How do people change who have struggled with addictions

Many times people wonder how can people who has been addicted to alcohol and/or drugs change and be freed from a lifestyle dominated by dependence on substance abuse. Here are some thoughts based on several decades of Christian counseling.

1. The personal and sincere acceptance of Jesus as one’s personal prophet, priest, and king is an important step. The deeper this commitment to the Lord Jesus and understanding of the need of repentance as part of faith is critical for this to be an active element in a person’s recovery. A “life insurance” faith in Christ that simply looks to Jesus to save them from hell without any desire to live by faith day by day will do little to help a person recover. So a true and committed faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior and deep repentance concerning sin can be a vital part of a person changing. This faith would be a fruit of regeneration of the person by the Holy Spirit and upon that foundation one can effectively build a life free of addiction. However, this alone will most likely not be enough to win the battle with addiction in most cases.

2. Going to 90 meetings in 90 days, which focus on the process of recovery. These can be Celebrate Recovery groups, small group Bible studies, or 12 step programs. It takes 90 days to break or establish a habit. Therefore, to be totally free of the use of alcohol or drugs for 90 days is essential and continual reinforcement of turning away from the addiction and towards Christ Jesus is needed. The first 90 days is essential to establish a foundation for recovery from addiction. After the ninety days a weekly meeting should become part of the lifestyle of the recovering addict.

3. Seeing a counselor weekly for the first 90 days and then twice a month for a year to help the person deal with the issues that lead to the addiction. Most substance abuse is self-medication to deal with some inward emotional pain from the past. The counselor can provide accountability, provide recovery tools, and help bring fresh perspective to the struggles that have led to addiction.

4. Development of a sponsor and accountability partners where on a regular basis there are telephone calls, e-mails, and conversations which encourage the person struggling with addiction to continue to walk in faith with Christ and turn from their dependence on the addiction to cope with life.

5. Find healthy and holy substitutes that relieve stress and produce happiness. This may be a commitment to exercise, regularly donating time to help others in need, listening to inspiring music, journaling, biblical meditation, and times of personal worship. This practice of regular “soul nurture” is essential since it provides physical, emotional, and mental relief without the use of drugs or alcohol. This will be different for every person and so they must develop their own unique “soul care” plan that works for them. The counselor can help them develop such a plan.

These are what I see as the most critical aspects that need to be part of a person recovering from an addictive lifestyle. If you have a friend or family member struggling with addiction you may want to share these thoughts with them to help them develop a true and reasonable plan for recovery.