Churches, Christian-Based Recovery Groups Playing Vital Role in Saving America's Working Class From Addiction

(Courtesy of Harvest Ministries)Organizers say that 32,000 people attended in the Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, and 3,488 people made decisions for Christ on Sunday, August 30, 2015, for Harvest Crusade Anaheim.

America's working class has been the subject of studies analyzing the large spikes in alcohol- and drug-related deaths over the last few decades, and churches and Christian-based recovery groups are playing a vital role in saving lives by helping people overcome their addictions.

"The church should have a role in helping people with any type of addiction. Depending on the congregation and their level of resources that help will vary. Some churches are taking an active role in developing in-house assistance and counseling while others that are not funded for this type of activity are partnering with people in their congregation who have a heart and vision for this type of ministry," said Ray Perea, CEO and facility director of Revival Recovery Services in Apple Valley, California, in an interview with The Christian Post.

"As with anything it is a two sided issue. People need to reach out and make their struggle known in order for the church to help. Many people would rather keep their problem hidden. There is always room for improvement. As people begin to reach out I see the church in the future being able to provide more solutions," Perea added.

Janet Perea, who is Revival's executive director, explained that the Christian-based organization, which offers various recovery services for clients, including a Bible-based 12-step program, has always seen a high percentage of addiction among the working class.

"Every person that we have treated is either currently working or is no longer working as the result of the addiction," she told CP.

Perea added, however, that when it comes to addiction it does not matter so much if a person is employed or unemployed.

"In many cases there has been some sort of trauma (death, physical, mental, sexual abuse and or abandonment) at an early age. Usually, the one suffering from the addiction doesn't realize where that trauma is. They may hold on to one life event that they believe to be the cause, but many times its even further back then what they remember," she said.

Analytical studies, such as findings reported by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case, have found that addiction abuse continues to play a leading role in rising mortality rates among certain sections of American society, as The New York Times reported in November 2015.

Mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources found that unlike other groups that are seeing improvement, middle-aged white Americans have seen annual death rates go up, precisely due to an epidemic of suicides and afflictions connected to substance abuse, such as alcoholic liver diseases and overdosing on drugs like heroin.

Erik Epp of Addiction No More, a 24-hour helpline for addiction supported sites, which connects people to faith-based drug rehabilitation programs, told CP in a separate interview that as much as 85 percent of calls they receive come from working class families.

(Photo: Revival Recovery Services Facebook photo)A night of Worship and Prayer at the Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, posted on August 30, 2015.

"Most people who call for help in finding a Christian treatment center are from a working class background, and have little or no means for treatment," Epp said.

He further emphasized that drug and alcohol addiction does not discriminate based on social class, and affects different social and economic circles.

"Those with more means have an easier time hiding the fact that they are flirting with addiction issues. Different drugs attract different demographics, where as a housewife would rarely be caught using crack cocaine, but the addiction rates of pharmaceuticals are higher among housewives than a street drug user," Epp added.

He agreed that there is room for improvement when it comes to how churches in America reach out to and offer help to working class people struggling with addiction problems, but also noted that a majority of large churches do indeed offer support groups, such as Saddleback Church´s Celebrate Recovery ministry.

"Pastors have a lot on their plate when dealing with addiction issues, which is why they have 12-step meetings and recovery programs that meet in the evenings," Epp noted.

As to the type of people who enter Christian rehab centers, Epp revealed that many of them have a foundation in Christian values and beliefs. He suggested that it would be counterproductive and do more harm than good to put someone with no Christian beliefs in a Christian treatment center.

"Sometimes it is better to handle the addiction so you can work with the real person to explore their faith after treatment," he explained.

Perea offered that at Revival, clients who sign up for the services often at least have a basic idea of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

"At the time of admittance they usually are disconnected to their faith and Savior. Their choice of drug has now, by default, become their God. Seeds have been planted and our job is to water them," she said.

"To guide them to a place of restoration and equipping them to step into the power of God that every believer in Jesus Christ has access to. Ushering them into a lasting experience of freedom in the inner most part of their being. It's a gift and it's available," Perea continued.

The Revival executive director shared that there are also people who have had no experience with God, but decide to try a faith-based program because it offers something different to what they have previously tried but hasn't worked.

(Photo: Gerald S.)More than 3,000 leaders from Celebrate Recovery programs throughout the world attended a three-day conference at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., August, 12, 2011

"In either case we realize that our time is usually a small window of opportunity to introduce them to a real God who changes things," Perea said. "We are His hands and feet but He is the Healer!"

Revival's 12-Step program is based on verses of scripture that have been specifically chosen and simplified to help people recover from addiction and find freedom.

"We use the Bible and 12- step program in conjunction with one another with Jesus Christ at the center. There is no other God. The truth of both conveys that we are powerless apart from the power of God. That's over addiction as well as any other struggle," Perea explained.

"In life we will release our control to something or someone, knowingly or unknowingly. Will it be God or Satan? The 12-step program is a process that reveals a person's moral condition. Causing you to look at humility, character, forgiveness, the power of prayer, confession and salvation. The Bible is the answer on what to do with the things that are exposed through the 12 steps," she added.

Perea stated that following up with clients after they complete the recovery program is also an important part of the ministry.

"Addiction is something that must be managed throughout a person's life. We have found a greater success rate with those who commit to a longer time in recovery. It takes time to teach and learn the tools to equip them to learn how to change behavior patterns, thought processes and new ways of responding to the stressors/triggers of life," she said.

"We emphasize building relationships at Revival, first with the Lord and then with each other. It's in that time of establishing relationships and being an extension of Gods love that clients often begin to find hope again and often realize it didn't take 30 days to get in this deep it may take more than 30 days to fully get the victory."