Christian Addict Expert: Rehab May Not Have Been the Answer for Winehouse

Rehab or simply relying on a “higher power” may not have freed Amy Winehouse from her highly publicized addictions, or ultimately saved her life, says a pastor from the biblical counseling program known as “Redemption Groups.”

Pastor Mike Wilkerson, who wrote the book, Redemption: Freed by Jesus From the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, discussed Winehouse’s life and recent death on the website of a Christian leadership group known as Resurgence. His post is titled “Why Going to Rehab Won’t Fix It.”

Wilkerson, the co-founder of the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church counseling and multi-issue recovery-help program, told The Christian Post that he was invited by Resurgence leaders to write about the British artist “probably because addiction was a well-known theme in Amy's public life, and addiction is an area of ministry specialization for me.”

“But the reason I agreed to the invitation to write the post is that I had this deep sense of solidarity with the drama and agony of addiction, especially in one so talented and so much in the public eye,” said Wilkerson, who said he struggled with porn addiction during his college years.

Wilkerson stated in the post, “The first lyrics I heard belted by that powerful voice now ring with irony, ‘They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, 'No, no, no.'"

“I know that too often, Christians can have a finger-pointing attitude, as if what went on in Amy's life was utterly different from what happens in the rest of our lives every day. We all deal with sin and suffering in our own lives,” Wilkerson told CP. “I think there was also a sense of grief in some sense, sympathizing with God for the damage involved to his beautiful creation.

"Creation in general, but as an exceptionally talented artist, Amy represents God's creation and creativity in a special way, making loss even more difficult.”

Winehouse was found dead in her London home Saturday. The Grammy-award-winning singer-songwriter was only 27. An autopsy earlier this week was inconclusive. Additional toxicology tests are being conducted.

When asked about the his post’s headline, which implies that rehab was not the answer for Winehouse, Wilkerson responded, “The title was suggested for the post after I wrote it, and I agreed to it because it conveys some sense of the ultimate futility of healing apart from God. But, certainly I believe God can work through all sorts of means – including rehab. The short title doesn't capture all the nuance, I agree.”

Wilkerson said that while working within Redemption Groups and in personal counseling he regularly heard how some of the language coming out of 12-step programs was problematic. "I've had more than one guy tell me that basically AA became his new addiction that he needed to get free from," he said.

“Ultimately, God heals and he may use many forms. Unfortunately, though, some forms offered by our culture may inadvertently lead us down paths away from God instead of toward Him. I've heard it said, ‘It's not about the sincerity of your faith, but the object of it.’ That's partially why the ‘vague higher power’ can be problematic.”

“What can be happening is either the wrong power, or a blurry vision of the true and living God. Thank God that He is faithful even when we are faithless; so the faithfulness of the real, true and living God is even more important than our faith, however sincere we may think it to be,” he said.

In his post, Wilkerson stated, “One thing is certain: Amy needed rescue. She was enslaved, and though the addiction was a slavery of her own choosing, she was helpless to escape on her own. At present, we do not know whether the drugs finally caused Amy's death; but it was clear long before that her addiction was killing her quickly.”

The pastor concluded in his post:

“The only true rescue from addiction and all of sin's other forms and effects is to be freed from the bonds of that slavery by the Redeemer, forgiven by the Creator for spoiling his good work, and to be re-created by his Spirit to live a new life. No vaguely defined higher power made in my own image can do all of this – it is through Jesus Christ alone.”

Redemption Groups at Mars Hill Church campuses focus on abuse (suffering) and addiction (sin), Wilkerson said. The program is described as a gospel-based, mixed-issue recovery plan. Wilkerson has led the development of the Redemption Group ministry since its start in 2007. He came to Mars Hill Church in Seattle in 2004 and currently works out of the church’s Ballard campus.

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