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Myth Busters

In May this year the United Kingdom marked the 80th anniversary of the famous dam busters mission which took place during World War 2.

Although initially the effects of the effort were downplayed, in the years following, it became clear just how significant Operation Chastise was. The historian James Holland, brother of podcasting superstar Tom Holland described the results as “absolutely enormous” and that it was an “extraordinary achievement.”

Well at Hope For Glasgow, we sometimes do some busting ourselves which takes the form of myth busting rather than dam busting. Of course the outcome may not be enormous or extraordinary, perhaps these will even be played down, but nonetheless we hope it may have an impact on setting the scene in gospel addictions ministry in some measure!

Here are some points we make to bust some myths as we speak at churches and spend time with people.

Busting a myth about the addict…

Despite making leaps and bounds in recovery circles, sometimes (maybe often) the impression people have is that the alcoholic or drug addict is the down and out, on the street, who has reached absolute rock bottom and who can barely keep anything together in life.

Yet at Hope For Glasgow we engage with people from all walks of life. True, sometimes people come to us and the bottom has completely fallen out of their lives and they really are at the end of the road.  

However, people also come and they’re still holding down responsible jobs, running businesses, are involved in public service, are in ministry or are retired. Some people are just starting out in life and finding their way, others are financially secure whilst certain individuals have achieved great success academically even whilst they were using.

The point being that the addict can be the person in the dock receiving a sentence and the judge handing it down. It may well be that the addict is the Christian in your church who is sitting in the pew each week hiding the problem. Therefore, we should not be too quick to make assumptions about what it is to have an addiction issue.

Busting a myth about rehab…

It’s a strange reality that in our celebrity culture rehab is almost a badge of honour. It seems desirable and it is sometimes assumed that rehab has to be residential in order for people to put their lives back together properly.  This is not always the case.  It is arguably far better for someone to become clean and sober whilst continuing to do daily life and making the tough choices that are required as they face reality.

One of the most common challenges for people coming out of residential rehab is returning to real life, surrounded by real temptations that are still there when they return home. Even in celebrity culture this is true as Matthew Perry’s repeated visits to rehab and attempts to clean up continually come undone as outlined in his biography

Our Day Programme at Hope For Glasgow is best described as community rehab which helps people to do recovery whilst doing life. Furthermore, many people get recovery simply by attending our evening meetings which is reflected in recovery circles in general. It should not be assumed that rehab is residential even if it is needed in some situations.

Busting a myth about needs…

Often we find a degree of confusion about what we’re doing in this work. So far this year our newest team member has been asked if we do street work, provide meals, run job clubs, deal with finances and provide furniture for the homeless.

Whilst we may be able to help with these things, this is not our primary work. Our primary focus is gospel work where we apply the bible to addictions and offer help and support for people to become clean and connected to their families, communities and ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an associated myth that this additional help will draw more addicts to the ministry but experience shows that when it comes to addiction issues, it is far better to come as your own accuser rather than being dragged or drawn by secondary offers that don’t get to the heart of the issue. Experience also shows that when you deal with the addiction issue many of these secondary problems take care of themselves as the addict begins to make different choices themselves as part of a new life.

Busting a myth about bible-based addictions work…

Occasionally people think we are doing twelve step work at Hope For Glasgow and that the twelve steps is basically the bible message. This is partly because the steps have been so successful and were written by Bill W off the back of his experience of the Oxford Group which was a Christian movement.

On the contrary, we begin with the bible as it is applied to addictions as the basis of our approach. We don’t try to squeeze the twelve steps into the bible nor do we believe that the steps are a simplified version of the bible for the addict. The bible clarifies what the steps are (and are not) rather than the steps clarifying the bible.

We have great respect for twelve step recovery groups but our approach to recovery is different. Whilst it’s not always obvious what the bible has to do with addiction, there is plenty to go on as we shared in this blog and which comes across in this book which is part and parcel of what we do at Hope For Glasgow week to week. 

Busting a myth about legalism…

At Hope For Glasgow we promote total abstinence when it comes to addictions. We don’t play around with that because we’re not going to play around with people’s lives.

Yet the criticism occasionally comes our way that this is legalistic and goes beyond biblical boundaries. We politely disagree. Legalism is the belief that by doing works you can attain or achieve salvation and so you hold rigidly to rule keeping in your spiritual life in order to meet this. That is not what we promote and it’s not what total abstinence is about.

We believe that total abstinence is a wisdom issue and that when it comes to dealing with sin that has dominated someone, the best approach is deal it a mortal blow. The addict should flee from sin and remember that it’s always crouching at the door and that self-control for the addict is abstaining rather than managing the habit.

Incidentally this is also one of the reasons why we can’t get too excited about the introduction of Safe Consumption Rooms in Scotland although we hope now that they’re here that they will save some lives.

However, for the addict there is no safe way to consume drugs and there are no guarantees that taking a substance under supervision will prevent an untimely death at some point. We suspect that not only will it keep people in their addiction but it will also create a haven for dealers and a circus around the rooms themselves that will further stigmatise the addict.

Safe Consumption Rooms are also another step along the road to legalising drugs which is not eliminating the problem but simply renaming it to sound less of a problem than it actually is which is exactly what the addict did for years in their addiction. 

Having said all that, there are caveats  to total abstinence, (for example a food addiction) but suggesting that total abstinence is legalism is a myth that should not only be busted but buried in the depths of the sea preferably with the use of a big millstone.

Busting a myth about identity…

Another myth exists that if you are a new creation in Christ you should no longer be viewing yourself as an addict. That is, if you view yourself as an addict you will inevitably use.  

However, this sounds more in tune with the self-help, pop psychology of our time and in any case experience shows that it’s not actually true.  The main reason an addict uses the term is to remind themselves of their personal capacity for sin and destruction. So it leads to humility and this is what helps to avoid and overcome personal sin. It’s frightening to know what you are really capable of, but also very liberating.

The Christian of course is a new creation and understanding that can help in recovery, but we are also people caught between the now and the not yet of God’s Kingdom and we are a work in progress. We prefer Luther’s famous mantra that we are both saint and sinner and if we forget one or the other we will almost certainly go astray in the Christian life and in recovery. There is a danger of becoming despondent when sin rears its head or cocky when you’re doing well, depending which way you lean.

Busting a myth about commonality…

Finally, a common myth is that only an addict can help an addict. At Hope For Glasgow we have benefitted greatly from people who come from out with recovery circles. One of our big emphases is also to plug people into bible teaching churches as we are often encouraging people to avoid discounting the importance of a good church in recovery.

One of the main reasons why other Christians can help in this kind of work is because a Christian will be tuned in to the doctrine of sin. The Christian knows that what is said in the bible about sin is as easily applied to the addict and the sinner alike. Every Christian should know this and be able to relate their sin issue to the issue of addiction in the world we live in. The outworking of this is that not only can the church help the addict but the addict can also help the church.

So that’s a few myths that we sometimes bust. There’s perhaps not enough to go on for eighty years but hopefully it will help in the coming weeks as people walk in recovery and consider how and why they should help.


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