by Chance Campbell
The following is the final installment of our interview between Chance Campbell, Sr. editor and addiction specialist at Alltreatment.com, and Mike Wilkerson, pastor at Mars Hill church in Ballard, Seattle. Wilkerson is the author of Redemption, a book which discusses the biblical underpinnings of addiction, abuse, and recovery.
Chance Campbell: You were speaking about showing compassion for addicts, whether sinners or victims.
Mike Wilkerson: We stand on good Christian ground when we show compassion to sinning-sufferers, suffering-sinners and outright victims alike. You don't have to dodge personal responsibility by choosing a label like victim when you're not a victim in order to get God's mercy. Quite the opposite, God shows us mercy despite our sin, forgiving, cleansing and transforming sinners like me and the tax collector who cried "God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Chance: What are some simple steps an addict can follow to begin a successful recovery?
Mike: I think this would depend on the nature and severity of the addiction. Some will need medical intervention to get some distance from an addictive chemical substance in order to be in a right mind and physical state to make much progress in counseling and group work.
Beyond that, I'm afraid that speaking of simple steps could sound simplistic. But addictions are complex, and can be quite resilient against simple steps.
In our church, we'd help them get connected to some community support through a Community Group, and some biblical counseling through a Redemption Group and some individualized biblical counseling, both designed to foster personal growth within the community context. Along the way, they'd address all sorts of issues in the heart: dealing with suffering well, learning to resist temptation, honest confession, exchanging lies for truth, repentance of sin, forgiving others, growing in wise decision-making, taking responsibility for choices, and most of all, receiving God's forgiveness and kindness in Jesus Christ.
Chance: How central is ‘belief in a higher power’ to overcoming addiction?
Mike: Slaves usually don't free themselves. Addictions are powerful. So yes, it's essential. But there's a difference between a belief in a higher power as I define it (subjective), and an actual power that's actually higher and breaks me free from slavery (objective).
True freedom, not only from addictive behavior, but from the underlying sin problem at its root, is only possible through the latter: the resurrected Christ by his Spirit, working powerfully in the hearts and bodies of those he is redeeming from slavery of all kinds, as we respond in belief.
Chance: Some believe medical marijuana use is a thin legal veil for addiction. Is regular medicinal marijuana use ok?
Mike: I'm not well-informed about the ins and outs of medicinal marijuana usage, but it's not the only substance that can be used in either legal or illegal dosages. People abuse painkillers they are prescribed legally as well as those they attain illegally. When you level the playing field a bit by making something legal, the issue comes down to the heart and wisdom. Forming a sinful habit legally doesn't make it ok just because it's legal.
I've known and counseled those who have realized their sinful use of painkillers. They were legally prescribed and used in legal doses, yet they began to recognize some sinful motives for taking the medications growing up like weeds alongside the original legitimate motives. These people have good reasons to be on those medications, but they found more compelling reasons not to be on them. If they do use the medications again, they'll do so carefully and with increased accountability and monitoring by others whom they trust.
Chance: Is there such a thing as a responsible relationship with mind-altering substances? How can one regulate one’s use of drugs (legal or illegal) to live a life that is closest to God?
Mike: If you mean crack, no. If you mean legally prescribed medication, yes, there is such a thing. As I described previously, though, it comes down to the heart. Just because there is such as responsible use, doesn't entitle me to use them however I want. It makes me accountable before God to use them responsibly, which includes giving thanks to him for providing help in the form of medication. If I can't thank God with a clear conscience for providing this medication to help me, then I'm probably using it in a way that is putting a wedge between me and him, a way that replaces him as my true source of hope, or comfort.
Chance: Thanks for your responses. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Mike: Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
Three Part Interview with author and pastor, Mike Wilkerson:
by Mike Wilkerson
Crossway Books, 2011
Pastor, Mars Hill church in Ballard, Seattle
Senior Editor & Addiction Specialist at Alltreatment.com