Photo by Matias North on Unsplash

By Mark Shaw with TAC Team


Alcoholism and addiction to substances: Is it a disease? A genetic pre-disposition? An allergy?

What can you do about an addiction? Can self-improvement and self-esteem help?

The hundred year old belief system of the twelve steps and disease concept is one that is familiar to Dr. Mark E. Shaw because he believed it wholeheartedly at one time.

“The other message that I used to believe in and teach, I mean, I was all in on 12 Steps and on the disease concept and all that… I believed it! I loved it! I was part of it. And now God brought me out of that because I think that message is a message that kills.”

The disease or disorder diagnosis is all that the counseling world offers for those caught up in the trap of substance use or alcohol—they offer lifetime medication and group therapy where they will “work” hard on doing better for the rest of their lives. Dr. Shaw believes that hopeless message causes people to feel trapped and leads them quickly to despair.

At TAC, we know that addiction is a sin issue of the heart. To most people today that sounds unkind, but we know it is actually kind, because we have the answer, the solution for sin is Lord Jesus Christ who has paid the debt for our sins.

Our approach to addiction is superior because it is God’s approach. We are going to the Scriptures and calling it what the Bible calls it:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Jim Quigley suggests an alternative to looking in the mirror and telling yourself: I’m an alcoholic but I am going to work on not drinking today. Instead, we should encourage people that there is a new identity waiting for those who want to be forgiven for their sins of drunkenness.

You can be washed. You can be cleansed and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

What if you reminded yourself of your new identity instead of what the world would label you—putting you in a stigmatizing group that has you identified by your past mistakes!

If you are forgiven of drunken pursuits by Jesus you can say these hopeful things to yourself:

  • I am a new creation in Christ now.
  • I was washed.
  • I am sanctified.
  • I am justified in the Lord and because of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross on my behalf.
  • My identity is not in alcoholism because I am forgiven for the sin of drunkenness.

Those who are redeemed from their sins are able to praise the Lord for that freedom and forgiveness.

Dr. Shaw clarifies: encouragement may come for some people from those twelve step programs, and we are not denying that some help occurs. But temporary sobriety and declaring your failures as your identity when you introduce yourself falls so short of the eternal hope and change of identity that occurs for those who are born again and forgiven by Jesus Christ.

Some may claim that addiction to alcohol is like a disease. We perhaps might be okay with that as a metaphor, but now many claim addiction is a disease, saying that there is pathology in the brain and that is simply not true. Scores of people have walked away from drunkenness on their own and never looked back without any medical help to change their brain imaging. The MRI scans have been a tricky means of promoting the brain disease messaging of addiction, even touting that people lose the ability to make choices anymore. This is problematic logic because when humans consume cookies or ice cream or have other pleasurable experiences, those same area of the brain light up on the scans! Don’t be deceived.

If you are addicted to something—anything—we want to let you know that today there is hope everlasting for you! You can walk away from your addiction and be forgiven in Christ Jesus.

The good news that your spiritual heart (not your brain) is the problem. Your desires come from your spiritual heart. The solution is forgiveness from God that comes through trusting Christ alone.

Hopelessness is the end result of all the world’s messaging on addiction. Believing that there is no way out—no known cure—is so sad. And counting sobriety days focuses on the struggle rather than the cure. And when a failure or a sin occurs, re-starting the count again is extremely hopeless.

The message of the Bible is superior. And that is real hope!


Launch an Outreach Today

Do you want to start a Biblical outreach to those in addiction? Check out this disciple-making curriculum for those in addiction entitled Next Steps: Be TRANSFORMED.

Your church can reach out to families of those in addiction using this 12-week curriculum Family Help for Addiction: A Care Group Study

Need Help?

The Addiction Connection offers hope and healing to those struggling with addiction. Start your search for  biblical programs here.

Consider contacting one of our Commissioned Addictions Biblical Counselors who are available to help you.

Residential Programs for addiction that we recommend.

Non-residential Programs (weekly addiction meetings) that we recommend.