This article was written by BCC Counselor Brandon Lowery as part of our new series on addiction. In this series, our counselors are sharing how everyone can understand, overcome, and find freedom from addiction.
I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
That may sound strange to hear from a biblical counselor, but the truth is I came out of a lifestyle of addiction through court-ordered participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.
I found a sponsor, worked the twelve steps, sponsored others, led large group meetings, and attended a house-based small group. Then I left Alcoholics Anonymous three years into sobriety in 2008.
By God’s grace, I found there was more than AA.
Many who struggle with addictions find their start in AA, NA, SA, and similar programs, but many haven’t considered that there could be something better for them in the long run.
In this post, I’ll share my story about how God used my church in a more powerful way than AA on my path to freedom and sobriety.
What AA does well, the local church can and is called to do better.
A friend and I recently talked about his relapse after years in AA. He sent me this text not long after:
“I spoke to my sponsor and he is requiring me to do 90 meetings in 90 days, along with calling three people a day, plus starting to work through all the steps again.”
AA expects consistent attendance and God has also designed people to live in consistent fellowship with one another (Gen. 2:18). As a recovering addict, you’re rebuilding your social patterns. The Christian life is meant to be lived in consistent social interaction.
To live a Spirit-filled is only possible within consistent fellowship. That’s how we’re built.
“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Eph.5:18)
Addressing “one another” through worshipping together is just one of fifty-nine “one another” commands for Christians. The local church is the place for consistent fellowship. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us of the importance of consistent fellowship:
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
The church can care for you well by offering multiple fellowship opportunities for Bible study, encouragement, and fun. Boredom is an enemy of sobriety.
Next Step: Get to know people in your church. Talk to people when you go to church. Invite them out for a cup of coffee or dinner. Give them a chance to get to know you.
“Don’t drink and keep coming back” is an AA mantra. This is certainly practical. What AA does well, the local church can and is called to do better. The New Testament is chock-full of encouraging support and practical tips!
“Do not be deceived…drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
The Apostle Paul is reminding the Corinthians believers of their identity in Christ and of the freedom they enjoy in sobriety (1 Cor. 6:12). I remember the shame and consequences associated with my addiction. The truth of my forgiveness empowered my continued sobriety.
Paul often begins with theological truth, only to pivot to very practical application. Again, in Philippians, Paul winds down his letter with very practical encouragement.
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9)
There are ex-addicts in your church — I guarantee it. We have all done things in our past that we would rather forget and rarely talk about. Encourage them to share their experience, strength, and hope with you. These individuals will have so much in common with you. By God’s grace, their experience can be used for His glory (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Next Step: Identify, encourage, and allow an ex-addict within your ministry to speak into your life. Talk with your pastor to help connect you to another person who understands.
You’re considering AA to get free from something. The church is called to do this even better. Sobriety is not salvation. The Christian knows there is more to our common goal than alcoholic abstinence (or some other addiction).
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire…” (Jude 21-22)
We do desire people to live sober and healthy lives. Yet, we live in the awareness of God’s wrath and love (2 Cor. 5:11, 14).
The greatest shared goal is to live a life of contagious worship to God. This is what the Church does well that no other institution or movement can accomplish — True worship of God through Jesus Christ.
“The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).
The Father is not seeking people who don’t drink. He is not seeking people who don’t look at porn. He is not seeking shiny-happy people. The Father is seeking Truth-based worshippers. It’s all about worship. When you worship God, unhealthy pleasures will fade. It’s more than AA, more than just sobriety.
Next Step: Learn from someone in your church who is fearless in their worship of God. You’ll know who it is because they’ll be sharing their story, sharing a Bible verse, or praying for others.
I got sober in AA — But I found so much more in my local church.
I left Alcoholics Anonymous three years into sobriety in 2008. A small group of believers invited me in as a friend. Church leadership trusted me to walk alongside others who struggled with addictions. They all modeled a fearless love for Jesus. Seventeen years into my sobriety, I am the counseling pastor in that same church.
By God’s grace, what AA did well, the local church did better.
I challenge you to review the three next steps above and pray for the awareness and opportunity to engage in your church family.