Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Helping those with addictions

"Addiction recovery is much more than a referral to the closest AA group. It is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for a whole community to be transformed by the grace of God." Jonathan Benz is a clinician, public speaker, ordained minister and a certified addictions professional, who serves and directs a treatment program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Benz's book, co-authored with Kristina Robb Dover, is called The Recovery-Minded Church, from IVP.  With a subtitle called Loving and Ministering to People with Addiction, this book may be one we have been looking for, wishing for, hoping for, as we look around and see friends, loved ones, visitors, most of whom do not talk about their addiction and what to do about it.

Benz says he designed this book as a "toolkit," and he is eager to help and encourage anyone who may be dealing with some type of addiction to listen, read, share ideas and opportunities to overcome their addiction, whatever it may be. He says that in America, 30% of the population struggle with some form of addiction. He estimates that 6% of Americans struggle with some form of sexual addiction; approximately 10% have drug or alcohol addictions; around 7.5% exhibit some form of an eating disorder; some 6% are compulsive shoppers; and at least 1% are pathological gamblers. He claims his "estimate is conservative, because many of those struggling with addiction will never report their struggles out of fear or shame, or they will become casualties of their addiction before they can get the help they need."

The book begins with the questions church members may be asking, and continues with answers from "the perspective of a Christian addiction recovery clinician." Referring throughout to the parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15, Benz calls his Section 1: Tools for Loving People with Addiction. Section 2 is Tools for Creating a Recovery-Friendly Church.

Benz writes: section 1 "will outfit you with practical tools for loving people with addictions in your midst," and section 2 "will equip you with tips and practices for building a recovery-friendly church." Don't skip the appendix, which offers info on Christian treatment programs, recovery groups, websites and readings, also detailed info on various addictions you may encounter. Our authors remind us that "the guiding principle for any intervention is to remember the goal of getting an addict into recovery. This must govern how we conduct ourselves." Benz and Robb-Dover remind us that "though addiction is an epidemic in America. the church can and must respond." And the church and those with addictions have much to learn and teach about the sanctifying grace of God.

---Lois Sibley,