New Creature—not an Addict—or Not!

Does recovery create a new creature in Christ or  are you once an addict--always an addict?
Does recovery create a new creature in Christ or are you once an addict–always an addict?
This discussion swept through one of the forums I participate in–once again. God loving, sincere, well-meaning people took positions on either side of the fence. I weigh in because I see how the talking points of this discussion have caused many to stumble in their recovery.

At one point I voiced loud objection to the Twelve Step introduction that calls participants to introduce themselves as an addict or alcoholic. In Christ we were new creatures! I then used curriculum at my church to help addicts that shouted that truth. Positionally that’s truth—just like God sees me as not a sinner because of Christ’s “imputed righteousness”. There is still a reality I must deal with. I have a sin nature and a propensity to sin. In my reality, I find myself needing to work more on not continuing to sin than I do protecting my self-worth by celebrating the reality that I walk around in the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Please hear me!!! I am not saying we deny that we become new creatures in Christ if that reality helps our life journey and recovery. I am just asking us all to not declare in public a position as a universal position that messes up the recovery of others. I have seen many stumble because they got the idea from others that their recovery was complete and they were starting with a clean slate where one little indulgence would not hurt. One drink—one hit—and they were back at it worse than ever. . . .

Make no mistake. Short of a miracle delivery (which we acknowledge God has chosen to provide for a few), this “complete delivery theory” flies in the face of the science of addiction. Science simply represents our journey and quest to understand God’s creation. The medical folks have called addictions an illness for years as they know that addictions change brain chemistry to set up compulsive cravings and embedded memories we label “triggers” that will come back to bite people who do not acknowledge their presence and power—which is behind the AA/NA introductions labeling participants as addicts. New brain mapping science confirms these findings and along with new medications, holds great hope for new ways to fight addictions in the future.

Many Christians take what they believe represents a correct, but opposing, stance calling addiction a “sin sickness” that simply needs to be corrected by repentance. That speaks truth in the sense that as people travel the path

"Missing the mark"--theology's definition of sin!
“Missing the mark”–theology’s definition of sin!
towards an addiction; they are choosing to “miss God’s mark”—sin in lay terms. In reality, that becomes a negligible point after the brain has become addicted in the sense that addiction is not chalk on a chalk board that can be simply erased. Recovery does in fact require an attitude change and an owning of the consequence of choice that requires a “change of our will” to overcome the addiction. Yet true statistics reflect a miserable result for well-intentioned ministries that rely solely on a “deliverance” approach without dealing with the realities that have created the addiction and the ways the addiction or some mental challenge has impacted the addict.

Seeking healing for the whole person seems to be the most effective. Programs like Celebrate Recovery go a long way in that direction but sometimes our “hurts, habits and hang-ups” or physical problems are so gnarled around our mind and soul that they it takes residential facilities and private counseling experts like the Drug Network people are attached to that are connected to medical expertise and an understanding of the medications that people may or may not find helpful.

Bottom line. Be sensitive to others. Don’t proclaim to the world you are a former addict with a clean slate. If it helps you find your freedom and power in Christ to emphasize your exact theological position in Christ that you are a New Creature, do that in your prayers and meditation or when with others who understand exactly what you are saying. Don’t cause your weaker brother/sister to stumble by letting them assume they will reach a place where they have a clean slate. They won’t. But they can have recovery! Through God’s help, they/we need to admit our powerlessness and look to God continually for the power that will enable our wills to complete our decision to not live a life of addiction or the dysfunction that swirls around it even when some substance is not being abused. When we arrive at that level of recovery where deep pains that prompted addictive behavior are gone along with the addictive behaviors, we can truly celebrate being a new creature in Christ—we just need to watch how and where we celebrate. . . .