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The Church and Talking about the Problem of Porn

December 1, 2010 2 comments
[by InterVarsity Press from Facebook]

53% of Christian men consume pornography.

57% of pastors call pornography the most sexually damaging issue for their congregations.

51% of pastors say porn is a temptation.

69% of pastors started looking at porn out of curiosity.

37% of pastors say it’s currently a struggle.

53% of pastors have visited porn sites in the past year.

18% percent of pastors look at porn a couple times a month.

35% of men have used pornography in the past month.

30% of pastors do not talk to anyone about your dirty little secret.

4 in 10 of pastors looked at porn today.

Sources: Christianity Today, Promise Keepers, Barna Research Group, World Magazine, www.xxxchurch.com

Pornography is everywhere. Far too many Christians regularly use and are addicted to it, warping their perception of sexuality and relationships, destroying marriages and ministries. But Christians who struggle with porn also long for change. When we realize the unfulfilling emptiness of porn, we come to yearn for freedom from it. But what do we do?

Tim Chester says that we can be captured by a better vision–a liberating confidence that God offers more than pornography does. Moving beyond pat answers or mere willpower, Chester offers spiritual, practical and corporate resources for living porn free. He exposes the false promises of porn and redirects us to the true promises of God.

With assurance of God’s grace and cleansing power, we can change our desires and escape the traps and temptations of pornography. However great the challenge, God’s grace is even greater. And we can come to a place where we no longer feel the need to use porn.

Close the window on porn. And open the door to freedom, integrity and new life.

Learn more about Closing the Window.

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Meeting the Needs of Those with a Drug Addiction

May 11, 2010 Leave a comment

[ Guest Writer Alicia Seidler, PLPC Wellspring Christian Counseling]
Alicia Seidler is a Staff Counselor with Wellspring Christian Counseling. She earned her Master of Arts in Counseling and Family Therapy from St. Louis University. She is experienced in the areas of addiction, domestic violence, depression, anxiety, anger, intimacy and personality disorders.

As pastors walk up and down the aisles of our churches on Sunday mornings, shaking hands and asking about the day’s activities, it is unlikely that the term “drug addiction” or “substance abuse” crosses their minds. However, individuals with these problems may very well be found sitting in the pews of our local church. According to recent data, 20% of Missourians have an unmet need for drug and alcohol abuse treatment (National Survey on Drug Use and Health). Is it possible they are in your church? Do you know what to look for and how to help?

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

  • Cycles of increased energy, restlessness, being unusually talkative and inability to sleep (seen often with stimulants)
  • Progressive severe dental problems (seen often with methamphetamine use)
  • Abnormally slow movements, speech or reaction time, confusion and disorientation (seen often with opiates, benzodiazepines and barbiturates)
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Cycles of excessive sleep
  • Unexpected changes in clothing, such as constantly wearing long sleeved shirts (to hide scarring at injection sites)
  • Chronic trouble with sinusitis or nosebleeds (seen often with snorted drugs) Persistent cough or bronchitis, leading to coughing up excessive mucus or blood (seen often with smoked drugs)
  • Increased irritability, agitation and anger
  • Unexplained financial difficulties
  • Unusual calmness or unresponsiveness
  • Apathy and depression
  • Temporary psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia, delusions Lowered threshold for violence
  • Defensiveness and protection by family members


What you can do if you suspect someone has an Addiction Problem:

