While the typical addict is no stranger to feelings of guilt, those who are diligently involved in their religious community or church may suffer from a serious dose of guilt when it comes to their drug or alcohol use. In many cases, this can perpetuate the addiction. Truth be told, around one in every 10 people over the age of 11 in the United States are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. So there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
No two addicts are the same, and that goes for religious advocates too. Patients seeking a Christian-based recovery from substance abuse and addiction do have options. Whether you’re merely seeking an environment in which you feel more comfortable being surrounded by others just like you, or you feel strongly that your faith will help to carry you through treatment, there are many facilities today that offer a wide range of spiritual guidance and religious rehab experiences.
To get there, you’ll have to go through it — the shame and the discomfort — and allow yourself to feel and accept those emotions. Guidance from quality therapists is available at most credible treatment facilities, but you have to be willing to forgive yourself at the end of this chapter and move forward with your life. That can be a hard bridge to cross for many of faith who feel they should punish themselves or continue to pay for past mistakes for far too long. The truth is, by doing that, you’re holding yourself back.
Religious participation is actually on the decline and has been for decades. Among baby boomers, 13 percent aren’t affiliated with any religion. Following the boomers is Generation X, holding steady at 20 percent and finally, the Millennials at 26 percent. So, while religion may not be changing, mankind is, and more of them are headed away from religion.
What leads a follower of Christ to engage in the abuse of drugs or alcohol? Among Christian youths, there may be increased pressure from parents to steer clear of these behaviors, which are often socially expected among kids. We know all too well how hard it can be for kids to resist temptation disguised as peer pressure. It’s likely one of the primary factors in how they develop, and the earlier they start drinking or doing drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted. Children who begin using drugs or alcohol before they turn 15 are at a fivefold increased risk of future alcoholism or drug dependence than individuals who wait until they’re at least 21 years old.
In addition, most youths who cave to peer pressure do so because they feel isolated and believe in the “everyone’s doing it” mentality. This couldn’t be more wrong. A national survey noted that more than 90 percent of high school seniors have never used LSD, heroin, meth, cocaine, Ecstasy, barbiturates, tranquilizers, or inhalants, and less than half have ever tried marijuana or another illegal drug.
Among adults, the concern for abuse is still worrisome because times are certainly changing and substance use isn’t quite as shameful as it once was. Case in point, when it comes to the decriminalization of marijuana, 29 percent of evangelical Protestants are in favor, along with 48 percent of Catholics and 58 percent of other Protestants. When it comes to the youth of our nation, even more of them are proponents of the legal marijuana adjustment, at 50 percent. Another survey of 5,200 members of the Christian faith reported slightly more than half of Protestants — at 51 percent — consider beer consumption to be acceptable.
Often depicted as something only facilitated by the weak-willed, teenagers, or those living the nightclub lifestyle, we don’t picture the hardworking churchgoer when we think about drug addicts. Once upon a time, we didn’t picture addicts as being parents either; however, around seven million people are fighting through life with an addiction to prescription drugs in the US. Furthermore, plenty of the 17 million who struggle with alcohol abuse in the United States are parents. Actually, in 2012, it was reported that 7.5 million kids lived with at least one alcoholic parent in this country in the previous year.
The truth is that addiction doesn’t target one kind of person, and it can develop in a variety of ways. The dutiful wife and mother may seek a doctor’s help for her distracted mood and find herself with a prescription for Adderall that grows into an addiction before she’s even noticed anything is wrong. In 2007, two million prescriptions were written for females aged 20 to 39 for amphetamine-based drugs such as Adderall, and by 2011, that number had leapt to 6.2 million. An on-the-job injury may lead a church fellow to temporary pain relief via OxyContin that takes hold of his life. A meager 2.2 percent of the people who checked into rehab in 1998 did so for their abuse of prescription pain relievers, and by 2008, this number increased to a startling 9.8 percent. So if addiction isn’t the same for everyone, how do we define it?
For you, it might be something that’s wreaking havoc in your family. You may have lost the support of loved ones along the way and felt the sting of having someone you care about turn their back on you. Or it could be the compulsion that drives you to wake up each day and think about drinking or using. For others, it’s the root of the petty theft they’ve succumbed to in order to secure their supply. Addiction is all of those things and more. It isn’t biased.
Truthfully, substance abuse doesn’t care who you are or what you believe in. In 2009, 23.5 people aged 12 or older were suffering from a substance abuse problem. Are you one of them? Do you mirror any of the following behaviors?
- Attempts to hide your habit and its consequences
- A feeling of shame amongst fellow churchgoers or religious friends even when they’re unaware of your addiction
- A decrease in attendance at church or being absent altogether
- Engaging in substance abuse that has hindered your relationships with others
- Slacking on career, social and familial responsibilities
- Behaving in ways that have threatened your livelihood or health
- Suffering legal ramifications due to your substance abuse
Of course, not every Christian goes to church every Sunday. Whether you’re a devout follower or only make it to church for holidays, you know that substance abuse does not fit your life, and it’s time to change. Likewise, there are many people who have lost faith or never had it to begin with, and they may seek Christian recovery facilities as a way of helping themselves stay on track after treatment.
Any Christian knows that one’s faith may keep them strong in the presence of temptation, but it doesn’t exempt them from it. We’re all human, and it’s important to remember that your faith doesn’t put you above or below anyone else. Among the Christian community, alcohol consumption is far less likely to occur among regular church participants than among non-believers, Protestants, and Catholics. In fact, 61 percent of Protestants and other Christians of non-Catholic faiths and 78 percent of Catholics reported drinking alcohol.  Among those who practice religions not aligned with Christianity and among those without any religious affiliation, 80 percent drank alcohol.
