Tag: Biblical Addiction Help

Referring an Addict for Detox and Medical Care

by: Mark Shaw

Two questions I am often asked are, “When do I refer an addict I am counseling for a medical detox?” and, “What drugs require detox?” Since I am neither a medical doctor nor a medically-trained professional, my answers are straightforward and simple: always refer an addict to a medical doctor immediately for any drug use, including alcohol, which is a drug in liquid form.[1] Alcohol withdrawal is extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening, though many in withdrawal from alcohol do not report feeling very sick. By contrast, opioid withdrawal is less dangerous and usually not life-threatening, though many in withdrawal from opioids report feeling so sick that they think they might die. Some of them want to die because of how sick they feel!

Medical Care

One of the malicious myths about biblical counselors is that they do not like doctors and won’t work with them. That is simply untrue. As a counselor, I have found working with medical doctors to be extremely helpful. Not only do addicted persons have detox issues, but they will have other aches and pains they have neglected for months (even years) that need the attention of a medical professional. Therefore, I refer them to a physician immediately and follow up with the counselee to make sure he or she is following medical advice. In some instances, I ask the counselee to sign a release of confidential information form, which allows me to speak to the physician directly. That’s extra work for me, but it’s worth it and is vital since the addicted person has lived a life of deception for so long.

Neglecting their bodies and physical health is very common for those enslaved to the idolatrous desires of addiction. A key component of beginning a lifestyle of transformation from idolatry/addiction to Christ-likeness is improving physical health by creating new habits of sleep, exercise, food intake, and other physical disciplines that help in the spiritual transformation into Christ-likeness. While I may monitor those physical disciplines in terms of adherence to what the physician has recommended, my focus is on the spiritual disciplines of fostering a lifestyle of prayer, Bible study, fellowship with believers, and the like. Spiritual growth is enhanced by adherence to physical disciplines and every counselee, addicted or not, will benefit from a commitment to both. Although my focus as a soul physician is on the internal character and heart issues of my counselee, having a medical physician focusing on the externals is also important.

Medical Care for the Soul?

The language in addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs is medical because of the disease concept of addiction, which is merely a theory or an idea of mankind. Sadly, the disease theory has been repeated so often that it is popularly accepted as fact now. I wish the Bible would be so easily accepted as true by popular culture — because it really is true!

Words like disease, recovery, addiction, treatment, rehabilitation, and alcoholism are examples of the medicalized vocabulary in the addiction world that point to a medical solution and away from Christ. Terminology is important, and 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (NASB) makes it clear that there are two languages believers speak:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (Underline emphasis mine)

There are several biblical words to be used when providing soul care for an addicted person. We don’t use the word disease, but refer to sinful habits of the flesh. Instead of recovery, which means to return back to your original state, the biblical concept is transformation into the likeness of Christ and a new creation. Treatment is another medical word that sounds really scientific, yet the irony is that a majority of programs use the same counseling methods that have been utilized unsuccessfully for years and are not based upon medical research but social research termed “evidence-based.” Social research is not the same as medical research and to use the phrase evidence-based for much of that research reveals a poor understanding of what is factual.[2]

The driving force of the concept of treatment is a good one because treatment programs focus on changing the cognition of the counselee first. Rehabilitation programs then take the next step by focusing upon changing the behaviors of the counselee secondarily. In other words, the thinking of the addict must change before the behaviors of the addict will change.

Likewise, in biblical counseling, we agree that the desires and thinking within the heart of an addict must change before the behaviors will change. We emphasize counseling that brings conviction where there are sin issues, comfort where there are suffering issues, and hope in Christ. But the terminology we use focuses on idolatry rather than addiction, since idolatry points to the heart issues involved while addiction points to a medical disease that has somehow attacked the person. The same is true for alcoholism, which points to a man-made concept of a disease problem rather than a heart issue that fuels the thoughts and behaviors of drunkenness. Use of the word drunkard sounds mean at first, but in reality, that word points to a solution found only in Christ, which is ultimately compassionate. Secular programs have to re-label biblical terminology because they do not have Christ to offer hurting souls! They do not share the gospel because it is not good news for the problem of addiction and alcoholism, though it is good news for the problem of idolatry and drunkenness.


If someone you counsel goes to a treatment and/or rehabilitation program, realize that the counsel they receive more than likely uses language that might sometimes be helpful to the extent of behavioral change and prolonging physical life. Counseling them after the completion of a non-biblical addiction program will require sessions dedicated to teaching and using new terminology. Be patient with them during this time and continue pointing them to Jesus Christ as the only answer for repentant sinners and to the Holy Spirit as the only comfort for the suffering saint.

Questions for Reflection

How do the words you choose to use in counseling point your counselees in a particular direction? Since working with a medical doctor is important in counseling an addicted person, how can you reach out to medical professionals in your community?

[1] Alcohol is a drug in liquid form, though our culture does not often view it in this way. Cough syrup contains codeine and other drugs and is thought of as a drug in liquid form. Our culture separates alcohol and drugs, but in reality, alcohol is a drug.