o    Move past any shame or discomfort you may have with not having recognized it sooner. It is probable that they are devoting a lot of time and energy to make sure their problem stays hidden. Additionally, the use may have started slowly and you might have gotten so used to the drug abuser’s behaviors that they seem almost normal. Blaming yourself or even the drug abuser will only serve as a barrier to open communication.
o   Apply God’s grace to the situation and realize you cannot force someone to end their addiction. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is to watch the effects of drug abuse, you cannot make them stop using. They have decided that the answer to their pain and discontent is the addiction and the final choice to replace the addiction with God’s love is up to them. Creating healthy boundaries while applying empathy is the best course of action. Empathy involves seeing the world through the drug abuser’s eyes, thinking about things as they think about them, feeling things as they feel them, and sharing in their experiences. When they feel understood, they are more likely to open up.
o    Expect that support (professional and otherwise) will be needed to see any change. Drug abuse is not a matter of moral weakness or faulty willpower; it is a matter of brokenness. The type of support needed by a person with an addiction is one that will provide hope in Christ and a life rebuilt in Christ. Christian counseling that addresses the emotional and spiritual areas related to the addiction is particularly effective at uncovering the core issues perpetuating the addiction. Loved ones especially close to the drug abuser may also want to seek support.

There are many forms of support useful for those with a drug addiction. Check with your state and ask about  inpatient treatment centers. These centers are available to help, in more severe cases, with the detoxification of the drugs out of their body. When a dependent user reduces or stops use of the drug abruptly, they may experience severe symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms, which can begin as early as a few hours after the last drug administration, include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, kicking movements, and other symptoms. In addition to these, they will most likely experience a severe craving for the drug.

Other forms of treatment include individual therapy, psychiatry, and/or group therapy. Christian counseling assists them in developing an accurate view of God, self and others, offers freedom from guilt through God’s grace, and calls them into a life filled with purpose and meaning in Christ. From there, other forms of help can be added as they are willing and at the appropriate stage of treatment.

Know that recovery will be an ongoing process. As with most brokenness in life, the recovery process is a journey of daily surrender to God and exploration of the pain causing the addiction. The addiction may have been masking painful feelings. The recovery journey is a process with specific stages of change along the way.


Stages of Addiction

In or out of treatment, people pass through stages as they work on making changes.

  • The first stage of change is called the “Pre-contemplation Stage.” During this stage there is no thought of making a change. This may be because they have never thought much about their situation or they have already thought things through and decided not to change their behavior. Sometimes they may want to change, but do not feel as if they could successfully make the change they desire. People in this stage might find it useful to get more information about their situation (perhaps in an individual therapy session or through a loved one) but would not be readily open to attending a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous where it is assumed he/she has accepted the substance abuse as problematic. The goal at this stage is to develop a working alliance.
  • When there is thought about the addiction, they begin the second stage called the “Contemplation Stage.” During this stage, they are unsure about what to do, but weigh both good and not-so-good things about the present situation. During this stage they often want change and yet want to stay the same at the same time. This can be a bit confusing as they feel torn between these options. During this time, empathy and understanding can be the best way of helping, as opposed to jumping into ways of fixing the problem. This is a necessary stage for lasting change. Someone that jumps right into the last stage may not spend enough time preparing for change and will not be able to sustain the change. The goal of this stage is to increase awareness that substance use is problematic and increase motivation to change.
  • At some point, when they have been thinking through whether or not to change, there may come a point where the reasons for change outweigh the reasons not to change. As this weight increases on the side of change, the person becomes more determined to do something. This is the beginning of the next stage, called the “Preparation Stage.” During this stage, they begin thinking about how to go about making the desired change, making plans, and then taking some action toward stopping old behaviors and/or starting new, more productive behaviors. They will often become more and more “ready” and committed to making changes. It is in this stage that the suggestion of group or individual counseling might be most beneficial, if they are not already receiving counseling.
  • During the next stage of change called the “Action Stage” they begin to implement their “change plans” and trying out new ways of being. Often, during this stage they will let others know what’s happening and look for support from them in making these changes.
  • Once they have succeeded in making and keeping some changes over a period of time, they enter the “Maintenance Stage.” During this stage, they will try to sustain the changes that have been made and to prevent returning to their old ways. Many times they are able to keep up the changes made and then make a permanent exit from the stages of change.   During this stage it is also common for people to have some “slips” or “relapses” where old habits return for a short time. When a person has a relapse for a longer period of time, he or she typically returns to the pre-contemplation or contemplation stages. The person’s task is to start the stages of change again rather than getting stuck. Keep in mind that relapses, slips, and lapses are normal as a person tries to change any long-standing habit.

