An Interview with Stephen Arterburn
by Beth Patch
CBN.com Internet Editor and Producer
Respected addiction recovery author and speaker, Stephen Arterburn’s new book, The Book of Life Recovery: Inspiring Stories and Biblical Wisdom for Your Journey through the Twelve Steps, releases the first week in September, 2012. It’s the latest in the Life Recovery series of books that began with the popular Life Recovery Bible.
Recently, Stephen Arterburn spoke with CBN.com about his new book, his passion for recovery, and some insights on addiction. Below is a snippet from this recent interview:
Do you believe that addiction is a sin?
Stephen Arterburn: Well, I believe that every addict is deeply involved in sin. But I also believe that every sinner is addicted to their favorite sin, whether it’s gossiping or whatever. So, I think that they go hand in hand. I think addiction is a condition. I think you could say it’s a sin condition, where you kind of lost your ability to make a decision about something. In other words, if I right now decide that I’m going to drink a gallon of alcohol, I can decide to do that. If I’m in the addiction process, the addiction has more control of me, and at any point I can decide to stop the addiction process. And so, I can get the help I need. But it’s very, very difficult for me to do that and see that, because I’m so blinded by the addiction.
I like refer to addiction as a “problem.” I think for some people it’s more physical than sin, and for some people it’s more sin than physical. I don’t know where exactly when to draw that line, but I know this: it’s a problem, it’s got symptoms, and there’s a solution for it. That solution is a spiritual solution. So, rather than argue about should people never drink, should everybody not drink at all, (which was the big argument when I was growing up), or is it a sin or not a sin. My big thing is, okay, whether it’s a sin or not, it’s your responsibility to deal with it if you got it. And if you don’t deal with it, well, that’s sin. So, let’s get on with the recovery process.
In step one, the statement includes the phrase “We admitted … that our lives had become unmanageable. A highly functioning addict has trouble with that. “Well, no it’s not [unmanageable]," they may argue, "I’m still holding down a job.” How can we minister to people in that place?
Stephen: Yeah. Well, I think a big part of helping someone, if you’re not related to them, is to help them go from the external evidences of success to the internal experience of serenity and peace, and fulfillment, and to help a person see that they don’t have those things. They’ve got the external things that point to success, but the internal they don’t have.
But when you’re related to that person, they may think everything’s great, because you’re a peace keeper or a people pleaser or something like that, and you haven’t fully informed them just how unmanageable their life is, because you haven’t been brave enough or courageous enough to tell them that this is the reality of your life. And so, when we’re around that person, I think we’re really called to help them. James 5:19-20, says rescue someone like that who is wavering, and you save their lives, and you prevent many sins, and provide the forgiveness of sins. Then one of my favorite Psalms is Proverbs 24:11 says, “Hold back those stagger toward the slaughter.” So, we’re really called to make a bold move and help that person see the reality of their life and help them get into recovery. Otherwise, they may stay in their state of denial for a very long time.
There are a good number of churches getting involved in the recovery process. It’s no longer such a deep, wide split between the AA and the NA programs and church-sponsored programs. Someone who’s going to a meeting every day for 90 days, they’re finding that they can go back and forth from the AA and the church-sponsored programs. They feel comfortable across the spectrum, and it’s really encouraging to see that. But not seeing as many Christians really standing up and saying, “Yeah, I’ve got a problem.” It’s almost like they still want to keep it a secret. Why is that difficult for Christians?
Stephen: Well, there’s of course more shame in our culture, and we tend to be more judgmental of each other. We do have a judgmental rejecting attitude toward others. We think of ourselves better than others. It’s really important, I think, that we look at this whole issue of what does God expect of us in the face of somebody with the problem. And that is to offer them help, but to extend the grace that He has given us. We just don’t do a very good job of doing that in the church. So, hopefully it is changing, and I think it is.
Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries - the nation's largest faith-based broadcast, counseling, and treatment ministry - and host of the nationally syndicated New Life Live! daily radio program. He has developed (with David Stoop) the bestselling Life Recovery Bible., as well as a companion Life Recovery workbook, devotional, and journal. A bestselling author, Steve has written more than one hundred books and has been featured in media venues subh as Oprah, Good Morning America, and the New York Times. Steve holds degrees from Baylor University and the University of North Texas. He resides with his family in Indiana.