The Missing Link in Addiction Recovery. What’s Missing?


The Missing Link in Addiction Recovery. What’s Missing?
The Missing Link in Addiction Recovery. What’s Missing?

~by Boulder County, CO Jail Chaplain Joe Herzanek

As I look back over three decades of working with chemically dependent men, women, adolescents and their families I ask myself what’s changed?

I try to be optimistic and honest at the same time but I have to say not much. This applies to both the Christian community and the general population. The problem of chemical dependency continues to get worse over time, treatment is only so effective, new ideas and research continue and these things are just as perplexing now as they were in ’77 when I quit. Addiction is called a disease and yet it is one of the few diseases that people can choose to put in remission and leave there if they want to (badly enough).

One of the biggest reasons I continue to work with offenders and their families is that a higher percentage of those incarcerated for criminal behavior know they need a miracle to change. Miracles are a God Thing.

The person with the addiction/substance abuse problem touches so many lives and often remains stubborn and in denial (that he or she even has a problem). Interventions, education, treatment programs, counseling for the addict and the family all play a powerful role in the change process. Just the same, we—as a society are still mired in a dilemma that won’t go away.

If I were asked what is the missing link? What could improve the miserable statistics on treatment and relapse, what would I say? Well in my honest opinion the missing link is the spiritual component. Yes I know we are a very ‘spiritual nation’ but why is this still such a vague part of recovery? And then, “How’s that working?”

Can a recovering person just believe anything they choose concerning things of God? Do addicts and alcoholics need a miracle? I believe they do. I also believe that “the God piece” could be and should be, much more defined.

My personal choice concerning things of God led me back to where I started. In my early years the Christian faith was our family’s faith. I wandered away from that for many years. What I found later (after 16 years of life on alcohol and drugs) was that I had a skewed belief system. I had blamed God for all the bad and took personal credit for all the “good.”

(A funny line heard at a 12-Step meeting: “The difference between me and God is that God doesn’t want to be me”).

Today my higher power has a name. It’s not doorknob; it’s Jesus. I try to follow both His teachings and the 12-Step philosophy at the same time. I have found this to be a winning combination, not just for me—but over the past several years I’ve seen the same thing work in a powerful way for a significant number of my fellow recovering friends, their families and clients I have worked with.

I know I’m losing some readers at this point. That’s okay and I understand. Not everyone will seek this same path. At the same time I would be dishonest if I didn’t share my own personal experience strength and hope. I believe it is God’s will that people recover, resist temptation, remain drug free, that families heal and strife ends. Lasting change is possible for anyone.

Author/Chaplain Joe HerzanekTo arrange a workshop or presentation at your organization
call: 303.775.6493 or email:

More info about Speaking Engagements with Author/Chaplain Joe Herzanek

> Phone Counseling for Family Members
Recommended Books and DVDs for families of substance abusers and addicts
Low cost, No cost Alcohol and Drug Treatment Directory

> Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Recovery Resources for Friends, Families and Employers

>12-Step Recovery and “Things of God.” A Perfect Match.
~by Joe Herzanek

If you found this article helpful please see our “Ask Joe” posts listed at the bottom and consider reading “Why Don’t they Just Quit? Hope for families struggling with addiction.”

Available at:
> Our website, “Why Don’t They Just Quit?”
> Changing Lives Amazon Storefront (buy new, from us for much less)

Why Don't They Just Quit? Hope for families struggling with addiction.
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Recent reviews:

Best book ever about addiction. Written by one whose done it and is recovering. Easy to read, not preachy, just honest. I recommend this book to anyone with an addict in their life! ~Lynda A

Got an addiction problem in your family? Read this book. Joe knows his stuff. This book helps you better understand those dealing with friends and family that are addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have read several of these books but this one is the best. ~RJ

I, like many people, have some knowledge of what drugs and addiction are, but are clueless on what the process of recovery entails. This book does a great job in what it would take to help a loved one, who is an addict and is willing to get clean and stay clean. It also gives one hope that your loved one will survive the nightmare they are living through with their family. ~CG

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> Do you have to stop seeing all your old friends in order to recover?
> Is a relapse—failure?
>Should my husband “back off?”
> If someone can stop using drugs or alcohol for weeks at a time, they “aren’t an addict—correct?
>Chronic Pain Management & Pain Pill Addiction: What to do?
>How can I know if my addicted friend or loved one is telling the truth?
>How can I tell if someone is an addict/alcoholic or just a heavy user?
>What is Methadone? What is Harm Reduction?

> Self-Tests: Codependence
> Self-Tests: Alcohol and Drug Addiction

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5 thoughts on “The Missing Link in Addiction Recovery. What’s Missing?

  1. addiction-rehab-reviews

    The spiritual component seems so fleeting and undefinable. It has taken me years & years, in and out of drug rehab centers, sober living homes, therapy and so on, but ultimately, spirituality within recovery was the one component that just couldn’t be taught!

    Thank you for this great post

  2. Bradley Evarts

    Nice post, agree with the author on spiritual understanding. If we have solution on things in our hands then why people are avoiding them? Really pathetic because they just want to go and go ahead in a non directional path. They are getting disturb, diverge and all they have plunked the negativity in their mind. Its expected from seniors that they will save the coming generation but they are also alone at some point, those needs to be taken care wisely.

    We have spiritual, meditation, yoga, routine exercise and many other things to do. Thanks for such an awesome post!!

  3. Lisa Stalnaker

    Hi Joe! Great article. So true and right to the point. I agree with you that the spiritual component is the component that is missing from much of the treatment and recovery efforts that occur across the US. I recently read an article about Carl Jung’s evaluation of AA. He said that it will work because of the spiritual component. What a shame that today, people will claim their higher power is the “door knob” and take out the exact component that one of the great contributors to the field of Psychology said was the contributing factor in the programs success.
    In my area we are currently working with members of the faith based community on a program developed by myself, a drug and alcohol treatment provider, and a pastor called PREP (Pastoral Recovery Education Program). One of our goals is to educate the faith based community on what addiction and recovery are and how they can contribute to helping people recovery. Please email me if you would like more information. Thanks again for the inspiration and truth spoke through your article. Blessings.

  4. cathie

    mmmmmm…No truer words could be spoken…we can be sober, for however long, we can do what is “expected” of us perfectly… show any judge all our hard work how we did this and that to satisfy those who hold the power…but it truly starts with a change of heart, and true recovery as I know now, starts from the inside with a true heart change…we and those we love sooooo much cannot be free any other way… we have to be convicted in our hearts. Be it the qualifier or myself. Is that what you mean Joe?


    I agree with your article. In my humble observations in Alanon over the years, those who tie their recovery to the world of religion (not a dirty word!) have found a less self-centered, more confident place in this world.

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