Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: "Life’s Healing Choices: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits"

Falling in line with our social media focus this month of "Addiction, Recovery, and the Gospel", we will be reviewing John Baker's "Life's Healing Choices: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-Ups, and Habits". This book review was written by one of our counselors, Barry Bolin, who works in our Pisgah, Scottsboro, Guntersville, and Rainsville offices. Barry has a special interest in addiction so he volunteered to do our book review this month. If you would like to learn more about Barry, click here


The synopsis of the book is best described from the book itself.  The following is a direct quote:

“…Life’s Healing Choices offers freedom from our hurts, hang-ups, and habits through eight healing choices that promise true happiness and life transformation.  Using the Beatitudes of Jesus as a foundation, Senior Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and John Baker, who is also a pastor of Saddleback, developed the eight choices shared in this book.”

“…Through making each of these choices, you too will find God’s pathway to wholeness, growth, spiritual maturity, happiness, and healing.  You’ll find real answers, real hope, and a real future-one healing choice at a time.”

Helpful Points:

 In the last section of the book called “Closing Thoughts”, there are scripture references for each chapter of the book.  This is an instant theme-based bible study tool for anyone with any need.  Each chapter is well organized including “action items” that prompt the reader to apply what is being consumed.  The action items include pray about it, write about it, and share about it.  Another approach the writer takes is to include stories or testimonies of others that have experienced recovery.  This approach creates many benefits including demonstrating to the reader that we are not alone in our struggles as well as inspiration to go forward in recovery.  There are those of us that enjoy a “step approach” or “how to approach” to most anything we encounter in life.  LHC provides this feature and many will find this appealing rather than reading overly abstract concepts that can create ambiguity and lack of focus.  Finally, the book integrates both bible-based eternal truths with practical direction to meet the needs of brain and spirit.

Counselor Feedback:

In the chapter called “Making Changes”, there is a section discussing character defects.  One of the questions raised addressed the source of our character defects.  I found the explanation given by the author to be appropriately balanced.  The sources cited were biological, sociological, and theological.  The terms are converted into more memorable words like chromosomes, circumstances, and choices.  What I like even more about this section is that the reader is provoked to be responsible for behavior in spite of sources.  This creates ownership for making positive changes.  Maybe a weakness of the material, in contrast to professional journals and the like, is the absence of evidence-based research especially on addiction and recovery.

Favorite Quote:

Difficult.  How do I narrow down one line in the book that wins over so many others?  Rather than commit to one, there are a pair of quotes that can redirect our lives toward stronger healthiness. 

In Choice 6, Repairing Relationships…

“Nothing drains you emotionally like bitterness and resentment.”

Then in Choice 7, Maintaining Momentum…

“Pride blinds us to our own weaknesses and keeps us from seeking help.”

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Do We Handle Addiction in the Church?

Question: I have really enjoyed learning more about addiction and recovery this past month through your social media outlets. I would like for myself, my family, and my church to get more involved in fighting addiction, but, to be honest, I have no clue where to start. We don’t talk about addiction at all in our church or family. So, my question for you is how can we get involved?

Answer: That is a great question! I am so happy to hear that the Lord has used our social media focus this month to open your eyes to the stronghold that the enemy has in the church through addiction. I think that your feeling is one experienced by many Christians. We see the problem, we see the devastating effects of the problem, but we feel lost because we don’t know how to combat it. So, where do we start? I think that there are three main areas that church needs to experience growth in in order to better fight addiction: education, transparency, and addressing addiction from the pulpit.

The place where you must start when attacking any issue is to become educated about it yourself. Some ways to do this is to read books about the addiction cycle, study how addiction affects the family, and, most importantly, learn about the recovery process. We don’t want to just be a group of people that knows a lot about addiction, we also want to know about the road to freedom from that addiction. Study the tenets of the twelve-step programs, visit an open celebrate recovery group, and/or talk to people in your life that have experienced freedom from addiction and learn from their experience.

When looking at education on addiction, I really believe that it needs to be a church-wide effort. It needs to start with the pastors educating themselves on addiction and recovery. Then the pastors need to be pouring that knowledge into their elders and small group leaders, who are most likely going to be the ones on the front lines when church members confess their addiction struggles. One idea is to create some kind of document that lists recovery resources in your area (i.e. 12-step groups with meeting times and locations, counselors in the area that specialize in addiction and residential treatment centers for addiction). This will hopefully help your elders and small group leaders feel even more equipped with practical ideas for those struggling.

Another tool to be used in the fight against addiction in the church is vulnerability between the church members. If we have all of the best education and resources to fight addiction in our church, but no one feels safe enough to confess their struggle, we will not get very far at all. Again, I think the needs to start with the church leadership. If the pastor is honest and vulnerable from the pulpit, this will encourage the elders and small group leaders to do the same. When they model transparency to their small groups, the entire church will experience freedom to follow God’s command and, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (James 5:16).

Not only is it helpful for the pastor to be vulnerable and honest about his past and current sin struggles from the pulpit, but it is also beneficial for the pastor to actually preach about addiction. This shows the church body that this church and the people in it are not afraid of the tough issues. It also reminds those struggling with addiction that they are not alone and, most importantly, that recovery is possible through Christ.

 *This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.