Resources for Further Study
The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective, Mark E. Shaw. Focus Publishing, 2008.
Overcoming Addictive Behavior, Neil T. Anderson and Mike Quarles. Regal Books, 2003.
Stepping out of Denial into God’s Grace, Participant’s Guide #1, Celebrate Recovery Program, Rick Warren and John Baker. Zondervan, 1998.
Love is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships,
Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth, M.D., Dr. Paul Meier. (For loved ones
of those struggling with substance abuse.) Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.
Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change (2nd edition),
William R. Miller & Stephen Rollnick. (For those in a helping profession). The Guilford Press, 2002.

Categories: Addiction, Guest Writers

Sabbath Evenings – You are Not Nothin’

April 12, 2010 2 comments

[Caveat to the reader:  the following story is a slice from the life of singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.  Though there are many themes and angles to his stunning story, it would take many pages to cover them all.  I have chosen to focus on one.]

You’re nothin’! — hard words to hear from anyone – anytime. But when these words are spoken to a child by a parent, the impact carves a permanent wound on the soul.  These indicting words spoken to Johnny Cash by his father would significantly affect him well into his adult years.  At 12, he suffered his deepest and most enduring pain when his older brother Jack, 14 was accidentally killed in a sawmill accident. Dad, grief-stricken, directly and indirectly blamed Johnny—he had been out fishing at the time. Dad started drinking and became abusive. He  favored Jack. Jack wanted to be a preacher.  Johnny loved listening to and singing music. Dad didn’t see the point of music. One day , angry and drunk, Johnny’s Dad announces  “The devil did this, and he took the wrong son. You’re nothin’.”

I’m completely drawn into the story of Johnny Cash – one of the most influential American singer-songwriters in music history. The album cover of Johnny’s 1994 recording American Recordings is dramatically telling – setting up the themes of Cash’s story in picture form:  Johnny, dressed in a long black coat preacherly-like, stands imposing and resolute in front of ominous storm clouds. Two dogs, one black and one white with spots, serendipitously wander in to the scene and strike a pose.  Cash called them Sin and Redemption — profoundly symbolizing two prominent themes in his story.  He is simultaneously the preacher and the sinner.

Walk the Line,” a biopic [that’s short for a biography in move form] illustrates Johnny Cash’s early adult years and his hard road to fame in the music business.  I love this movie.  In fact, I have watched it over and over.  The movie is human.  It’s raw and real, not glossing over what it means to live on this side of eternity.  Life is messy.  The human heart leaks out brokenness expressed in a hodgepodge of actions and reactions. “Walk the Line” exposes the story of how Johnny Cash is haunted by his father’s words:  “You’re nothin’.” I think I watch it so often because it is a vivid reminder of the ravages of a fragmented planet of people who hear these words daily.  Johnny’s story, in part, is a reaction to these words.

Johnny goes all out to be accepted as a credible singer/songwriter.  He fights hard to believe he is something.  His success sets him on a path crowded with screaming fans and an unrelenting touring schedule.  He begins to use drugs and alcohol to keep him going.  Though Johnny is married at this time, he meets the singer-songwriter June Carter.  The attraction is instant for both of them.  Johnny’s story reveals a man spiraling rapidly into drug addiction, alcohol, adultery, and divorce.

Johnny Cash’s sin weakened him — he was losing the fight with the fierce rage he felt over his father’s searing rejection as a boy.  He tried harder but Johnny lost the fight – exhausted and his drug-ridden body crashed – passing out on stage during a concert. Depression, despair, and agony were winning. That Thanksgiving Johnny’s parents and June Carter’s family came to Johnny’s new home in a beautiful wooded area near a lake.  After dinner, spotting Johnny taking more pills, his father approaches him in front of the family and  rejects his achievements and drug addiction.  His words are contemptuous and dismissing as if to echo the words again:  “You’re nothin’.”

