A recent New York Times article cited a pastor who has recently opened up a church that does numerous outreach programs to addicts and recovering alcoholics. The pastor explained, “A lot of Christians are embarrassed by this problem. Parents think “I’ve blown it,” (in terms of their addicted children.) Similarly, many Christians and members of other religious affiliations struggle with addiction even though they are deeply involved in their churches and feel a strong sense of religious commitment and belief in God.

Many people who come in to AA are already Christians or members of another religion and are dumbfounded and ashamed of their inability to stay sober. One recovering addict in an Orange County AA meeting exclaimed, “Church couldn’t keep me sober. And it kept me from having a relationship with God because I knew that I was going to use again the next day. And so while I believed in God and I believed in my church and faith based community, none of those things were keeping me sober before until I found the spiritual recovery in the rooms of AA.”

Unfortunately, many misinformed but well-meaning church members of various religions dissuade others from attending AA or other recovery programs, and simply encourage addicts to focus on strengthening their belief and faith in God. One Christian based counselor in Huntington Beach, CA stated, “This is an unintentionally cruel thing to do. It tells the addict that they aren’t really believers because they are continuing to abuse drugs and alcohol. The truth is that they are sick and their lack of faith in Jesus isn’t the problem. The problem is a lack of spiritual experiences that have led to a change in heart.”

From talking to a group of recovering addicts who are also Christians, many of them exclaim that their addiction led them away from God, causing them to cower in shame and embarrassment. In an online forum discussing the 12 steps and church, one recovering addict explained, “The one place I should have ran was to God. But I used to sit in church drunk and tell God how sorry I was, but I couldn’t stop drinking.”

One problem with using church as the sole means to recovery is that it doesn’t provide a community of like- minded people who are suffering from a common ailment. Though well-meaning fellow church goers may wish to help addicts in any way they can, they often don’t understand the problem. They might make suggestions that are uninformed or misguided. Alcoholics and addicts then feel alone in their problem. They try to turn to God to help their problem get solved, but because they have no support from their fellow men, they often don’t find recovery or the peace they need.

A community such as AA or a rehab facility such as Footprints Behavioral Health provides the spiritual avenues that religious and non-religious addicts are looking for, with a group of people who understand the problem at hand. In other words, the addiction is the primary focus, and spirituality is used as a recovery tool for that addiction. In church, spirituality is the primary focus, and other personal problems are simply supposed to be solved by focusing on God. This often doesn’t work for addicts. As an added note, Footprints Behavioral Health provides transportation to religious services for those who wish to attend.

Addicts need to be surrounded by a like-minded group of people with a primary focus, with AA’s mission statement explaining, “We are a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problem and help others to recovery from alcoholism.” In other words, the primary focus of recovery groups such as AA is to help other alcoholics and addicts recover from addiction. That is what addicts and alcoholics need to recover and maintain sobriety.

Of course, this is not to dissuade those of religious persuasion from attending church services or to claim that they do nothing to help alcoholics and addicts in their recovery process. For some recovering addicts and alcoholics, attending a church or becoming part of a religious affiliated community group is enough for them to maintain sobriety. Some experience the profound spiritual awakening in these environments that most experience in the rooms of the 12 step meetings. But it’s not enough for most addicts and alcoholics.

We at Footprints encourage anything and everything that is healthy, natural, spiritual, and 12-step oriented as a part of a recovery program. If church going is included in that plan, then we are strong advocates for it. However, we also believe that the principles, which are religious in nature, set forth in the 12 steps and found in recovery homes such as ours provide the most successful model for addiction treatment.

Are you going to church every week and still struggling to remain sober? Do you feel guilty and often hide in shame from your Higher Power? If so, contact Linda Rose at 949-556-4723 today at Footprints Behavioral Health. Start your roadmap towards recovery now and get the full treatment that you need to succeed in sobriety.