Struggling with addiction is one of the most difficult battles someone can face in their life. Whether it’s a chemical addiction to a substance or a mental addiction to sex, struggling with addiction is real and needs to be acknowledged without shame, so people can feel comfortable getting the help they need from professionals.
The church is not exactly known for being a haven for helping those struggling with addiction. Sure, there are Christian-run centers and shelters for people in need, but we’re talking about the majority of churchgoers, not the outliers who help and serve. The majority of churchgoers need to start working on understanding addiction and finding out what they can do to help.
A good start is to stop believing these myths.
Myths Christians believe about struggling with addiction
- It’s what they get for chasing pleasure — Addiction often develops because the brain demands more of the dopamine (the chemical in the brain that induces pleasure) that is produced by the substance or object of addiction. It cannot get these amounts of dopamine otherwise.
People will say that those struggling with addiction are pleasure seekers and that their addiction is a result and what they deserve. While it is possible to get addicted to a substance purely from pursuing it for pleasure, this is far from the truth for many people, and no one ever “deserves it.”
People become addicted for a variety of reasons. They may have had prescription drug medication that their body began to crave more of. They may have suffered abuse or trauma and only know the use of a substance as a means of coping. They may have done something once to help them feel good during a low point, only for it to end up dragging them lower.
Regardless of why, it’s not our job to judge and discard. It’s our job to help them get back on their feet.
- Punishment can change their behavior — One of the problems that many Christians and America in general has with addiction is that we believe punishment can change someone’s behavior. Throwing someone in jail or turning your back on them because they used an illegal substance doesn’t solve the problem; it hides it.
When someone is struggling with an addiction, they need professional treatment. They cannot beat it on their own, and punishment isn’t going to help. It may only reinforce the addiction.
Instead, we can look at what others have done, such as the nation of Portugal, in creating a program that emphasizes treatment instead of punishment, so people can have a chance to turn their lives around.
- Addiction is a sign of lack of faith — This is simply untrue. We all have struggles in life, and an addiction can be a struggle on a deep, chemical level that is very difficult to contend with. It is completely unconnected to faith.
Your faith isn’t quantifiable. There isn’t a magic amount of faith you tap into that can clear an addiction. Don’t use this myth as an excuse to turn your back on those in need. When you do, it’s you who is disappointing Jesus, not the person struggling with addiction.
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