Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

This past week I had the pleasure of accompanying my husband to a national conference on addictions. His job was to go to the conference, my job was to enjoy the surroundings. I spent my time studying while sitting at a neat perch on the second floor that overlooked the atrium and had full view of the people coming and going from their sessions.

This conference was huge and attended by people in all different facets of caring for those who struggle with substance abuse. Judges, lawyers, District attorneys, counselors, and others all met together for the purposes of education and awareness. One of the things that really struck me was how much all of these people are invested in what they do. They all want to help, they want to hold people accountable for drug and alcohol abuse. They want to impact their clients and their peers with knowledge and information about how drugs and alcohol affect people and society. There was a fairly heavy emphasis on issues that are labeled as mental illness. The majority of the people in attendance believe that alcoholism begins as a disease. They believe there is some genetic disposition to drug addiction too.

Sitting at my perch, I overheard many of their work-related conversations. I was really saddened by one thing all the discussions had in common: hopelessness. Person after person talking about their clients who are continually in trouble, relapsing, having legal trouble, going to jail, losing their spouse or their children because of drugs or alcohol. They had no answers. They had nothing to offer outside of behavior modification, which is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. These professionals mean well, but I heard them talking about the same old things as though they were brand new ideas. Journaling, art, therapy, support groups, all things of the world aimed at changing feelings and behavior and ignoring the most critical element of the heart.

All of their efforts might temporarily make life better for some of their clients. However, they could offer no true hope. They could not offer anything beyond “recovery” and “recovery” is not even promised if you follow their methods!

What I understood from listening to the conversations around me is they don’t understand that addiction is an issue of the heart. When addiction is examined as a heart issue, the real problems quickly come to the surface and can be addressed. It is the heart of the addicted idolater that must be changed, it is the heart that must be affected by repentance and a desire to change before God before the addict will
experience true change in their life. All attempts at change will be void of power apart from Christ.

The hopelessness I saw in the people there ran deeper than their professional problems. It was clear many of them are so spiritually lost. They are the blind leading the blind, the dead trying to revive the dead. They held meditation meetings, spiritual connectivity sessions, 12-Step meetings, and of course, yoga. They were not interested in living water, they are interested in drowning themselves and their clients in water that will never satisfy or bring true help and hope.

One man with nearly 30 years of repentant living from drugs and alcohol approached the booth of a well-known 12-Step support group. He expressed gratitude for the organization, for in the beginning it was all he knew to maintain “sobriety.” After some brief chatting about the organization the man was asked if he still attended 12-Step meetings. He said he has not attended meetings for more than a decade and no longer calls himself “recovering,” having opted for the more accurate term, “repentant.” When he replied that he was an avid follower of Jesus Christ, and that meeting organizers had at one point pulled him aside telling him, “You’re freaking out the new guys with all that talk about Jesus.”

The men attending the booth immediately exclaimed, “Oh no, you can’t talk about Jesus! Higher power sure, but not Jesus.” How sad.

The man who was chided is my husband, who on August 7 will celebrate 30 years of repentance from life dominating sins with drugs and alcohol.

A lack of emphasis on the necessity of heart change and repentance is the problem with secular treatment and any system of people helping that refuses to acknowledge the supremacy of God; it is doomed to fail.