Dispelling the myths about overcoming alcoholism.

Recent statistics indicate alcoholism directly affects the lives of one out of every five Americans—and many of the alcoholic or the hurt are in our churches. So understanding alcoholism and its treatment is important. To further that understanding, we have adapted the following article from the just-published book Dying for a Drink, coauthored by Anderson Spickard, Jr., and free-lance writer Barbara Thompson. Dr. Spickard is director of general internal medicine and professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and a frequent speaker on the subject of alcoholism.

When painful circumstances or an organized intervention compel an alcoholic to seek treatment for his addiction, he and his family members are confronted with important questions. Where does an alcoholic go to learn how to quit drinking? What kind of help does he need?

For many Christians, the answer seems obvious. They are skeptical of efforts to “treat” addiction and convinced that alcoholics find deliverance from alcohol only through repentance and personal conversion. As I travel among church groups, I frequently hear people say, “If only he were right with the Lord; then he wouldn’t need alcohol or drugs.” The implication is that addiction is strictly a spiritual problem, and that alcoholics and drug addicts who give themselves to God and faithfully attend church services and Bible studies will be cured of their problem.

I identify deeply with this point of view because it was once my own, and I know it often springs from a deep concern and compassion for addicted people. At the same time, I have learned from painful experience that the search for a “Christian” solution to the problem of addiction ...

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