5 Signs A Christian Might Be Struggling With Addiction

It isn’t easy to spot an addict in church. What happens on Sunday morning can be wildly different from what is taking place the other six days of the week. How can you know if a brother or sister struggles with addiction?

Another complicating factor is that some Christian circles are particularly strict about the use of alcohol, such that if a Christian partakes even moderately and with a clear conscience, others may still suspect a problem. A person who enjoys alcohol is not automatically an addict.

However, we should also never assume that if a person is a Christian, he or she does not struggle with addiction—alcohol or otherwise. Thus it is important to be able to distinguish some of the red-flag behaviors of addicts and to know how to help.

The Type Of Relationship You Have With The Individual Matters

5 Signs A Christian Is Struggling With Addiction - ChristianDrugRehabAddiction is a subtle disease and addicts are particularly skillful in the art of deception and hiding. This speaks to the importance of relationship. If you only know the individual superficially, you may never see him or her acting out in public.

But if there is a relationship, you’ve been to the house, spent time with the family and simply gone through life together, then it is in these contexts that you will be most readily able to recognize the signs of addiction or the changes in behavior that may suggest a problem. And it is also in these contexts that you can be most helpful.

Confronting a mere acquaintance—someone you only see on Sunday mornings—will not be as effective as speaking honestly and from the heart with someone you would consider a brother or sister.

Signs A Christian Might Be Struggling With Addiction

Here are five signs that a Christian brother or sister may have a problem with addiction:

  1. Erratic, Unpredictable Behavior – Erratic, unpredictable behavior will be most noticeable if you already have a relationship with the individual because you’ll have a better baseline of what constitutes normal behavior. Sudden changes in moods, atypical reactions and unpredictability are not automatically indicators of an addiction, but they should be investigated. The individual may be struggling in a variety of ways. This may also include decreased interest in spiritual things or activities, especially if the individual was once very involved in his or her church or youth group and interested in matters of faith. Questioning doctrine or beliefs isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, but general apathy and disinterest may be.
  1. Avoiding Social Activities or Fellowship With Other Believers – Addicts tend to withdraw from friends and family, especially if they think those individuals will notice and/or oppose the addictive behavior. That may mean decreasing time spent with other believers, avoiding fellowship and altogether dropping Christian friends in order to spend time either alone or with others who may be addicts.
  1. Staying Away From Church and Other Ministry Events – Slowly you may notice the individual’s attendance dropping off at church or Bible study or a decrease in general participation as the addict withdraws into the addiction. However, it is important to recognize that addiction does not always motivate withdrawal; many addicts may stay tightly connected to the church or ministry. Decreased involvement can indicate a problem, but stable involvement doesn’t indicate lack of a problem.
  1. They’ve Alluded to the Struggle – If they feel they are in a safe space, many people will talk openly about their challenges with sin and temptation and may have even asked for prayer or support in the past. But there is a difference between struggling with temptation and being an addict. Confessing and asking for prayer isn’t immediately indicative of a full addiction, but people often don’t know when they’ve crossed that line. A believer who has talked about struggles with porn, alcohol or another substance or behavior deserves special care. The problem, which may in the beginning, only be a “problem,” can escalate into an addiction.
  1. You and/or Others Have Observed the Behavior If you’ve encountered the individual viewing online porn or using drugs, you have a pretty good leg to stand on when you talk to him or her about the issue. While he or she may claim it isn’t actually an addiction, certain behaviors and substances don’t have a spectrum for appropriate and inappropriate use. They are addictive and damaging in all contexts and inconsistent with a life that honors God and His word.

Be Open And Non-Judgmental

If you suspect a believer is struggling, seek an opportunity to talk openly and without judgment. Rather than calling out specific behaviors, it is more important to show that the behavior is not a part of God’s plan for our lives. We don’t abstain from drug use or the viewing of porn simply because God says so and we’re afraid of getting in trouble, but because His ideal for us is so much greater than that.

Addiction steals us away from a vital relationship with God and it destroys faith. It is for these reasons that getting help is so important.

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