Group Therapy: The Challenges of Addiction

Over 27% of Americans battle a condition that is not directly referenced in the Bible. 


The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic brain disorder. It does not happen due to a lack of willpower or bad decision-making, but rather, a gradual change in brain chemistry.

Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 Americans struggle with a substance addiction. Around 46.8 million Americans have battled a substance-use disorder in the last year, and an additional 10.5 % had an alcohol-use disorder.

And that doesn’t count those addicted to shopping, gambling, working, golf, social media, exercise, and any number of other behaviors and desires that Americans use to cope with the challenges of life and their unique pain. The Cleveland Clinic categorizes these as behavioral addictions.

Given its prevalence in our culture, how should a Christian respond to addiction?

Wake Up

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 says,

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

With 1 in 4 Americans battling a substance addiction, a concerning reality is that we, as believers, have to face that there is at least a 25% chance I could struggle with substance abuse or someone around me could be suffering. It can be easy to miss or dismiss the warning signs in yourself and others.

Paul’s challenge to us in 1 Thessalonians is to wake up! We have an enemy who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. For your health and the health of others, don’t be casual about substance use or abuse. Just because you are present physically, doesn’t mean you are awake mentally.

Paul references two pieces of the armor of God that we should proactively “put on,” so that we can find victory in a culture struggling with addiction.

Put on Faith and Love as a Breastplate

The potential for healing is one reason to have faith for a brighter future. However, as believers, we have faith for both behavior modification and personal transformation.

When you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, we have faith that they will be able to cut the toxic behavior and, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, they may become a new creation. They may live as if the old has gone and the new has come.

What’s interesting is that the breastplate is a piece of armor used for protection. Its role is to guard our hearts and other vital organs. So, Paul’s instruction is a reminder that substance abuse can be a brutal battle, riddled with discouragement, frustration, and anger. It’s important to remember that hurting people hurt people. If someone you love is struggling with addiction, it’s likely they’ll take some shots at you, push you away, take their pain out on you, or bring about harmful consequences in your life. The breastplate of faith and love encourages us to have faith for a set-free, fully alive future and empowers us to take those shots in stride with the same love Jesus extends to us.

Put on the Hope of Salvation as a Helmet

Both in Biblical times and today, a head injury in battle could result in immediate death. Paul tells us to put on the Hope of Salvation as a helmet, reminding us to guard our minds. Our ability to overcome the greatest obstacles in life is often determined between our ears. This is one of the reasons that Paul uses militant language in 2 Corinthians 10:5 when he says to, “Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”

Often, we treat our thoughts as welcome guests, when in reality, they are violent intruders. Phrases like: He’s never gonna change, She’s never gonna change, or I’ve always been this way, represent beliefs that do not lead to life and freedom. The Hope of Salvation as a helmet reminds us, this was not a battle we could win to begin with. Jesus paid the price, Jesus won the fight, and he has blessed you and I with the spoils of victory.

By using wartime imagery, Paul is pleading with us to remember we are in a battle. We have an enemy, and sometimes the enemy’s tactic is patiently waiting for people to attack themselves by way of addiction. If you or someone you love is battling addiction, you can protect yourself and help bring about victory for them by way of faith, love, and hope.

1 According to the 2022 U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

If you or someone you know is in need of help with addiction or mental health, visit Seacoast Resources for a list of opportunities designed to help provide healing.