TAC Blog

Desperate Parents Need Real Help (Part 1)

by: Brenda Payne

“Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69*).

Epidemic! Crisis! Emergency! Dilemma! Plight! These words describe the current state of drug use, abuse, and addiction in America. No one understands the enormity of the problem and the toll substance abuse takes more than the parents of addicts. Hearing about drug addiction is one thing, but watching it lived out in the life of one’s own child can be devastating. It is estimated that more than 21 million people over the age of 12 battle drug and/or alcohol abuse.⁠1 The staggering number of those struggling with addiction translates into 42 million parents! To offer a scale, that’s more people than live in the state of California⁠2. The emotional, relational, financial, and even physical toll on parents is incalculable.  

For many parents, the substance abuse began under their roof and worsened once their child exited the family home. But, the legal age of adulthood and ensuing independence does not sever the parental ties of love. It simply means parents have the incredible burden of watching their child self-destruct with no authority to do anything about it.  

Left feeling hopeless and helpless, Christian parents of adult addicts are desperate for guidance. The most important matter parents must address is “Who will they trust for wisdom?” The implications are enormous because trust and truth determine belief and practice. The Bible teaches there are two paths for wisdom: worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. James says there is a wisdom that is “earthly, spiritual and demonic” and a wisdom that is “from above”.  The Proverbs warn against false systems of wisdom, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”(Proverbs 14:12).

For the past 2000 years, the church has been God’s prescribed means for the wisdom of soul care. Historically, when people were in trouble they went to their clergy for help.⁠3 The church was the hub of ministry advocating for both sinners and sufferers. Issues like substance abuse were viewed moral in nature, and the church clearly owned the rights to moral issues. But over the past 200 years, there has been a seismic shift in how the world views addiction that affects both the care of addicts and their families. The church and Christian parents have been greatly impacted by the changes.

Researcher William White has written a series of papers chronicling the historical evolution of beliefs, attitudes, and treatments for addicts and their family members.⁠4  Even when motivated out of care and concern, attempts to “cure” the addict have often been cruel and contradictory.

In his paper, First Do No Harm: Iatrogenic Effects of Early Addiction Treatment, White explores the many unintentional but harmful consequences to addicts through well-meaning treatments.  These treatments have ranged from drinking disgusting concoctions, strict dietary regimes, consuming natural substances like gold or bark, blistering, bleeding, unwittingly administering poisonous substances, administering other (and sometimes more addictive) drugs, shock therapies, experimental lobotomies, and classifying addicts with the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.⁠5 White concludes his paper saying, “Harm done in the name of good is an enduring theme in the history of addiction treatment.”

If watching a loved one endure such treatment is not bad enough, family members of addicts have their own sad history.⁠6 White reports attitudes toward families have swung between ambivalence to hostility, from blaming to victimizing. Theories of bad genetics and parenting have burdened moms and dads with undue shame. Wives and mothers, in particular, have been targeted as producing or enabling the addict. Family members have often been neglected receiving little to no support or care. Their normal actions and reactions to life with an addict have been treated as mental and behavioral disorders. Con artists have exploited the hope and finances of family members with promises of miracle cures. As a result of so much mistreatment and misunderstanding, it is no wonder family members have sought solace from one another and banded together for support and advocacy.⁠7

The beginning of the twentieth century was marked by the influence of psychology and psychiatry which continues to define the attitudes and treatments for addicts and their families today. The widely accepted view and vocabulary of the word “disease” to describe the condition of the addict, as well as their family members, has led to the medicalization and professionalization of treatment methods. In addition, addicts and their families are increasingly labeled with mental health “disorders.”  Even the church has succumbed to these humanistic viewpoints and parted from traditional Christian beliefs. Ed Bulkley writes, “Generally speaking, Christians have great confidence in psychology.” Christians, who once believed drunkenness stemmed from a heart issue and the “cure” was found in the grace of Jesus Christ at the soul level, increasingly accept and trust the world’s view which does not acknowledge sin nor the need for a Savior.