After Johnny’s parents leave, June and her parents stay with him.  June is relentless in helping Johnny through his darkest night of beating his drug addiction.  Watching Johnny go through detoxification was hard to watch — shaking, sweating, the craving for more, confusion and days of sleep. The Carter family’s love was unyielding and tireless – they loved Johnny Cash well by staying close to him, threatening a visiting drug dealer, and throwing away his pills.

And then Johnny Cash wakes up.  This is my favorite scene in the movie.  Johnny opens his eyes and his world looks radically different.  It’s quiet.  The colors are vibrant.  June is sitting by his side.  He eats fresh berries picked by June and her mother.  All of this brings Johnny to tears.  The script reads:

Johnny Cash: You’re an angel.
June Carter: No, I’m not.
Johnny Cash: You’ve been there with me.
June Carter: I had a friend who needed help. You’re my friend.
Johnny Cash: But I’ve done so many bad things.
June Carter: You’ve done a few, that’s true.
Johnny Cash: My Daddy’s right. It should have been me on that saw. Jack was so good. He would have done so many good things. What have I done? Just hurt everybody I know. I know I’ve hurt you. I’m nothin’.
June Carter: You’re not nothin’. You are not nothin’. You’re a good man, and God has given you a second chance to make things right, John. This is your chance, honey.

[I apologize in advance that if you want to see the movie clip, you will need to click the link below and leave this post.  I was not able to insert the actual clip.]

Walk the Line:  Your Second Chance

It is a poignant clip.   From this point, everything in Johnny’s life changes.  God displays his glory through many instances of redemption in his life.  Maybe that’s why I never grow tired of watching this movie.  I cry every time. God takes the trash of our shattered, toxic hearts and redeems them.  In Ezekiel 36.26 God says “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender and responsive heart.”  The redemptive love goes far beyond June Carter and points to Christ – the Redeemer – the only one who is able to make all things new (Rev. 21.5) Our sinful heart gets to a desperate place of finally crying out,  When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long . . . finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt . . . I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.  And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone.” Ps. 32. 3-5   And the apostle Paul confirms “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8.1-2

And you are not nothin’!

[This movie gets so much right about sin, struggle and redemption.  I hope if you have not had a chance to see it, you will.]

Sexual Addiction: A Modern Plague

April 6, 2010 Leave a comment

[Guest writer is Jeff Oberle.  I work with Jeff at Wellspring Christian Counseling.  Jeff Oberle is a Staff Counselor and the Team Leader at Wellspring. He earned his Master of Arts in Counseling from Covenant Theological Seminary. He commonly addresses issues such as intimacy, infidelity, pornography, addictions, anger, communication, and depression in his counseling.]

Whether man or woman, adult or child, non-Christian or Christian, sexual addiction is ravaging all people groups in American culture today. Certainly sexual immorality is nothing new, as Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9) We look into the Old Testament and we see sexual sin in the lives of Samson (Judges 14-16), Judah (Gen 38) and David (2 Sam 11-12) to name just a few. I wouldn’t suppose that sexual addiction did not exist in Ancient, Biblical, Victorian, or now in our Modern eras, yet the sexual revolution of the 1960’s is often seen as creating an environment or cultural condition for the acceleration and rapid increase in sexual addiction to where it is quickly becoming the moral issue of our times.

The Church would do well to understand that it is not the stereotypic “dirty old man” in the shadows of seedy and windowless establishments that is consuming annually, over 10 billion dollars of sexual material and then acting out in sexually sinful ways.

Sexual Addiction is impacting …

Our Youth…

  • The largest consumer of pornography is 12-17 year olds.
  • The average age of first exposure to explicitly sexual images is now 5 years old.
  • Over 40% of high school age kids engage in oral sex, yet consider themselves to be virgins.
  • “Sexting” (sending sexually explicit messages or photos of oneself over the internet) among teens has exploded in the last few years.

