Many Christians belong to "self-help" groups such as AA, CA, OA and their Christianized counterparts, Overcomers Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Reformer’s Anonymous and so on.
Before I continue with this posting, I want you to know that I do not think a person's salvation is open to debate as a result of attending these groups. I do not think that those who attend are "unspiritual" or sinning in any way. I used to attend some of these groups, and I was trained as a Celebrate Recovery facilitator. My husband was a devoted member of AA and CA for decades.
For the unbeliever, they are the best route to ceasing these behaviors. They provide both Believer and Unbeliever with fellowship, and like-mindedness. I think that each of these groups has pluses and minuses, and while they may be helpful in addressing the issues of the flesh they are sorely lacking in the vital areas of "recovery."
My concern with such groups is based in their belief that one is always an addict or alcoholic and therefore can never make any progress past being "in recovery."
I realize that my position may offend you, and that is not my intention. However, I won't shy away from the reality that for the Christian there are other options! Over the next few posts I intend to pose the usual arguments for attending and "needing" such groups and provide you with biblical answers to those questions and statements that are often made when this topic comes up.
As a biblical counselor/discipler I have been confronted with pretty much every "addiction" known to man and I never sent a person to a self-help group, not even once.
The usual reason a person a goes to a support group is they have been told they have an addiction by someone.
My first question to a person who tells me they have an addiction is to ask them what does that mean. I want to know what the counselee understands the meaning of the term "addiction."
Ed Welch's book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave makes a great case for the biblical perspective on the topic. All "addictions" are worship disorders- a person begins to love and worship the created thing (booze, drugs, sex, another human, money, gambling, etc.) rather than the Creator. This is most certainly out of order and from a biblical perspective, idolatry! Scripture commands us to cease idolatry and worship the Lord alone.
I always ask how they concluded they were an addict. Did someone tell them they are an addict? Did they read it in a book? Did they take a quiz? Did they discuss it with their doctor? Was there testing was done that scientifically proves they are an addict?
I want to know about their use of whatever they believe they are addicted to. I ask about use- how much and how often. What happens if they stop using that substance (no matter what it is). Do they have physical withdrawal?
What lengths are they willing to go through to get whatever they crave? Are they willing to steal, lie, or kill to get it?
What problems have they come into as a result of using or partaking in their drug of choice? Do they have financial difficulties, legal troubles, relationship problems, or job conflicts?
Perhaps they have concluded they are an addict because of a strong desire for something. It could also be that someone told them they have a problem and they termed it "addiction" without any basis in truth. A good soul-physician will take the time to understand the perspective of the person sitting with them without pre-judging or coming to conclusions without all or any of the facts.
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13 (NASB)
I want to know the answers to these questions so I can understand the frame of reference of the person sitting in front of me. More than them hearing what I think at the outset of our time together, I need to hear what the suffering saint has to say. Before I can earn the right to speak into their situation I have to listen carefully and with open eyes, ears and heart.