I've been re-reading the book, and a passage from Chapter 1 reminded me why it is such a great resource for Christians who work with the chemically dependent. I quote from portions of the pertinent text to give you a sense of the power of the book to expose the real cause of chemical addictions.
Chemical dependency is a problem that has reached epidemic proportions in our society. There is no typical alcoholic or chemically dependent person. If it had the power to choose whom it would affect, chemical dependency would not be very good at distinguishing between the rich or poor, young or old, black or white, male or female, white- or blue-collar worker. Holding a religious view that prohibits alcohol use proves no more effective in the area of preventing chemical-related problems than holding a liberal view. Why not? Because alcohol and drugs are not the cause, only a symptom of what runs much deeper.When people look to anything other than Christ for life, they will eventually find ultimate dissatisfaction. Alcohol and drugs dull or mask the inner dysfunction, and soon they become the substitute for life from Christ. Anyone who uses a chemical, or a hobby, or religion, or food in order alter one's mood is addicted. Only when one comes to know, to trust, and to love the fullness of life that Christ brings will the ultimate solution to the idolatry behind addictions be found. This small post gives the reader just a taste of Jeff VanVonderen's book Good News for the Chemically Dependent and Those Who Love Them. I would urge readers of Grace and Truth to You to purchase a copy for yourself. You will find yourself reading, learning--and giving it away to help someone you love.
In Mark 7:15 Jesus said, "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him." If Jesus is right in this passage, why are so many families and churches characterized by a "barriers" approach to preventing "defilement?" That is, telling people how bad it is for them to drink this, eat that, or go there, making a rule against it, trying to make them good rule-followers. This represents such an inadequate view of health. Just because a person avoids or stops using chemicals and goes out for football or band does not mean he or she is a healthy person. Attendance at church instead of the local bar is no the same as health either. Yet, so much of the effort put forth in families and churches is toward extinguishing one behavior and rewarding another.
Jesus' statement confronts all of our efforts to solve or prevent problems by avoiding something that does not have the power to cause the problem in the first place. What a waste of time! This approach urges us to define health in terms of outside behavior instead of inside fullness. It provides no help or support once a person has broken through the barrier. It simply does not address the cause of the problem.
So what is the cause? It is seeking life from idols. At first glance, my answer to that question might seem so "religious" as to be of no use at all. This is hardly the case. The truth is that this concept, whcih we have too long seen as purely theological, has many very practical ramifications in our lives. I believe that at the heart of all harmful dependencies is the issue of idolatry. A grasp of this concept is essential as a foundation for understanding the processes of chemical dependency and codependency, or, for that matter, any unhealthy dependencies. Let me explain idolatry.
Remember the account of the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis? It tells of God's creation of Adam and Eve. God was their source and sustainer. He placed them in relationships (with Himself and each other) and in an environment in which all of their needs were met. This is much of what I believe God meant whenHe said, "This is very good." There was a tree in the garden which was off-limits. Genesis 2:17 says, "for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." They ate and they died.
Man lost life in the Garden of Eden.
Understanding death and life is not really so difficult. It is like darkness and light. Darkness is not the opposite of light; it is the absence of light. The way to be in the light is not by trying hard not to be in the dark. It is by coming into or turning on a light. Death is not the opposite of life; it is the absence of life. The way to have life is not by trying hard not to be dead. It is by coming to what can give life.
"I have come that you may have life" (John 10:10); "I am the bread of life" (John 6:48); "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25); and "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Why did Jesus come bringing life? Because we did not have it. Romans 5:12 says that "death spread to all men, because all sinned" To argue whether we are dead becasue Adam sinned or because we sin misses the point. The point is that we all lack life.
Anything besides God to which we run, positive or negative, in order to find life, value, and meaning is idolatry; money, property, jewels, sex, clothes, church buildings, educational degrees, anything! Because of Christ's performance on the cross, life, value, and purpose are available to us in gift form only. Anything we do, positive or negative, to earn that which is life by our own performance is idolatrous; robbing a bank, cheating on our spouse, people-pleasing, swindling our employer, attending church, giving 10 percent, playing the organ for twenty years, anything! Addiction is the ulitmate end of idolatry.
In His Grace,