We walk this road in trouble with an ache inside our souls. We can’t hide it with religion, we can’t buy it off with gold. And the pleasures we all reach for they’re just masters of disguise. While there is power in the glory of what lies right before our eyes.” ~Emmylou Harris~
The man nicknamed Noodles was abandoned in the hospital at birth. His mother was never in the picture and his father, a Vietnam vet with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, struggled to stay a step ahead of the law and eviction notices while dealing with his own demons.
Noodles mostly raised himself. He got passed around an extended family of aunts and uncles, and was introduced to marijuana when he was merely eight years old. By his early teens addiction had already entangled its roots deep within his psyche; he was smoking pot, drinking alcohol or popping pills at every opportunity because that’s what was modeled for him. His life became a cycle of substance abuse and drug dependency that seemed normal to him.
As a counselor at BIC Overcomers, a residential alcohol and drug rehab situated in the Four Corners area of New Mexico on the edge of Navajo Nation, I live and work with men like Noodles. I hear their stories, and though each one has its own unique heartache and dysfunction, there is a commonality that cannot be escaped or sugarcoated: A lack of relational stability; an inability to connect with others in ways that are mutually healthy and beneficial.
The consequence is an intense, ofttimes manic striving to fill the void, divert the loneliness, or construct a false security to pacify the extensive disconnection that permeates their lives. It is my up close and personal assessment that the dopamine rush—the deceptively surreal gratification that comes from alcohol and/or a buffet of drugs is certainly a contributing factor in addiction, but the actual trigger is found in the relational arena. My experiential evidence is given a wealth of credibility by the British journalist Johann Hari. His examination and evaluation of the research into the primary reasons for addiction came to the conclusion that “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.”**
That insightful appraisal ought not shock or even surprise us. A Biblical worldview makes clear that we are created to be in relationship with the Creator and all of creation, which means with each other. A fracture in the vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father and fissures in the horizontal bonds with other human beings will result in the relational chaos that paves the way for addictions to get a substantial foothold.
Sanctuary & Connection
So how do we address broken relationships? What makes the BIC Overcomers different from other residential rehabilitation programs? The answer is a twofold approach that we work at molding into a seamless garment of unconditional acceptance and encouragement.
First, every client is treated with respect and dignity because we embrace the reality of our common humanity and understand that we are all spiritual beings struggling inside the prison of human flesh. Therefore we take a holistic approach while intensely tackling the spiritual dimension by endeavoring to be ambassadors of the profoundly simple gospel.
We place great emphasis on the Navajo concept of hozhó, which is an echo of Old Testament truth given to the tribal Israelites. Centuries later, a teacher of the law replied to the question of what was required to inherit eternal life by boldly proclaiming the straightforward essentials: Luke 10:27—“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.”
Hozhó is walking in beauty, which means taking steps to bring all aspects of life into proper alignment to be in balance and harmony with the Creator—to be intentional about putting the Great Commandment into action. The Creator (Jesus) is at the center of a wheel that has four quadrants: Emotional (Heart), Spiritual (Soul), Physical (Strength), Mental (Mind).
Second, we foster the sanctuary principle. Everyone needs a refuge where there is no judgment or shame. We appropriate this standard from an episode in the life of David.
When Saul was on the warpath and chasing them, the warrior-poet and his followers found shelter and security in a cave called Adullam. A ragtag gang of rabble and underdogs who were in debt or discontented or in distress rallied to that place to join them. Connected as a band of brothers, these beaten down folks gained enough conviction and confidence to become David’s mighty men whose grand exploits are referred to in I Samuel 22.
Our past is our past. It cannot be fixed or changed, but it can be redeemed. We all need a safe-haven where the hurts of accumulated yesterdays can be put behind us—where there is no condemnation, but rather, where our stories are shared and we draw strength and courage from each other; where the understanding that we are not alone sinks in almost by osmosis; where conviction and confidence can be developed step by step and precept upon precept.
One of the elemental concepts integrated into BIC Overcomers is Inner Healing, and for its purposes to be realized the sanctuary environment has to be genuine. The curriculum is about being honest in confronting past misdeeds or wrongs—either our own or those perpetuated against us by others, but gives no quarter to a woe-is-me victimization mentality.
It is tough-love that teaches taking personal responsibility, and is designed to peel away the layers of denial and excuse making to provide the tools to repair the brokenness and disconnection. This is done in the context of community, and often accompanied by tears and heartfelt confession. Then, with God being the author and finisher of salvation, graduates go forward to seize hold of what it means to be connected and stay connected.
**Cited from a 2015 Psychology Today article by Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S.