It would be an overgeneralization to say there is a profound stigma against substance abusers in the Christian community, because the people who make up these sects vary in personality and temperament from town to town and church to church. Nevertheless, in many cases, the Christian addict feels compelled to lie and hide their addiction from those who may be able to help them the most.
If you try to live your life in accordance with the Bible, then you know you’re going against your religion when you’re breaking the law. Even outside of the Christian community, criminal and delinquent behavior is frowned upon. When those in your circle have labeled you as an addict, your credibility is tarnished, and doors may begin to close all around you. It might be more difficult to find employment; it might even be hard to find friends.
This stigma helps no one. In fact, it only hinders the addict who wants to recover but is too afraid to speak up about the detrimental behaviors they’ve been hiding. Only 11.2 percent of substance abusers in need of treatment got it in 2009. In fear of being ousted from their beloved church community or shunned by friends, neighbors and even family members, they fail to seek help, and thus, their addiction only grows stronger. Likewise, the Christian addict may go to extreme lengths to hide their substance abuse problem too, including detaching from family and church members and discontinuing participation in activities they once enjoyed.
Not only is drug abuse considered widely unacceptable and looked down upon across many populations, but so is mental illness. Unfortunately, it’s quite common in patients suffering from addiction. Over one in every four mentally ill individuals also suffers from a substance use disorder.
If you suspect that a mental health disorder may be contributing to your problem, it’s vital that you seek help only from facilities offering this type of Dual Diagnosis care. There is no use in treating a drug or alcohol addiction while failing to address the symptoms of a mental health disorder. Don’t let fear or shame prevent you from getting help. There are 45.9 million people in America living with mental health disorders; you’re hardly the only one dealing with this issue.
When it comes to rehab, you have the option of selecting an institution that is centered on your chosen religion, or a broader, more generalized program that incorporates spiritual practices without relying solely on one denomination or Christianity itself. In the Christian-centered treatment program, you might find denominational support groups and even the option to attend church-like services during treatment. Patients of faith are less likely to be struggling with addictions to harder drugs like cocaine or heroin, because they aren’t as common among this distinct population. Prescription drug addictions and alcoholism are much more prevalent in the Protestant community.
The Christian Comparison
Christian treatment programs generally incorporate the 12-Step program and focus on the factors that may have led the user to addiction, as well as reinforce a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. These rehab centers can offer patients assistance upon treatment completion in finding a stable place to live, such as a sober living facility, and help in finding a job too.
Forgiving yourself will likely come to pass during your treatment, but many Christians struggle with this step and feel they should continue to persecute themselves for their wrongdoings. During treatment, you’ll start to understand how important it is to let go of former indiscretions and allow yourself to heal and move on with life. Often, the shame one feels that causes him to believe others are judging and looking down on him is the very same emotion that leads him to self-loathing feelings and behaviors. At the root of addiction, substance abusers start to feel like they’re different, that something must be wrong with them, and that they’re bad people who aren’t worthy of love and acceptance from others.
You’ve got to learn to love yourself to stay clean and sober. In one study, it was determined that adults and teenagers who prioritized religion in their lives and attended religious services at least once a week were significantly less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or do other drugs. Those who didn’t feel religion was very important were at minimum 50 percent more likely to smoke and drink and at a fourfold increased risk for using illicit drugs aside from marijuana.
Life After Treatment
Continued care after completing treatment is always your best bet when you’re in search of long-term recovery. Prior to the end of treatment, you should seek the advice and guidance of therapists and medical staff members who can direct you to professional organizations and care structures that will assist you post-treatment. Continuing with therapy after treatment is advisable, especially for those who are suffering from mental illness.
Often, participation in counseling and support groups can be continued on site at the treatment facility you’ve chosen even after you’ve completed your regimented rehab program, but the same programs and resources can be sought outside of the treatment facility too. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have had a lasting presence in the substance abuse community and their ever-growing popularity is a very good sign of their potential to help you stay clean.
In 2013, 95 percent of NA participants reported improvements in their relationships with family members. Eighty percent reported success in maintaining stable housing and 76 percent vouched for enhancements in the career department. Another study touted an increased likelihood of continued sobriety in patients who participate in both professional substance abuse treatment and a religion-based support program like AA, as compared to those who engage only in the former.
Specifically searching for a Christian-based treatment center may drastically reduce the number of facilities you have to compare and pick from. While our program isn’t aligned with any religion or dedicated to only admitting a religious population of addicts, we consider ourselves to be leaders in the field when it comes to treating both addiction and mental health issues. Our treatment program includes an element of spiritual development, combined with comprehensive medical and psychological care, to make sure we treat the whole person.
A rehabilitation center that is right for you must meet all of your needs, not just one. Just because we aren’t dedicated to one belief doesn’t mean we don’t treat patients from all faiths — quite the opposite. At The Oaks at La Paloma, you’ll be encouraged to embrace your religious beliefs. Our staff and clinically trained medical professionals know how important it is to have faith in a time when your world has been greatly affected by drugs or alcohol.
We believe everyone is on their own path in this life we’ve all been given. Each person doesn’t deal with addiction in the same way, and it might take some longer to reach recovery than others. We recognize the spiritual needs of all our patients. Many benefit a great deal from meeting people from other walks of life and realizing that the struggle of substance abuse and addiction touches all kinds. Call us today to talk with one of our admissions coordinators about how we can help.
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 Newport, Frank. (2010 July 30). “U.S. Drinking Rate Edges Up Slightly to 25-Year High.” Gallup. Accessed October 1, 2014.
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 White, W., Budnick, C. & Pickard, B. (2013). “Narcotics Anonymous comes of age: A 60th anniversary professional tribute.” Counselor. Acccessed October 1, 2014.