Faith-based addiction treatment
Faith-based addiction treatment doesn’t mean Bible summer camp. “Faith-based” means we believe long-term sobriety and relational health comes from intimacy with God, self, and others. Because we want to help men figure out who God is, we have created a safe environment for men to express doubt and explore questions of faith.
The Role of Faith
in Addiction Recovery
A man in addiction drags behind him a long list of experiences that cause an overwhelming sense of shame. Most of us experience some shame in our lives, but for 19 million Americans, trauma and shame leads to substance abuse and addiction.
Men don’t typically arrive at No Longer Bound using the word “shame”. However, most have experienced childhood or adult traumas that have led them to using drugs or alcohol for emotional relief. On top of that, years in addiction creates additional layers of trauma and shame.
Studies of shame reveal that ashamed people feel worthless, powerless, and small. Unlike guilt which says, “I did something bad,” shame says, “I am bad.” And shame isolates, making us dishonest, alone and sitting on our secrets.
It is common at No Longer Bound to hear men use the word broken, as in, “I was completely broken when I arrived.” Looking to a deeper definition, “broken” means a broken relationship with God, a broken concept of self, and an absence of healthy relationships. It is because “brokenness” causes an addict to isolate himself, that we say, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection.”
If a man in addiction has broken relationships, then success for us is when a man completes the program with connected relationships—specifically, intimacy with God, self and others. Sobriety is a wonderful byproduct of this approach to faith-based addiction treatment.
Integrating Faith & Clinical Treatment in Recovery
It is our goal at No Longer Bound to create a seamless integration of faith and evidence-based, clinical therapies to support men in uncovering their false beliefs—the ultimate goal being that each man would replace his false beliefs with God’s truths. This work begins as each man excavates his own personal trauma timeline and shares his story with others.
On any given day, you can join the men for a meal and echoing around the Dining Hall you will hear, “I am working on my story” or “I just told my story.”
The identifying of and telling of one’s story is a first step in our program. It reveals what he thinks about himself in relationship to his experiences, which uncovers his false beliefs. Examples of false beliefs include:
I never do anything right. I am a failure.
People aren't trustworthy. I have to take care of myself.
I did bad things; therefore, I am bad.
I am unworthy of a good life.
“When I figured out my story,” said one No Longer Bound resident, “I discovered I have always been super hard on myself. My core beliefs have always been ‘I’m not enough, and I’m a burden.’ My dad was always super critical of me, which created a lot of anxiety. Cigarettes then alcohol then drugs were a release from the ‘I’m never enough’ feeling I’ve always had.”
Storytelling is a great tool for us all. To uncover your own story is to discover the origins of your own core beliefs and thinking patterns, illuminating what you think about yourself in relationship to your own personal experiences.
No Longer Bound’s faith-based recovery curriculum teaches that everyone has four basic needs: love, acceptance, worth, and security, or LAWS.
A person who has a healthy relationship with God, himself, and others will have his needs met through those healthy relationships.
But an unhealthy concept of God (or self) leads us to unhealthy tactics for getting our needs met in other ways. (Think: people-pleasing, workaholism, attention-seeking, or addiction.)
Exploring the formative relationships and events of your past gives you an opportunity to excavate your own story.
Why do you think and feel the way you do?
Why do you believe the things you believe?
Why do you react the way you react?
In other words, how do currently get your needs for love, acceptance, worth, and security met? Here are some journaling questions to help you get started:
People & Events
- Concetrating on ages 1 to 10, who were the people who played the most signifcant role(s) in your life, and why? How did they make you feel?
- What are your earliest memories of happiness and love?
- What are your earliest memories of shame, fear, or inadequacy?
- What life events are your strongest memories? How did each of these events make you feel?
- What are your early memories about church or God?
- Commonly, our view of God is tied to our own father experience. Write about how you experienced your father. Was he authoritative, abusive, distant, passive, absent or loving, present and engaged?
Create a timeline of people and events that led you to where you are today, then journal about any new discoveries. For an extra assignment, write a letter to yourself from God. What would He tell you?
Exploring Core Beliefs and Faith while in Addiction Recovery
After a man and his care team uncover his core beliefs, the team works together to help him explore his past experiences related to faith and religion.
Even for men who claim they have a good relationship with God, we encourage him towards doubt. We’ve found that a healthy concept of God rarely leads to addiction.
Faith-based addiction treatment allows the men to work through past spiritual experiences. This lays the groundwork and open the door for new concepts of God to emerge (ideally, God as a comforter, healer and forgiver).
“Growing up in a conservative southern church, I learned of a very judgmental God,” said one resident. “I learned about punisher God who kept track of every wrong. When I arrived at No Longer Bound, I really didn’t think about God anymore. But as the months passed, I started reading some things and I heard other men talking about God. I started thinking about Him more and exploring Him, specifically through assignments and therapy. Today, my concept of God is the dad in the Prodigal Son story.”
The Importance of Forgiveness in Faith-Based Addiction Treatment
Men at No Longer Bound often have to explore and untangle negative spiritual experiences, and we invite them to replace those experiences with new ways of thinking.
If a man’s experiences with church, God or his earthly father have been negative, we help him reframe those memories. If from an early age, a man has held resentments toward himself, our goal for him is self-forgiveness.
But all of this takes practice.
A common assignment in faith-based addiction recovery is the “moral inventory”. This is the opportunity to identify, confess, and release mistakes of the past as well as mistakes of the day.
“When I got caught [breaking a campus rule],” said one resident. “I had to write a moral inventory, saying what I did wrong, why I did it, and then ask for forgiveness.”
Daily, at morning breakout, you will hear men confessing their mistakes from the previous day, asking for forgiveness and giving a plan for avoiding those same mistakes in the future.
All of this is practice, so men can learn how to let go and be free of the burdens of their past, becoming regenerated into new men in healthy relationship with a forgiving God.
Breaking Strongholds from Temptations
The power of addiction is strong, and statistics say most who attempt to overcome addiction alone do not find lasting recovery. At No Longer Bound, men have one full year to identify the strongholds of their negative patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, so new beliefs can emerge.
As an example from his own time at No Longer Bound, Executive Director Edward Bailey said, “From my childhood experiences, I believed God to be impossible to please, hard to keep, and very willing to leave me. I believed he was angry, disappointed in me, and ready to wield his eternal punishment. It was at No Longer Bound that I asked God to show me who He wanted me to see Him as and believe Him to be. In a powerful moment, He showed up and told me His truth. ‘Where will you ever go that I won’t find you? Where can you hide that I won’t look? I will never leave you or forsake you.”