[2] This is a topic that needs an entire blog post or two of its own.

Click to Tweet: “We emphasize counseling that brings conviction where there are sin issues, comfort where there are suffering issues, and hope in Christ.” -Mark Shaw, DMin #TheAddictionConnection #BiblicalHelp4Addiction</a

TAC Staff Note: This article was originally published at BiblicalCounselingCoalition.org on September 15, 2017. View the original post here.

About Mark Shaw

Mark E. Shaw (D. Min.) is President and Founder of Truth in Love Ministries and The Addiction Connection. He resides in Florence, KY, with his wife and children. The author of 20 publications including The Heart of Addiction, Addiction-Proof Parenting, and Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, Mark enjoys speaking, training, and traveling for the purpose of encouraging and edifying local churches in their outreach to hurting souls.

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Desperate Parents Need Real Help! (Part 2)

by: Brenda Payne

As a parent who personally understands the heartbreak of addiction, I know the desperation of wanting to help my child while dealing with the desolation of my own heart.  With so much at stake, parents need to know where to turn for help. How does the bible address the deep grief of parents of prodigals? What is true about the nature of addiction and the addict as it relates to the body and soul? What biblical responsibility does the Scripture assign to parents and to their adult children? How does a parent face fear, worry, anger, shame and guilt in a way that produces growth and glory? How can parents deal with the ongoing manipulation and deception that marks the relationship with the addict? And, what purposes does God have for the suffering parents that will bring about the expansion of His Kingdom on earth? When answering these questions, parents must compare the world’s wisdom with the wisdom of God. And since much of the world’s wisdom has infiltrated the church, it makes discernment even more difficult.

Whether you read books, blogs, search the web, attend a support group, go to counseling, or talk to a friend, you must remember everyone has foundational beliefs that drive their advice. Addiction is complicated, and at first glance it does not seem that the bible has much to say about the problem. Therefore, Christians often seek help outside the church from “experts”. They are told they need a specialist, but could it be God is using the trial of addiction to show them their need of the Savior?

There are currently more than 400 different counseling models training “experts” all intended to help people change their thinking, beliefs, feelings and behavior. However, not one of these systems will claim absolute authority to know what that change needs to look like.11  In contrast, God’s wisdom never changes and is based on the authority of God Himself! Dr. Michael J. Mahoney, who made major contributions to the field of psychotherapy, admits there is no “Secret Manual of Helping” in psychotherapy that adequately addresses the problems of man, “No one, no committee of experts, no matter how brilliant, can claim such omniscience.”12 Mahoney goes on to make a rather shocking confession that secular counselors are “flying by the seat of our being”. 13 Thankfully God is Omniscient. He is All Knowing! Christian parents can stand confident on the wisdom of God and not fly by the seat of their pants!

The humanistic thinking that applauds self-sufficiency, self-protection, and self-esteem is “worldly wisdom” that  has crept into the Christian addiction literature preaching “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-8). The world offers coping strategies and support devoid of God. Any self-salvation system that advocates trust in someone or something else more than God is hostile to God’s plan for total dependence on Him and His ways. The writer of Hebrews warned the early Christians to distinguish truth from apostasy by admonishing them to become mature in the Word (Hebrews 5:12-14). Parents need discernment to be able to judge between secular and sacred philosophies and methods and bring them in line with God’s Word. In short, they must learn to think biblically. They need an interpretative lens of truth with God as their starting point. In his book, Think Biblically, John MacArthur writes, “A truly Christian worldview, simply put, is one in which the Word of God, rightly understood, is firmly established as both the foundation and final authority for everything we hold true.”   In his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Ed Welch explains that theology (the study of God and His relation to the world) is a framework that protects us from the deception of our own hearts and competing worldviews.

“It sets the boundaries for our lives. Better yet, accurate theology is a kind of treasure map: it guides us and compels us to relentlessly search Scripture for more and more relevant, penetrating, enlightening, life-changing truth. Scripture, after all, makes bold claims. It says that it provides ‘everything we need for life and godliness’” (2 Peter 1:3).14

But biblical wisdom is more than commands and principles, it’s a person. The Scriptures tell us how the power, presence, promises, provision of God through His son Jesus Christ comfort and change us. The world offers solutions, but God sent the “soul-ution” in His Son. Jesus is the wisdom of God and parents will find all the wisdom they need to navigate the treacherous journey of addiction in Him (Colossians 1:28-29).

Parents need the dynamic counsel of the Scriptures, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the support of other believers to avoid the traps of self-help systems and faithfully navigate the issues of helping their addict in a way that brings about personal Christ-like transformation, demonstrates biblical love for their child, and ultimately glorifies God.  In Counseling the Hard Cases, the contributors make the case that there are no “hard cases” too big for God and for which the Scripture is not sufficient to address.  Pastor and biblical counselor Heath Lambert writes, “If Scripture is an overflowing source of wisdom for all counseling , the pressing task of Christians is to be busy mining the text of Scripture for understanding of the manifold problems people experience and for the wisdom to help them.15” The apostle Paul admonished the Colossians to follow Christ by faith and not be led astray by ungodly counsel. Parents of addicts need to heed these same words today (Col. 2:6-10).

