In 1977 I began working with alcoholics, drug addicts and those with psychiatric problems. Being a Christ follower in secular settings with worldly theories and practices was not easy. In 1988 I founded NewLife Treatment Centers and we operated 32 Christian NewLife Units on a separate floor or wing of a hospital that might or might not have believers in charge. When it came to alcoholism and addiction there were and still are varying opinions on the source of the problem and the source of the solution, but I’ve reached a conclusion that I believe is important for all believers to understand.
Addiction is a physiological problem, that produces psychological symptoms and only has a spiritual solution. It is physiological because it is the body that becomes addicted and craves relief. The psychological symptoms of mood swings, anger, rage, and despair are felt by the addict and observed by those close to the addict. Not all alcoholics and addicts start with a spiritual problem, but they end up spiritually devastated. That being the case, the Bible is the ultimate resource for recovery.
The early history of Alcoholics Anonymous provides evidence that the Bible, not the Big Book, is the most important resource for anyone willing to do the work needed for recovery and restoration.
Bill W. and Dr. Bob developed the 12 Steps as a path for recovery and growth that have helped millions. Dr. Bob was a sincere believer in Christ. When someone came to him for help, he would take them to his upper room, get them on their knees and bring them to Christ. Therefore, the success rates were very high in the first days of Alcoholics Anonymous. In his final speech, Dr. Bob said, “We did not just make up these steps, we got them from the Good Book, especially The Love Chapter of I Corinthians 13, The Sermon on the Mount and the book of James.” When Dr. Dave Stoop and I developed the Life Recovery Bible, we were not interjecting the Bible into the 12-step recovery process, we were bringing the recovery journey back to the Bible where it started.
The steps reflect the truth in God’s word. When Paul said in Romans 7:18
“I know that nothing good lives in me…I want to do what is right, but I can’t,” he was admitting he had an extreme limitation called powerlessness, in Step One. James wrote in Chapter 5, Verse 16, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” This is the truth reflected in Step 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Step 9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others, is a result of the astounding direction given by Christ in Matthew 5:23-24, “If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar and …someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. This direction from Christ, to make things right with others who have been harmed, changed everything for me on my journey and it is the most powerful principal, other than surrender, of working the 12 Steps. There are many more examples of the Bible being the foundation for the 12 Step growth process.
All truth is God’s truth. For recovery to effectively transform a soul it must be based on the ultimate recovery resource, the Bible.
Stephen Arterburn, M.Ed is the host and founder of the nationally syndicated counseling talk show “New Life Live!” Steve is a New York Times best- selling author and a nationally and internationally known public speaker. He is the co-author of the NLT Life Recovery Bible.