Disease Concept – Avoiding Responsibility?

Doesn’t the promotion of the “disease concept” help addicts to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior?

The only people I’ve ever heard using the “disease concept” as an excuse are practicing alcoholics who have no real intention of changing.     I hear something totally different from addiction counselors and other professionals who subscribe to what has been called the “clinical approach” to treatment and recovery.

While recognizing the impact of factors like heredity and brain chemistry in the development of addiction, they know that real change happens only when addicts and alcoholics begin to take responsibility for their lives and truly “own” their own behaviors.   As a matter of fact, they tend to believe that knowing one is an alcoholic or drug addict brings with it a greater accountability.

If an individual truly accepts personal powerlessness over alcohol and drugs, he or she must begin following very specific set of action steps that lead to recovery. Building the right sort of accountability into the lives of recovering addicts includes:

A.         Accountability to God — Every recovering addict must learn is the discipline of maintaining a clear conscience.   Freedom from guilt and shame are essential elements of relapse prevention. This involves 1) learning to be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and practicing daily repentance, and 2) increased self-awareness through the discipline of a daily personal inventory

B.         Accountability for Righting Past Wrongs — No one came move confidently into the future if he or she is carrying unbearable burdens from past failures.   Every addict who wants to move into a new, satisfying life must be very deliberate about making amends, especially to family members and others close to them..

C.         Accountability to a Spiritual Community — Real growth in recovery involves much more than just “going to church.”   Spiritual stability and maturity happen in the context of a church home.   They need to develop friendships with “normal” people, find spiritual nurture and guidance, experience the joy of corporate worship, and find an outlet for meaningful Christian service.

D.       Accountability to a Group Of Peers — The Biblical mandate for support groups is found in 2 Corinthians 1:3.4 where the Apostle Paul expresses thankfulness for being able to comfort others with the same comfort he himself had received from God.   There is special power and a special degree of grace present when one recovering addict shares his or her experience, strength and hope with another who is experiencing similar struggles.

E.         Accountability to a Sponsor/Mentor — Participation in support groups and church are essential.   But, they work best when a recovering addict also has one special person of the same sex who is farther along in the journey of recovery to whom he or she can be accountable.   There is no replacement for having this confessor and confidant, especially in the early days of recovery. So, how does this work in a residential recovery program setting?


John Wesley’s Small Group Rules

Christian support groups are not a new idea! I learned that when I first discovered John Wesley’s “Rules for Small Groups” written in 1816. This is an outline of “the Method” from which the name “Methodist” was derived.   It resulted in one of the greatest revivals the world has ever known. What if following these became a common practice in the Church today?

Believers gathered together in small groups, sharing honestly, becoming accountable to one another, asking probing questions, praying for one another with a deep knowledge of their mutual needs and struggles.   Any believer can benefit from this type of gathering.   It can be a tremendously healing and encouraging experience for those in recovery. So, what did they do? In the early days of the Methodist Church, members were expected to agree to six common disciplines or “Rules” found in The Works of John Wesley (1816):

  1. To meet once a week, at least.
  2. To come together at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
  3. To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
  4. To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought or deed and the temptations we have felt since our last meeting.
  5. To end every meeting with prayer suited to the state of each person.
  6. To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.

To learn more about modern support groups and how they can help Christians who struggle with issues in their lives, see The Importance of Support Groups.

John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six