What you believe about God, addiction, your adult child, and your own parental goals and responsibilities matters! History shows us that man’s wisdom is constantly changing. We need to be like the wise man who built his house on the rock, not like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the storm came, the house on the rock stood while the other house collapsed (Matt. 7:24-27). Are you wisely discerning the counsel you are receiving from Google, support groups, books, blogs, counselors, and even friends? Are you measuring all counsel, even “Christian” counsel, against the truth of God’s Word?

May I challenge you to commit to grow in God’s wisdom through knowledge of the Word, reliance on the Holy Spirit, and support and advocacy through the body of Christ (the local church).

God does have much to say to parents of addicts. His ways promote comfort and change. And, He alone supplies the power and provision necessary to turn misery into opportunities for grace and growth in Him!

*All scriptures are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


2 http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/california-population/

3 Biblical Counseling and The Church

4 For a history of addiction treatment and historical views on family members, I recommend searching williamwhitepapers.com.

5 White, W. L. (1999). First do no harm: Iatrogenic effects of early addiction treatment..

6 White, W. L. All in the Family

7  Ibid.

Coming Next Week: Desperate Parents Need Real Help (Part 2)

Brenda Payne

Brenda was the first woman to be certified in the state of Alabama with the Association of Biblical Counselors where she counseled and taught women for twenty years. She is currently a “volunteer” for Jesus counseling and training in her new hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Brenda is completing her thesis project for her MABC at Faith Seminary on “A Manual for Christian Parents of Adult Addicts from a Distinctively Biblical Worldview”. Her interest in helping parents of adult addicts is the result of her own personal journey.

Brenda and her husband Paul have three grown children. She is passionate about speaking, writing, counseling and mentoring to encourage women to seek biblical counseling and discipleship training. She also enjoys hospitality and managing her “Scenic City” Airbnb, enjoying a good cup of coffee over meaningful conversation, and engaging in culture and outdoor activities.

She co-authored the Teach Them Diligently study guide and wrote Motherhood: Hope for Discouraged Moms.  She is the co-founder of Known Ministries (knownministries.org) a non-profit committed to inspiring, equipping and training women in the personal ministry of the Word and problem-solving discipleship. She is the founder of the Chattanooga Biblical Counseling Coalition and the Chattanooga Biblical Counseling Women’s Network.




“Peacocks are male peafowl, a type of pheasant that also includes the female peahen. No matter the species of peacock, these colorful creatures boast impressively sized and patterned plumage that they fan out for display purposes. It isn’t an act of vanity, though–peacocks fan out their feathers as part of a courtship ritual to attract a mate.”[1]

Recently as I was reading about Job’s life in the scriptures I was faced with an unavoidable wall of conviction and revelation.

The Peacock is an amazing sight to observe. Although it is simply a bird at its simplified definition it poses itself in such a way to appear as something much more. At every opportunity, this illustrious fowl deliberately struts about in an attempt to gain attention.

Not unlike the peacock, we as humans have an extreme desire to be noticed and/or exalted. We live in an age of self-promotion and are submerged in a culture that prescribes the boosting of self-esteem. As I evaluated my own life it was not hard to see my natural bent toward self-absorption. Self-absorption has saturated the physical, relational, and spiritual areas of my life. This is a humbling revelation considering that these areas make up everything that I am.

As you read this you might start to think, and then say to me, “Wow! This guy is really hard on himself! You can’t be that bad. Don’t have such a critical spirit. You’re involved in ministry and love your wife and children. Just keep being the best version of yourself.” Let me clarify what I am saying. I am not saying that I don’t do anything good. I am simply declaring that there is a constant undercurrent of the desire for approval, pleasure, personal success, consumerism, and a first-response priority of self-consideration.

