. This is especially true if they were unaware that you struggled with a substance use disorder before. However, you can rebuild your relationships, rebuild your standing in the church, and this time on an actual basis of mutual trust and understanding.
Recovering from an addiction is difficult. You cannot do it alone. While the first step is to seek out professional help in the form of therapy, behavioral therapy, and sometimes medication-assisted treatment, the second step is always to find support and motivation in your community. Your congregation should be a part of that as much as possible, because they will help you to find the spiritual fulfillment and balance you need to be truly happy.
While all congregations should be understanding, it’s up to you to prove that you are changing and work towards your sobriety goal to gain acceptance and trust.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, please contact Christians Drug Rehab to learn more about our program. Our dedicated team can help you break the cycle of addiction and manage any co-occurring mental health condition that may accompany you or your loved one’s disorder.