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The Secret Lives of Christian Pill AddictsRobert Maka / Flickr

The Secret Lives of Christian Pill Addicts

Nov 4 2013
Addicts shouldn’t have to hide their recovery from the church.

Foolishly we believed Dave could be healed if we just prayed hard enough, and I helped him through dangerous at-home detox. But every relapse eroded our relationship. Fear kept the cycle going: fear of job loss, fear of judgment. I felt so much shame, failure, anger, and grief whenever Dave relapsed—and so did he.

I searched online and found nearby Al-Anon and Narc-Anon support groups. But how could I tell strangers that my Christian-leader husband was a pill addict? What would they think of Jesus? We'd tried every Christian thing we could think of: prayer, repentance, Scripture, exorcism, laying-on of hands, counseling. Nothing seemed to help. Desperate, I turned again to a pastor, who suggested a counselor, who suggested a Christian 12-step program at another church.

For the first time, in a safe place to bare my soul, I began to release the burden of Dave's recovery. He wasn't "fixed" yet. Ultimately, his choices and return to prescription drug abuse resulted in losing ministry, income, home, and reputation all at once. The best thing that happened to Dave and me, as devastating as it was, was total exposure—our "rock bottom"—which defused the secrets of their power.

Dave is now celebrating six years clean, leads a Christ-based recovery group through our very supportive church, and he speaks freely about the addiction that nearly destroyed his life and our family. We'll both tell you: Recovery is a process, not a quick fix. Healing from addiction can be a lifelong struggle. Unfortunately, most local churches do not offer long-term recovery support for addicts or their families.

As Christians, we rejoice with people who've met their weight-loss goals and remain lifelong members of Weight Watchers, but are skeptical of someone who continues to attend recovery meetings. "A crutch," we call it, "addicted to recovery." But a former pill addict, clean for years, can be undone by a simple trip to the dentist. And for them, the consequences of failure are far more severe than gaining a few pounds.

We have found that there is very little grace in the world for pill addicts. Prescription drug addiction is fast becoming a societal plague—even celebrities are scorned for it. But the church can be a place of healing for addicts, starting with our own.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is addicted to medication, please seek medical help as well as counseling. Do not attempt to detox without a doctor's supervision, as withdrawal from certain drugs can cause serious, life-threatening complications.

Deborah Beddoe writes about addiction, recovery, and grace at enduringandafter.com and is a fundraising and marketing writer for Christian nonprofits. She and Dave have been married for 21 years and are blessed with four marvelous children.

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