Question:I wanted to know how the church deals with a member who practices self-destruction? The individual is a brother who has so much potential to exceed in the church, but has demons he is facing with (e.g. alcohol). He is full of energy and commitment, but had a recent had an incident that could possibly alienate him from the church, family and friends.
Could you provide any advice as to how to best handle this situation?
Addictions are always difficult. It is why it is so important that people stay away from drugs and alcohol because the path out of addiction is rough. It is not impossible to overcome addictions, I have had the privilege of knowing a number who have conquered their cravings, but those who are addicted add a whole other layer to the problem of temptation and sin.
You see, a person who has never taken a drug, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroine, or alcohol, doesn't have a desire for these drugs. We are born with a desire for food and drink, in adolescence we develop the desire for sex, but drugs are not a natural desire. The chemicals themselves create a desire for repeated use, either by physical dependency (an alteration of the body's chemistry) or a psychological dependency (a desire for the altered feelings that come with drug usage).
Drug usage is wrong because it violates the concept of soberness taught in the Scriptures. "But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation" (I Thessalonians 5:8). Our enemy, Satan, is difficult enough to battle without altering our mental state. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). The only way out of drug usage is for a person to admit that it is a sin and that they want out.
I've worked with a number of addicts and the ones who have successfully left their addictions were those who had finally reached the end of their rope. Those who found excuses for their behavior always go back because the desire never leaves. I think that is probably the hardest thing to face. Many are ready to quit drugs, but they want the desire to go away. It won't. They will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. Over time they will realize that what they desire isn't all that great anyway. There will be times that they will forget about them for the moment. But, it will always be lurking in the background, ready to come to the front when life gets tough.
Addicts manage to keep their habit going by becoming smooth liars. Many are so accomplished that they reach for a lie even when the truth would have been perfectly adequate. Some get to the point that they are unable to distinguish between truth and a lie. This makes it tough on the Christian because we are used to dealing solely in the truth. It is uncomfortable dealing with someone whom you never know is telling a truth or a lie.
Before anything can be done, the person must be off the drugs or alcohol. It is amazing how long a drug will continue to affect a person long after they have stopped using it. For most it takes at least a year before the person returns to some semblance of normality. During that time the person needs an absolutely structured life where all aspects are regulated. It is not enough to say they won't use drugs, they need time where they can't use drugs. They need to know that someone is protecting them from themselves and that they are being monitored so there is some fear of even thinking about slipping up.
When visiting people in drug rehab, I spend most of my time getting the person to look at life as it really is. We talk about why they used drugs, why drugs are harmful, why God forbids drugs, and the like. My goal is to get the person to realize that drugs didn't solve a single one of their problems, but instead masked the problems and made their lives worse. The hard part is not to feed them the answers but to have them come to the realization for themselves. I talk in very blunt terms because subtlety is completely loss on a drug-fried mind. And I don't spend all the time on drugs. We talk about temptation and the nature of sin, we talk about related sins, such as lying, sex, and robbery. We talk about relationships and how to deal with problems. We talk about depression and mood swings. But most importantly, we talk about the future, and how to solve problems. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the past and take a "woe is me" attitude. There has to be something worth living for and striving for. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).