How Addiction Stigma Can Keep Christians From Getting Help

How Addiction Stigma Can Keep Christians From Getting HelpThe decision about whether to seek help at a Christian drug rehab facility can be a difficult one to make. You may not really believe you have a substance abuse problem, or you may tell yourself that the addiction will go away if you just pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Others avoid treatment because of the stigma of addiction. This guide will help you learn more about how stigma prevents you from finding the treatment you need and how to overcome those fears so you can live the life you deserve as one of God’s children. 

Reasons for Stigma

Guilt and shame frequently contribute to the stigma that prevents many Christians from seeking the help they so desperately need.  If you’ve had a relationship with God in the past, you probably feel as though you’ve fallen far short of what He expects from you. When you’re mired in addiction, you’re compelled to seek pleasure-inducing substances at the expense of responsibilities like school, work or family. Not only does it feel as if you’ve let God down, but you’ve let everyone else down as well.

It may feel as if your addiction has also separated you from God – or at least put a major wrench in your relationship with Him. Perhaps you’ve started making mistakes that you understand are sins against God and others. You may be familiar with the Bible’s teachings on substance abuse: “And do not get drunk on wine…but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Feelings of guilt and shame can harshly and insidiously feed into a self-stigma, which makes it easy for you to believe you aren’t worthy of help.

Another reason Christians feel stigma regarding an addiction is the fear that they will always be labeled “the addict.” You may worry that loved ones and colleagues will be watching your behavior, waiting for you to “screw up” again. Those who are aware of your faith – but either don’t share it or are annoyed by it – may take delight in watching you fail. You may also worry that your addiction could prevent you from keeping a job or maintaining custody of your children.

The Reality of Substance Abuse

Addiction has nothing to do with a person’s morality or will. It’s a challenging disorder that significantly impacts how you think and behave.  Managing it on your own is rarely realistic.  This is why getting treatment from professionals – preferable those who share your faith – is necessary.

Alcohol and drug use directly impacts your brain.  As substances get into the bloodstream, they cause a surge in dopamine, a brain chemical linked to mood regulation and pleasurable feelings. When you’re abusing alcohol or drugs, dopamine surges through your brain and causes you to crave more of that pleasurable feeling. In essence, the drive for pleasure alters how you think and make decisions.

To make matters worse, as your brain begins to adapt, you need to take more of the substance of choice to experience the same euphoria. This tolerance can develop over a long period.  However, some addictions take hold very quickly. For example, an addiction to methamphetamines can develop with just a few hits.

Risk factors can increase your chances of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. There is a genetic component, which makes those with a family history of substance abuse more likely to develop it. Depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders also contribute to addiction, particularly if you seek to use substances as a means of self-medicating your symptoms. Another risk factor is experiencing a trauma, such as verbal, physical or sexual abuse. The trauma of combat puts veterans at particularly high risk, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Addiction can develop when Christians don’t fully understand the potential danger of prescription drug use. A person may not realize that taking a medication, like a painkiller, more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed can lead to dependence and addiction.  Prescription drugs can be especially alluring. Many people naively assume they’re safe or not addictive, just because they were prescribed by a medical professional.

Overcoming the Stigma

It can be difficult to get past stigmas.  However, it’s not impossible.  Following are some tips to get your started:

Seek professional help for substance abuse. Addictions don’t go away on their own.  If only…. Addiction is a mental health condition that changes brain chemistry, affecting how you make decisions. If you don’t seek help, the consequences are as serious as they get; you risk everything, from relationships with loved ones to your own life. Addiction specialists, like those in a Christian drug rehab facility, have the experience and tools to guide you toward sobriety and abstinence. They’ll help you learn which emotions and behaviors trigger substance abuse and teach you to deal with them in a substance-free way. You’ll also learn practical strategies for staying sober for life.

Christ-focused rehab programs are in a unique position to deal with the stigma that can continue to weigh you down as an addict. Addiction professionals in Christian recovery will remind you that God won’t turn you away, even if others have rejected you: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

Help others learn about your addiction. Fear of how people will view you plays a role in the  stigma you’re experiencing. Overcome that fear by educating others about your addiction. Encourage loved ones to attend support groups like Al-Anon, Alateen, and Nar-Anon, all good sources for practical information on alcohol and drug addiction and its impact on families. During meetings, attendees will learn more about substance abuse through the stories of others living the same experience. This will dispel some of the false beliefs loved ones have about what you’re experiencing and why you can’t just “get over it” or simply stop using.

Join a support group. It can be easier for you to stigmatize yourself if you shut yourself off from the world. Self-help groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, allow you to regularly spend time with other recovering addicts. This provides valuable perspective on the nature of addiction and how it changes the way people think and act.

Tend to your spirit. It’s usually apparent that substance abuse takes a physical and emotional toll; but sometimes we forget it takes a spiritual toll as well. Christian addiction treatment is the ideal place to start reconnecting with God. Many centers offer regular religious services as well as time for meditation, individual Bible study, and prayer. You may also be encouraged to attend a group Bible study or work with a spiritual counselor. In addition, Christian drug rehab will stress the importance of asking for forgiveness from God and those you’ve wronged.  This is an especially powerful step toward healing the spirit. Therapists may also guide you toward extending forgiveness to those who hurt you before or during the addiction.  Making amends and letting go of old hurts can be powerfully healing.

A Christian drug rehab program will show you how to live a life free from the devastating impact of substance abuse and addiction. Take the first step toward healing yourself now by reaching out for information on professional alcohol and drug addiction recovery.