Women…

  • 1 in 6 women struggle with addiction to pornography.
  • 28% of those admitting porn addiction are women.
  • 9.3 million women access adult websites each month.

And the Faithful…

  • 29% of born-again Christians believe it is morally acceptable to view movies with explicit sexual behavior.
  • For every 10 men in the church pew, 5 are struggling with pornography.
  • 34% of church-going women say they have intentionally visited online porn sites.
  • Almost 50% of Christian families said porn is a problem in their homes.
  • 57% of pastors say addiction to porn is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation.
  • Over 50% of pastors say internet porn is a temptation – 37% say it’s a personal struggle!

The Damage Wrought
According to research, as little as 6 hours of exposure to soft-core porn (anything designed to arouse one sexually) is enough to:

  • Destroy sexual satisfaction in marriage
  • Decrease partner satisfaction
  • Decrease the value of faithfulness
  • Increase in the thought that women enjoy being raped
  • Cause a loss of ability to be with one person and cherish that one person

There are many other damaging effects of pornography, including the objectification of the opposite sex, compulsive masturbation, and a loss of productive time at work and home, and even loss of jobs. It is not unusual for an addict to plan on spending just 20 minutes visiting a favorite porn site before going to work and suddenly realizing its dinner time!


Recognizing Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction is best thought of as being on a continuum. At one end is a person who is sexually repulsed and having no interest in sex, and at the other end is one who is sexually obsessed. The point of addiction on the continuum can be difficult to discern. Here are some signposts:

  • Sinful sexual behavior that is repetitive for more than two years (part of a technical definition).
  • Behavior that is intensifying and requiring more frequent and intense use to achieve a sexual “high”. For example, behavior may begin with pornography, move through voyeurism, and into prostitution.
  • The addict feels totally powerless to stop the behavior even though he/she has attempted multiple times and wants to stop but has failed.
  • Compulsive sexual behavior continues in spite of negative consequences such as STD’s, divorce, etc.


Warning Signs

A person ensnared by alcohol, gambling, and drug addictions is fairly easily seen by family members and close friends; however, because of the availability, anonymity, and affordability that the internet provides, sexual addiction is often hidden in the shadows for long periods of time, often for years and decades. Discovery may come as a moment of “surprise” to the addict and the discoverer alike (most often a spouse or child), through revelations of “odd” numbers or charges from phone records or hotel bills, or by the addict being caught in a sting by law enforcement.

Warning signs may include:

  • Unexplained or increased secrecy or distance in a relationship.
  • Changes in the sexual relationship (increase or decrease in desire).
  • Increased time spent on the computer. Staying up late to “play computer games”.
  • Unexplained decrease in productivity in regular activities. Irritability, lack of concentration, anxiety, or depression

Helping
To adequately help, one must break the denial that often exists and help bring the addict into repentance, confession, and to receive forgiveness. Additionally, it is necessary for addicts to grow in their ability to exercise self-control by helping them recognize triggers and make a covenant with their eyes (Job 31:1), memorize Scripture (Deut 6:6), and pray (1 Thes 5:17). After all, it is sin, and Scripture calls believers into obedience and instructs us to not only avoid, but to flee sexual immorality (e.g., Col 3:5; 1 Thes 4:3; 1 Cor 6:18).

However, additional intervention is often necessary. Dealing with the sin is just one side of the sexual addiction “coin”. The problem with addressing the sin alone is that it is likely to “force” the behavior deeper into hiding, deepening shame, and intensifying hopelessness. If sexual acting out is one side, the other side of the coin is the addiction itself. Mark Laaser describes sexual addiction as the process that drives sexual sin and keeps the behavior going. Helping involves calling the addict into repentance, and aiding the one trapped find victory over the addiction (the process).