8 Current Psychotherapies 8th Edition

9 Ibid

10 Ibid

11 Ibid

12 Handbook of Psychological Change

13 Ibid

14 Ed Welch, Addiction: A Banquet in the Grave

15 Counseling the Hard Cases

Read Part 1 – Desperate Parents Need Real Help!

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 theTeach Them Diligentlystudy 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.


Micah’s Mandate for the Addict to Be Reconciled to God

by Bill Hines

Christians are called to please God not self. Yet in our struggle with addiction, we become self-focused and provide excuses as to why we are not walking with God. The people of Micah’s day wanted to know what they could do to overcome their heinous sin committed against God. Not unlike many of us today they tried to devise a way back to God that would really show their commitment. As always God’s way back is profound yet simple.

The people asked:
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8 ESV).

The addict often wants a list. If you are reading this and you are convicted that your addiction is wrong, you may be wishing you could have a list of ways to overcome your addiction. When the Israelites were indicted by God concerning their need for reconciliation to Him, they responded with questions of their own through their prophet Micah. How could they make things right? Is there a list of behaviors they can check off? Their attempts at answers became increasingly absurd and show what many addicts exhibit—a mask of interest in change, yet under that mask is a resolute defiance toward godly change.

Watch the absurd progression:

  • Shall they provide a burnt offering? That would be a normal question.
  • Offerings and calves a year old? Not unusual …
  • Shall they offer thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil! Now it’s getting absurd …
  • Then comes the most absurd of all. Shall they offer their firstborn child? This is what some of the pagan societies of ancient times did in sacrificing children to the gods.

It reminds me of myself as a child. Upset that I was in trouble I accused my parents of wanting to spank me and that they would enjoy putting me through my punishment. That was not the truth, but it seemed the more absurd I could make the punishment the worse it made my parents look (in my young mind) and it justified my behavior as not that bad.

There is precedence for each of these sacrifices and gifts to God when done as prescribed by the Lord from a humble heart, as even Hannah and Elkanah offered their only child, Samuel, to the Lord’s service (1 Samuel 1:21-28). But for the true Believer at the time of Micah—and for us now—there is a better answer. The answer comes in three-character traits. But these are not the kind of list one can check off and be done with. These are character traits in which we grow with ever-increasing measure every day of our lives. It is because we are free in Christ that we can walk in humble repentance according to these three-character traits of the “Micah Mandate.”

1. To do justice means to fulfill mutual obligations in a manner consistent with God’s moral law. It is making right decisions according to God’s moral laws.

God is a just God. His standard is the standard for Himself and for those who follow Him. If His people desire to put off their old ways of living in favor of the new ways in Christ, then they will walk in His just ways. The addict will live by His Word, which is His moral law found in the Bible. As we said before, this is not in order to be saved from sin. We obey because we are saved, and He is our God. Doing justice helps the addict focus on the things that are truly important to God because the heart becomes increasingly set on His law, fulfilled in His way and in His time. The addict must learn patient dedication and commitment to His ways which are just.

2. To love kindness means to have a readiness to do good to people, even when it may be undeserved.

God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and it was in kindness and love that He came to save us (Titus 3:4-5). He asks His people to love kindness as He does. This means having a willingness of heart to act in kindness toward those who may not deserve it, as we did not deserve His kindness when He gave Himself for us. Of course, this kindness extends toward our families and friends and all those of the faith. It is one of the character qualities with which all Christians are to adorn themselves (Colossians 3:12-17). Christian kindness will help the addict love others with their time and energies without indulging in private projects that only satisfy self.

3. To walk humbly with your God means to have a right understanding of self before God. This status is based on His majesty as the high and exalted Creator and man’s status as the creature who is dependent on the Creator for all that pertains to life and living. It is not a matter of having high self-esteem or a positive outlook it is thinking of self realistically. As Paul puts it in Romans 12:3 a person is, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…. The sober thinker always recognizes that the life he lives before God is completely based on gratitude for all that He has done and continues to do for those who bow before Him.

So, what can the addict learn from Micah? It is that God wants to grow us, by doing the simple things God calls us to do each day. To quit making excuses and devising reasons we cannot attain the good He wants of us. The addict must stop making up lies about what God wants and simply walk in newness of life and in the truth that, … if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). If you are an addict you must simply, under the power of the Holy Spirit, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God . God the Father, your loving Father if you belong to Him wants you to grow up to be like Him.

Covenant Ministries, Inc.

Bill Hines is the president of Covenant Ministries, a biblical counseling, education and Christian discipleship ministry in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is the author of Leaving Yesterday Behind and Curing the Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling (with Dr. Howard Eyrich). He co-authored The Pursuit of Perfection with Dr. Mark Shaw. He edited Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle Paul and is a contributing author of three of the chapters.

Covenant Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 121235
Fort Worth, TX 76121-1235

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