It is truly a privilege and honor to be able come to work in an environment where I am able to utilize my own personal experience of how God has restored so many areas of my life to encourage our Faith in Recovery clients. I have developed a deep compassion not only for those suffering with addiction and mental health issues, but for their families as well. I think I’ve always had a soft spot for the families of our clients as a result of knowing what I put my own family through during my active addiction to alcohol, benzodiazepines, and gambling.
During active addiction, we usually develop what is known in the faith community as a ‘hardening of the heart.’ This basically means you are so consumed with (your) ‘self’ that the needs of others take a back seat, or in some cases, have no seat at all! The strange thing about it is that usually the people we care about most and who care most about us (our family) take the brunt of our negative and destructive behaviors.
I believe this is why during treatment the floodgate of shame, guilt, and regret is opened, as all of the pain that we have caused others comes to the forefront. This is never an easy process because we are focusing on the very issues that we may have been using a substance to avoid. It is even more challenging due to the fact that we must face this endeavor without that most called upon crutch, the alcohol or substance of our addiction.
In Banyan's Faith in Recovery program, we make a concerted effort to identify the root causes of each client’s addiction. Most of the time the addiction is a byproduct of other issues. It’s the tip of the iceberg. The real issues are beneath the surface. As most of the iceberg is beneath the surface. To provide another way of looking at this, think of weeds on your lawn. We can continuously cut the weeds with a lawnmower each week, but what happens? They keep growing back. However, if we pull those same weeds out from their roots, they no longer grow back! In the same way we must pull out the root causes of addiction so it no longer comes back.
As I mentioned, most people suffering with addiction focus solely on the ‘self’ and their hearts tend to harden. In many ways faith directly conflicts with addiction. Faith emphasizes serving and loving others while addiction focuses on self. People in active addiction often don't feel or realize the impact their lifestyle and choices are having on their family and true friends.
However, the family and friends do feel it, and they are often the ones kept up at night waiting for that dreaded phone call. They are the ones awakened by the siren from a nearby ambulance, praying that their loved one is not in it.
In substance abuse treatment, the client is now receiving much-needed care and hopefully begins sifting through the web of destruction and painful events that accompany the addiction. They begin to build confidence and self-esteem; develop coping skills; and because the foundation of our program is faith, they begin to restore or establish a relationship with God. Through Him, they begin to heal.
During active addiction, we usually develop what is known in the faith community as a ‘hardening of the heart.’
Having a front row seat to witness what God is doing in the lives of so many of our clients has greatly increased my faith. This is not just behavior modification but genuine transformation of the heart!
Meanwhile, their family members are left on the sidelines and often times still waiting for that dreaded call with horrible news. When our clients enthusiastically share the things they have accomplished so far in treatment, I make it a point to tell them to not be discouraged when they speak to family and friends if they are a little reserved or even skeptical in their responses. In many cases, their loved ones have been hurt deeply and they need to learn to trust again after being the recipients of many lies and manipulations. This tends to increase in difficulty depending on the person, length of deception, lies, manipulation, and consequences they have experienced due to their loved one’s addiction.
Often times, when you experience the tremendous pain and suffering of addiction, you develop a compassion that you never had before. I know that’s been my experience. It’s also probably why so many who work in this field are also in recovery. We overcome the many tests life throws at us during a horrendous period of our lives, which now become our testimony. I would encourage all who have gone through difficult situations to share them with those who are sick and suffering. It can literally be the difference between life and death. Allow God to turn a mess into your message!
Often times, when you experience the tremendous pain and suffering of addiction, you develop a compassion that you never had before.