Stages of a Life-Controlling Problem

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Vernon E. Johnson, founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them. He writes, “We came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency” (8).

Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: 1) learns mood swing; 2) seeks mood swing; 3) harmful dependency; 4) uses to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including us, can also be related to other types of dependencies, although the terminology may differ.

In Living Free materials, these four stages are labeled: 1) experimentation; 2) social use; 3) daily preoccupation; and 4) using the substance or practicing the behavior just to feel normal. Not everyone progresses through all these stages, however there is no way to predict which people who begin the pattern will continue to stage four.

By the time people arrive at stage three, their developing life-controlling issues are clearly idols in their lives. They are beginning to suffer negative consequences from their involvement, but instead of slowing down in response to the pain, they involve themselves more deeply. They look to the behavior, substance, or relationship that is entrapping them for comfort or relief. Their delusion grows deeper until they no longer recognize the truth.

In the video, we looked at the stages an alcoholic typically goes through as drinking becomes a life-controlling problem. However, these stages can also apply to behavioral struggles. These are the stages people often experience with an eating disorder, a sexual addiction, and several types of emotional struggles. Although the actual name used for the phase may be different and the details may vary, what is important to know is that even though life-controlling problems take many forms, they develop along similar predictable patterns.

Adapted from Living Free Coordinator’s Guide, Jimmy Ray Lee and Dan Strickland, Turning Point, Chattanooga, TN, 1999, pp 40-42.
Used by permission

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What If They Don’t Want Your Help?

What can you do for your loved one when they don’t want help?

A father came to me recently with great concern for his daughter. “She is 23, living in our home, working a job, and using drugs. She has refused our advice and rejected our offer to get help with her drug use problem. What can we do?”

I’d like to share with you what I told this father. Many others have asked me the same question. Call this my open letter to all family members that are faced with the challenge of a loved one who is using drugs, but doesn’t want help. Personalize the letter to your own situation as you read my response to this family.

Let me say first of all, that you and your wife are possibly the two most influential people in your daughter’s life today. Even though she is unwilling to seek the help you believe she needs, you can be part of feeding her problem, or you can be a key part in bringing positive change into her life.

You cannot make her change. You cannot change her attitude toward drug use, nor can you change her behavior. One of the most basic steps for anyone to get help is to admit that they have a problem and they need help to change.

So if your daughter does not want help, and does not believe she has a problem, what can you do?

  • First, you can determine to communicate your love to her whether she changes or not.
  • Second, you must continue to speak the truth into her life.
  • Third, you must carefully plan your actions to create an atmosphere where she will be more willing to change.

You can read more about these steps here.

Copyright © 2004 By David Batty Used by permission.

Let This Next Year Be The Beginning Of Your Ministry

You will need a good foundation to build an effective Living Free ministry. You can do this by learning as much as possible yourself and then sharing what you learn with others.

Our office will help you. Ask us your questions. We are glad to help.

Here are steps you can follow as an individual to encourage your congregation or group to begin Living Free groups in your church or ministry.

INFORM AND TRAIN YOURSELF

The first step you should take is to learn as much as you can about Living Free.  Study the the website. Order the training series, or if that is impossible, watch the training series online so that you can experience first-hand what you want to encourage the church to enjoy.  After you review the materials, you may want to encourage some others to join you and look at them.  Test the interest level and see if there is a group of people who might like to work together to make this ministry a reality in your church. Remember, studying the materials as an individual is never as effective as experiencing them is a small group.  We need the eyes of others to see ourselves as we really are and the encouragement of others to apply the wisdom of God’s word to the difficult areas of our lives.

GAIN THE SUPPORT OF LEADERS

As you consider taking this information to your church leaders, be sure to pray.  When you meet with them, tell them about your own experience and how you think that these materials could help many others. Always keep a good attitude, even if the leaders are not receptive to you. Remember, it is God that opens and closes doors, and he has his own perfect timing for everything.

Try to see things from the perspective of ministry leaders.  Most church leaders are overworked and underpaid and experience many demands competing for their time.  Sometimes they will see a ministry like this as just another activity that they will have to staff and manage.  So if you want to see this ministry in your church, be sure that you’re volunteering to make it happen and not just handing it off for someone else to do.  When leaders see such a commitment, it will eliminate some of the barriers to beginning a new ministry.