Faith in Christ is key to successful recovery programmes, says ex-addict

[notice]Johannesburg based, entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and recovered drug addict, Marco Broccardo, believes that Christian recovery programmes can succeed where others fail. The author of “Rocks — One Man’s Climb from Drugs to Dreams” (See Gateway News Book Review) and founder of drug awareness and rehabilitation initiative, Mountain Heights, shares his views on effective drug rehabilitation.[/notice]

Marco Broccardo.

When people with strong Christian convictions are overcome by addiction, their struggle is often intensified. This is because they not only have to battle the addiction itself, but they also need to come to terms with the impact it has on their faith. For many of these people, recovery programmes which are not faith based may not be as effective as those which are.

Through a combination of traditional drug rehabilitation and a spiritual approach to addiction recovery, Christian faith based treatment centres can successfully help addicts to make full recoveries while bringing them closer to Christ. For many, this ultimately leads to a better chance of full recovery.

Failed rehab attempts
As a former addict who has been clean for 15 years, I can attest to this through my own life’s experience: I battled drug addiction for years, risking my life on countless occasions and causing untold destruction to my family. In June 1999, post three failed rehab attempts, my family disowned me and, as a last resort, deposited me at the Noupoort Christian Care Centre.

This marked a turning point in my life: I was not a Christian before attending Noupoort but instead found my faith in Jesus there and went on to stay clean after completing the programme. Noupoort is a notoriously tough rehabilitation centre for “hardcore” addicts, relying upon strong discipline and routine as the foundation for its success.

Having attended both faith and non-faith based recovery programmes, Christianity provided me with the hope that I was unable to find elsewhere. Non-faith based programmes typically remind patients that their chances of full recovery are slim: this is because many are established on the premise that addiction is a disease. In my opinion this is completely flawed as using drugs is a choice, unlike terminal illness. I believe that the widely-entrenched disease analogy provides little to no hope of a full recovery. Furthermore, recovery from addiction can be a very lonely process. Faith based programmes help addicts to realise that God will support them through their recovery.

Mountain Heights
My non-profit organisation Mountain Heights was founded to increase awareness regarding the severity of drug addiction in South Africa. Mountain Heights funds drug rehabilitation and awareness initiatives across the country and, in some cases, treatment for individual addicts is fully funded. Time and again, I have witnessed that faith based programmes have a higher success rate than secular programmes. Mountain Heights only admits people to faith based programmes which are founded on the belief that Christ can set us free. Jesus told his followers that they needed to be made “free indeed” (John 8:36). I believe that this also represents the freedom to serve the Lord by choosing to be righteous.

Christian faith based recovery programmes rely upon 12 steps originally devised by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism. The structure of these programmes is also built around the following principles: freedom of choice (addiction is not a disease); the power of forgiveness; discipline and routine; and lastly, hope and strength through God. All of this gives addicts the strength to stay clean and to make the choice to be so every single day.

As Christians, we are given the greatest gift through choosing to follow Jesus — the gift of forgiveness. As an addict, forgiveness instils in us the strength to move from being “in recovery” to “recovered”, as we commit to a new beginning to ask for forgiveness and to make peace. The Holy Bible teaches us that God blesses those who make peace and those who are treated badly for trying to do right —  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 9,10)

A choice — not a disease
Allow me to reiterate my belief that addiction is not a disease but rather a choice born from free will. A common definition of free will is the “ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition”. These free will choices are not predestined by God.

The expression “idle hands are the devils workshop” has its roots in Scripture. The Apostle Paul notes that those who waste their time in idleness or in a non-productive manner are more easily led into sin: “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies” (2 Thessalonians 3:11). In essence, a lack of activity can also tempt people into sin. This is why Christian faith based programmes include communal and individual chores and strict daily routines for their patients.

In conclusion, living a truly Christian life in a world filled with sin is difficult. In the same vein, accepting the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives does not instantly stop addiction: the reality is that, while faith based recovery programmes give individuals the tools to come clean, they still have to make the right choices in their lives. I believe that as an individual encounters God’s heart more and more, he or she is led by the Holy Spirit, which is the point at which addiction starts to fade away. Where you once could not say no, His will gives you the strength to do so.

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