Throughout the scriptures we can see clear examples of men who are entangled with “self.” In the first chapter of Job, we see the God of the universe sovereignly allowing Satan to challenge Job’s faithfulness. Job’s responses initially were amazing. He made the well-known statements “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:20 NASB), and again he says “shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

Then we see a transition in Job’s perspective and attitude for the next thirty-six chapters. He begins to hone in on his personal circumstances and deprivations (justified in my mind). With the help of his social surroundings (friends) and his natural inclination, he deviates from the truth of God’s sovereignty.

Unlike how our natural response would be to a man in circumstances such as this, God begins to admonish Job in his self-centeredness. The Lord proceeds to make question statements like “where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth’, ‘you know, for you were born then” (Job 38:4,21). Job recants and the correct position is reinstated. “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth” (Job 40:4). The Lord then accepts Job because of his repentance and restores him two-fold.

What Job did not realize is that his circumstances were not about him. He already belonged to the Lord. Job didn’t realize that thousands of years later a man and a people would be struggling with perspective and through the reading of his trials and tribulations that we would be pressed into the loving arms of a great God.

Our natural perspective along with cultural encouragement is the promotion of man. This view is anti-God and deviates from the message of the gospel. As the forerunner, John said “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Paul writes to the church in Corinth “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Immediately before Paul wrote this he was imploring the Lord to remove some sort of hindrance (the thorn). The Lord responds to his distress in a way that only a sovereign God would—NO! (my words)—by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It’s natural to tell ourselves that we need to be esteemed, but this is actually what went wrong in the garden many years ago. The more we have a biblical fear of the Lord, the more reverent and submissive we become through the power of Christ. The more submissive that we become the more we can reflect the authentic love of Christ through obedience to His Word.

This is what transforms nations: the power of the Almighty God through the obedience and repentance of His people.

Lord, You are so good and worthy of all praise. Your “significance” is overwhelming. I become undone when I think of how You use the insignificant things in the world to shame the things that are, the wise, the strong. While we were helpless is when You came for us. Humble our spirits so that we may be effective for Your kingdom. To You be all of the glory forever and ever. Amen.C

[1] http://animals.mom.me/peacocks-spread-feathers-2729.html

*All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, New American Standard Bible®, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.

Click to Tweet: This is what transforms nations: the power of the Almighty God through the obedience and repentance of His people.. -Oliver Underwood #IamHIS http://bit.ly/2TtPfpZ

This blog first appeared on www.throughthelensofscripture.com on August 28, 2018.

About Today’s Blogger

Lisa & Oliver Underwood

Oliver Underwood, and his precious wife Lisa, are ministering on the front lines of the BIBLICAL battle against all types of addictions. Lisa and Oliver are blessed to parent three children: Christian, a nine-year old boy; Evan, a six-year old boy; and Kiley, a four-year old little girl (going on 19!).

Oliver struggled for 12 years with meth, heroin, and alcohol addition, which was really on the tip of the iceberg of what was really going on in his heart. By God’s grace, Oliver’s life was transformed, and now God is allowing him to comfort others with the same comfort Oliver was given. Now, Oliver and his family are richly blessed to be a part of a ministry. Oliver serves as the Executive Director of “The Mission House,” a biblically-based men’s program helping men enslaved by sin (addictions). The work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the men at the “The Mission House” helps them learn God’s instructions for living and strengthen them to choose a life of freedom in Christ.

For more information about “The Mission House” go to: https://themissionhouse.info/

The DSM-5, Addiction, and the Biblical Approach

Dr. Howard Eyrich, ThM, DMin

Being a professor of Biblical Counseling at the graduate level requires that I stay abreast of the development in the field of mental health. Consequently, I have read several articles on the DSM-5, the latest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This is the so-called “bible” of psychiatry and mental health. Version five has taken on a radically different configuration of thought regarding how many of the various mental conditions are categorized. While this philosophical shift is important, it is of little interest to the average internet surfer looking to self-diagnose.