Helping involves Addressing All aspects of the Addict’s Personhood, including:

  • Physical: The “feel good” chemical dopamine is produced in the body creating a high similar to drugs and alcohol. The experience of withdrawal can be expected.
  • Emotional: Sex addicts are gripped in a vicious cycle of shame-driven and shame – creating behavior. While shame drives an addict’s behavior, it also becomes an unwanted consequence of their behavior.
  • Relational: Sexual addiction is often described as an intimacy disorder. A desire for relational safety, control of relationships, and a temporary relief from relational pain leads addicts to a fantasy world of false relationships where these longings are met.
  • Cognitive: Sexual addicts need to be transformed in their thinking about God, themselves, and others as it relates to intimacy and Biblical love.
  • Spiritual: The addict looks to sexual behavior to find value, safety and significance. The addicted individual has raised an idol(s) in his/her heart. The behavior at first serves these needs, but soon the addict is sacrificing himself on the altar of the addiction.


Ideas for Helping

The following are ways to help the addict work through their addiction. Some or all of the following will be integral parts of the healing process. The bottom line is, the more the addict is active in their own recovery, the better their outcome.

  • Communicate compassion, acceptance, and a desire to help as you are equipped.  Refer to a professional when your personal and professional limits become an impediment to helping.
  • Recommend individual counseling – The person ensnared by sexual addiction must become aware of the heart issues (Prov 4:23) driving their addictive behavior. Counseling facilitates awareness of one’s brokenness and woundedness, and the resulting problematic relational thinking and relational styles that served to create and may perpetuate sinful behavior.
  • Assist the addict in seeking out accountability. Addictions thrive in secrecy and accountability helps prevent hiding.
  • Encourage the addict to become involved in a group. Groups provide a powerful opportunity for the one fearful of intimacy to take risks in a safe, supportive, and non- judgmental environment in growing their ability to be real with oneself and others (intimacy!).
  • Help the spouse– The spouse will need support as they go through their own healing experience. Disclosure often brings relief to the addict but is often a sickening and traumatizing experience for the spouse. Spouses often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the revelation.

Guarding Hearts

  • The best way to eliminate sexual addiction is to provide preventive measures.
  • Encourage conversations about sexuality in men’s and women’s groups.
  • Invite speakers to address healthy sexuality in your church.
  • Encourage facilitating discussions between parents and children in the area of sexual purity.
  • Encourage the use of computer filtering, blocking, or monitoring software for computers and cell phones to provide accountability and protection from harmful web- based content. (Two companies endorsed by the National Coalition for the Preservation of Children & Families are: SafeEyes (www/InternetSafety.com) and CovenantEyes (www/CovenantEyes.com.)
  • Suggest reading books such as False Intimacy by Harry Schaumburg to help establish right Biblical thought.
  • Strengthen marriages by encouraging marriage enrichment opportunities.
  • Provide support to biological, blended, and adoptive families.

Jesus came to proclaim freedom for those imprisoned and sight for the blind (Luke 4:18). This is the picture of a sex addict: blinded and trapped.  As we apply the mercy and the grace of the Gospel, we provide a foundation for the growth of those imprisoned and blinded by sexual addiction.

Sexual sin thrives in secrecy and the longer the Church keeps its voice quiet, the longer the tentacles of pornographers grow, reaching in to grab the hearts of our spouses, children, and friends. We live in a world saturated with sexual images. It’s likely going to get worse before it gets better, judging by the fact that sex is the #1 topic searched on the internet. Shall we get to work?

Resources for Further Study
Carnes, Patrick, Contrary to Love. Minneapolis: CompCare 1989.
Carnes, Patrick, Out of the Shadows. Minneapolis: CompCare, 1992.
Ferree, Marnie C., No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Shame. Fairfax, VA: Xulon, 2002.
Laaser, Mark, Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction. Fairfax, VA: Zondervan, 2004. Means, Patrick, Men’s Secret Wars. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1996. Schaumburg, Harry, False Intimacy. Colorado Springs: Navpress Publishing, 1997. Blankenship, Richard, S.A.R.A.H. – Spouses of Addicts Rebuilding and Healing.
Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2007.
Statistics for this article compiled by the National Coalition for the Preservation of Children & Families, http://www.nationalcoalition.org