One of the main points of interest to those who struggle with an addiction is the fact that the “Addiction and Related Disorders” section will be expanding to embrace non-substance related additions. What this means is that the treatment community will have opportunities to expand treatment centers for a growing number of legitimized addictive practices. For example, while there was some debate, the compilers did include a diagnosis of Pathological Gambling Disorder. Internet addiction was considered, but research evidence was insufficient to create a body of literature to support it. Most observers in the psychiatric world expect to see an expansion of behavioral addictions in future versions. [1]

It is of special interest to me that one of the internet sites discussing these issues was sponsored by a behavioral treatment center. The ad proclaimed that the treatment of addiction changes lives. Who could argue with that? Secular programs must produce reasonable results since these programs thrive. However, immediately following that slogan came an invitation to call for a free benefits evaluation. In other words, check in with us and see how much your insurance company will pay for your treatment.

Another observation worthy of note is this. Most of these treatment programs utilize some version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Why? First, on a horizontal level, it often works sufficiently to change the addictive behavior. Second, results are measurable. If you read the textbooks you will find the claim that these results are the product of scientific research. In its simplest form, the scientific method consists of indiscriminate observations of regularities, gathering information on repeatable phenomena, and using it as a sound basis for theorizing.[2] What is not considered in this definition is a significant variable. That variable is that the observation process is distorted on at least two levels, the fallen nature of the observer and the fallen nature of the subject being studied.

This is the presuppositional variance between a biblical approach to addiction and the scientific approach embodied in CBT. The biblical approach recognizes the fallen condition of man[3] and the resulting heart issues that often drive addictive behaviors. The Biblical Approach includes methodologies that CBT has extracted from natural theology (careful observations of how the human psyche works and how to change behavior by changing thinking). Hence, the key biblical dynamics of dispensing with behavior consistent with the unregenerate man is replacing this with behavior consistent with the regenerate man that comes through the learning and adopting of thinking derived from immersion in the Word of God.

However, the biblical approach goes beyond changing behavior and changing thinking. The biblical approach goes to worship and attitudes. CBT may yield an addict giving up the addiction of ____________ (fill in the blank), but the person is still plagued with envy, anger, lust, all the works of the flesh cited by the Apostle Paul. The biblical approach addresses the behavior that is immediately destroying life. It then expands to address the works of the flesh, which are often the supporting motivations behind the addiction, and replacing them with the fruit of the Spirit by practicing walking by the Spirit. [4]

This biblical methodology remains consistent across addictive behaviors. Jay Adams once said something like this … There are a limited number of sins, but mankind can find limitless ways of practicing those sins.

Adams is right and the compilers of the DSM-5 are right when they predict that society will develop a variety of addictions to be addressed.

[1] I have not given references for the statements in this paragraph because they depict a common theme of blogs and articles I’ve read since the publication of the DSM-5.

[2] My definition is a good representation of the various definitions read.

[3] See Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Theology or Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul. The biblical presupposition that God’s Word is God’s revelation of Himself, of man, and of redemption is foundational to the biblical approach to additions.

[4] Galatians 5:19-25

Dr. Howard A. Eyrich’s career has spanned more than sixty years. He has filled various roles including seminary professor and president, Pastor and church planter. He retired as the Director of Counseling Ministries at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr. Eyrich and his wife Pamela have two grown children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Retirement for him is a time for ministry. He writes, teaches, preaches, and travels for the Kingdom. He also enjoys the hobbies of model railroading, hunting, and shooting.

He has served on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Birmingham Theological Seminary, Trinity Seminary, the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and The Owen Center, as well as various Presbytery and Presbyterian Church in America denominational committees to name some of the major roles.

His publishing efforts include two books as solo author, three books with a co-author, and numerous chapters in significant volumes in the biblical counseling field, as well as articles for The Journal of Biblical Counseling and several other magazines.

Dr. Eyrich is available to speak in conferences, fill pulpits, and for intensive marriage interventions, especially with ministries couples.

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